Influencer marketing is one of the fastest growing sectors of advertising. On Instagram alone, the influencer marketing advertising spend is estimated to be $1 billion in 2017 and projected to exceed $2 billion by 2019. Accompanying this market growth, a variety of companies have cropped up to offer a range of services aimed at meeting the demands of the ever-evolving influencer marketing space.
For many brands and advertisers evaluating influencer marketing solutions, the choice often comes down to either working with an influencer marketing agency or learning how to use an influencer marketing platform (software). In this nascent and somewhat fragmented industry, it can be difficult for brands and marketers to determine which solution best fits their specific needs.
Below, we elucidate the 10 key differences between influencer marketing agencies and influencer marketing platforms.
When planning advertising campaigns through influencer marketing platforms, brands are limited to the influencers that have registered for that particular platform. While many micro-influencers use these platforms to secure advertising deals, larger and more established influencers aren’t as accessible.
Influencer marketing agencies are able to work with any influencer, regardless of size, reach, or affiliation. Whether independent, connected to a multi-channel network, or represented by a larger talent manager, the best influencer marketing agencies have relationships with the world’s top social media influencers.
Through executing thousands of campaigns, influencer marketing agencies have extensive experience identifying, vetting, and selecting influencers that can meet a brand’s image and marketing goals. Moreover, well-established agencies can leverage historical data and case studies to identify influencers who consistently deliver results.
Platforms may offer some data about their registered influencers, but it’s often limited to campaigns executed through the platform itself. These metrics may not paint a full picture, nor do they necessarily offer insights into the nuances of identifying, vetting, and qualifying influencers for specific campaigns and messaging.
When using an influencer marketing platform, brands may desire to plan and coordinate their objectives similar to traditional pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. However, this siloed approach can often undermine the appeal to authenticity that influencer marketing campaigns are specifically meant to offer.
Pairing strategy and creativity, many influencer marketing agencies offer robust services critical to a campaign’s success. Beyond matchmaking expertise, agencies understand how campaign elements such as target audience, scheduling, and demographic subtleties require the same level of creative attention given to messaging and content.
Influencer marketing agencies handle all communications with influencers to ensure that campaigns move efficiently and seamlessly while delivering expected results. From initial planning to content specifications, to timing of deliverables, a qualified agency manages the entirety of the campaign on behalf of the brand.
When using an influencer marketing platform, brands are responsible for communicating directly with influencers. This requires marketers not only to plan and structure the campaign but to manage the relationship, campaign adjustments, as well as any hiccups (or unexpected pitfalls) along the way.
Agencies well-versed in the FTC’s rules and regulations for sponsored content are an ideal intermediary for monitoring a brand’s influencer marketing content.
When running a campaign through a platform, brands are responsible for ensuring that influencer content and posts comply with ever-changing FTC requirements.
Depending on the brand’s goals, influencer marketing platforms can be useful for coordinating one-off campaigns with limited posts and requirements. However, as a brand’s needs become more complex, platforms can’t always scale to meet more sophisticated needs.
Influencer marketing agencies can manage small campaigns, but also offer an additional menu of options for larger scale initiatives. Able to establish long-term relationships with influencers and brand ambassadors, as well as strategize, coordinate, and execute cross-platform marketing efforts, agencies are adept at custom tailoring campaigns.
Agencies work with influencers before, during, and after the campaign to ensure that best practices are observed and key performance indicators (KPI) are met. Offering in-depth data and reporting, influencer marketing agencies then provide clients with a clear and thorough understanding of their campaign’s impact.
Platforms don’t offer campaign optimization services or recommendations. Moreover, metrics are automated and assimilated through application programming interfaces (API).
On top of standard influencer fees, many platforms have recurring subscription and/or commission fees. These additional costs can add up to thousands of dollars per month without necessarily relating directly to the complexity or value of a particular campaign.
Influencer marketing agencies also charge fees for their services, but are able to customize pricing based on the specifics of a campaign. Additionally, agencies can often negotiate influencer fees due to their strong relationships.
The personal nature of influencer marketing means campaigns means that they don’t work like PPC or other digital advertising efforts.
To execute a proper campaign, a brand must be willing to dedicate both time and resources. For businesses looking to minimize their time investment, as well as save money, a qualified agency can provide a range of valuable influencer marketing services that simplify processes and offer a return on investment (ROI).
In addition to paying fees to use an influencer marketing platform, a brand must still allocate time for learning, planning, coordinating, and executing their campaign.
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Agencies don’t work with influencers who purchase fake followers or partake in inauthentic engagement. Basing their reputation on relationships and results, agencies know how to spot fake followers and disingenuous metrics so brands don’t find themselves compromised with underperforming campaigns and results.
With influencer marketing platforms, brands are at higher risk of partnering with influencers involved in unethical practices. With human relationships taken out of automated processes, brands may not know whether or not an influencer is purchasing fake followers and/or engagement to boost their profile.
In a recent experiment, Mediakix created two fake Instagram influencer accounts and secured paid brand deals with several national brands on a popular platform, illustrating that businesses using influencer marketing platforms can easily fall victim to influencers with fake engagement.