Recently, I asked a panel of influencer marketing experts to share the 10 most common Influencer Marketing fails, the mistakes they see come up time and time again. These missteps include attempting to shortcut the influencer vetting process, asking for too much in exchange for too little, attempting to micro-manage influencers, and forgetting to plan for contingencies.
A common denominator amongst all these errors is that they underestimate the importance of relationship-building, treating influencers like contractors or ad salesmen instead of trusted thought leaders.
That's a sure-fire path to failure - as Heather Dopson, Community Builder for GoDaddy explains:
“The main ingredient in working with influencers is relationships. The more you focus on actually creating long-term, mutually beneficial relationships, the more successful your efforts will be. If you keep the human component at the forefront of your objectives, it will pay off in the long run.”
The fact is that influencers are already well-respected individuals in their communities, people who've often spent years building trusted relationships and establishing their presence. They know what they're doing, and how to connect with their audiences.
With that in mind, here are six “people first” strategies that will help you get the most out of your influencer marketing efforts.
1. Build a Solid Foundation
As explained by Sam Fiorella, CEO of Sensei Marketing:
“Focusing first on your target audience - figuring out what motivates them to make a purchase decision, whom they engage most when making those decisions, and where they do so - is the key starting points for an effective campaign.”
Sam recommends a multi-phase influencer marketing approach, developed in partnership with your chosen influencers, and designed to move customers along each stage of the buyer’s journey - from awareness to consideration, and from consideration to decision-making.
With your customer journey firmly in mind, “set your goals and stick with them”, adds Brand24 brand manager Magda Urbaniak. “That makes measuring ROI easier and clearer.”
2. Choose the Influencer that Best Fits Your Brand
The social influencer landscape is highly fragmented, and the searchability of influencer data varies greatly depending on the channel, industry, and their business acumen. Tools like BuzzSumo, Upfluence, Group High, LittleBird and HARO are favorites among influencer marketing experts - but regardless of which tools you use to identify candidates, bear in mind that there’s no short-cutting the identification and qualification process.
When vetting influencers, MM+CC CEO Marcy Massura chooses engagement over perceived online popularity.
“Don’t bother with the ‘million followers’ influencer if only 1% of their followers actually engage with the content. Find the influencer with 10,000 followers who has 10% engagement and build your bond with them. They are more obtainable, and their audience will be more open to consuming content about your brand.”
When evaluating candidates, it's crucial that you audit both the influencer’s content and the subsequent conversations sparked by it.
Dan Scalco, founder of Digitalux, notes specifically that working with micro-influencers can have a range of benefits:
”Higher cohesion between brand and influencer (along with strong follower engagement) leads to much better brand recall, ad recall, and (most importantly) conversions”
3. Build Authentic Relationships
Once you find the right influencers, you then begin the important task of building relationships with them.
As Bryan Kramer (CEO of PureMatter) explains:
“Before you even ask an influencer to go out and promote your brand, you need to be willing to invest in them. You can offer your newly selected influencers anything from time and attention, to more tangible things such as samples or invitations to exclusive events. The idea is to increase your brand recognition while making all of them (no matter if they are an established celebrity or an up-and-comer) feel special.”
But be wary of the scope of your effort in this element.
Jake Rheude, Director of Marketing at Red Stag Fulfillment, notes that the wider your net is, the harder it becomes to track each individual and stay in touch.
"The moment we have an agreement to work with someone on a recurring basis, we use Breeze to track our various outreach projects. Nimble is great for this too, since it builds three-dimensional profiles of people. Following up with influencers should be a no-brainer. Especially as micro-influencer campaigns become the norm for brands, it's clear that you'll need to integrate relationship building into your workflow."
4. Negotiate a Mutually Beneficial Deal
According to Geno Prussakov, Affiliate Marketing Consultant at AM Navigator LLC:
“One of the best ways to compensate influencers is to establish an affiliate program, which encourages them to use affiliate links when referring traffic to the brand. This will enable you to track clicks, and even impressions if a graphic pixel is involved - and most importantly, the conversions that these clicks generate. For the conversions, consider paying your influencers on a CPA (cost-per-action) basis. That way, every new conversion/sale will serve as an encouragement for them to invest more time and effort into promoting you further.”
In my experience, combining affiliate fees with an initial payment tends to work well to start. This arrangement ensures the influencer is compensated for their work while both parties take the time to assess how the influencer’s community responds to the brand and its offer.
But regardless of which terms you agree to, always ensure that everything is documented - from the start of the contract until the end of the campaign.
5. Pay Respect Where It’s Due
As noted, influencers know their audience and potential results better than anyone. And you should treat them accordingly.
As explained byJeff Bullas, CEO of JeffBullas.com:
“Ask and listen to the influencer’s input about what type of marketing strategies have worked before with other clients. They'll have some great insights on what works and what may not perform well.”
When it comes to managing influencers, Rebekah Radice, Founder of Rebekah Radice Media, advises clients to:
“Enforce the brand and disclosure rules, but don’t hang on so tight that the influencer has no creative freedom.”
Instead, you should take steps to make the relationship feel natural and fun, as opposed to forced and static, advises Bryan Kramer.
“This is important, not only to the influencer, but also to their audiences. You want your customers to see these influencers as trusted friends who are speaking positively about their experiences because they want to - not because they have a corporate obligation to do so. If that does happen, you lose the word-of-mouth power of the option.”
6. Amplify What’s Working
Constantly measure your influencer marketing campaigns, and amplify the content that’s performing well organically.
You should implement a social media and content marketing plan which repurposes and boosts influencer content in order to keep your campaigns fresh, and consistently in-front of a whole new audience.
Another option on this front is tagging - as Rachel Miller, Senior Social Strategist at Thulium, explains:
“Tagging or mentioning individuals who are likely to find your content valuable, and thereby sharing your content with their audiences, is a great way to increase awareness of your influencer marketing efforts, and to add value to the greater community”
Brian Carter, CEO of The Brian Carter Group, relies on paid ads to increase his campaign reach, hone in on the right audiences and improve tracking.
“With complicated lead gen and eCommerce advertising campaigns, there's a ton of data analysis, and many factors to look at. You definitely want to know your number one KPI, but you also need multiple mid-funnel metrics to act as indicators of what's going to happen further down the sales cycle.”
While there's no one-size-fits-all approach to influencer marketing, these six tips will enable you to build more successful collaborations, build more solid foundations, and establish authentic relationships with the people you want to work with.