Influencer marketing has continued to be one of the most successful marketing techniques on social media. Whether brands partner with influencers for product placements, sponsored content, or giveaways, the influencer marketing industry is set to be worth up to A$21 billion by 2022!
Brands of different sizes have found success when working with influencers, but there have been some horror stories too. We’ve heard of unfortunate incidents from brands and influencers alike, and we’ve noticed that a lot of these situations could’ve been prevented if they’d avoided some key mistakes from the start.
If you’re looking into starting an influencer collaboration in the near future, we recommend that you read on. We’re sharing the different types of influencer collaborations, the benefits of using it in your digital marketing, and 10 things you need to avoid to make it a success!
Words: Adriana Thani
What are influencer collaborations?
Simply put, influencer collaborations are when a brand engages an influencer to produce content that will promote a product, service, or campaign. Just like any other marketing technique, there are many ways to approach influencer collaborations.
For example, influencer collaborations will look different depending on the platform where the content will be published. Working with a micro-influencer for an Instagram campaign will look completely different to working with a famous vlogger on YouTube.
So the first thing you need to decide is where your content will appear on social media. Depending on your product, service, and audience, some might be a better option than others! A good tip is to look at where your competitors and audience lives, and choose one or two platforms to focus on first:
Different social media channels will appeal to different audience demographics, so make sure you choose the right one for your brand.
You also need to consider what type of collaboration you’re after. Depending on the type of partnership, you may be engaging an influencer for just a single post or a few different types of content over a few months. If you’re looking into creating influencer collaborations that go beyond ad-hoc posts, it’s worth thinking about engaging influencers as brand ambassadors or brand representatives as well.
Benefits of influencer marketing
While influencer collaborations can be a lot of work to coordinate, they do have some very important benefits. This is especially true if you’re a brand that’s just starting out or looking to expand.
Here are a few benefits of influencer collaborations:
1. Gain user-generated content (UGC)
User-generated content is highly valuable and ought to be a big part of your social media marketing strategy. Collaborating with influencers is a fantastic way to gain content that acts as social proof, which in itself can influence more people to trust and follow your brand. If you’re really smart in the way you approach influencer marketing, you might be able to partner with influencers who create high-quality content that you can proudly share on your socials too!
2. Increase awareness of your brand
There are over 25 million brands already on Instagram, so you need to find a way to stand out. Creating a gorgeously curated feed and crafting engaging content are the bare minimum of things you have to do to capture the audience’s attention. Partnering with influencers who already have an existing relationship with your target market is an effective way to showcase your brand and increase awareness among this demographic.
3. Amplify your brand values
Collaborating with influencers who share your core values is a good way to establish a unique and memorable brand story. It’s so important that you share your values consistently, and partnering with folks that are on the same page on these things will clearly indicate your own brand identity each time. The key thing here, of course, is clearly defining your brand values in the first place, and seeking out influencers who share those values too.
4. Spark engagement
One of the most important metrics you need to track on socials is engagement. Likes, comments, direct messages, saves, follows – these are just some of the ways audiences can interact with your content to indicate that it resonates with them in some way. Influencer marketing will send audiences your way and encourage that connection between their audience and your brand. All you need to do is consistently produce content that invites that engagement!
5. Generate sales leads
Social media is about connection. It should never be used primarily as a lead-generating channel. However, if you’re successful in creating meaningful connections and building a loyal community around your brand, there are ways for you to generate leads even on social media. Influencer marketing is a form of word of mouth marketing that can directly result in leads, and it’s definitely something worth exploring if that’s what you’re after.
10 things to avoid in influencer collaborations
Now that you have a clearer idea of what influencer marketing is all about, let’s explore the common mistakes that happen when brands decide to embark on this type of collaboration. Most of these things can be easily avoided, so we’ll make sure to include what you should do instead.
All these points are made based on real life incidents that have happened to colleagues in our industry and also some of our clients. They are actual mistakes that brands have made, and are not keen on repeating. So definitely learn from their mistakes!
1. Lack of strategy
This one is what is usually cited as a rookie mistake, and many brands fall victim to it the first few times they collaborate with influencers! This leads to frustration from both influencers and brands alike, as everyone is on different pages (or maybe even separate books altogether!).
Influencer collaborations need to be treated just like any other marketing campaign. A clear strategy is the bare minimum requirement if you are looking to work with influencers in your social media marketing.
There are many approaches to creating an influencer marketing strategy, but at the very least it should include:
- Quantifiable goals that can be measured for return of investment (ROI).
- A realistic timeline that clearly sets out deadlines for your influencer campaigns.
- A budget that outlines key outlays – including payment for your influencers, PR boxes, giveaway items, postage, and other assorted costs.
- A list of criteria that your chosen influencers should meet, including their audience demographics, their values, and even their aesthetic.
- A clear description of the deliverables that you expect from your influencers.
2. Falling for vanity metrics
Far too many brands fall for numbers that simply don’t mean much anymore. This may come as a surprise to you, but even the number of followers that an influencer has, may not mean much. Fake followers and bots are a big industry, unfortunately. This can lead to inflated amounts of likes, comments, and followers that are not an accurate representation of the actual influence that someone might have.
This is why micro-influencers are fast becoming a popular demographic of influencers. Even the most popular brands are partnering with influencers with under 10k followers, because they recognise that it’s more important that their brand is exposed to the right audience rather than a large general audience who may or may not care about their brand.
Here’s what you can do to avoid this mistake:
- Stop looking at follower count. Instead, take a look at the amount of comments that an influencer has on their most recent posts, as this is a better indication of true engagement.
- Consider how frequently an influencer shows up in Stories – those who produce stories daily are more visible to their followers.
- Look at their content and consider if it’s the right fit for your brand in terms of aesthetics and core values.
- Take a closer look at their followers to make sure they haven’t bought fake followers. You can quickly identify bots based on certain telltale signs, such as has having random numbers in their username and only a handful of posts, or none at all.
3. Digital cold-calling
Now we’re going to flip it around and explore an influencer’s point of view. We have a number of friends who can be considered influences. In fact, the Content Savvy team actually have our own influencers of the furry kind! Cat’s pup, Lyra, and Adriana’s cat, Bella, are both active on Instagram and are frequently approached by brands for all sorts of collaborations. Before you ask – yes, that’s what made us open up Content Savvy’s services to pet brands!
Unfortunately, a lot of times, brands think it’s totally okay to just do the digital cold-call to communicate with influencers of both human and animal-kind. They usually do this by dropping into an influencer’s DMs or comments with a variation of “Let’s collaborate!”.
Let us be the first to tell you: that does not work! Unless you’re a huge, well-known brand, this type of approach is really off-putting and is completely against the spirit of community and connection that social media is all about.
If you want to approach influencers successfully and create more authentic opportunities to pitch a partnership, consider doing these instead:
- Start by following the influencers that you are genuinely a fan of – don’t follow them just because you may want to partner with them. You have to make the effort to actually connect with them, so make sure they produce content that you genuinely enjoy!
- Genuinely engage with these influencers by responding to their posts and Stories. A good tip is to turn on notifications for their accounts so you can be one of the first to interact with their content when they post something.
- Provide value in your interactions with them. Don’t just post a random emoji or generic comment – make comments that are well thought out, and create ongoing conversations via DM as well.
- Personalise your pitch and make sure your proposal is appealing to them. Pre-empt any questions about “What’s in it for me?” by clearly stating how exactly your campaign can add value for the influencer and their audience.
4. Impractical budget
Before you embark on an influencer campaign, you need to make sure that you can afford the costs that go with it. How much an influencer collaboration will cost can vary depending on a lot of factors, including:
- Whether or not the influencer will be paid
Even though some influencers will be happy to provide content in exchange for products, there are many that prefer to be paid instead. The only way to find out for sure, is to ask! The influencers we’ve spoken to have said that they really appreciate when brands ask for their rates cards from the get-go, but are always willing to consider brands that can’t afford payment but are creating products or services that provide value to their audience.
- The cost of producing PR boxes
Unboxing videos are hugely successful mainly because people love to join in on the experience of opening a gift! A beautifully designed and curated PR box can create a huge impression not just for the influencers who receive them, but their audience as well. So if your plan is to gift influencers with PR boxes, you need to factor in the cost of producing them.
- Managing an influencer campaign
There’s a reason influencer outreach and influencer management are such huge industries – managing influencer collaborations are a big undertaking! Far too many brands attempt to DIY their influencer campaigns, only to realise they can’t afford the time to focus on it while still running their business. Make sure you leave space in your budget for additional staff or for outsourcing the project management.
- Creating added value
The key to a successful influencer campaign isn’t just impressing your audience, it’s providing them something so valuable that it compels them to take action. This could be giving you a follow, a couple of likes, a few comments, or even a sale. So if you can afford to give folks a unique discount code or special promotional package deal, do it! Just make sure it’s included in your budget too.
5. Unclear expectations
This point goes back to the first one on this list – if you don’t have a clear strategy, there’s no way for you to lay out clear expectations! When you’re not clear on what you’re expecting from the influencers you engage, you’re creating confusion for everyone involved. At the very least, this will make it difficult for you to communicate your objectives. At worst? You may end up with content that you’re simply not happy with.
Most influencers who have had experience working with brands will likely ask for clarification if there is any confusion. However, those who are just starting out may simply not know what they don’t know!
As a brand, handling influencer marketing should be done as professionally and transparently as possible. This helps avoid disappointment on both ends. Here are a few things you should be clear on from the very start:
- All the deadlines for the campaign. You need to communicate clearly when you’re planning to send out items, and when you expect content to be shared.
- The deliverables that the influencers have to produce. Be very clear on what you expect. Think about how many posts or Stories you require. This is also true of the content itself: do you require a minimum number of posts? How about videos? Does your product need to be prominently displayed in all the content?
Other specific requirements for their posts. Should they tag you in the photo as well as captions? Are there particular hashtags they are required to use, like a campaign or brand hashtag?
6. Different values
Your influencer collaboration needs to feel natural and authentic for it to have any effect. Audiences will definitely notice if our brand values simply don’t gel with that of your chosen influencer. At best, it will be a little cringe-worthy. At worst, it may cause them to doubt your brand’s credibility and unfollow you.
In today’s world, your values and ethics are everything. People want to feel connected to brands on a deeper level, so if they’re following you and engaging with you, that means they identify with what you stand for and what you believe in. Don’t throw that all away by partnering with an influencer who doesn’t share those values, or worse, operates in a way that’s completely against that!
For example, if your brand is all about celebrating beauty in all shapes and sizes, you need to avoid engaging influencers who push detox teas and promote unrealistic beauty standards. If you’re all about ethically-produced fashion, avoid influencers that routinely share content from fast fashion brands.
It may be tempting to engage with influencers due to their huge following, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of your values. You need to ask yourself – is it worth losing your current audience for?
7. Wrong audience
You’ve worked hard to build an audience of fans who enjoy your content and love what you’re about. Clearly you’ve targeted a demographic that works best for your brand! So why engage an influencer whose audiences are completely different?
You can figure out the demographics of an influencer’s community by visiting the accounts of the people who comment on their posts – it’ll give you an idea of the type of audience that they appeal to. What you need to do is find influencers who have a following that consists of your target market, or at the very least has a large overlap with your target market.
For example, if you produce beauty products targeted at millennial women who love a natural look, you need to find makeup influencers who create those looks and whose followers consist of women of all ages. You might even find that your brand will gain followers from a separate but related demographic – older women – because your brand is relevant to their interests!
8. Lack of authenticity
Audiences are bombarded by so much content every day, and we’ve noticed that most people have become very savvy at identifying when a partnership seems unnatural or inauthentic. It may stem from the mistakes we explored earlier, like different values or unclear expectations. It may just be a case of the influencer being the wrong fit for your brand or vice versa.
The best way to avoid this is by investing time in building authentic relationships with both influencers and your own audience. At the end of the day, your content needs to serve your audience and provide real value to them. If you don’t know what’s valuable to them, how can you make sure your content fulfills them in that way?
Here are some ways you can make sure your influencer collaboration is authentic:
- Be transparent when describing the content – always make sure you use appropriate hashtags that clearly label it as a collaborative content. #gifted, #sponsored, or #ad are often used for this reason.
- Support your chosen influencers long before launching your collaborative campaign. Demonstrate to your audience that you have an existing relationship with these influencers by sharing their content on your Stories and commenting on their posts.
- Choose influencers who are choosy! When an influencer promotes anything and everything, it’s hard to pin down what products or brands they genuinely love. Picking an influencer who is picky about who they partner with? Well, that’s a badge of honour! That means that they only collaborate with brands they truly believe in, and the fact that they chose to work with you really carries a lot of weight.
9. Unrealistic deadlines
Are you sending out products today and expecting high-quality content within a week? Well, prepare to be disappointed!
Most influencers plan their content weeks in advance, so you need to allow for ample time for them to plan ahead and include your collaboration in their content schedule. More importantly, this allows them enough time to create high-quality content that does your product or service justice!
This also allows them time to really try out your stuff and find things to talk about. For example, if you’re sending out skincare products, you should know it will take a couple of weeks of use for the effects to show. So at the very least, you should be allowing 3-4 weeks for an influencer to try the products and create relevant content.
Also, don’t forget to clearly communicate this deadline to your influencer partner – remember, you should make expectations clear from the get-go!
10. Low quality content
One of the gripes of many brands is that they’re not getting enough high-quality content from their influencers, and therefore aren’t getting the high level of engagement that they expect. While this isn’t something that’s fully under your control, there are a few ways to mitigate the risks associated with this:
- Take your time in finding the right influencers. Focus on quality over quantity, and definitely focus on genuine engagement instead of vanity metrics (as mentioned previously).
- Pay your influencers! In general, paid influencers with rates cards and media kits treat their personal brand like a business. This level of professionalism often means they approach their content creation with the same mindset.
- Offer branded content to complement their content. Providing your logo, product images, or other brand collaterals can help influencers when they create content for your collaboration.
- Show examples of previous influencer partnerships. This will give them a clearer idea of the quality you’re after with your influencer collaborations.
Make your brand irresistible to influencers
We hope that this list helped you narrow down the mistakes to avoid and the actions you actually need to take to make your next influencer collaboration a success! Influencer marketing isn’t the only way to market your brand on social media, though – have you thought about collaborating with other brands too?
If you’d like to work with influencers but you feel like your own Instagram needs a makeover first, then we’d like to help you make a better first impression! Our Instagram Management Packages include everything from content creation to genuine engagement with your community – and influencers – so you can have those relationships developed long before you pitch your first collaboration. Get in touch with us to learn more!