Here are the most important steps to follow and missteps to avoid when running an influencer marketing campaign, and a few things to keep in mind for specific campaign tactics (such as giveaways, hashtag campaigns, and unboxings).
Dos And Don'ts Of Running An Influencer Campaign
Here are some of the most important do’s and don’ts of an influencer marketing campaign:
Top Influencer Campaign “Do’s”
Do: Set specific target objectives and KPIs beforehand
Your key performance indicators (KPIs) will affect every other decision in your campaign: which influencers you select, your social platforms of choice, and how you measure success.
In general, influencer marketing campaigns aim to achieve at least one (or both) of the following types of goals:
- Brand Awareness goals are centered around raising awareness of your brand or product. KPIs can include social media engagement (such as likes, shares, comments, and mentions), website traffic, press mentions, and searches for your brand or product.
- Direct Response metrics are focused on driving a specific “conversion” action, such as app downloads, membership signups, newsletter subscriptions, and purchases.
Measuring a direct response campaign is generally easier than a brand awareness campaign. You can calculate ROI by measuring how much you invested in the campaign against your actual returns (revenue or number of desired actions). If you are aiming to increase awareness, it’s essential that you set clear engagement targets that will define your success. If you are working with an agency, they will help set these goals based on your industry, desired outcome, and budget.
Do: Allocate time to find and vet the perfect influencers
Finding the best influencers to meet goals is possibly the most important step. Don’t rush through this process—take time to evaluate each influencer.
Here are some attributes to evaluate as a whole, and in comparison to other influencers of a similar size and industry:
- Engagement Rate: Average likes, favorites, and shares on their content
- Comment Volume: How many comments they receive per post
- Comment Sentiment: Do followers generally express support and adoration on their comments? Do they ask about the products the influencer uses or clothes they are wearing
- Audience Demographics: On most key channels, such as Instagram and YouTube, the influencer will be able to supply this data to you. Ensure these demographics align squarely with your target audience.
- Brand Aesthetic & Messaging: Confirm that their style and visuals align with your brand. Does their content set off any red flags in terms of brand safety?
- Past Sponsored Content Performance: Look at how their other sponsored posts perform. How often do they publish sponsored content? Are their followers receptive, or do they express exasperation?
- Fake Followers: Although it’s becoming more difficult for influencers to buy followers, some still invest in this fraudulent behavior to pad their numbers — follow these steps to detect fake followers.
Do: Identify the best social media channels to reach your target audience
- Instagram: Instagram has a high concentration of Millennial users, and strong usage among Gen Z and Gen X age groups. Instagram posts offer a great way to position your product or service in a visually striking and highly personalized way. Instagram Stories provide more interactive, “off-the-cuff” snapshots of a moment in time—and unlike Instagram posts, Stories can include a link through the “Swipe Up” feature.
- YouTube: YouTube is used by a wide range of audiences, especially people aged 18-34. YouTube specializes in long-form video, where influencers can unbox physical products, enjoy an experience, or incorporate a sponsored product in their vlog. That, coupled with the ability to easily embed links, makes YouTube influencer marketing campaigns effective for both branding and direct-response campaigns.
- Twitch: This fast-growing livestreaming platform is still focused largely on Millennial gamers, but is expanding to other audiences. Its 15 million viewers spend over double the average time spent on any other social media channel. Twitch is emerging quickly, and represents a powerful new channel for brands looking to innovate and reach highly attentive audiences.
- Blogs: Blogs generally provide access to an older demographic of 25-49 year olds, and allow for more in-depth, narrative, and personalized storytelling. Successful sponsored blog posts also have the unique advantage of building organic search traffic over time.
- Facebook: With over 2.2 billion users, Facebook has the largest global reach of any channel. Their audience generally tends to skew older than Instagram or Twitch. Facebook Live videos, watched 3x longer than standard videos, are used by top influencers to reach Facebook’s global audience — although this is often as a second channel, rather than their primary platform.
Consider all elements of your campaign when selecting the best social media channels for your influencer campaign. Is your target audience on this channel? Is this content medium the best way to frame your product or service?
For example, both YouTube and Instagram attract Millennial users, but each has different content formats. A makeup brand might sponsor an Instagram post where an influencer shares a visually appealing photo of herself wearing their cosmetics. Or the makeup brand might use YouTube influencers for hands-on make-up tutorials, or a product unboxing.
Pro Tip: Consider how each social media channel intersects with your industry. Certain verticals, such as gaming, have higher concentrations of influencers on platforms like YouTube and Twitch, while fashion influencers are generally more common to Instagram or blogs.
Do: Take time to familiarize the influencer with your product and brand
If the influencer truly believes in your product, your mission, and your brand, their genuine enthusiasm will shine through to their followers. Working with influencers who already love your brand is a huge plus.
If they aren’t familiar, help the influencer understand what makes your company unique from competitors, and share any information that you feel will align with their values and lifestyle. Perhaps they are very cause-driven and will connect with a charitable branch of your business. If you are an apparel, design, technology, accessories, home goods, or cosmetics brand, you might send them a variety of products, and let them use the items in a way that suits them.
Do: Give the influencer creative freedom to drive the content
Nobody knows better than the influencer what will resonate with their audience. You should always provide the influencer with key talking points to cover, but it’s just as important to give them creative freedom when it comes to how they convey these points to their audience.
Influencers have spent months or years learning what drives positive reactions, engagement, and action from their fans. With the exception of inappropriate or off-brand commentary, do your best to help them achieve sincere audience connection on behalf of your brand.
Do: Ensure the influencer is fully transparent about the sponsorship
Influencers and brands are legally required to comply with Federal Trade Commision (FTC) Guidelines. In recent years, undisclosed sponsored endorsements are being increasingly monitored and penalized.
Be sure the influencer is clear on how to disclose sponsorship, and that they have been transparent about their sponsorships in the past. For a full list of FTC endorsement guidelines by channel, check out the infographic below:
Do: Set up a crystal clear influencer agreement
Rushing through contract negotiation can have major consequences down the line. A well-crafted influencer agreement helps define content ownership, set expectations, and protect both parties.
Here are some of the most important items to address in your contract:
- Deadlines: Spell out specific deadlines for sponsored content to be sent for approval, and dates that the content should be shared.
- Ownership: Define who owns the sponsored content after a campaign goes live, and who has the right use the content.
- Deliverables: Document key talking points the influencer must include, and what format they should be delivered (for example, written in the caption of their Instagram post, or spoken verbally in a YouTube video).
- Exclusivity: Your sponsorship won’t have the same impact if the influencer shares a post sponsored by your competitor the week before your campaign. Set a specific time frame for exclusivity, and list which competitors the influencer can’t work with until that period is over.
- FTC Guidelines: Outline your disclosure expectations in order to meet FTC endorsement guidelines. Provide exact phrases the influencer must use, such as “sponsored by” or “paid advertisement”
Do: Set up all necessary tracking beforehand—and include it in your contract
The last thing you want is to spend thousands of dollars on sponsored influencer content, only to find you missed out on key tracking elements that would have enabled you to clearly measure what traffic, clicks, or purchases came directly from the influencer.
Be sure that each of these tracking measures are set up before the campaign begins:
- Promo Codes: Promo codes can offer a percentage discount, or some special reward for signup. Create a unique promotional code for each influencer, so can attribute conversions to a particular influencer.
- Analytics: Web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, will enable you to analyze web traffic volume and sources. It must be set up before the campaign goes live in order to track properly.
- Trackable Links: Unique trackable links are the most common way to track click-through rate. This can be achieved through link shorteners (such as Bit.ly), custom UTM codes, or vanity URLs.
- Landing Pages: Any page you plan to link to should be completed and tested in advance. You might consider creating a unique destination landing page for each influencer, with content tailored to that influencer’s audience. This creates a better user experience, and also makes it easy to track each influencer’s conversions.
Do: Repurpose influencer content after the campaign is over
After an influencer marketing campaign is finished, too many marketers quickly move on to the next campaign without taking advantage of the valuable content both they and the influencer worked so hard to create.
Here are a few ways you can repurpose influencer content:
Incorporate it into digital ads
As long as you have the promotional rights to do so, consider using past sponsored content in your digital advertisements. A face the audience recognizes will perform much better than a generic stock photo.
Use as a throwback on your social channel
Consider sharing a previous top performing influencer post from years ago—maybe even do so on Thursday and tag it as a #TBT.
Showcase on your website
Perhaps add a scroll bar of Instagram posts on your homepage, sharing real-world examples of your product or service at work.
Feature on your product page
Even further down the funnel, more brands are including influencer content directly on their product page. This provides powerful validation and increases the variety of content available to help customers make a final decision.
Top Influencer Campaign “Dont’s”
Don’t: Dip your toes into influencer marketing without a clear plan or set of goals
Some marketers are initially put off by influencer marketing after one disappointing experience “dabbling” in a few sponsored posts. If you pay a couple Instagrammers to give you a shoutout and leave it at that, it will be difficult to see measurable returns.
Before you begin, define a clear influencer marketing strategy: identify your target audience, campaign objectives, andbudget, and thoroughly vet influencers for your campaign.
Don’t: Select influencers solely based on category or vanity metrics
Just because this influencer is a popular name in your vertical doesn’t mean they’re the best fit. Look beyond follower and subscriber count to evaluate them more holistically. In some cases, a “trendy” influencer may be over-saturated with promotions, and you may get greater returns by partnering with several mid-tier influencers instead.
Here are a few questions to dig beyond vanity metrics:
- What is their engagement rate? How does it compare to other influencers in their industry, and influencers of a similar size?
- Is their messaging aligned with your brand? Is their voice similar to your brand’s? Have they been involved in any past controversies?
- Do they do a lot of paid promotions? Does their audience seem receptive to this, or annoyed?
- How have past promotions performed? What was the engagement rate? How have their audiences responded?
- How closely does their audience align with your target demographics? Might another influencer or set of influencers reach them even better?
Don’t: Select influencers first, and then decide on KPIs or a budget
Your budget will determine who you can work with, not the other way around. Prices will vary across industries and channels, but in general your budget will determine which influencer tiers you can afford to partner with.
Beyond budget, your target metrics might define the channels and influencers you focus on. For example, an Instagram post can drive powerful brand awareness and product buzz, but it likely won’t drive as much direct traffic because you can’t embed links in an Instagram post. Within each channel, some influencers are also better at driving specific KPIs. Working with an agency or partner who has managed influencer marketing campaigns before will help you flag influencers who have successfully achieved specific goals for other brands in the past.
Don’t: Focus on quantity, rather than quality first
Achieving wide reach is a great way to scale your campaign, and on the surface, it can feel like the most important influencer marketing metric. However, just because people saw a piece of content, doesn’t mean it resonated with them. Scale alone cannot guarantee engagement, brand affinity, or conversions.
Producing high-quality influencer content influencer is painstaking, and it requires a thoughtful creative brief and many back-and-forth iterations. If you don’t take the time to nail down the content, and instead fixate only on how to amplify it, you will achieve less engagement than anticipated.
Don’t: Micro-manage the influencer or script their content
Never script an influencer’s post or video. Many fans know the voice of their favorite influencers on an intimate level—their mannerisms, their writing style, and their figures of speech. A scripted line will not only feel contrived, it may actually backfire and lead to disdain towards the brand.
Clearly spell out the key talking points you want the influencer to cover, for example specific promo codes to mention, giveaway instructions, or unique aspects of the product. Then give the influencer leeway to convey this information to their audience in their own style. The influencer might be attracted to a specific element of your brand or product, so let them lead the way based on their own affinity.
Don’t: Give the audience multiple CTAs
For direct response campaigns, try to focus on a single action or KPI per influencer. If an influencer tells fans to buy your product, download your app, and check out your newsletter—all in a single post—this unfocused call-to-action will be overwhelming and ineffective.
Especially on social media, you only have a split second to capture the audience’s attention, let alone get them to take action. Be clear and concise about one specific action you want them to take.
Don’t: Attempt to skirt by FTC guidelines or mislead the audience in any way
The Federal Trade Commission is clear on this—brands and influencers are legally required to disclose when an influencer is compensated for a post. Do not dance around this, or try to make this connection ambiguous.
Here are the best ways to stay in compliance:
- Use the phrase “Sponsored by....” or “Paid advertisement”
- Keep sponsorship information higher up in the caption or description
- Make sure sponsorship information is legible
- Use the hashtag #sponsored or #ad
- Disclose all paying brands tagged in a photo
Avoid doing the following:
- Use ambiguous phrases like “Thanks to..” or “Partnering with..”
- Hide the disclosure at the very bottom of a caption or description
- Hide the disclosure within a mountain of hashtags
- Make the disclosures difficult to read
- Put the disclosure in a comment, rather than the description
- Only use hashtags like #spon #collab #ambassador
(For more detailed suggestions by channel, see the full FTC Endorsement Guidelines infographic above.)
Don’t: Focus on the wrong returns—results will be based on goals you have set
As with any other marketing channel, influencer marketing can only be successful if you clearly set realistic targets beforehand, and then measure performance based on those goals.
Especially for brand awareness campaigns, some marketers become confused or even disappointed when they don’t see a bump in traffic or revenue. However, if their initial KPIs were centered around engagement, then the marketer is focusing on the wrong metrics.
It’s also important to remember that an influencer’s sponsored content almost never performs as well as their regular social content. In some industries — and with some influencers, this difference is even more pronounced. If your brand is non-endemic to the influencer’s traditional industry (for example, if you are a food brand doing a sponsorship with a fashion influencer), engagement rates may be even lower. Do your homework beforehand and vet the performance of past sponsored content with similar influencers and brands.
Don’t: Give up on properly calculating ROI
Many marketers today still struggle to assess their returns on influencer marketing campaigns because measurement gets complicated quickly. Between platform or agency fees, the cost of sponsorship, time invested, legal fees, and production costs, there are many costs that need to be considered when calculating ROI.
On its most basic level, the formula for return on investment is:
Do’s and Don’ts of Different Types of Influencer Marketing Campaigns
Discount or Promo Code
Give a substantial discount offer—more than what someone could regularly get by going to your website. The influencer will prefer this, and their audience will feel more compelled to act on this “limited time,” exclusive deal.
Lose the discount code in a ton of words, hashtags, or a long caption. Try to highlight the code at the very beginning or ending of the caption (or a video), so that it’s clear.
Giveaway or Contest
Giveaways are a classic way to drum up enthusiasm about a product or destination. Influencers can help expand awareness of the contest, while also generating desire for the items being given away.
Consider building a campaign that creates user-generated content, which can be useful many months after the campaign ends. It also expands the reach of the campaign to the contestant’s own followers.
Require too many steps in order to enter. For example: avoid asking the audience to follow you on Instagram, tag three friends, then go to your website to register. A single, succinct instruction will drive more entries due to lower barrier to entry.
In this type of sponsorship, an influencer unpacks a product and shows off the contents within. This format is most popular on YouTube, but can be accomplished on Instagram and blog posts as well.
Especially in video formats, take advantage of this opportunity to show off the utility of a product—ideally, the influencer actually sets it up and uses it. The influencer should also rotate the item(s), and provide a three-dimensional view that their audience can’t get through photos.
Forget to use tracking and UTM codes, or to create different codes for each influencer. Content engagement is valuable to measure, but you should also track what type of content drives the most clicks and conversions.
In an “ambassador” role, the influencer becomes a representative of the brand through a long-term partnership.
Offer ambassadorships to smaller influencers who you believe have the potential to grow quickly. They will show enthusiasm, and the relationship will likely pay dividends for you down the road.
Set up an ambassador campaign as your first influencer marketing campaign, especially if you have a limited budget. An ambassador relationship requires a long-term financial commitment, and can take away from your ability to test other influencers (and reach new audiences) down the line.
Theme or Hashtag Campaign
Think long and hard about the viral potential of the hashtag itself. Test it on a smaller scale first. Is it easy to pronounce, read, and understand? How will people use it? Will it compel people to share?
Give the influencers unclear creative guidelines. There should be zero ambiguity about what the hashtag means, its relation to the content, or its connection to your brand.
Create a unique experience where influencers can experience your brand, network with other influencers, and promote their own brand. Create an event hashtag, send out well-designed invites to build excitement, and create plenty of “Instagrammable” moments.
Considering launching an event without investing significant time or money. Between catering, drinks, lighting, production, decorations, parking, and bathrooms, events often need to be coordinated by a specialist or a production company in order to run smoothly. A poorly planned event can backfire and lead to negative coverage.
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Let the influencer come up with organic ideas for content first. Authentic content will drive their followers to your page, especially if they cross-promote the collaboration.
Give the influencer direct access to your account. Even if you have parameters in place, a lot can happen if your social presence is out of your control. Instead, create an agile process where the influencer sends content daily for quick review, and an internal stakeholder posts it.
As more marketers invest in influencer marketing, it’s important to remember the planning required to do it right. Keeping these priorities and common pitfalls in mind, it will be easier to stay on course and launch a more impactful, successful campaign.