UPDATE October 10, 2019 — As more brands turn to influencer marketing to amplify their brand and increase conversions, some marketers hit stumbling blocks along the way. There are a lot of misconceptions about how to launch a successful influencer marketing campaign, and several common mistakes can negatively affect performance.
To help, we’ve created an influencer marketing checklist that outlines 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).
Unlike other paid marketing channels, such as display advertisements, SEM, or pre-roll ads, influencer marketing requires consistent human collaboration and communication. When crafting your plan, it’s important to bear in mind the thoughtful planning and resources that are required to successfully launch a campaign end-to-end.
Here are some of the most important do’s and don’ts from our influencer marketing checklist:
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:
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.
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:
Many influencers share their content across channels, but they tend to be categorized by their most popular (“primary”) social media channel. Each channel has a unique audience, set of influencers, and core benefits when it comes to influencer marketing:
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.
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.
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.
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 influencer marketing checklist for FTC rules below:
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:
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:
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:
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.
Consider sharing a previous top performing influencer post from years ago—maybe even do so on Thursday and tag it as a #TBT.
Perhaps add a scroll bar of Instagram posts on your homepage, sharing real-world examples of your product or service at work.
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.
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, and budget, and thoroughly vet influencers for your campaign.
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:
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.
Macro-influencers command thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, and mega-influencers may charge six figures for a single sponsored post. This is because large influencers offer wide impact from a single post. Nano- and micro-influencers may cost anywhere from five bucks to several hundred dollars per post, and can be useful for targeting more niche audiences.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Avoid doing the following:
(For more detailed suggestions by channel, see the full FTC Endorsement Guidelines infographic above.)
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.
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:
For example, a brand spends $30,000 in total for an influencer marketing campaign, and this campaign generates $60,000 in profit, generating a 200% return. This calculation becomes trickier when measuring brand awareness campaigns (which may not lead as directly to measurable revenue, but do so indirectly by raising public awareness). If you want to learn more, read our in-depth guide to calculating ROI.
Perhaps the most popular direct-response tactic, promo codes enable influencers to provide a special offer to their followers, while the brand can easily track conversions.
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.
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.
One way to generate conversation is through a theme or hashtag campaign—and this tactic is often amplified by working with multiple influencers at once. This type of campaign tends to run on social channels where hashtags can go viral, like Instagram or Twitter.
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.
While events generally require a large investment of time and resources, event activations can be a great way to engage with influencers on a more personal level, and generate buzz around your brand or latest product launch.
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.
This creative approach allows an influencer to “take over” your social media channel(s) for a designated period, and share content directly with your community.
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.
Now that we’ve reviewed the entire influencer marketing checklist, it’s time to pocket this resource for future reference on all your brand’s influencer marketing efforts.
Want the help of an experienced agency to cover all your bases on your next influencer marketing campaign? Click here to learn about launching effective influencer campaigns.
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