While influencer marketing and creator-driven growth is awesome, it also comes with certain risks that you must be aware of.
In this post, we’ll cover the potential problems and issues that you will face when you start on your influencer marketing journey. Don’t let these deter you though. Knowing where the pitfalls lie before you embark on a journey is equally as important as knowing best practices.
All I want to know is where I'm going to die so I'll never go there.
- Charlie Munger
Influencers might demand an extra fee for giving you the rights to use their content. You might want to use their videos as testimonials on your website, or as creatives for your paid media campaigns.
Paying for usage rights is understandable, but make sure you mention that before the content goes live. Sometimes, the prices creators quote for usage rights can be unreasonable. Make sure it’s no more than 20%-25% of the actual cost of placement (assuming you’re paying for placement).
Mentioning this before you decide to work with them also gives you leverage as you can say “we’ll pay $150 more if we really like the content and want to use it on our paid channels”. This incentivizes them to create compelling content, making it a win win.
If you want to use their content for paid media or anything else in the near future, make sure you get usage-rights out of the way before you start working with them.
This sounds obvious but it’s the most commonly occurring risk when it comes to influencer marketing.
You know what makes or breaks your influencer campaigns? It’s the price that you pay for placements. Paying a creator $500 and making $200 from the promotion is not something you want. This is why we recommend starting off with only commission-based ambassadors and not big name influencers who will charge you $500+ upfront for posts.
Here’s a detailed guide on finding the right price for the influencers. Saral also has a chrome extension where you can find the fair amount to pay to any influencer with just one click.
Don’t make impulsive decisions here, they quickly spiral into an unprofitable influencer campaign and you will falsely conclude “it doesn’t work!”
Fake Follower Counts
If you are choosing influencers solely based on their follower count then you’re taking a subpar, myopic approach to creator-driven marketing. Here are some more parameters to vet creators.
Since most brands pay by follower count, some bad actors tend to purchase followers to increase their rates. As you run your program, you will inevitably come across some of these types.
Yes, their audience size does determine the reach your campaigns get but if they have fake followers, this metric becomes useless. You must use a fake follower checker tool to mitigate this, or simply use SARAL’s chrome extension that shows you their Authentic Follower Percentage.
This helps you evaluate if they’re legit, or if they’re using bots and engagement pods to amp up their metrics. Usually, an authentic follower percentage of 80% or more is safe, but you really want to aim for 90% or higher, especially for smaller creators.
Content is king
Great content by skilled creators helps your brand build a strong relationship with their audience.
Their audience trusts them and they also trust your brand by association. Just going through their feeds for a few minutes will give you an idea of the content quality.
While you can always look at their engagement rate in SARAL, you’ll get a better feel for their engagement by looking at the comments. Comment sections are a goldmine for finding how engaged is their audience is. If you feel the content isn’t up to the mark and the engagement quality isn’t good either, then it’s better to drop the influencer and move ahead with the next one.
In your journey, you will encounter some influencers who aren’t true to their word. The most common problem is constantly extending the timeline of when they’ll post about you. Sometimes, they don't respond to your emails too! It’s better to make a clear agreement and get it signed. The contract should include crucial details like a timeline of the promotion, deliverables, rate, and usage rights.
It doesn’t have to be a written agreement for every single creator you work with, it can be a simple email exchange. But for most creators whom you do a flat-fee deal with (eventually), you should do a proper agreement. Never pay the entire amount upfront, pay 30%-50% upfront and the rest after the post is live.
Too much sponsored Content
If the influencer’s feed has more sponsored posts than organic ones then it means they’re likely just milking their audience for money and will soon see drops in engagement rates, if they haven’t already.
You want to partner with creators who are creators first, promoters later. Given how lucrative it is, some influencers promote a lot of products simply because they're getting paid for it. You want to avoid working with them. Only work with creators who produce good content and can weave your product in seamlessly.
No one likes ads, and if their followers are constantly bombarded with new products then it’s likely that their audience has already lost trust in them. Be wary of too many sponsored posts.
Lack of Alignment
If you choose an influencer then make sure they align with your brand values and beliefs.
There are creators who create controversial and weird content just to get views and likes. Partnering with these influencers can seriously hurt your brand image. Stay away from them. Unless controversy is your brand, of course 😉
Sometimes, lack of alignment can also reflect in less obvious “honest mistake” ways. This happens when you pay non-aligned influencers to post about you. Consider this infamous example of Scott Disick who posted the instructions sent by the brand as the caption of the post. As a result, he faced backlash from the community and lost trust and the brand hurt its own reputation by association.
To make sure this doesn’t happen, focus on only working with creators that are in alignment with your mission and actually want to promote your products. This leads us directly to the next point.
Organic vs Natural Promotion
FTC guidelines state that if a creator is getting paid for recommending a product then they must tag it as sponsored content. This is fine, they can say you sponsored them. BUT what matters most is that the placement shouldn’t look like a typical ad. It should not feel like they’re paid to do it.
The more naturally your product fits in with their audience, the better. The best way to do this is to only work with creators that you vet and are super aligned with your brand mission.
Stay away from influencers who would sign up for your ambassador program and start promoting without even using the product. Trust me, I’ve seen some duckface influencers literally post screenshots of brand’s websites and asked their audience to purchase. Needless to say, this does not work.
The Risk of Platform
How you weigh your distribution of content matters. When starting off, test every platform. But eventually you need to measure which one works the best for your goals and start investing more in that channel.
Brands make one of two mistakes with this:
- Only test one platform (Tiktok is hot!)
- Keep collaborating with creators on multiple platforms
You must eventually find the top 3 platforms that work best for you and do those. Even within those, there will be a best performing platform (depending on your goals) — overindex on that!
In our experience, TikTok works best for impressions and brand awareness, Youtube does the best for long-term value and conversions, and Instagram is the best of both worlds. You must test Pinterest, Bloggers, and maybe even LinkedIn creators. It depends on your product!
Your job doesn’t end once the influencer posts. You need to measure the performance each week, see what’s working and what isn’t. Then revise your strategy based on this analysis. It’s easy to do it inside Google Analytics if you use SARAL’s tracking-link generator feature. You can simply create a report and look at it for 5 minutes every week to see what works. It’s that simple. Your brand risks losing money and energy if you do not track performance every week.
Find the top-performing influencers who have generated good traction for your product and replicate your success month by month. Here’s an excellent guide on tracking influencer campaign results.
Running an influencer marketing campaign sounds overwhelming but if you stick with it and make the right decisions then this can prove to be one of your most profitable marketing channels.
Make sure you avoid all these risks when you’re in the trenches, feel free to bookmark this blog and review it periodically to ensure you’re not falling for one of these.