It’s one of the biggest challenges startup owners face: How do you get the word out about your brand? With traditional ad campaigns showing dwindling clickthrough rates, and more people making decisions based on trust in other consumers, influencer marketing has become a popular answer, and for good reason.
But influencer marketing can be disastrous if you don’t do it right—not only for your brand and your budget, but for the influencer as well. Influencers are only effective if their audiences trust them, and all it takes is one bad campaign for that trust to vanish. Influencer campaigns frequently fizzle or land with a thud.
Done right, however, influencer marketing can be extremely useful. It gives your brand a trusted spokesperson whose endorsements are taken seriously by their audience. In addition, an influencer campaign helps cut through all the obstacles in a normal ad campaign, by being better targeted, getting people to pay attention, and getting them to act on the recommendation.
In order to reach the right outcome, there are some major influencer marketing mistakes you should be sure to watch out for before you set up an influencer campaign. Let’s take a look at some of the most common as well as how to avoid them.
Poor Planning (Or No Planning)
A lot of founders have a tendency to think that just by deciding to run an influencer campaign, the hard work is already done. But in reality, if you want to avoid influencers, the hard work should begin well before the decision is even made to move forward with the campaign.
While it’s tempting to want to rush into an influencer marketing campaign, moving too quickly can potentially cause a lot of issues down the line. After all, you wouldn’t launch your company without a business plan in place—influencer campaigns require the same amount of planning in order to ensure they’re successful.
As the old saying goes, “Failure to plan is a plan to fail,” and that’s especially true when it comes to influencer campaigns. If you’ve never done an influencer marketing campaign before, how can you know whether your campaign is a success if you haven’t defined what success means? And from the other side of the table, the last thing an influencer wants to do is partner with a brand that doesn’t have a clear direction and hasn’t set any goals for the campaign.
How To Avoid It
Fortunately, this pitfall is pretty easily avoided—you just have to come up with a plan! The first thing you need to do is establish goals for the campaign; here are a few questions that will need solid answers before you should proceed:
- How many people do you want to reach?
- What method(s) will you be using to reach your target audience?
- What are your key performance indicators (KPIs) for the campaign? (Number of people reached, clickthrough rate, conversion rate, revenue, cost per lead, organic traffic, etc.)
- How long will the campaign last?
Regarding KPIs, here are some ways to come up with them, depending on your overall brand goals:
Source: Brand Connections
This list is by no means exhaustive. Depending on your product, the kind of campaign you want to run, and your goals, there is a wide variety of considerations you need to take into account. Point being, these are the kinds of things you need to be thinking about before you approach influencers with the opportunity to be the face of your campaign.
Knowing this information isn’t just useful as a way to signal your seriousness to potential influencer partners, either. It’s also going to be useful down the road when you’re calculating the ROI of the campaign and looking for ways to improve future campaigns.
When it comes to influencer campaigns, information is power: the more of it you have, the better your odds will be of putting together a smooth and successful campaign and avoiding common influencer marketing mistakes.
Want to get your hands on the exact email templates Foundr uses to pitch and connect with hard-to-reach influencers like Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin and Sir Richard Branson?
Partnering With The Wrong Influencer
Influencer campaigns can be expensive, and though they may ultimately bring in enough business to offset their initial cost, there’s always the possibility that you could end up with a failed campaign, the cost of which might be enough to sink your brand entirely.
There’s no faster road to such ruin than a partnership with the wrong influencer.
A partnership with the wrong influencer isn’t just a waste of money, either. It’s also a signal to your potential audience that you don’t understand their interests and needs. And when you send that kind of signal, you’re putting a key element of your audience’s buying decision at risk: their trust.
After all, why would a consumer do business with a brand that doesn’t seem to be on the same wavelength?
Influencers might be a bad fit for your campaign for any number of reasons. Some of these reasons are almost impossible to predict (like a scandal that destroys the influencer’s popularity and credibility). Others, however, are right out in the open, if you know what you’re looking for.
How To Avoid It
Getting an influencer’s endorsement is a big step toward putting your brand in the spotlight. But while you may feel your up-and-coming brand needs an influencer’s endorsement to give it that extra push, you should never settle for just any endorser. Having an influencer’s endorsement is important, but what’s even more important is finding the right influencer to endorse your brand.
There are a few ways to determine if a particular influencer is a good fit for your campaign. The first is to look at their past campaigns to see if the influencer is known as a tastemaker in your industry.
For example, if your brand is in the fashion industry, partnering with someone known for establishing fashion trends—Kanye West, as a highly ambitious example—sends a message to consumers that your brand might be the next big thing.
If you’re stumped on finding endorsers, don’t be afraid to look at your competitors’ campaigns to see which ones were successful, and the kinds of influencers they used. To do this, first you’ll need to identify your closest competitors based on your industry, their size, and the product or service they offer. Once you’ve narrowed down the list, you can use a service like mine (Celebrity Endorsers) to see who these competitors have used for past campaigns.
You should also consider the demographic that comprises the influencer’s audience—does that group match the target demographic of your brand?
For example, if your startup is more high-end and geared toward adults, it wouldn’t make sense to have a YouTube star in their early 20s as the face of your campaign. They may have a large audience, but their audience is unlikely to try your product for themselves.
Finally, as with any influencer, you should also look beyond their endorsement history and view the bigger picture: is the influencer you’re targeting considered a high-quality, top-level endorser?
Do they have a positive public brand, and is their brand sustainable? The last thing you want to do is tie your brand to an influencer who won’t be around for much longer or who isn’t a seamless fit with your brand, like Disney did with YouTube star PewDiePie. Fair or not, your audience’s perception of an influencer will extend to your brand, so you need to make sure you’re selecting the right influencer to represent it.
Determining whether an influencer’s brand is sustainable can be tricky, but a general rule of thumb is to consider the industry the influencer is in. If the influencer you’re targeting is one of a few leading voices in a niche industry, the odds are higher that they’ll remain relevant and influential over the course of your marketing campaign.
On the other hand, if the influencer is a viral sensation who exploded onto the scene out of nowhere, there’s a higher likelihood that they can disappear just as quickly. You can also use analytics services like Socialbakers to track an influencer’s social media following and its growth.
Overestimating An Influencer’s Audience
Overestimating the amount of influence a potential campaign partner has is one of the biggest and easiest influencer marketing mistakes brands can make. No matter how effective your service, product or messaging strategy is, if the influencer you hire to endorse your brand doesn’t have the right-sized audience, you’re unlikely to see any substantial return on your investment.
Influencers need to have a significant audience in order to ensure that you can convert enough of them to make a difference to your bottom line, and to offset the cost of the campaign.
If you’ve never run an influencer marketing campaign before, you might not be sure what the ideal audience size is for a potential partner. The general rule of thumb is that brands will see about a 2% clickthrough rate and a 2.5% conversion rate from a celebrity or influencer endorsement. If you’re lucky, it might be a little higher, but anything below that means your brand risks losing money on the campaign.
With these figures in mind, many brands assume that they just need to partner with the influencer who has the largest audience in order to maximize their ROI on the campaign. If it were that simple, however, we likely wouldn’t see as many failed influencer campaigns as we do. There are other elements to measuring an influencer’s audience, and if you don’t take them into account, your campaign might be doomed from the start.
I’ve had experience with this myself.
I hired a social media influencer for a marketing campaign for a beverage company. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of not calculating her normal engagement rate before we agreed to the deal. I paid $300 for access to her 30,000 followers, but only five people clicked through to the brand’s site from her post. This could have been avoided if I’d done my research first to determine her engagement rate.
Of course, depending on the goal of the campaign, you might have different metrics for what you consider a successful campaign. Some brands are less concerned about driving revenue and are instead more focused on boosting brand awareness. After all, a brand that nobody’s heard of isn’t likely to survive for long, no matter how great its products or services may be. To improve brand awareness, some brands will hire a series of “micro-influencers”—influencers who aren’t necessarily considered leading influencers in their fields, but who do have loyal and devoted followings.
But whether you’re running a traditional influencer campaign or a campaign with a series of micro-influencers, the same standards apply: in order for the campaign to be effective, the influencer’s audience must be engaged and trust the influencer enough to listen to what they have to say.
How To Avoid It
It may seem counterintuitive from a business standpoint, but when it comes to influencer marketing, you need to target quality over quantity. Partnering with an influencer who has an audience of 5 million people might look good on paper, but unless the influencer’s audience is engaged, you’re unlikely to see the kinds of returns you’re hoping for. It’s crucial to find influencers whose audiences not only listen to their recommendations, but act on them as well.
One of our clients, Lacer Headwear, partnered with musician Pretty Lights to do a social media campaign through Facebook for a limited edition hat. Pretty Lights is very engaged with his audience, with over 800,000 likes on Facebook and an email list of over 100,000 people. When the hat was released, Pretty Lights promoted it on Facebook and through his email list, and the hat sold out within a day!
Unless the influencer you’re targeting keeps track of their own engagement metrics, it can be difficult to determine an influencer’s engagement levels. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to give yourself a ballpark idea of the influencer’s engagement rates and ensure you’re selecting influencers whose audience will take their recommendations.
One thing you can do is to find an influencer who is respected in the area where your brand resides; the more respected the influencer, the more likely their audience will act on their endorsement. In fact, it’s sometimes worthwhile to partner with an influencer who has a smaller audience that trusts them than to partner with an influencer who has a wider reach but doesn’t have that same trust.
Of course, there is a limit to this logic. For example, an influencer with a 25 million-person audience and a 5% engagement rate will still likely garner more conversions than an influencer with 1 million followers and a 75% engagement rate. Measuring an influencer’s engagement really depends on what metrics you want to track. Fortunately, there are services that can identify those metrics and give you the information you need.
For your influencer campaign, you’ll want to focus on their audience growth rate, shares per post and clicks per post.
A strong growth rate means the influencer’s popularity (and therefore the potential audience for your campaign) is continuing to increase, and shares/clicks per post are great indicators of whether or not the influencer’s audience will act on the influencer’s advice.
And if you don’t want to pay for services to track those metrics, there’s an even simpler way of guesstimating an influencer’s engagement rate: check their social media. If an influencer has 1 million followers on social media but their posts typically receive 1,000 comments and/or likes, their engagement rate is only 0.1%.
Ideally, you want to find influencers who average an engagement rate of 0.5% or more. The more people engage with an influencer’s posts, the more likely they are to feel a real connection to the influencer. As a result, they’ll be more likely to act on the influencer’s recommendations during an influencer marketing campaign.
Want to get your hands on the exact email templates Foundr uses to pitch and connect with hard-to-reach influencers like Tim Ferris, Seth Godin and Sir Richard Branson?
Not Enough Return On Your Investment
The final influencer marketing mistake brands make is overspending relative to what they’re getting for their money. As a startup owner, you know better than most the danger of overpaying for anything that won’t positively impact your bottom line, and influencer campaigns are no different.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy to determine whether you’re overpaying for an influencer campaign as it is with other goods or services. There are two primary reasons for this.
The first is that influencer campaign fees vary depending on the influencer and the kind of campaign you want to run. A campaign with a lot of engagement and legwork on the part of the influencer will likely cost more than one that only requires the influencer to make a few posts about your brand on social media. By the same token, influencers with a wider reach may feel emboldened to raise their prices for campaigns, even if their typical ROI is only slightly higher than that of one of their less-expensive colleagues.
The second reason brands tend to overpay for influencer campaigns is because there is no resource that provides transparency of influencer fees. Your first instinct when determining how much you should pay for an influencer campaign might be to Google that influencer and see what fees they’ve commanded for similar campaigns. However, in all likelihood, the results you get are nothing more than educated guesses.
Influencers typically don’t advertise their fees, and if they did, they would open themselves up to a lot more hardball negotiating from future clients. It’s in their best interest to set a price for a deal on a case-by-case basis. That way, the brand that wants to hire them can’t use past arrangements as a benchmark for their offer.
How To Avoid It
Because there’s more than one way to fall into this trap, there’s more than one way to avoid it.
First and foremost, when identifying an influencer for a campaign, you need to have a clear idea of what exactly you want them to do—remember, planning is crucial. By the same token, you also need to determine how you want to pay the influencer. Assuming you do a form of digital marketing, the influencer might be paid for every view, every click, or every converted customer.
The most common type of deal with influencers involves a payment per post. Gretta Rose van Riel of SkinnyMe Tea mentioned a rule of thumb that under 20,000 followers might be $50-$100 a post, and influencers with over 100,000 followers can charge up to $500 a post.
No matter what arrangement you’re seeking with an influencer, it’s crucial that you ensure you have the budget to cover the cost of the campaign. Not only that, but you should always be willing to negotiate. Just because an influencer quotes a particular fee for their work doesn’t mean you automatically have to accept it. The negotiation process can often seem daunting, so it’s no surprise that it’s a process most startups choose to avoid. But you have to be willing to push back on the cost. No startup has ever succeeded by making a habit out of spending more money than they need to.
In order to effectively negotiate, you should have a budget in mind before you reach out to influencers. It also helps if you reach out to a few influencers at once just to get an idea of what you can expect to pay for your campaign. When you do reach out, offer 10% less than what your budget will allow as a starting price. If the influencer accepts it, great; if not, you’ve left yourself room to negotiate on the price without having to recalibrate your budget (or risk spending too much on the campaign). Most importantly, you should always be prepared to walk away from a negotiation if the influencer you’re targeting is too far out of your price range or is unwilling to negotiate.
No matter what product or service your brand offers, influencer marketing campaigns can be a great way to boost your brand’s profile. However, the difference between a successful influencer marketing campaign and a bad one is incredibly thin, which is why it’s so important to keep these tips in mind when planning your next campaign.
If you follow the tips listed above and keep an eye out for the most common influencer marketing mistakess, you’ll be able to put together a campaign that could propel your brand to new heights.
Any questions about influencer marketing, or past experiences you can share? Let us know in the comments!