In our 2019 Influencer Marketing Survey, over 160 marketers rated their chief influencer marketing challenges this year.
Below is a percentage breakdown of the 11 most pressing challenges they cited:
Even as marketers, influencers, and agencies grow wiser, new tools, technologies, and trends emerge that create new challenges to solve.
As it turns out, marketers are primarily concerned with a well-known industry foe—fake followers. Beyond this troubling and growing trend of fake bot activity, marketers also expressed concern around algorithmic changes on social media platforms, the ability to employ always-on influencer marketing strategies, and influencers driving up the costs of working with them to name a few.
With 2019 well underway, many advertisers have kicked it into gear with creative, head-turning, and profitable marketing campaigns. Within the influencer marketing industry specifically, marketers are chomping at the bit to work with top social media influencers and authentically engage target audiences while driving positive ROI.
Influencer marketing may be a relatively young industry, but it has accelerated in the last few years. Top brands around the world are seeing amazing results, with 80% of marketers finding influencer marketing effective. 89% say ROI from influencer marketing is the same or better than other marketing channels, and 65% plan to increase their influencer marketing budgets in 2019.
But with giant tidal waves comes the fear of wiping out—marketers are not without challenges.
Merely launching an influencer marketing campaign because it’s ‘popular’ will leave many marketers scrambling to clean up the messes that come with inexperience in a maturing industry. Therefore, it is imperative that advertisers take heed, follow industry best practices, and ultimately be aware of influencer marketing challenges.
Let’s delve into the top influencer marketing challenges marketers face today, as well as how to overcome them.
As social media platforms grow and optimize their technologies, so too, do the bots that haunt them. As a prominent challenge across several markets, spotting fake followers and inauthentic social media activity is a chief concern for half of marketers—and is the top influencer marketing challenge overall.
Fake followers refer to fake accounts, or bots, designed to automatically simulate real user activity in order to inflate follower and engagement metrics across social media platforms. Fake followers are used by several different parties (i.e. vendors, influencers, brands, and regular users).
That said, fraudulent activity tends to serve one purpose—deceiving social media platforms and its users to gain an edge in some form or fashion. Even as the practice has been exposed and condemned, those enticed by the perceived rewards of deploying bots have utilized them.
All social media platforms are victims of imposter bots. Facebook reported in Q1 2018 that it shuttered 1.3 billion fake accounts from Q4 2017 to Q1 2018. Twitter, a platform constantly plagued by fake followers, could have as many as 50 million bot accounts. YouTube recently made headlines for its susceptibility to fake video views, spurred by businesses profiting off brands’ and influencers’ desire to inflate video view counts.
It’s projected that out of the $744 million spent on influencer marketing in 2018, $102 million—or roughly 14%—was wasted on fake followers.
No doubt, fake followers are a costly issue when it comes to brands relying on social media influencers to drive brand awareness and sales. According to Points North Group, 46% of Raw Sugar Living’s influencer marketing budget was spent on bots. Plenty of other top brands, like Zappos and Kroger, have also sacrificed precious ad dollars to prop up the business of artificial social media activity.
Fake followers is not a challenge reserved for just influencer marketing—advertising agencies have the same challenges with digital ads falling prey to inhuman and fraudulent activity. In a poll conducted by an ad measurement firm, 69% of agency executives said fraudulent impressions were the biggest obstacle to upping ad budgets with 53% of brand professionals expressing the same sentiment.
Many brands are mindful and vigilant in the wake of fake bots infesting social media. In fact, Unilever’s CMO Keith Weed announced that the company wouldn’t work with influencers who had fake followers or used bots to grow their account. It appears that brands have learned the consequences of engaging with influencers who purchase fake followers and engagement.
Similarly, influencers have made efforts to clean up their act but still sometimes resort to spammy and inauthentic account growth strategies. In the UK, one in eight Instagram influencers admitted to buying fake followers in 2018—an alarming statistic.
As if purchasing fake engagement wasn’t enough, wanna-be influencers are including #ad in non-sponsored posts to hopefully catch the eyes of marketers on the lookout for fast-rising influencer talent. Overall though, influencers have learned that in order to maintain professional and personal clout, authentic tactics are the only option.
Social media platforms themselves have also gone to great lengths to identify and eradicate fake bots in an effort to keep their social media breeding grounds ‘safe’ and free of phonies. Platforms like Instagram have tried to more strictly regulate the phenomenon, threatening perpetrators with ad fraud penalties, account suspension, and brand reputation damage. Despite the crackdowns by major platforms, news reports regularly document the omnipresent issue.
On the legal side, a New York Attorney General has clearly illustrated that selling fake social media activity is illegal in the state. This comes after the settlement with Devumi, a now-defunct company that used to sell fake followers and engagement on popular social media platforms to inflate follower, like, and view counts. The goal was to make clients’ content appear more popular than it would’ve been if left to their own organic devices.
In order to stay abreast of the problem, marketers ought to know ways to spot fake followers. Below is a summary on how to identify and ultimately avoid fake followers:
You can also check out our marketer’s guide to spotting fake followers for a more detailed review.
As with any technology, social media platforms must frequently optimize and adapt to modern user experience standards. This means social media apps constantly undergo construction when it comes to the algorithms that make them so user-friendly. As such, 49% of marketers feel that social algorithm changes are a challenge when it comes to influencer marketing.
Put simply, social algorithm changes refer to the technical foundation of how social media platforms operate. Based on intricate engineering and analytics, algorithms are responsible for delivering content to the platform’s users. As the algorithms constantly evolve, it’s no wonder that marketers, influencers, and users must adapt when massive algorithmic updates release.
While many social algorithm changes are minor and relatively unnoticed, some are the equivalent of earthquakes off the Richter scale. Unsurprisingly, algorithm updates affect anyone who uses the platform, including brands, influencers, and everyday users. A simple Google search on any top social media app’s algorithm updates will return a slew of results documenting a rich history of algorithm changes.
Social algorithm updates have the ability to change anything from how content is rewarded, to what order content displays on users’ feeds, to the visibility of content with fake engagement.
Facebook updated its algorithm in 2018 to favor individual accounts over publisher content—something that greatly affects brands, influencers, and publishers that have Facebook pages as opposed to personal accounts.
Instagram overhauled its algorithm back in 2016, transforming its feed from reverse-chronological order to showing content based on the likelihood users will be interested in it, as well as the relationship with the source of the post and its timeliness.
YouTube has also tinkered with its algorithm, with recent changes that curate videos from a user’s subscribed channels based on popularity and engagement, instead of chronologically displaying videos.
Twitter, while attempting to transfer all users to its ranked timeline, has recently given users the option to revert back to the original reverse-chronological feed.
In all the above examples, social media platforms have activated algorithm changes that have major implications for brands, creators, and the audiences they try to engage.
At the root, algorithmic changes on any social media platform will affect engagement levels. In many cases, the tweaks have been for the better—rewarding authentic content that resonates with its intended audience. By shifting the focus away from timeline feeds, platforms have been able to push brands and creators towards creating more valuable content.
In other words, influencers and brands are having their creative skills put to the test. This inevitably leads to better content winning out barring that fake engagement doesn’t inflate content success.
On the monetization front, influencers don’t always reap the benefits of algorithm updates. Some social algorithm changes have left influencers unable to monetize content like they used to, causing widespread panic and outcry across creator communities. Brands have also been forced to stop using clickbait, instead refocusing on content of value to consumers interested in their business.
Brands will always be tasked with studying the newest social media algorithm updates to understand how their content can remain relevant in a constantly changing landscape. Marketers should keep up-to-date on these changes by reading industry publications.
By understanding how content is evaluated on each social media channel, brands can maintain relevance. When it comes to influencer marketing, brands should amplify influencer content and leverage branded content tools (available on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube).
41% of marketers claim that building an always-on strategy is challenging. There has been much debate on whether always-on (aka long-term) influencer strategies are more beneficial than one-off campaigns.
While there are pros and cons to both types of influencer partnerships, brands are recognizing the indispensable value in always-on influencer campaigns—they just might lack the confidence and expertise to successfully execute them.
An always-on influencer strategy refers to an influencer marketing strategy that doesn’t turn off. Instead of launching sporadic, short-term campaigns, always-on influencer strategies propel influencer campaign content on an ongoing basis.
In other words, brands and influencers forge long-term influencer partnerships to continually collaborate and optimize. The learnings on both sides are invaluable, and the audiences exposed to the content will be more receptive. Overall, an always-on strategy is arguably more productive in the long-run.
Sephora, for example, used to work with influencers on one-off campaigns. Noting the consequences of an inconsistent schedule and less authentic messaging, the brand decided to launch an always-on strategy that consisted of long-term brand ambassadors. This allowed Sephora to establish longevity with more consistent and reliable influencer marketing campaigns, as they were able to nurture meaningful influencer relationships.
While always-on influencer strategies aren’t practical for every brand or campaign, they certainly are on an upward trend among those investing consistently in influencer marketing.
Likewise, influencers are jumping at the chance to engage in a long-term partnership that drives long-lasting results for both parties. Influencers who struggle to prove their value amidst influencer marketing scandals are especially keen to work with brands long-term because it’s a sign they’re being taken more seriously.
Above all else, always-on strategies offer brands and influencers the opportunity to elevate campaign performance, as audiences react more positively to content that’s a byproduct of natural and mutually beneficial partnerships.
Influencer marketing has come with several growing pains, one of which concerns the increasing costs to employ the strategy. 38% of marketers note rising influencer costs as a challenge this year.
The price of influencer marketing ranges from influencer collaboration charges to creative production costs to management tool payments to influencer agency fees. Even as the industry grows more sophisticated, the influencers, tools, platforms, and agencies do as well. In some cases, this drives up the associated cost of running a campaign.
The price tag of influencer marketing, in general, cannot be pinpointed, as it varies depending on social media channels, influencer tiers, scope of collaboration, and various other factors. Just as no one influencer is the same, no other campaign facets are the same. Without a universal standard for influencer costs, the price of working with influencers both large and small will fluctuate and likely rise.
This problem likely stems from the frenzy around influencer marketing when it first became trendy, with many brands jumping the gun to work with influencers. The caveat? Brands leapt into the practice without a proper understanding of the industry’s nuances.
Due to increased demand, influencers—especially large macro-influencers—were able to dictate prices more freely. Influencer marketing services began to pop up in order to supply the demand for influencer marketing consultation and management.
In response to this sudden popularity, costs expanded beyond just the payment charged by influencers. And as more industry resources materialize to fulfill brands’ influencer marketing needs, brands will accrue added costs.
In order to be more economical, brands need to measure their influencer marketing ROI effectively (yet another major issue marketers face). By comprehensively evaluating the return of campaigns, brands can be more cost-aware and selective when it comes to partnering with influencers, agencies, and other related services. Doing so will ensure positive ROI for future activations.
You can bookmark our in-depth guide to measuring influencer marketing ROI as a handy resource.
The social media ecosystem is constantly evolving, and it can be difficult to stay on top of what’s relevant in a given moment. That’s why 33% of marketers say keeping up with social media trends is a challenge.
Social media trends are topics or movements that become front and center among a massive social audience in a short period of time. These trends set in motion how the rest of the social media community reacts, creating a strong current that affects social media on both a wide scale and within niche communities.
Whether because of evolving cultural norms, algorithm changes, platform functionality updates, content moderators, the creation of unique creator communities, or offline events, new social media trends surface constantly.
Social media trends may include the use of popular hashtags and content formats, the spread of trending social movements, buzzworthy crazes, the emergence of certain advertising tactics (giveaways vs. product placement), shifting consumer behaviors, and the development of messaging and shopping capabilities. Overall, all social media channels experience ever-changing trends that affect marketers (and influencers and users).
Just as you should understand your audience’s interests and needs before launching a new product or partnering with an influencer to promote it, you need to understand how social media trends will impact the dissemination of your product or promotion. For each channel (i.e., YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, etc.), ask yourself how the latest social trends will affect your campaign.
If you’re a beauty brand, for instance, keep a pulse on what video formats do well among beauty influencers. Are there beauty movements that audiences are talking about and that you can subsequently highlight in your campaign? Perhaps there’s a viral hashtag that beauty influencers are using that could catapult your campaign into the spotlight.
It’s also vital that you understand how influencers set trends—both on social media and in popular culture. While the constructs of social media determine how influencers and users navigate social media platforms, it’s their reactions that mold trends across society. Influencers have worked hard to establish and nurture loyal audiences, so their ability to generate conversations, drive engagement, and set cultural trends cannot be overstated.
Marketing professionals know that marketing is a combination of art and science—its success depends on how well advertisers can blend the two without compromising one or the other. Yet, 33% of marketers struggle to build a strong creative strategy across influencer marketing campaigns.
In the context of influencer marketing, creative strategy is essentially the same as what it means across other marketing divisions—the collaboration of creative minds (i.e., copywriters, graphic designers, creative directors, influencers, videographers, etc.) to produce an influencer campaign that meets the objectives of a brand’s advertising strategy.
In influencer marketing, creativity can make or break a campaign. Creativity applies to how brands frame their messaging, how much freedom influencers have when producing visual content, how unique and authentic collaborations are, as well as how connected the campaign is to your business’s values.
Working with influencers requires brands loosening the reins to support creative production, as the free expression of influencer creativity almost always wins out.
In order to strengthen your brand’s creative strategy, you should focus on the key elements of your campaign, including your:
By being more in tune with your brand’s mission, the rest should come naturally. Be sure to also tie in your content marketing strategy. Creating campaign elements should follow a strategic approach to ensure the effective delivery of influencer marketing campaigns.
No surprise here—managing influencer marketing campaigns poses a challenge for 30% of marketers. With the expansion of influencer marketing capabilities, roles, and expectations, the time spent managing each element takes a toll on brands’ precious time.
Combine that with the rest of influencer marketing challenges in this post, and you can see why marketers are hard-pressed to maximize efficiency. Marketers may have resigned themselves to the fact that time and resources will always be maxed out, but we have some tips on how to reduce time spent running influencer campaigns.
First, know the importance of basic time management skills. Simple things like creating to-do lists, being proactive in communication and deadlines, keeping a strict calendar, and staying organized will help you be more efficient. Secondly, understand that repetition will inevitably lead to better productivity. By experimenting and learning from failures, each campaign thereafter will become easier to manage.
In addition, brands need to harness the beauty in letting influencers have more creative control over the content they produce. While brands have the final say in what’s appropriate for your campaign, influencers have their own creative flair because it works with their audience. Trust the process, and in the end, your brand will spend less time worrying about the precise composition of influencer sponsored content.
Yet another word of advice—learn to measure ROI from the outset so that your team’s efforts aren’t futile in the future. By understanding where you spend the most time, money, and resources to engineer a campaign, you’ll know where you can cut certain steps, speed up the workflow, and which processes require more refinement.
On both sides of the coin, brands and influencers have much at stake when it comes to collaborations. With both parties carefully building brands that attract valued fans and customers, it’s important to preserve their brand values and protect their reputations. Hence, 28% of marketers say brand safety and brand alignment are a challenge.
Brand safety in influencer marketing refers to the strategy used by brands to safeguard their image or reputation from being associated with harmful or offensive content. In other words, brands should vet influencers to ensure that they don’t partner with ones involved in scandals or else risk their brand’s reputation.
Brand alignment refers to the act of aligning goals, values, and missions across a brand’s marketing branches, as well as with any partners (in this case, influencers). This means that influencers believe in your brand’s mission, are aligned with your brand voice or aesthetic, and would actually use your product and recommend it to their audience.
Influencers are under constant scrutiny by brands. Before partnering with influencers, brands typically know what type of reputation influencers have online, as well as what personal and professional values they hold. A lack of knowledge on this front has the potential to be destructive for brands (and influencers).
In a notable influencer controversy, Logan Paul uploaded a video that showed a human corpse in the Japanese “suicide forest.” He faced backlash from the YouTube community and YouTube responded by temporarily demonetizing his content. Amidst the drama, brands who had hopes of working with the top YouTuber were more cautious so as to not associate their brand with a creator who arguably mocked suicide.
Laura Lee is another example of an influencer who suffered the consequences of a scandalous past. After someone leaked her racist Tweets from 2012, brands like Ulta, Diff Eyewear, and more quickly broke off the partnership in order to avoid a brand safety issue.
It should also be noted that influencers are also steadfast in managing brand safety and alignment when partnering with brands. In fact, in our analysis of more than 50 exclusive influencer interviews, we found that 64% highlighted brand relevance as a primary factor in choosing brand partners.
Brands can utilize digital and social media platform brand safety tools and enjoy more control over ad placement by working with influencers. Brands should be thorough when selecting influencers and review influencer content carefully to ensure a potential influencer partner aligns well with your brand.
Take a look at our tips to managing brand safety with influencer marketing and our guide to YouTube brand safety to better equip your brand.
Many marketers remember the drama around FTC influencer marketing violations—something that haunts both influencers and brands. The FTC endorsement guidelines may not have the greatest track record of enforcement, but it doesn’t mean brands aren’t concerned about adhering to its requirements. In our survey, 18% of marketers marked FTC regulations as a challenge this year.
The FTC regulations and requirements boil down to the Federal Trade Commission’s attempts to protect consumers by requiring more transparency around sponsored content. With revisions and amendments over the years, the FTC has tried to offer more guidance on how brands and influencers should properly disclose the sponsored nature of paid collaborations.
To keep brands and influencers in check, the FTC requires that influencer brand partners properly disclose sponsored content and native advertising—failure to do so could result in a penalty or lawsuit. The FTC also recently stated that it will hold media companies accountable. Because brands often publish influencer sponsored content in different media outlets, the FTC has signaled that publishers are responsible, too.
Facing tighter regulation, the FTC sent letters to over 90 celebs, influencers, and brands after an internal review revealed that many weren’t following the required sponsored disclosure practices.
For brands unfamiliar with FTC compliance, consult our FTC endorsement guidelines infographic that details proper disclosure techniques for each major social media platform. When in doubt, require influencers to use ‘#ad’ and language that clearly conveys sponsorship.
While existing social media platforms withstand changes regularly, new competitors emerge and shake things up. While not a considerable challenge for a majority of marketers, 17% believe tapping into new channels is difficult.
We’re all familiar with the ‘granddaddies’ of social media—mainly YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram—but have you heard of the newest and hottest social media channels on the rise? Maybe you haven’t, but the emergence of these new channels can create challenges for marketers who are merely trying to keep up with existing platforms.
Twitch is a relatively new livestreaming platform that initially started out as a destination for gamers. It now also attracts niche creators and audiences in art, cooking, music, and more. In terms of influencer marketing, Twitch has granted brands of all sorts the opportunity to collaborate with creators who have become masters at monetizing their content while performing in front of an audience that spends 95 minutes per day watching livestreams.
Another fast-rising social channel is TikTok. The short-form video-sharing app has skyrocketed in popularity, especially among Gen Zers. As the app climbs the ranks of App Store downloads, accumulates millions more users, and creates more influencer sponsorship opportunities, marketers are turning their heads.
Tapping into emerging channels can be daunting for marketers who are already overwhelmed with what’s already on their plate. But they can stay afloat by reading up on industry resources, subscribing to newsletters, and by keeping an eye out for the newest hits in social media.
Here at Mediakix, we do our best to keep our audience informed with the latest in news, trends, and stats on influencer marketing. By following our industry digest and other industry sources, marketers can quickly learn how to take advantage of emerging channels.
Last but not least, 12% of marketers believe moving more of influencer marketing in-house is a challenge. The influencer marketing landscape is littered with companies ranging from specialized agencies to platforms and marketplaces to studios and talent networks to tools and technology companies. The options available to brands can be dizzying, which is why some brands consider shifting their influencer marketing efforts in-house.
Running influencer marketing in-house simply means that brands manage their campaigns internally instead of outsourcing it. This happens as brands grow more comfortable managing campaigns and as they ramp up influencer marketing efforts.
Managing influencer marketing internally requires a lot of time, resources, and money, yet brands have grown more confident in their abilities. In a move to have more ownership, brands may decide to move everything internally, instead focusing on building a team that can own all moving parts.
Sometimes, brands don’t have the internal infrastructure, budget, or expertise to support a full-fledged influencer marketing team. In this case, brands will partner with influencer marketing agencies or technology companies, leverage databases or platforms, or utilize talent networks (such as MCNs). Working with any one or combination of these entities will provide brands immense value, as each one specializes in a particular sector of influencer marketing.
Our extensive overview of the top 11 influencer marketing challenges reveals what marketers struggle with most. We understand that each challenge will apply differently across brands, and we hope that our guide to understanding these challenges will better prepare your brand as you harness the power of influencer marketing in 2019.