By Stefania Pomponi and Kristy Sammis/Sponsored Post by Clever
Are you confused by influencer marketing? Want to pitch a program but don’t know where to begin? We hear you. There is a lot of information out there, but sometimes it’s hard to make sense of it. Let’s clarify some of the myths and challenges and get you started on the path to success.
The first thing to keep in mind is that influencer marketing is not a stand-alone tactic, but should be considered part of an integrated PR and/or marketing effort. To create a successful influencer marketing program you have to consider your client’s overall marketing goals and how influencer marketing—with its own set of goals—fits into the client’s plan.
It’s easy to pick influencer marketing out of the overall marketing mix and cry, “NEVER AGAIN!” when it doesn’t succeed, but that’s not exactly fair. You can pull out pieces of any marketing effort—including paid advertising—and show how it can fail at each point in the process.
Let’s break this down.
Issue 1: Clients want branded content, but there are so many influencers out there, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Where do I start? What’s an influencer anyway?
The problem isn’t too many influencers. The problem is not knowing where to find quality influencers and how to vet them.
If you hire a designer who produces irrelevant designs, you don’t walk around saying, “There are too many designers, that’s why their work is so irrelevant.” Because that would be nonsense, right? Your responsibility as a PR or marketing professional is to find a designer who will be a great fit for the brand/client you’re representing.
It’s also your job to find influencers who will do great work for you. Which is entirely possible if you know what you are looking for.
Sure, the number of publicly visible influencers in the world has increased over the years but that is a result of social media making those people more visible. Influencers have always existed; now they just have a marketing label attached to them.
Additionally, they are influential only in specific spheres. That means brands and agencies have to do their research to know who to turn to within a targeted area. When a brand thinks there are too many influencers, that is a sign that it does not know its target audience well enough to know who is influential in that sector.
That’s why it’s important to work with an agency partner that has built relationships with different spheres of influencers. Established agencies have worked with enough influencers over the years to know exactly who the best options are for brands’ specific needs. You can’t present a proposal about chocolate to a tuna brand just because both are food. The strategy is entirely different.
Issue 2: Influencers don’t value their craft because anyone can be an influencer nowadays and they only care about money. How do I pick someone who creates compelling content and is professional?
Yes, social media has made it easy for anyone with an internet connection and a point of view to share it immediately with the entire world. Wading through tens of thousands of influencers to get to the one (or the many) that make sense to partner with a brand is a special skill that is best left to professionals who know the influencer marketing industry inside and out--not interns, not someone who got “influencer marketing” added to their job description because they have an Instagram account.
Screening is important and can eat up a lot of time, budget, and effort if you don’t know what you are doing. Any professional who works with influencers on a daily basis will tell you that influencers who do not value their work or content will not be around long, and definitely won’t be selected to partner with brands. There is no excuse to select the wrong influencers for campaigns. If you do and the campaign fails, that’s because of sloppy vetting, not the influencers you select.
Established influencer marketing specialists have years of experience of vetting thousands of influencers and can easily spot a dedicated influencer versus one who likely won’t deliver on the assignment. The ones who consistently execute brand campaigns behave like a well-oiled machine—spending hours shooting, writing and scheduling posts. It takes up enough time and effort that people’s full-time jobs have become blogging, and the content is good enough that they can make a successful living off it.
But if a brand or company decides to tack on influencer marketing at the end of a creative campaign to get some extra impressions using what’s left of a campaign budget, well, that’s how unfit influencers slip through the cracks.
In some cases, we’ve also seen advertising execs try to acquire influencer reach without ANY budget. So we have to say this: You CAN’T pitch influencers the same way you would pitch journalists—something many people have yet to grasp.
Issue 3: What do I pay influencers? How much should they be charging for their work?
Seasoned influencers know very well what their rates are. It’s their job to know because working with brands is their livelihood. What to pay an influencer depends on many factors—scope of work, types and quantity of content being created, how often content must be shared, where it is shared, etc. An influencer who is a content creator-only might charge one rate for creating high-quality images that a brand can “own” and repurpose, and a different rate for providing long-form content like a blog post where the creator retains ownership. An influencer tasked with creating a branded video will certainly want to be paid more than an influencer who is asked to share a coupon code on Twitter.
And, by the way, when we say “paid” we mean in cold, hard cash—not in-kind product or services or the promise of exposure.
All influencer payments are not the same and if you aren’t sure what an influencer should be paid: ask. You know your budget and what you can afford.
Issue 4: Influencer marketing agencies don’t operate like talent agencies.
There are tons of newly sprung “influencer marketing agencies” (or platforms) that have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. Many are actually other types of agencies who now claim to be experts in working with influencers.
But we actually ARE an influencer marketing agency, exclusively, and we have been for seven years.
No, we don’t represent influencers with a talent agency model, pitching them for business and taking a cut of their earnings. That’s not scalable.
Instead, we operate our business like a PR agency. The service we provide is an extension of a brand’s overall sales or marketing plan and is always a part of a brand’s integrated marketing mix. We represent a giant pool of vetted influencer talent, and work with our brand partners to identify:
- What types of influencers will actually work best with the brand messaging?
- What formats/platforms will translate your brand messaging best?
- What are your overall goals for your influencer programming?
And we guarantee our results and the quality of our work.
Issue 5: The process stinks when you recruit influencers one-by-one.
Yes, it does. Especially if you have no idea what you are doing. Vetting influencers is crucial to the success of any influencer marketing program, and can be a huge time and money suck if it’s not your area of expertise. If you’re serious about influencer marketing, hire a professional to vet influencers for you because, yes, it can be challenging if you don’t know where to start.
Issue 6: Influencers are going to start disappearing. Brands are going to start realizing the amount of followers you have doesn’t mean anything. Just because photos look good and have 200,000 followers means nothing. You can’t rely on content creators all day long.
The entire advertising industry relies on content creation. An ad is content that is created by an art director, a creative strategist, a producer, etc. Like any component of a bigger creative campaign, influencer marketing is one carefully planned and executed piece.
Furthermore, influencers have been around for centuries. It’s the ease of social media discoverability that makes them more visible today. Everyone is influential in some way. So no, influencers are not going anywhere.
Good photos also can’t have 200,000 followers regardless of how great they look, because that’s not how our social media channels work. However, if those photos have 200,000 engagements, then you can effectively track brand sentiment, exposure and conversion rates if you’re using the right tools. And I’ll bet those metrics probably mean something to your client.
Hopefully you have more clarity now. Influencer marketing doesn’t have to be a mystery. When wielded properly, it can and should be a powerful weapon in your PR arsenal.
About the authors
Stefania Pomponi and Kristy Sammis are founders of CLEVER, an award-winning, industry -leading influencer marketing agency based in the San Francisco Bay Area with offices across the U.S.
CLEVER is an award-winning influencer marketing agency connecting brands with its network of over 7,500 vetted social media influencers, reaching 80 million monthly unique visitors. The agency is also behind the book Influencer Marketing for Dummies (Wiley) and the #Batkid viral sensation. CLEVER’s offerings are powered by a proprietary platform, which enables them to offer brands beautiful, compelling and custom content at scale. Female-founded and run since 2009, CLEVER is based in the San Francisco Bay Area with offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, and the New York Metro area, and can be found at RealClever.com or via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram @RealClever.