The marketing world has done more than just awakening to the potential of influencer marketing. It has embraced it with open arms and shows no signs of slowing down whatsoever.
In fact, as Google Trends shows, the interest in the channel has grown exponentially since early 2015, when influencer marketing started to build momentum.
Influencer marketing has officially hit the mainstream. Yet only a select few are implementing a long-term influencer marketing strategy into their overall marketing ecosystem.
Most marketers today are still only dipping their toes in influencer marketing, exhibiting the type of restraint usually reserved for ventures of higher risk.
Yet a poor campaign will do nothing for a brand other than waste time and money, but a terrible campaign — one that is so badly executed that it garners negative social media attention — can severely damage a brand’s reputation. In extreme cases, that damage can be permanent.
We tell you 10 influencer marketing mistakes — and all ten reasons are easily avoidable.
Read on to learn what not to do with your campaign.
#1 Valuing Numbers More Than People
Marketing can be a numbers game. If your goal is to build brand awareness, it makes sense that you want to be seen by as many people as possible.
After all, the more people who see your brand, the better known you’re likely to become, right?
Well, not exactly. Just because you’re seen by a million people doesn’t mean a million people will remember you.
You can find influencers on Twitter, for example, who have 30,000, 50,000, even 100,000 followers and do nothing but tweet sponsored content, never interacting with their audience.
Do you think your message will be remembered amid that kind of noise? Probably not.
One of the key reasons we love influencer marketing is because it allows people to tell your brand story to their followers in a real, authentic, and meaningful way.
Someone with 50,000 unengaged Twitter followers who uses your brand’s hashtag 20 times in a day will look great on paper (50,000 × 20 = 1,000,000 potential impressions), but yield no real results. His followers won’t care or take action. On the other hand, someone who has 5,000 engaged followers and creates a unique brand message … he’ll drive engagement and establish brand awareness among his followers.
When it comes to working with influencers, seek out the ones who create good, original content. Find influencers who demonstrate engagement with and from their audience. Find and work with influencers who seem like they should be extensions of your brand’s marketing efforts.
Don’t start off your Influencer Marketing campaign by searching for the biggest influencers. Bigger only sometimes means better.
#2. Pursuing Passively
Sending batches of emails out to email lists as part of your broader PR plan in the vague hopes that influencers will write about you is a) not very effective and b) not influencer marketing. It’s old-fashioned “spray and pray,” and it doesn’t get you anywhere.
True influencer marketing involves establishing an actual relationship between the brand and the influencer. This means keeping outreach personal, customized, and true.
Approach your selected influencers respectfully, as though you’re asking them to enter into a professional relationship with you — because you are!
State clearly why you’ve chosen them out of all the other influencers using social media (maybe you like their point of view, their storytelling ability, or their photography skills) and why you think they’ll fit with your program. Tell them right off the bat why you’re writing them. Don’t fall back on marketing jargon.
Spell out what you’re asking them to do for you, whether it’s writing a single blog post or a series of posts, posting photos to Instagram, or promoting your content on Facebook.
Outline clear “asks” of your influencers and state explicitly whether you’ll be compensating them (we strongly recommend that you do) and how much. You can negotiate compensation with an influencer — just keep in mind that asking influencers to work for free is bad form.
Finally, consider entering into a contractual relationship with the influencer. Why leave results to chance? If you write out exactly what, where, and when the influencer should be posting and have a mutually signed contract saying so, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see the results you’re expecting.
You don’t need to approach influencers as though their deliverables have to be a mystery, impossible to predict. You’re far more likely to get exactly what you want when you’re clear about what that is.
#3. Measuring the Wrong Stuff (Or No Stuff)
Measuring the return on investment (ROI) of influencer marketing is sometimes tricky, but it’s not impossible. Most often, the problem is that the people running the campaign don’t know what to measure. And if you don’t know what to measure, or you measure the wrong stuff, you’ll have no way of knowing if your program worked.
You can’t be successful in running any kind of marketing campaign without stated goals. Only when you define what success will look like can you shape your program, set measurement expectations, and evaluate whether you met those expectations.
Let’s look at an example:
Say that a known potato chip brand is introducing a new flavor to the market. Maybe their marketing goal is to encourage widespread product trial. They decide the way to do this is to offer an electronic coupon for a free sample.
Their success metrics will center on how many coupons are downloaded and how many of the downloaded coupons are redeemed.
In this scenario, they should identify which influencers will generate the most coupon downloads and product trials. They should reach out to influencers who are known for distributing coupons and have big followings on channels where coupon distribution is quick and easy (like Facebook or Twitter).
Some of the questions we get asked most often when it comes to influencers are:
- How many monthly impressions do they have?
- How many impressions will this program generate?
Monthly impressions are a fine metric to monitor, but impressions are only meaningful if they track to a goal.
Impressions are a metric, not a goal.
#4. Being a Control Freak
The cornerstone of influencer marketing is handing over the brand messaging keys to your brand’s advocates. To be effective, influencers have to be given latitude and control in communicating with their audiences. After all, these are audiences they cultivated. They know how to communicate with their followers better than anyone.
Sure, letting go is hard, especially for well-established brands that are used to maintaining complete control of every aspect of their marketplace presence.
But from the second social media became a thing — from the moment consumers had access to the tools and platforms once solely used by big-budget companies — brands lost control of their messaging, whether they wanted to admit it or not.
Today, people are posting about brands all day, across all social media platforms, in whatever ways they feel like, whether brands want them to or not.
Influencer marketing is a way for brands to take advantage of this new reality and get some (but definitely not all!) control back. Brands work with people who are influential online, encouraging influencers to promote and create sponsored content.
Influencer marketing is successful because consumers trust recommendations from their friends and acquaintances more than they trust messages from brands.
Influencers may not be “friends” in the traditional sense, but readers develop strong affiliations with their favorite influencers and trust them more than advertisers.
Brands that fail to truly hand over the keys are missing the point. And this happens in one of two ways:
4.1 Making it too professional
Many brands claim to want influencers to tell their story, but when it comes down to execution, they want to be involved in every aspect of that influencer’s content.
If you, your agency, or your brand is trying to do some or all of the following, you’re missing the point of influencer marketing:
- Providing art direction for what should be authentic photos: It’s okay to want high-caliber pictures, but detailing exactly how a photo must be arranged is over the top.
- Editing influencers’ images in Photoshop.
- Requiring that influencers use specific phrases, sentences, or entire paragraphs.
- Requiring several URLs and keywords in a single blog post.
- Asking bloggers to alter the design of their blogs to better complement the look of their sponsored posts.
- Editing blog posts to sound more like the brand’s voice.
- Requesting or expecting the influencers to edit or alter any of their sites or profiles that are superfluous to the sponsored work they’re doing.
4.2 Faking authenticity
Sometimes brands can’t help it. They get a vision of what a perfect “authentic” post should look like and insist on controlling every aspect of the program to ensure their vision is achieved.
We’ve worked with several clients who ended up providing pages and pages of instructions to influencers to tell them exactly how their posts should look.
#5 Setting DUMB Goals
Setting goals is critical to the success of an influencer marketing campaign. Unfortunately, too many marketers set themselves up for failure by setting the wrong goals.
You’re no dummy, so you don’t want to set DUMB goals — goals that are Disconnected, Unrealistic, Muddy, and Benchmark-free:
Goals need to be tied to actual, meaningful metrics. They can’t be self-contained. Too often, social media campaigns are measured in a vacuum and aren’t written into (or measured along with) marketing plans.
For instance, a disconnected goal would be “We need 2,000 likes on our Facebook page.” Why do you need 2,000 likes? So that what? A like without context or connection to anything else is meaningless.
Instead, start collecting data. When you have more engagement on your Facebook page, does that correlate to more traffic to your retail page? Does it correlate to sales? If so, then likes may be meaningful. Just be sure to tie their impact to something worth measuring.
Influencer marketing is a new, exciting marketing tactic, but it’s still only a marketing tactic. There is no reason to assume that it will yield wildly different results than other approaches.
For some reason, many marketers believe that influencer marketing will be a cheap magic bullet that will drastically impact sales right out of the gate.
Goals need to be clear and specific, not vague and hard to understand. If your goals don’t give you a framework for answering “Was this program successful?,” they’re too muddy.
Example of a muddy goal:
We want to have bloggers try our new mouthwash and write about it. Huh? Why? How many bloggers? What kind of bloggers? So that what happens? How will you know if the program is successful?
Example of a clear goal:
We will engage 15 to 20 bloggers in our target demographic (millennial moms) to receive, test, and write about our new mouthwash using funny pictures that we will repost across our social channels.
The bloggers will provide a coupon to their readers as part of their reviews. Our goal is 10,000 coupon downloads with a 20 percent in-store conversion over the first 45 days of the program.
It’s clear what the program’s objectives are and how its success will be measured.
You can’t pull goals out of thin air. They need to be based on market research and your own data. Often, this means running test programs to understand how different tactics perform.
When you know what you’re going to measure, run a small beta program to gauge the results. Adjust if needed, and then build those expectations into your larger, full-scale plan.
#6. Chasing Shiny Objects
We all know that the social media world moves incredibly fast. As marketers, we’re constantly challenged by the desire to be cool, to be first to market, to be pioneers. We want to be the ones to figure out how to leverage the newest, hottest tool in the market to our advantage.
But just because a tool is cool doesn’t mean it’s effective. And just because it works for one brand doesn’t mean it will work for yours. Don’t assume that all new platforms, channels, or tools are worth pursuing.
Start building your influencer marketing strategies by identifying who you want to reach and where they are.
Don’t start by identifying which platforms you want to use. When you start with platforms, you run the risk of launching programs that are not only ineffective but sometimes even obsolete.
#7. Picking the Wrong Message or Wrong Medium
Not all social media platforms are created equal. Each has its own unique mode and purpose. This means that the same message won’t work the same way across channels.
For instance, a recipe will get a lot more traction on Pinterest or Facebook than it will on Twitter. But Twitter can’t be beaten when you want influencers interacting with an audience in real-time.
Questions to ask when you’re launching an influencer marketing program are:
- Where are the people I want to reach?
- What are they doing there?
- Will my message make sense to them in that medium?
#8. Letting the Intern Do It
Yes, millennials grew up with the Internet, and social media is second nature to them. But that doesn’t mean that young people just entering the workforce intrinsically understand how to use social media from a brand marketing perspective.
Influencer marketing will only be successful if it’s tied to a brand’s overall marketing plan. “Have the intern send some products to bloggers!” is not an influencer marketing strategy.
You can have your junior-most staff members execute aspects of the influencer marketing campaign, but the strategy must be clear and support your brand’s larger goals.
#9. Being Tone Deaf
You can’t push brand messages out all day long — you have to engage in two-way communications with your audience. If you do this well, social media can truly humanize your brand, giving you a friendly voice and making you accessible to consumers.
When you’ve identified your goals, your demo, your preferred influencer platform, and your influencers, don’t ruin your program by forcing messaging to be any of the following:
Did someone from your brand actually write the content? If so, it’s too corporate. Don’t try to pass corporate messaging off as influencer- or user-generated content. Wherever possible, provide guidelines, but then let the influencers create the message themselves. After all, that’s why you’re working with them!
If your content sounds like an ad, it’s spammy. If you’re asking your influencers to push a message out more than once or maybe twice a day, you’re asking them to be spammy.
If you’re asking them to flood their social channels with the same promotion and language, it’s too spammy. Influencers should never direct message (DM) with a promotional message or @reply someone with a promotional message — those methods of communicating are uninvited and definitely spammy.
If you’re requiring your influencers to use the same language — even if the language is clever — it will come across as unoriginal (especially if you have dozens of people posting the exact same things). Again, let your influencers use their own language and style.
Fake-cool is when a brand swoops into social media and hijacks language or hashtags that are trendy, but does so awkwardly. You can’t actually be cool on social media if you don’t spend any real time there. Influencers know what will resonate as real and what won’t, so don’t try to force them to use language or hashtags that don’t come naturally to them.
#10. Thinking It Will Be Easy
Influencer marketing is hard to do well. It’s time-consuming, it requires genuine human interaction, and there’s no guarantee that what you do will work.
Remember when social media marketing was new, and brands flocked to Facebook and Twitter because they were “free”? There was so much excitement about reaching consumers in new ways, but so much untried and untested, too.
Generally speaking, marketers underestimated how much time, effort, and resources (including budget) it would take to get real brand traction out of these new “free” resources.
Influencer marketing is the next new kid on the social media marketing block, and over and over, we see brands underestimating how much work has to go into launching a stellar influencer marketing campaign.
Don’t underestimate what it takes to make influencer magic. Be thoughtful and deliberate in your approach. Take time to work out a plan, goals, and budget. Know what you’ll measure and how you’ll determine success. Approach your influencers carefully and respectfully, and offer opportunities that are win-win.
As the internet marketplace and economy continues to mature over the next couple of years, the brands and agencies that invest in activating influencer marketing are going to reap the greatest rewards.
There is an opportunity for marketers to make influencer marketing a priority and establish a well-oiled system before the market adjusts. But it needs to be done well, so avoid the 10 influencer marketing mistakes I’ve just show you.