5 All-Too-Common Influencer Marketing Mistakes — and How to Avoid Them

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Written by Danielle Wiley, CEO of Sway Group

Pandemic life has boosted social media usage and digital content consumption, traditional advertising is largely either distrusted or skipped altogether by today’s consumers, and more than half of social media users say they find content shared by peers and influencers to be more trustworthy and authentic than branded content.

It’s no wonder so many businesses have been turning to influencer marketing. Partnering with digital influencers has become a proven strategy for brands to engage highly targeted audiences, by leveraging influencers’ built-in credibility and connections.

Now more than ever, influencer marketing offers brands the ability to reach audiences where they’re at, with authentic messaging that resonates. Like any marketing effort, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to running a winning influencer campaign — but there are plenty of tactical errors that can ruin your outreach before you even get started.

Here are 5 best-practice tips for avoiding the most common mistakes in the industry:

Mistake #1: Failing to clearly define goals

The most critical step of any influencer campaign is to figure out your business objectives, with the real trick being to break these down into measurable goals. Regardless of what you’re hoping to accomplish, you need goals that include structure and trackability rather than vague terms.

Start by asking yourself what the ideal outcome would be for your influencer marketing. Are you hoping to spark more interest in your company’s latest product? Send traffic to a certain web page or video? Boost sales? Start a social conversation? Your KPIs — key performance indicators — will not only help lay the groundwork for a strategic campaign, they become the all-important metrics for determining success.

Mistake #2: Partnering with the wrong influencer

One of the biggest blunders companies make when looking for an influencer is over-prioritizing follower counts. A Kardashian-level influencer with millions of followers can certainly seem like a tempting partner, but the reality is that most celebrity creators aren’t actually the best fit for most brands.

For one thing, they can be enormously expensive (while also being prone to scandal). Perhaps more importantly, their engagement is rarely as high as their follower counts. Generally, as an influencer’s follower count rises, their rate of engagement decreases. While non-celebrity creators have fewer followers, their audiences are more active and loyal.

The other most common mistake in this category is partnering with an influencer who isn’t a strong organic fit with your brand. If you’re looking to promote your new line of easy-prep burger-based meals, you probably don’t want to partner with that vegan beauty influencer — no matter how engaged her audience is. Instead, you want an influencer with family-focused audiences who are looking for dinner solutions that fit into their busy lives.

Mistake #3: Not giving influencers enough flexibility

While it’s important to provide plenty of details to influencers so they know what is expected of them, your campaign requirements shouldn’t be so rigid influencers are simply parroting the brand party line.

A good influencer brief should clearly outline the campaign goals and key product and brand messages. This brief (which can include content prompts, a theme outline, social share requirements, image direction including brand assets and sample photography, and much more) is there to reduce any confusion about the sponsorship details and deliverables. However, it should always be crystal clear that the tone, language, and aesthetics should be owned by the influencer — after all, that’s why you chose to work with them.

Without the flexibility to deliver the kind of content their followers are loyal to, you risk alienating audiences. Don’t break the connection influencers have with their followers by requiring a major change of tone, or a painfully obtrusive sales pitch.

Mistake #4: Not quality-checking influencer content

Even the most professional and dedicated influencers make mistakes. Every influencer campaign should include the ability to quality check the content, both during the development process and after it goes live. You don’t want typos, you don’t want ho-hum content, and you definitely don’t want bad links or misleading brand messaging.

Your QA process will depend on the size of your team, the number of stakeholders, the scope of the campaign, whether or not you’re working with an influencer agency, and so on. At a minimum, it’s useful to include at least one review checkpoint prior to content going live with every campaign so that any issues can be discovered in time to make adjustments.

Mistake #5: Not properly tracking campaign performance

Metrics give you the information you need to understand the impact of your current campaign, determine ROI, and fine-tune your future projects. The problem is, many brands aren’t focusing on the right performance metrics.

In the past, marketers often equated digital impressions with success — but we now know that engagement is far more relevant. Engagement (likes, shares, saves, comments, pins, and so on) is all about the actions people take when they encounter your content. Engagements are far more useful to analyze than impressions because they show how the content is resonating with its audience.

By analyzing influencer engagement, brands can gain a better understanding of audience involvement, interest, and action. Ultimately, engagement metrics provide useful qualitative campaign data that can’t be gleaned from a simple tally of impressions.

For every great influencer marketing success story, there’s a campaign that missed the mark completely, likely because it fell victim to one or more avoidable mistakes. Today’s influential content creators have much to offer brands and marketers — as long as they take the time to familiarize themselves with the common pitfalls of influencer marketing and how to counteract them.

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