In-House vs Agency? Which Is Best For Influencer Marketing

in house vs agency infographic

See The In-House vs Agency Pros & Cons When It Comes To Influencers [Infographic]

Over the last few years, influencer marketing has expanded from a supplementary promotional expense to a major line item for many digital marketing teams. Brands spend more money on influencer marketing every year, and global ad spend is projected to hit $5-10 billion by 2020.

As influencer marketing becomes an essential part of the marketing mix, brands must decide the best approach to manage this powerful channel within their organization — whether bringing influencer marketing in-house or partnering with an influencer marketing agency.

See our infographic below for in-house vs agency considerations when it comes to 1) Costs, 2) Scalability, 3) Relationships, 4) Client Wins, 5) Trends, 6), Measurement, 7) Legal, 8) Customers, 9) Budgeting, 10) Software/Platforms, and 11) Management.

In-House vs Agency For Influencer Marketing – What Are The Considerations?

In house vs agency influencer marketing

As influencer marketing becomes an integral part of many marketing organizations, it will likely be approached in one of two ways:

  1. In-House — Brands will hire a team of influencer strategists and campaign managers to identify influencers, manage partnerships, and execute campaigns and measurement.
  2. Agency — Brands may hire a senior influencer manager to set goals and manage performance, but still leverage influencer marketing agencies or platforms to build and launch successful campaigns.

While many companies currently delegate influencer marketing to branding, partnerships, or acquisitions teams, more influencer-specific roles are cropping up to handle influencer efforts exclusively.

The Pros & Cons Of Bringing Influencer Marketing In-House

With global companies like Nike and Mars leading the charge, more consumer brands are considering whether or not to bring influencer marketing in-house. This includes identifying and maintaining relationships with influencers, creating and executing all campaigns, and owning the optimization internally.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of moving influencer marketing internally?

Pros

  • Nobody knows your customer better than you do. In some cases, your target audience might be very complex, and you will know the subtleties of what resonates with them better than anyone else. Birchbox, for example, targets a unique set of women who are not proactively interested in beauty, but would be open to purchasing a monthly subscription service. Director of Public Relations, Jenna Hilzenrath, comments, “Managing influencer marketing in-house allows us to be nimble and take a really hands-on, nuanced approach. That said, we do occasionally work with agencies or other platforms on a project basis.”
  • Influencers prefer long-term partnerships. Companies like Nike foster individual relationships with long-term brand ambassadors over time. Many influencers prefer this long-term model, as it provides them with more financial stability and in some cases, this ongoing relationship appears more consistent to their followers.
  • Curate a customized roster of ambassadors. Owning relationships with all of your influencers enables your brand to strategically test and refine an internal list down to the best influencers for your brand. This careful selection process no doubt contributed to Budweiser’s Non-Traditional Creative win in the Social category for their “BudX Miami X Booth” video.

Cons

  • Hiring in-house personnel is expensive. Because it’s a relatively new industry, finding experts in influencer marketing can be tricky. Successful influencer campaigns need high-touch personnel to scale up and will require in-depth onboarding and training. If your strategy shifts, it can be difficult to reduce your influencer marketing investment for a quarter or two if you’ve already staffed up a large in-house team.
  • Building influencer relationships take resources. Finding the perfect influencer, reaching out to them successfully, dealing with their managers, negotiating contracts, setting up a CRM to track influencer relationships, and managing all campaign reporting are a few of the influencer marketing challenges requiring a ton of resources and time.
  • It’s challenging to stay on top of industry changes, especially in such a fast-growing space. As influencer platforms evolve, streaming services emerge, new hashtags begin to trend, or different influencers lose touch with their fans, it’s on you to keep up with it all. Agencies are immersed in this world, and will keep track of these fast-paced changes so you don’t have to.
  • There’s no way to compare your success. If you manage all influencer marketing in-house, you will be working with a limited internal data set. Agencies bring the benefit of external campaign performance data and can incorporate learnings from working with other brands in your space, ensuring optimal success, effectiveness, and ROI.

Partnering With An Influencer Agency Or Vendor

Despite some brands hiring in-house for influencer marketing roles, many still rely on third parties for their influencer strategy. The reality is, although you know your customers best, agencies know the influencer industry better.

What are the pros and cons of partnering with an agency for influencer marketing?

Pros

  • Easily scalable investment. Agencies reduce the need to hire and train in-house personnel. You will be able to scale up spend on high-performing strategies more rapidly, or reduce influencer marketing efforts without having to let people go.
  • Convenience of built-in influencer relationships. Influencer marketing agencies will have established relationships with influencers and their managers, and know how to handle contracts. This will save you the effort of identifying the perfect influencers to meet your KPI goals and establishing relationships over time.
  • Knowledge of what’s worked for other clients. Agencies can provide richer advice based on their diverse set of experience. They bring first-hand knowledge of how specific influencers perform within a given category, how different campaigns resonate with various audiences, and will help you set the right engagement goals.
  • A close eye on emerging trends and platforms. First-hand knowledge of the industry helps agencies stay ahead of the curve and deliver the best results for clients. Agencies identify opportunities around social technology changes, like the emergence of TikTok and its trends, and will keep afloat of the latest “hot” influencers and trending topics in your industry.

Cons

  • For companies with limited budget, cost may represent a barrier of entry. Many of the most established agencies require a monthly minimum spend of thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, meaning agencies might be inaccessible for companies with a smaller budget.
  • There are major risks associated with self-managing your campaigns using platforms and little to no external strategy assistance including fake influencers, limited influencer selection, and failure to meet FTC compliance.
  • If you’re not working with the right agency, there may be communication challenges. An inexperienced agency could cause delays or dilution of communication between your brand, the agency, and the influencer. However, a reputable agency will spend time getting to know your brand, your customer, your target KPIs, and how to measure influencer marketing ROI. This should be a highly collaborative process in tandem with the influencer.

Even as brands bring their influencer marketing in-house, chances are that most companies will take a hybrid approach.

As the influencer industry continues to skyrocket, many companies will likely increase their in-house support staff while continuing to lean on agencies to help scale up their efforts.