If you take a casual scroll through any social network, you will likely come across an example of influencer marketing. Influencers everywhere these days and for all types of products, from clothing to skincare to cooking kit services to vehicles. Even B2B organizations are getting in on using influencers to promote their services!
This influencer marketing trend is going to continue for the foreseeable future. According to a benchmark report from Influencer Marketing Hub, 80% of businesses intend to increase their marketing budget specifically for influencer promotion this year. Furthermore, 91% of marketers viewed this type of advertising to be effective.
However, there is a darker side to influencer marketing.
Over two-thirds of respondents to this survey had experienced influencer fraud – where an account did not deliver content or did not meet their expectations. Plus, only 14% of influencer accounts were fully legally compliant with FTC and CMA standards.
These kinds of issues can be a huge headache – and could cost you big time. For example, in 2016, the clothing brand Lord & Taylor was involved in a lawsuit for a misleading influencer campaign for a specific dress that was all over social media. Influencers were paid for promotional ads, but this information was not disclosed properly in the post. Eventually, Lord & Taylor had to remove all of these ads and pay several thousand dollars in fines.
Clearly, there is a lot more risk involved with influencer marketing than there may appear. Choosing the “wrong” influencer that either misses the mark with your intended audience or doesn’t properly disclose the relationship could be a waste of time, money, and resources.
So, if influencer marketing is something that you are considering, be sure that you know how to avoid these potentially catastrophic mistakes – and set your campaign up for success from the start.
1. Do Your Due Diligence with Audience Research
As with any type of marketing campaign, the research process is the cornerstone that supports the foundation. If this aspect of the campaign is weak or rushed, the entire effort could easily fall apart.
Unfortunately, since influencer marketing is relatively new, marketers often feel a little bit lost during this step. In fact, 68% of marketers found it extremely challenging to discover relevant influencers and determine whether or not they were a good fit for their target audience.
To find the best influencer accounts to work with, you need to get a firm understanding of the specific niche segments you want to target. You need to get specific here.
- Which age groups do you want to engage?
- What are their main interests or motivations?
- Which types of followers would they be interested in?
Now, once you have a solid idea of who your audience is, you can start to search for influencers that align with your customers.
Tools like BuzzStream, NinjaOutreach, and BuzzSumo can be super useful for finding influencer accounts and giving you key information about them. These tools will show you how many followers they have, average engagement rates in terms of likes, comments, or shares.
Also, make sure you do your own research to see what followers tend to think about that influencer. Do they find them trustworthy? They may have thousands of comments, but are the majority of them positive, or are they coming from bots?
2. Use Past Campaigns as Inspiration
Once you have some accounts in mind that you would like to partner with, you will need to start prepping your pitch. It is best to have a vision in mind before you reach out so both you and the influencer can see if the collaboration will be a good fit.
Remember, influencer accounts are all about the aesthetic. If your campaign ideas don’t match up, it is probably going to be a ‘no.’
So, take a look at their previous promotions and see how they have worked with brands in the past. Some influencers are fine with obvious product promotions and will post multiple shots or videos with lots of information.
Others prefer to create more authentic advertising type content with subtle promotions that come off a bit more realistic.
It is best to see which type of promotional style each influencer tends to use. Pay attention to the styles that seem to work best with their audience. Do they have more engagement with photos, videos, or blog posts?
Don’t be afraid to choose specific images or aspects of other campaigns that you want to use for inspiration. It is best to be detailed about your vision – but be open to their ideas, too.
3. Be Specific About Campaign Expectations
Be SUPER clear about your expectations upfront – including the pricing structure, expectation for content creation, and who will have control over the marketing. Again, this is tricky for lots of marketers.
A report from Altimeter found that negotiating terms and managing third-party creators were top challenges for marketing teams. And on the other side, influencers stated that the most challenging aspects of their job were a misunderstanding of expectations as well as a lack of control over the campaign. So rather than trying to figure things out as you go, be upfront about what you expect from the influencer and just how hands-on you want them to be with content creation.
Be open to negotiation – there is no need to scare off a great influencer just because you refuse to budge or listen to their ideas. However, by laying out expectations from the get-go, you can weed out partnerships that will not be a good match and avoid issues and frustrations down the road.
If you need help with organizing these expectations and want to provide an influencer marketing outreach proposal that looks professional, consider using the tool Pitchbox. This will not only help you find the best ways to contact influencer accounts, but you can create personalized messages with automated follow-ups to help get more responses.
4. Double Check Before Publication
Pause before you (or the influencer) hits that publish button. While you can certainly delete a post if you spot a misspelling, you will lose all of the engagement that post has already generated – and it can make your brand look really bad.
One of the most infamous examples of this was a collaboration between Adidas and supermodel Naomi Campbell.
She (or most likely her assistant) took a quick photo holding up a pair of Adidas shoes, copy and pasted the approved caption, and posted. But what no one realized until it was too late was that the caption included content that was not meant to be published.
But this piece of advice doesn’t just apply to the person in charge of proofreading.
Your marketing team and the influencer need to be in close contact throughout the process so everything goes smoothly and no mistakes (major or minor) are made.
When it comes to the actual written content (or spoken if your influencer is creating videos), there needs to be a good balance between what your brand tells them to do and what they create on their own.
Generally, it is best to give the influencer at least some free reign over what they say or write. This comes off as more authentic and genuine to their audience. Authenticity is extremely important in influencer marketing since this is what earns them trust. However, giving them too much freedom could mean that you lose control of the message altogether.
Make sure that the influencer understands your brand’s voice and message by giving them information and communicating as much as possible. It is generally best to give the person time to try the product out for themselves so their reactions are more genuine.
Another option is to partner with influencers who are already advocating for your brand or industry. Use social listening tools like Brand24 or Awario. These systems will alert your team anytime your brand name is mentioned online – and even alert you if the sentiment is positive or negative.
5. Monitor Throughout the Campaign
Another big mistake marketers make with influencer marketing is to only check the numbers once the campaign has wrapped.
However, influencer marketing can compound over time, especially if it involves blog posts or YouTube video uploads that may appear in search engine results. You want to keep a finger on the pulse during your campaign to see how your audience is reacting and whether or not you need to make changes.
For instance, when Volvo partnered with lifestyle influencer and makeup artist Chriselle Lim, it seemed like a good fit. She had just started to grow her family and her posts revolved around how this new car fits their active lifestyle – while also being eco-conscious.
However, soon after she posted, her followers started to question just why she was suddenly promoting this vehicle. People even claimed that these images were strictly promotional and that she didn’t drive the car anyways! Others found her environmentalism to be insincere since other products that she promoted were by no means eco-friendly.
Volvo and Chriselle had to publish a follow-up statement clarifying that she was doing her best to be more conscious of the environment, but was far from perfect. She did not take the post down, but it certainly put a stain on the campaign.
Obviously, this fiasco could have been avoided if Volvo’s marketing team had done better research. However, it is good that they were closely monitoring the response and stepped in to act before things spiraled completely out of control.
Also, be sure that both your influencer and your brand are actively engaging if customers ask questions or post comments. Getting a quick response from a brand can help to improve sentiment towards your company. Ultimately, it shows you care about their opinions and questions.
6. Conduct a Follow Up
You need to know which metrics are most important to track and analyze after your campaign wraps to understand if your collaboration was successful. Engagement numbers are important – but what matters is whether or not that engagement led to sales. Just because a post got thousands of likes doesn’t always mean it was a success.
Your marketing team should also reach out for a follow-up with any influencers involved in the campaign to see how they thought the experience went. It may have helped your brand immensely – but perhaps they were slammed with DMs and comments they needed to respond to – or they found the process to be confusing and stressful.
Be sure to ask them how your marketing team could improve things for future campaigns.
Perhaps you need to be more communicative and schedule face-to-face or Skype meetings to discuss how things are going. Maybe it would be better to provide more hands-on direction with the content or give the creator more freedom to do what they want.
There will always be room for improvement – especially since influencer marketing is growing and evolving. Embrace honest feedback and adjust so future campaigns go even better.
Love them or hate them, influencers are here to stay and they are powerful for effective brand promotion. But there is a whole lot that can go wrong if your marketing team doesn’t know what they are doing when it comes to this type of collaboration.
All in all, the key here is research and communication.
Know your audience and your influencer’s. Be upfront about what you expect and help them out along the way to avoid mistakes or confusion. And finally, be willing to make changes as necessary. This will help your influencer campaign to (hopefully) go off without a hitch.
Joanna Besley is a Content Marketing Writer for E2M Solutions Inc., whose primary writing focus is on marketing topics and SEO. Outside of work, she enjoys exploring the San Diego area hikes, traveling outside of the country, and trying out new vegan restaurants.