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5 Things to Understand Before Spending a Dime on Influencer Marketing

Do your research before throwing money at the wall.
5 Things to Understand Before Spending a Dime on Influencer Marketing
Image credit: vgajic | Getty Images

There hasn’t been a shortage of influencer marketing buzz in 2017, and with the holiday season fast-approaching, it’s only going to increase. Most of the buzz is positive, but I’ll be the first person to say that influencer marketing isn’t for every brand.

I’ve been knee-deep in the influencer space since before it became mainstream, which eventually led me to spin off a sister company that is a stand-alone influencer marketing agency. When you pair the correct product with influencers and a well-executed campaign, it can be lucrative. When you don’t, it can be a complete waste of marketing dollars. Here are five things you need to understand before you spend money on an influencer marketing campaign.

Related: 10 Laws of Social Media Marketing

1. The relationship must be authentic.

People follow influencers on social media because they have similar interests. The influencers with the strongest personal brands have followers that are very in-tune with their day-to-day life, and if something reeks of an overly promotional post, they risk major backlash.

Influencers don’t want to put the relationship with their followers in jeopardy, so many -- the effective ones, at least -- will only entertain partnerships with brands that closely align with what their audience is likely to be interested in.

A fitness influencer is going to consider working with a supplement brand but highly unlikely to consider partnering with a junk-food brand. It just isn’t something their audience is going to be interested in. The wrong influencer and brand pairing can lead to mass-unfollowing and low or no positive engagement.

2. Influencer marketing is a long-term play for most brands.

If you are in desperation mode and think a few sponsored posts are going to be the life preserver your business needs, you will be greatly disappointed, and probably end up worse off. Yes, a single mention by a mega-influencer can be extremely rewarding, but these occurrences are rare -- and expensive. A sponsored post from a member of the Kardashian clan will cost you six figures. They are the unicorns of the influencer marketing world.

In most cases, long-term partnerships are necessary -- you have to build trust before you experience results. Influencer marketing needs to be just one component of your overall marketing campaign. When someone sees an influencer they follow post several times about a product, it might entice them to explore it a bit more, but only a very small percent will convert on an offer immediately after it’s posted.

Related: 4 Ways to Market Your Business for Free

3. Be prepared to scale (and spend).

As mentioned above, influencer marketing isn’t a one-and-done game. The best results are going to be achieved by brands that have an adequate testing budget and the desire to scale. It takes a lot of split testing and data gathering -- creatives, calls-to-action, influencers, posting times, etc. -- to determine where your sweet spot is.

You should make sure the influencers you work with give you access to their analytics to see how many impressions and engagement each post receives. Also, consider using a trackable link to use in their bio to see how much traffic is driven to your offer by each influencer.

Everyone has the itch to try influencer marketing, but I would highly suggest waiting until you have a minimum test budget of $1,000 available before you get your feet wet. This allows you to test across several influencers, test multiple creatives and then grow your effort when you identify what works.

4. You need to leave the creative direction to the influencer.

You have complete creative control when it comes to Facebook advertising or any other traditional digital ad buy, but influencer marketing is a different animal. Many brands want to control the creative direction, but often times that results in posts that don’t feel natural at all. The influencer’s followers can smell a blatant advertisement a mile away.

If you really want quality engagement with your brand, give the influencer your product and let them do whatever they want with it. Nobody knows their audience better than they do. They will introduce your brand and product to their audience in the best way they see fit, giving you the highest quality engagement.

Al Davi is president and CEO of MobileWash, a mobile on-demand app for car washes and detailing understands the importance of influencer control. He says, "If we had influencers post a screenshot of our app or a graphic-based ad, the response would be minimal at best. Now, when an influencer posts a picture of his or her car being washed and mentions our app, it’s a more natural 'advertisement' and the response is much better."

Related: Use These 5 Steps to Create a Marketing Plan

5. Audience size is irrelevant if it’s not targeted.

Audience size doesn’t matter -- follower count is irrelevant. You can’t get blinded by follower count. It’s easy to think that paying an influencer with 4 million followers $5,000 to post about your brand is going to make your website server crash because of a flood of traffic, but that’s not how it works in the real world.

I’ve worked with brands that previously tried influencer marketing internally and saw two conversions come from a 3 million-follower account that cost them five figures, and then we show them the difference between proper targeting, and drive 10 conversions from a very small account that costs $50. It all comes down to targeting the right audience.

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