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Here's Why Brands Are Failing at Influencer Campaigns (and What to Focus on in 2021) When properly implemented, influencer marketing can bolster your ROI to new heights.

By Jennifer Spencer Edited by Eric Peck

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Maskot | Getty Images

Back in the early 2000s, the idea of social media influencers was a new concept, somewhat untried and untrusted by brands. Bloggers were the first real internet stars, with corporations sending young online authors free products in hopes of getting some fresh hype. The now-defunct BlogStar Network was originally founded in 2004 to facilitate relationships between corporations and bloggers and was met with some controversy due to the visible manipulation of audiences with content being distributed as "organic," when it was really a covert advertising campaign.

Today, things have evolved. Influencer marketing has become one of the most popular tactics for marketers, and with an increasing number of influencers appearing on platforms like TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and others, there are many opportunities for any brand to leverage influencers to their advantage. But there is a problem.

Related: Fixing the ROI Problem With Influencer Marketing

At this time, the typical experience of a brand would include working with one or more agency employees who then, in turn, have to micromanage every influencer engaged in a brand campaign. The cost equation and effectiveness of this is dependent on the management skills of the agent, which in today's world could be considered futile and unpredictable.

Moreover, the influencer recruitment pool has also become oversaturated with noise, resulting in ineffective campaigns and a negative return on investment (ROI).

The "follow" no longer harnesses the power it once had. Where once a new follower meant you had a high probability of a loyal fan, we now see followers who simply jump on a social media account because it has one good video or perhaps because others are doing it.

This is a problem for brands. A dilettante follower will not convert — there is no real love there. The influencer has not truly inspired the follower.

Engagement remains king — not followers

If you want to get the most from an influencer marketing campaign, it's important to consider the problems that exist today. I spoke with Dylan Duke, founder and CEO of influencer marketplace, GLEW, who shared his insights on how brands can sift through the clutter and cost-effectively run well-oiled, profitable influencer campaigns.

"We are seeing that every technology niche has its general market and at least one premium marketplace. Look at dating — you can go on Tinder and hope for the best, or you can get serious about high-quality relationships and apply for a profile on Raya," says Duke. "The same applies to the influencer industry. A reliable vetting system is critical. At Glew, we use real-life logic built on the problems brands face, such as inaccessibility to influencers or the inability to track your influencer campaign analytics."

Engagement is the number one metric that brands depend upon to determine the success of a campaign. The value proposition of an influencer is determined by the percentage of impact upon their audience — not the size of their audience.

Related: How Influencer Marketing Took Power, and What the Future Holds

The need for pre-vetted influencers

Duke explains that the vetting of influencers to represent a brand is not only a mathematical challenge, but also one of integrating technology components of human nature: "The future of influencer campaign management technology is a convergence of deep analytics from the recruitment industry multiplied by contemporary engagement metrics. At present, this is only achieved through a human, analog process, which is unscalable and cannot satisfy the overwhelming number of rising influencers."

Similar to any human resource process, the recruiter will try to understand the philosophy of the candidate, their ethics, drive, mindset to complete tasks and other general qualifications. In the consumer industry, this is controlled by reviews. Ethics and integrity are paramount. For influencers, an honest rating system must be designed which benefits campaign managers and allows them thorough due diligence.

This need for brands who depend on the influencer industry will be realized by technology solutions and information sharing between all social media platforms into a single source where the brand can have a transparent view and close to 100% prediction of profitable performance. Only then can we see influencer marketing become truly and unfailingly successful.

The utilization of micro-influencers

In continuation of the previous point, the nature of influence is changing between demographics, and in the case of companies trying to market to Gen-Z (and everything that comes after), micro-influencers may be the best option. They are also a great option when finances are particularly tight, but the campaigns still need to get done.

Micro-influencers are people who have between 1,000 and 40,000 followers on a single social platform, who have specialist followings that they heavily engage with. Many have risen from virtual obscurity to being nearly as loved as celebrities due to their content on the most popular social networks. In many cases, micro-influencers are happy to work with brands for free, or in exchange for samples of products/free trials of services.

Related: Micro-influencers Bring Mega ROI for Brands

Partnerships with rev-share opportunities

Finances are still tight for most brands, but even so, it would be a wise investment for marketers and advertisers to enter into rev-share opportunities with influencers. Rev-share opportunities are enticing for influencers, as it opens up a new revenue stream for their efforts. It is also a relatively easy arrangement for businesses to set up, upon reaching an agreement with an influencer.

"I expect to see a proliferation of influencer joint venture partnership deals in 2021," says Jesse Tevelow, founder of LaunchTeam and the LaunchTeam Growth Summit. "Companies will offer rev-share marketing opportunities to Influencers who demonstrate strong brand-alignment and maintain engaged, targeted audiences."

Related: A Crash Course on Licenses, Joint Ventures and Partnerships

Turning buyers into influencers through user-generated content

Beyond being a buzzword, user-generated content gives brands an underrated competitive advantage.

"With the exploding popularity of creative media on TikTok and Instagram Reels, everyday followers are craving to be involved with more brand campaigns," says Mark Escano of Escano Brothers, a content creation firm. "Brands who turn buyers — no matter the follower size — into influencers, gain trust by empowering their community to create and share content around their products."

When implemented correctly, marketing and advertising campaigns that are backed by influencers are proving to yield results much higher than traditional methods. From official ambassadorships, to product reviews, to brand mentions, the influencer marketing space has become a multibillion-dollar industry due to its effectiveness. Now is the time for brands to think of ways to incorporate influencer marketing into their marketing and advertising strategies. It has become easier than ever before, and the returns are plentiful in terms of engagement, impressions and conversions.

Jennifer Spencer

CEO of Energent Media

Jennifer Spencer is the founder of Energent Media, a digital marketing firm for tech startups. She is passionate about helping brands leverage content to share their stories with the world.

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