Influencer Marketing Gone Wrong—Avoiding the Most Common Mistakes

Are you responsible for managing campaigns to roll out a new product or service? Or are you one of the essential cogs in the HR machine with a job that includes finding top talent? In either scenario (and in many others) influencer marketing may be exactly what you’re looking for.

As I’ve said before, I am a brand champion for talent, and I think it’s important to understand how influencer marketing is reshaping the way businesses market and sell their products.

I also think it’s important to understand what to and what NOT to do when you’re considering working with an influencer to speak on your brand’s behalf.

Influencer marketing is one of the hottest (and cost-effective) forms of marketing today, and it works. But—and this is a big but—only when it’s done right. Problems with influencer marketing happen when brands “hear the buzzword,” and jump right in without developing a strategy and foundation for their program.

All too often, this approach to influencer marketing ends in failure. Or worse, damage to the brand’s reputation.

It’s no secret that this type of marketing can be one of the best ways to build brand awareness. Studies have found that influencer marketing, which is basically highly targeted and strategized word-of-mouth marketing, generates two times more sales than paid advertising. Better yet, customers gained through this kind of marketing have a 37 percent higher chance of becoming loyal customers.

Influencer marketing can also have a very high ROI: Businesses make an average of $6.50 per dollar spent. No wonder so many marketers are scrambling to give it a try. However, there’s just one major problem: Too many brands do it wrong. Here are some common mistakes and tips so you can avoid making them.

Mistake #1: Not Treating Influencers Like Real People

Lack of authenticity is often one of the biggest issues in influencer marketing campaigns. Influencers are people—they may be people who’ve branded themselves well and have created an impressive online or offline reputation, but they’re still people. Many brands seem to forget this; they approach influencers like another faceless brand or company and neglect to treat them like real human beings.

Don’t Make This Mistake

Influencer marketing is about establishing and building relationships—real connections with real people. Here are some ground rules:

  • Approach influencers like you would a co-worker or industry professional you admire.
  • Write them a personalized message, and avoid anything that sounds automated or cliché.
  • Pay them an authentic compliment.
  • Give them a little creative freedom when they do agree to share their feelings about your brand.

The point of influencer marketing is, well, their opinions. That’s why you’ve done your research and chosen the best ones for your company or brand (see below about choosing incorrectly!). Don’t box them in by telling them exactly what to say or how to say it.

Influencers have feelings too—treat them like the people they are.

Mistake #2: Approaching the Wrong Influencer for Your Campaign

Finding the right influencer–someone who resonates with the audience you’re marketing to—is essential for the success of your campaign. Choosing someone based only on the number of their online friends or followers can misfire. If the person you’ve chosen doesn’t jive with your brand’s personality, marketing through them will never get the response you want, no matter how many followers they have. Your chosen influencers should have a lot in common with your brand: Interests, target audiences, expertise, and even aesthetics.

Don’t Make This Mistake

How do you choose the right influencers? Think of your organization’s hiring process: When you’re considering a potential employee, you screen them to make sure they fit the company culture, right? The concept is the same.

Do some research into your prospective influencer’s background:

  • How do they behave with their friends and followers?
  • Are they engaging with other brands? Which ones?
  • What is their reputation?
  • What material are they sharing and how is it resonating with the people you hope to reach?
  • Are they active in the same forums the people you hope to reach are?

Take a look at your potential influencer’s followers.

  • What are they discussing?
  • What do they like or dislike?
  • What do they share online?
  • Do they resemble any of your customer profiles, or seem like people who might use your product or service or tell others about them?

Understanding an influencer’s personal brand will help you decide whether they mesh with your company culture. It will also help you approach them with a more personal touch—a win-win effort.

Mistake #3: Being Disorganized—or Too Strict

Disorganization and a lack of communication will kill any relationship—business or otherwise. Chances are, you pour a lot of resources into your other marketing campaigns, so plan to do the same for any influencer marketing campaigns you manage.

Influencer marketing campaigns should be just as organized as your other campaigns. Trust me, the influencer will thank you. Nothing is worse than agreeing to help out a brand only to find out they don’t even know what they want or need from you.

Having said that, be open to their suggestions. For example, I mentioned giving influencers a little freedom when it comes to spreading the news about your brand. They’re an influencer—give them the trust they have earned by reaching that status.

Don’t Make This Mistake

Start with an outline of how your campaign will work. You’ll need some sort of editorial calendar and an idea of how you want to have your brand portrayed. Keeping with your brand voice, give your influencer a basic outline of what you expect from them but be flexible. Again, keep an open mind, and listen to them. Leave room for feedback and adjustment.

However, make very sure your influencer understands the Federal Trade Commission’s (FCC) Endorsement Guide—and plans to follow it. When it comes to the use of endorsements and testimonials, the FTC has set out some guiding principles, which you and your influencer must adhere to. For example, influencers must disclose their connections to a brand when they are making recommendations or endorsements.

Figure out how you will answer the following:

  • Who will be monitoring and managing the campaign and the influencer’s work?
  • What are the terms of employment or the contract?
  • How will you compensate your influencer?
  • How will you know the campaign has been successful?
  • What happens after the campaign ends?

Taking the time to answer these and other questions and to plan thoughtfully will make your (and the influencer’s) life easier in the long run.

Give Your Business the Care It Deserves

You’ve worked hard to build your business—you should work just as hard to market it well. Whether you’re on the hunt for new employees or pitching a new product, influencers have the ability to help you tremendously, and you want to approach them in a way that makes them feel excited to lend a hand. Influencer marketing is about fostering a relationship with the influencer, and by extension, his or her followers. If your heart is in it, the influencer’s will be, too. And great things can happen!

This post was first published on first published on V3Broadsuite on 3/30/16.

photo credit: few tools erase mistakes via photopin (license)