Influencer Marketing: Avoiding the Potential Pitfalls

(excerpted from Best Practices in Influencer Marketing)

While influencer marketing can yield big benefits, there are some potential pitfalls. Primary among them, is that it can be a lot of work, and results are not guaranteed. As Natarelli notes, “The nature of the media landscape today requires constant optimization and tinkering. You have to see audiences as fluid and fickle. Therefore, it is hard to sometimes identify and hold on to success. Clients looking for sure bets and silver bullets will be disappointed.”

Another misstep that many brands make, says David Waterman, senior director, earned media/SEO for The Search Agency, Inc., in Los Angeles, is targeting the “top of the heap”—those that are the obvious thought leaders in their space. “Attempting to connect with these influencers is a mistake because they’re constantly being inundated with connection, content promotion, or content contribution requests to the point where they probably don’t even check their in-box anymore.” Instead, Waterman suggests, influencer marketers should focus on mid-level influencers, those “who may not have as much social pull or visibility as some of the big wigs, but still have a social graph similar to the top dogs.” In many cases, he says, these influencers are more receptive to requests.

Loss of control is one potential pitfall of influencer marketing, notes Raynes. “When you–or your agency—hands your campaign to an influencer, you cede control of your message to a third party who may or may not represent you well, or may even misrepresent you,” she cautions. She points to a May 12 article published on Digiday which highlights a representative from MXM, a content marketing agency, who admitted that “his team encountered situations where a paid influencer created content that was completely off message.” For instance, his team contracted a youth influencer who was focused on music for a movie release. While the film was musically focused, the influencer created content that was off message for the film and its producers. “Not only did it fall flat with the audience, but we ended up requesting the content be removed from the influencer’s platform,” said the rep.

Brand damage is another potential pitfall and one that marketers should be highly attuned to. “The downfall is when an influencer just takes any advertiser’s money,” says Glenn Rubenstein, founder of ADOPTER Media, a full-service podcast advertising agency in the San Francisco area. “To be blunt, an influencer is selling a share of their credibility with their audience. If a product or service doesn’t deliver for the audience, the influencer’s credibility is shot. My advice is that both the influencer and the sponsor need to be on the same page—do your research and don’t be afraid to pass on imperfect opportunities.”

But, despite important concerns about the impact of the influencer on the brand, it’s important that influencer marketers understand that they do not, and should not, control the influencer’s content.

“The biggest mistake marketers make is trying to overly control the content created by the influencer,” says Bryan Boettger, principal and lead strategist with Estate Four, a messaging and content marketing agency in Sausalito, California. “Influencer marketing works because it is authentic and resonates naturally with an audience,” he says. “Exerting too much creative control over influencers is only going to result in sterile, bland, unemotional content.”

Another potential sticking point: who owns the content—the brand or the influencer? “In many cases, the influencer claims all ownership rights,” says Raynes. “Given that the price charged by a top YouTube influencer for a single video may currently be above $100,000, these concerns aren’t trivial, even for big CPG brands with mega budgets.”

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Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We are adept at evaluating and analyzing communication efforts and working with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content, through both on- and offline media to achieve desired results. Our background in business journalism, marketing, PR/media relations and online communications makes us well-positioned to serve the needs of 21st-century marketers.

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(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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