TLDR: There are a lot of variables involved in an Influencer Marketing campaign, and the human element is a blessing and a curse. Here are 5 questions and solutions to keep your campaign on track.
Running an Influencer Marketing campaign is easy, they said.
All you gotta do is find a few people on Instagram that have big audiences, they claimed.
Just send the “Influencers” some product and then watch your business grow, they declared.
Well folks, they were wrong. There are a great deal of variables involved in running an effective Influencer Marketing campaign, and it’s not as easy as it looks. Here’s why…
When you run an Influencer Marketing campaign, you are dealing with humans – and that is both a blessing and a curse. Firstly, it is a blessing if you are a people person. Secondly, it is a blessing because people trust people, not brands. So leveraging social Influencers as the trojan horse of your message carries massive benefits. At the same time, humans make mistakes, so Influencer Marketing carries more unpredictability than Programmatic Display, Google AdWords or Facebook Advertising.
Having said that, the risks related to Influencer Marketing can be mitigated through strategic planning, and by vetting your participants.
After running a wide variety of campaigns across a diverse range of industries, we have identified five questions to ask before you start a new campaign.
Let’s get to it!
Many Brands and agencies spend time romanticizing the Influencer…
“She’s perfect! She has the exact look and aesthetic we want to associate with our brand!”
“I love his content! It lines up terrifically with our brand message!”
But here is the truth. The look, aesthetic, and content style of the creator does not matter one iota if their audience differs from your target demo.
Stop romanticizing the Influencer, start falling in love with their audience.
This is a really important message that seems to be lost in the excitement of Influencer Marketing.
If you sell product in North America, how will you benefit from an Influencer that has an audience that is highly concentrated in Europe, South America, etc,? What if you are looking to target 30-something year old women, and the creators audience is largely men?
A bikini company is looking for a selection of 20-35 year old female Influencers to promote their new Spring bathing suit line in Canada. They identify a 20-something year old woman in Toronto that is a perfect fit! And on the surface, it’s all coming up Milhouse.
Her content has a beautiful aesthetic (on brand), she routinely wears bikinis in her photos (authentic), she has the right “look” (she represents their demo), and her content isn’t overly risky (brand safe).
But a quick look under the “audience hood” uncovers the unfortunate and seedy underbelly of this Influencers engagement metrics. To no fault of her own, the largest audience demographic of this young woman is Russian men aged 20 – 40. We can’t necessarily blame the Russian men for their interest, but unless they are prepared to ship bikinis to their female comrades, this campaign is destined to flame out.
Once again, don’t romanticize the Influencer. At the end of the day, the creator is a conduit to their audience. So this fact will determine the success of your Influencer Marketing campaign.
This is a big question that every brand and marketing professional needs to ask before starting their Influencer campaign.
Do you need a carefully crafted message that is consistent? Or are you willing to let your participants run free with their preferred style and tone of messaging – and without vetted talking points? Also, do you need to approve the content before it goes live?
To my surprise, many large and enterprise level companies are running contra deals and affiliate programs with content creators. I am shocked they are willing to relinquish that much control – but it happens all the time.
Here’s an example…
An international organic food company is starting a new Influencer program. They are looking for fitness, food, and lifestyle Influencers to help draw attention to a new lunchtime menu, and they are offering an affiliate program – i.e Influencers place a link in their bio and receive a 15% commission for any purchase completed through that link.
So here is what the international food company is thinking…
Here is what they are not thinking / considering…
What happens if the participating Influencer decides to say/write something disparaging?
This list could go on!
Suffice to say, it is super risky to place your delicately crafted brand in the hands of creators that have nothing to lose. Since they aren’t being paid, they are less likely to treat it as a job. And there are no repercussions for making a mistake.
So what is your appetite for risk?
If you are small business with minimal brand recognition, running an affiliate program could definitely make sense. But if you are a large to enterprise level company, you need to understand that all your brand building initiatives can be undone by an individual that was gifted the keys to your company’s image.
Historically, brands pay creative agencies to produce their media (TV or radio spots, print advertising, billboard creative, digital Ads, etc.). Then they pay a distribution network to send their media into the world.
But Influencer Marketing is very different.
Rather than paying creative agencies and distribution networks, brands receive both media production and distribution from Influencers – to a captive audience, no less. It is a very powerful combination. Having said that, it comes with some questions.
Who owns the content. The brand, or the Influencer?
Can the content be re-distributed across the owned channels of the brand?
Can the content be re-distributed across other owned channels – i.e emails, website, other social networks, offline collateral, etc.?
If the brand has ownership rights to the content, is there an expiration date? If so, for how long, and what are the terms?
Does the brand have the ability to use the name, logo, likeness, etc. of the Influencer? If so, for how long, and what are the terms?
This is also where question #3 comes back into play. If you are running (or thinking about running) a non-paid Influencer program, it is difficult to ask for the rights to ownership and distribution unless you have overarching value to reciprocate – i.e you have a huge platform to elevate the profile of the creator.
So there can be major tension between brands and creators when there is no compensation, and the expectations of each party are not clearly mapped out in a contract.
On the other hand, if you are running paid Influencer collaborations, you have the ability to negotiate all the considerations listed above. This ensures there are no grey areas, and everyone involved in the program understands the expectations.
On the topic of contract terms, there is another major item for every brand to consider, and that is exclusivity.
If a creator works with you this week, can they work with your competition next week? What about next month?
For many brands, it is important to negotiate a period of exclusivity because they don’t want a brand ambassador working with the competition. Most Influencers will be happy to oblige – but that will come at a cost because it is putting restrictions on that creators ability to work.
As a rule of thumb, many content creators will provide a four week period of exclusivity when they are engaged in a paid collaboration – two weeks before the engagement, and two weeks afterward. However, there is no industry standard, and each individual will have their own terms. There is also no consensus on “fair” exclusivity rates.
We have worked with talent agents that want their clients fees tripled for a three month period of exclusivity. We have also worked with individuals that happily provide a non compete because they are looking to establish a long term partnership with the brand.
While there may not be industry wide standards, it is always important to consider the importance of exclusivity.
There are 3 main ways to source Influencers, and organize a campaign. Through a platform, through an agency, and on your own. Let’s assess all three options:
It’s always important to perform due diligence to find the right partner! And here is one other item to consider when selecting a partner.
If something goes wrong, what is the crisis management plan?
If you are running a campaign on your own, it is important to understand what you will do if there is a major issue. If you are running a campaign through a platform, is there a human at the helm to handle any possible missteps? Lastly, if you are dealing with an agency, how will they handle unforeseen events?
The last question sounds simple, but it is something that many companies forget to assess and define.
What are we actually trying to accomplish with this Influencer Marketing campaign?
There are certainly plenty of possible answers…
Suffice to say, Influencer Marketing campaigns can deliver value across a wide spectrum of interests. But it is important to prioritize and set clear expectations before moving forward with your plans.
Here’s something to keep in mind…
When you are dealing with Google AdWords or Facebook Advertising, there is not much room for miscommunication. You provide the creative, set the targeting and scheduling, and there isn’t much room for interpretation. But once again, Influencer Marketing is different because we are dealing with human beings, and we all see things through a different lens.
In order to maintain clarity, it is important to provide everyone that participates in the program with an air tight campaign brief. That brief should dictate the following:
Depending on the complexity of the campaign, you may also need to include an itinerary, a production schedule, and performance expectations.
Whatever the case may be, it is very important to keep everyone on the same page. Otherwise, the definition of success may be up for debate.
So there you have it! Those are the five questions you need to ask before running an Influencer Marketing campaign.
At this point, you may be realizing why many brands work with agencies. Again, if you are a small business, you may not have much to lose. But for larger businesses, Influencer Marketing represents an incredible opportunity to connect with customers on a much more personal level – but it is not a simple execution. There are a wide variety of considerations that go into executing every campaign, and dealing with people adds a wrinkle of unpredictability.
Nevertheless, Influencer Marketing is set to grow at a frenetic pace in the months and years to come, an the results are worth the effort.