I like to think of influencer marketing as the wild, wild west – it is a new, fairly unregulated, every-man-for-himself kind of landscape. While progress is slowly but surely being made, nobody knows exactly how it works, what is going on, or how to structure it. And most importantly, this town may not be big enough for the two (or two million) of us.
First and foremost, let’s address the elephant in the room. I currently have around 400 Instagram followers, no big partnerships, and not enough website traffic to pique a big brand’s interest, so naturally, you might be thinking who do you think you are and why should I even trust what you have to say?
You see, when I’m not running my mouth over random thoughts in this blog, I work full time in advertising as a social media and influencer strategist. So while I don’t necessarily have brands personally reaching out to me yet as a newer blogger, nearly every single day I am sitting on the other side of the table assisting our clients in making decisions over who to partner with and how to manage their influencer relationships.
And let me tell you, I have seen it all.
When you really get a deep dive glance under the hood of the influencer marketing industry, you will be shocked over the good, the bad and the ugly issues we run into. Even more importantly, you would be surprised to see just how many of these issues could easily be prevented.
Today I wanted to share some of the biggest influencer partnership issues and headaches I run into as a brand representative, and how you as an influencer can prevent these hardships.
Things Aren’t As Secure As You Think
I think one thing that goes unrecognized in the influencer community is that brand partnership security can be really turbulent and a lot of influencers are unaware of how programs are often structured by the company they are teaming up with.
To be transparent, a majority of the time you will not be the only brand partner a company works with. We will, more often than not, work with an influencer management service/program or PR firm to select a basket of influencers that we feel best to represent the brand.
So in reality, the cold hard truth is that even if you are offered a partnership, you aren’t necessarily our only focus. In fact, most often, the brand will group all of their bloggers into one overarching “influencer” basket. That means unless we have an existing long-term relationship established with you, we don’t necessarily think of your performance as an individual, but rather how you measured up as a group.
This, unfortunately, means that even if YOUR sponsored content is killing it, if the other influencers working with the brand aren’t pulling their weight, there is a likelihood that the influencer marketing campaign will be canceled early so that funds can be reallocated elsewhere for the rest of the quarter.
If you are fortunate enough to be offered a brand partnership with monetary compensation, avoid the temptation to spend it all in one place and make sure that you handle your funds wisely. Put away enough of your paycheck so that you will have the cash to fall back on just in case the worst case scenario comes to play or make sure that your contract has a clause regarding partnership cancellation fees to help keep you afloat.
Additionally, try not to put all of your eggs into one basket, manage your relationships with respect and don’t sever ties with a brand that has been faithful to you just for a big name. Ultimately, what I am trying to say here is partnerships can change in a heartbeat, so be logical, think realistically and always have a plan B established.
Understand Industry Best Practices
I cannot stress this one enough.
Not too long ago, we were working with a popular blogger recommended to us by our influencer management partner. It had taken us months to get everything established, the shots approved and the schedule lined up – the big posting day was approaching and we were excited to see the results.
And then it was finally go-time. We crowded together to check the post and found ourselves fuming. This influencer had posted our content along with six separate ads from other businesses within a 2-minute time frame (keep in mind that for each time you post in-feed in a single day, your reach will drop tremendously. So try to keep it limited to 1-2 times a day on Facebook and Instagram).
Knowing how much reach is affected through over-posting, both our team and our clients were furious. To put it in perspective, this was like spending an exorbitant amount of time, money and energy crafting a piece of art, only to find out the gallery in charge of selling it hung it backward.
Please don’t ever be that influencer.
At the end of the day, if you want to participate in this industry, you need to be sure you are educated and up-to-speed over as many best practices as possible, whether it be social media, Pinterest, photography/editing, email strategy or blogging. There are countless resources that continuously serve helpful articles, infographics, and newsletters highlighting best practices across the board.
Understand that being an influencer is not just about being able to take a good picture, it is genuinely hard work and it is your responsibility to ensure you are up to speed and educated over your industry. After all, why wouldn’t you want to guarantee you are being the best you can be?
Don’t Say Yes To Every Opportunity
Speaking of six ads in a row in two minutes, this is something that shouldn’t be an issue period.
I have seen so many influencers who appear to accept any partnership opportunity sent their way, no matter how odd or irrelevant, and this can be a huge turn-off to brands and followers alike.
Authenticity is something that is becoming more and more sought after in the influencer industry. People are burnt out over seeing the same things over and over, hearing the same messages and feeling constant pressure to purchase. As a result, the influencer industry’s target audience is turning away from celebrities and macro-influencers and are instead following authentic micro-influencers in droves.
As an influencer, it is as important as ever to remain authentic and relevant to your own brand. Which is why it is such a turn off to see influencers who clearly never say no to any paid opportunity sent their way. Your feed shouldn’t exclusively consist of #sponsored content and your promotions should feel relevant to your personal brand. Trust me, your audience can tell it’s just about the money and perks if you are allergic to peanuts and suddenly start touting Jiffy products. Agencies and marketers alike will also avoid you like the plague if they feel they will only be one in a million brands on your feed, especially when long-term relationships are becoming more commonplace than one-off projects.
So try to maintain your authenticity, limit your partnerships every quarter and space out your sponsored content in order to give your followers a breather and maintain attention.
Because at the end of the day, if you only share sponsored content, you are no longer an influencer or a blogger, you are a walking, talking commercial. And we all know how much we love to fast forward through those.
We Can Tell When You Are Faking It
Let’s get real here, if you have over 10K followers, and your images are barely breaking 100 likes, we aren’t going to go ahead and blame the entire issue on the algorithm.
While the influencer industry is still figuring itself out a bit, marketers and brands are getting smarter about fighting influencer fraud every single day. In fact, we now actually have several tools under our disposal in order to help detect it. We attend webinars and training sessions to spot red flags on influencer profiles, we perform mathematical calculations based on metrics to pinpoint the likelihood of fraud, and we use software that gives your profile a dedicated “safety score” based on follower growth, engagements, and activities.
Building up a big following in the saturated influencer market is not easy, trust me I know, but receiving instant gratification by purchasing false engagements and followers may hurt your ability to scale with bigger brands later in your career. It is also kind of cruel, which is the worst way to begin a relationship. Trying to fool brands into thinking you hold more influence than you actually do is dishonest and fraudulent, almost like selling somebody a shiny new car that is missing its engine.
With the growth in fraud detection technology and even higher fund allocation in the influencer market over the next few years, brands will be ramping up their investments to ensure they are building long-term relationships with the right people. And this means no matter how much you have grown, if that fraud detecting software gives you a thumbs down due to the 5K followers you purchased in 2017, it may cost you a future partnership.
You cannot expect to receive monetary deals with brands overnight, or even within the first year of starting your personal brand. If you are considering purchasing followers, press pause and consider the fact that brands will not be as easily fooled in the very near future. Instead, focus your energy on natural growth via engaging, hashtag implementation and networking.
If you have already purchased followers, all hope isn’t lost. Shift your focus towards genuine engagement (no bots or auto-posting) and creating quality content. If what you are producing is impressive enough, brands may be willing to turn a blind eye to your less than ideal fraud rating.
In Fact, Follower Size Is The Least Of Our Worries
It’s funny to me that so many people are obsessed with follower count like there is some magic number you hit and then BAM! suddenly all of the brands will come flocking over to partner with you.
That is not a thing!
Now it’s true that there are influencer partnership programs that require a minimum follower count or that for certain campaigns we are trying to meet a reach-heavy objective. But as an agency representative, when my team is determining who we should partner with the follower numbers are actually one of the last metrics we glance at.
If there is one metric marketers care most about when measuring influencer campaign results, it is engagement. How many interactions is your content driving? Who is commenting and what are they saying? Are they clicking through and actually reading your blog posts? These are the kind of actions that mean the most to us because these are the actions that drive results, which means a healthy ROI for the brands.
When I am looking at performance or vetting a potential influencer, the first thing that I do is compare their engagement rate to the most up-to-date industry benchmarks. If the numbers are up to par in comparison to their follower count/impressions, I consider the campaign a success.
Engagement Rate = (likes + comments + shares + link clicks) / post impressions
Now, just because I say engagements matter doesn’t mean you should go out and start purchasing likes and comments! Our fraud detection tools are just as effective in determining false post engagements as it is at pinpointing fake followers. Algorithms are able to look into engagement activity and spot red flags, like an account’s number of likes per minute and average comment length.
The best way to generate genuine engagements is to authentically engage with other accounts/blogs and create content that is thoughtful and worthwhile. Whatever you do, stop trying to take shortcuts, and instead invest that time and energy into building meaningful bonds. You won’t regret it as your profile continues to grow authentically in the future.
The influencer industry is as close to the wild, wild west as we can get in 2019. However, just because things aren’t set in stone, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an active effort to be the best partner possible. Think logically, stay educated and always avoid taking shortcuts.
Do you have any influencer or industry advice I missed? Any tips that you find debatable? Share them in the comments below!