Influencer marketing can be very manual and time consuming, but it doesn't have to be
If you have dabbled in influencer marketing you will know that it can be a difficult, time-consuming and tedious part of your digital marketing strategy and can cause one giant headache if not managed correctly. The influencer marketing industry as a whole is vastly unregulated, which ultimately causes many challenges from brands and marketers who want to use influencer marketing in their strategy. There is no benchmark of who actually is an influencer, how much influence they have, how much they should be paid or any guarantee that a particular collaboration will be successful. Likewise, there is a limited understanding in the industry about the power of influencer marketing and what’s involved in running a campaign from start to finish.
After working in the influencer marketing space for 12 months we have faced many challenges when it comes to implementing influencer marketing campaigns for our customers. Ultimately we have overcome them and made our processes better each and every time as a result of each challenge, so I wanted to share some of our strategies for dealing with the challenges of influencer marketing so you can have a better experience when working with influencers too.
Here are 12 challenges in the influencer marketing space right now…
Challenge 1: Understanding the power Of influencer marketing
Influencer marketing is big business in the marketing world, and each year brands are allocating more budget to influencer marketing, yet many still don’t understand the true power of influencer marketing, how to leverage influencers for campaign success and why they should work with influencers in the first place.
Influencer marketing is the new word-of-mouth marketing and is the art of leveraging individuals with a voice to drive their audience to action. Current studies suggest that nearly 9 in 10 consumers make purchase decisions after reading about a product on a blog. In fact, influencer marketing drives 5-200x more sales than paid media because consumers trust influencers more than brands, as influencer recommendations are testimonials from their peers whereas branded content seems biased.
We are committed to educating our customers, as well as brands, marketers, small business owners and the industry as a whole on the power of influencer marketing, why brands should work with influencers and how to leverage influencers to create a successful influencer campaign.
Challenge 2: Time it takes to execute an end to end campaign
This is a huge misconception in the industry, and one that is not completely understood until you have implemented an influencer marketing campaign before. If you have, you will know full well that it takes a long time from start to finish, because you have to go through a lot of processes and stages before the final report, measurements and ROI analysis can be complete. If you haven’t implemented an influencer strategy before, you will be forgiven for thinking it’s as easy as sending a product to a blogger and them taking a picture and posting it online. In theory, it could be done in a couple of days, however, that is very rarely the case when it comes to influencer marketing.
One way to make the process more productive, faster and smooth is to use a specialized influencer marketing tool, like Scrunch! If you’re a Scrunch customer, you can find influencers, add them to a targeted list of bookmarked profiles and contact them all from the one dashboard. To help you find the right influencers, Scrunch has filtering functionalities so you can filter your search by location, audience size, platform type, topic and more to find the perfect fit for your campaign. You can also see all of an influencer’s social channels, their bio and a selection of their content so you can get an idea of what they post, and what their style of content is. The Scrunch platform takes hours out of influencer discovery and research, and makes it easy to track and manage collaborations, so you can keep your campaigns organized (bye bye spreadsheets!).
Challenge 3: How much should you pay an influencer. ROI or die
This is a big challenge in the industry and one that we are constantly asked about. Because the industry is so unregulated and influencers and talent managers have their own, unique pricing model which constantly changes, it’s impossible to say you should pay influencers XYZ and nothing more, nothing less. Many brands are notorious for determining negotiation fees solely on soft metrics a.k.a feelings.
In an effort to raise standards in the influencer marketing industry, brands should actively consider the following metrics to help quantify an influencer’s value:
Monitor Referral Traffic “Google's method of reporting visits that came to your site from sources outside of its search engine.”
Track real-time view-ability, audible, and geographic metrics with a precision data measurement platform like MOAT.
Evaluate the cost per impression and the cost per engagement with regards to total campaign spending.
Calculate the media value per post by multiplying the impression of a post by the CPM of Instagram ads.
Install a tracking pixel.
Give influencers their own discount codes, then track how many consumers use the code. This is a sure way to determine an influencer’s effectiveness.
Employ the “swipe-up-to-buy” feature on Instagram. In efforts to provide brands with better stats and promote sales, Instagram has introduced a feature allows consumers to purchase the products from the images posted on a brand’s feed. Mary Beech, a marketer for Kate Spade New York, says she loves this feature because it allows the brand’s customers to “seamlessly tap and shop the product—going from inspiration to information to purchase in just a few steps—we’re excited to see where the feature continues to take us.” Now, a brand can track how many times a people have swiped up on their influencer’s post and purchases the product they were advertising.
Challenge 4: How to measure success and calculate ROI
In the influencer marketing space as a whole, there is inconsistency surrounding what constitutes a successful influencer marketing campaign and how to measure whether ROI has been achieved. Influencer marketing typically comes with no guaranteed results, so there are no assurances that X number of sales will be made, or the content will reach X number of eyeballs and X number of clicks. Unlike other digital marketing channels that price based on CTR or CPC, there is no solid measure for success, and instead, marketers find themselves guessing whether the campaign worked or not.
To overcome this challenge, we set very clear, specific and realistic KPIs with our customers to ensure that we have a benchmark to work towards. If the influencer campaign doesn’t hit that benchmark, we do whatever it takes to get there. Whether it is to increase newsletter subscribers by 50%, sell 10,000 products or grow a brand’s social following by 1,000, we work with our customers to set expectations upfront and determine how to track results so we can measure success and calculate the ROI of the campaign. Whether you are a marketer working in-house or for an agency on behalf of a brand, establish what success looks like and how you will measure it, and then shape your influencer marketing strategy around it.
Challenge 5: Understanding who actually has influence. Relevance is king
This is another one that comes up so often, mostly because there is no strict way to confirm who has influence. There are no guidelines that say “if you have 20,000 Instagram followers, you have influence” or “if you have a blog, you have influence.” Defining who actually has influence is much more subjective than that, and it is always open for interpretation.
Identifying the right influencers for your brand is still a prevalent issue. Steve Olenski, former director of CMO Content & Strategy at Oracle and current Forbes contributor, suggest brands should stop focusing on an influencer’s content and start identifying an influencer’s relevance--“Content is king? No. Relevance is king for without it you’re just another star in the sky or grain of sand on a beach or any other analogy you want to use. In other words, you won’t stand out amongst the crowd.” Relevance is the common denominator for both parties; it must be a mutually beneficial relationship. The brand’s products or services must resonate with the influencer’s audience, and the influencer’s audience must resonate with the brand’s products. All influencers can create aesthetic content (it is their jobs), but the content is not effective if it doesn’t speak to the influencer’s audience. Scrunch is a great solution for assisting brands in connecting with the “relevant” influencers.
One of the important things to look for when understanding whether an influencer actually has influence over their audience and their purchasing decisions is to look at their average engagement and engagement to a topic. This will help clarify whether their audience is actively engaged in their content, which is the first step in understanding whether they actually have influence.
To calculate an average engagement rate on Instagram to determine what percentage of an influencer’s followers are actively engaged with their content, use the following formula:
(Sum of total likes and comments for 12 most recent Instagram posts) divided by (12) divided by (total number of followers) time by (100) = engagement rate percentage.
The industry average is 1-4%, so if their engagement rate is in that bracket, or ideally above it, then you are on your way to understanding whether the influencer actually has influence over their audience.
Challenge 6: Not knowing how to work with influencers
Working with influencers comes with a whole new set of best practices that are unique to the influencer marketing space, yet many marketers don’t know how to work with influencers and as a result, don’t get the best results from influencer marketing efforts.
First, it’s important to know what to do, and what not to do when working with influencers. Always be polite, understanding and helpful, and never be demanding or take advantage of them. You can read all of our tips on what not to do when working with influencers in this blog post, so you can avoid these common mistakes when communicating and working with influencers. Influencer marketing is all about relationship building, so focus on building strong, mutually beneficial relationships first and foremost.
Second, it’s important to know all of the different ways you can work with influencers, because the opportunities really are endless. If you are not open to collaboration and cannot be flexible, you won’t get the best results from influencer marketing and the whole process becomes challenging. You can work with influencers in a whole heap of capacities, from single sponsored posts and affiliate marketing to long-term ambassador roles or even getting them involved with your internal team.
Want to know more? Make sure you read: 13 Types Of Influencer Marketing Campaigns To Complement Your Digital Marketing Strategy. Once you know the best practices of working with influencers, and the large number of ways you can work with them, the process of working with influencers as a whole will become much more streamlined.
Challenge 7: Lack of data available or used in industry as a whole
As influencer marketing is relatively new and unregulated, data should play a big role in creating, executing, optimizing and measuring influencer marketing campaigns. However, many marketers don’t know what data is available, or what data they should even be interested in. Data that is available publicly, such as likes, comments and shares, is great, however, it does not paint the full picture of an influencer campaign. Marketers should be digging deeper to have a view of the impressions and reach of influencer content, as well as data on an influencer's audience, engagement to a topic, audience engagement, contribution to the digital conversation and impact on reaching the campaign KPI, whatever that might be.
From a campaign perspective, it’s also important to dive into sentiment, conversions, share of voice, top authors, top content and affinity to the brand, as well as an audience analysis to uncover the key demographics of the influencer’s audience.
We are committed to presenting all of this data, and more, to our customers to help make better decisions that are based on hard data rather than speculation when working on an influencer marketing campaign.
Want to know more about our approach to data-driven influencer marketing? Read 10 insights from Scrunch CEO and Co-Founder Danielle Lewis here.
Challenge 8: What deliverables will drive the key goal
Many assume that influencer marketing is a one size fits all approach, however, the truth couldn’t be more different. The core KPI of your influencer marketing campaign should dictate the strategy from the very beginning, because different goals will require a different influencer strategy to drive the best results. For example, if your campaign is to increase brand awareness, your strategy should be very different to a campaign that is all about purchasing a luxury handbag or creating content for the brands owned media.
To understand what deliverables will drive success, you must first outline what the key focus is of the campaign, and what the key goal is. Once you have done that, you can start developing an influencer strategy that will hit those targets. You can read more about the importance of defining your influencer marketing goals and shaping your strategy around them, as well some campaign ideas to help you achieve five different marketing goals, in this blog post so you can start developing a strategy and set of deliverables that will drive results for your key campaign goal.
Challenge 9: Transparency is not always a priority
Again, as a result of an unregulated industry where millions of influencers run their own business and brand, transparency is not always a priority, and it happens on both sides of the relationship. Brands should have the right to all of the data an influencer can provide, including reach, impressions, pageviews and clicks, as well as an understanding of the authenticity of an influencer’s followers and their demographics. However, often influencers don’t have this data setup and accessible, or they do not share it with the brand, perhaps because it is unfavourable to them, or because it highlights some faults in their business.
On the other hand, brands should be completely transparent with influencers regarding the budget they have, the campaign objectives, deliverables required and how success will be measured. If both parties strive for transparency, the influencer marketing space will become easier to navigate for everyone involved.
Challenge 10: Setting expectations and briefing influencers
Settling expectations and briefing influencers on a campaign is critical to ensure the collaboration process runs smoothly and can help avoid many of the common challenges of influencer marketing from the outset.
To overcome this challenge, it’s important to establish a briefing document which outlines all expectations, deliverables, guidelines and requirements, and this must be accepted by both the brand and the influencer before a collaboration can begin. If it is not, obstacles will continue to come up throughout the campaign, and some could have a detrimental impact on the overall success of the campaign. You can see an example of what is included in our briefing notes here.
When working with an influencer and paying them for their involvement in the campaign, it is completely acceptable to provide briefing notes and an agreement, as you would when working with any other contractor, freelancer or consultant. However, when working with influencers on a contra only strategy (where they are gifted a complimentary product or service in exchange for content or promotion) there are limitations on what you can set as an expectation and deliverable, as it is not an official working arrangement where monetary compensation is concerned. When working with influencers on a contra strategy, it is okay to provide examples and ask what type of content may be produced, but in terms of expectations they have to be very limited (which is one of the reasons why you should invest budget into influencer campaigns).
Challenge 11: Influencers don’t respond to outreach attempts
This is a tricky one and it is super frustrating when you have a great campaign and influencer in mind, but they are not responsive to your emails! Don’t take it personally and instead, alter your approach to outreach emails and get creative with your campaign strategy to ensure you get more replies in the future. It’s an opportunity to take a learning away from the experience, rather than feel defeated. To help you get a better response from your influencer outreach emails, read these 15 actionable tips to rework your outreach email.
Challenge 12: Providing a good influencer experience
Finally, providing a good influencer experience is critical to the success of your campaign, and for building good relationships with key influencers. If they don't have a good experience with your brand, they won't want to work with you again, and the content they create will not reflect well on the brand. For example, if you are sending an influencer a piece of clothing and it arrives late, with makeup stains on it or in the wrong size, the influencer instantly has a bad first impression. It also causes an inconvenience as they have to organise the garment to be swapped, a new piece to delivered and they will feel generally unhappy about the situation. It is so critical that influencers have a good experience with your brand, and with you too, so do everything in your power to ensure they have a good experience.
To ensure this, we control the end-to-end communication with the influencer, from communication and negotiation to logistics and any extra things that can help make the experience better. The more you can control, or have a dedicated resource control for you, the better the influencer engagement will be.
Influencer marketing is an increasingly unregulated space to work in and with that comes many challenges, but ultimately it's an exciting space in the world of digital marketing. While challenges will always come up, if you have proactive processes in place and learn from your past lessons, you can make the challenges of influencer marketing a small bump in the road, rather than a colossal hurdle next time they come up. Use our insights from 12 months of influencer marketing to make your own influencer marketing experience a much smoother ride.
What is your number one challenge when working with influencers, or when implementing an influencer marketing campaign? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below and we can help you develop a strategy to overcome them together.