There's no doubt about it, influencer campaigns are the hot topic in the world of brands. When matched with the right brand campaign, a blogger with a highly engaged audience in a specific niche can increase a brand's visibility with as much force as a killer Super Bowl commercial. However, without the right strategy and foresight, there are some big mistakes that can damage a brand during an influencer campaign.
Mistake #1: Choosing the wrong influencers. The size of an influencer's following is the least of your concerns when it comes to a strong influencer program. One of the most important steps in preparing for a successful campaign is outlining clear goals and objectives. Within these goals and objectives, include brand values, demographic, reach and messaging that each influencer must have in order to qualify as an ideal participant.
Screen influencers as if you are hiring employees. Do background research. Screen for online reputation. Would this influencer be someone you would want on your team long term? Does the influencer have a history of bashing brands online? Do they respond in a timely manner to phone calls and emails? The influencers you hire will be representing your brand, so choose wisely.
Mistake #2: Disorganized campaign. From the moment you decide to launch an influencer program, build a system that designs the campaign based on desired results. Create an editorial calendar that lays out each step in the campaign, including the influencers' responsibilities, deadlines, follow up and goal tracking.
How will you research and approach each prospective influencer? Will you provide content to the influencers or prompts for them to create content? Will they be required to participate in online or in person events? Once an influencer is selected, will you send a W9 form, proposal and independent contractor service agreement that clearly states the goals of the campaign and payment terms? What will your relationship be with the influencers AFTER the campaign is over? Organization is essential for all influencer campaigns. Having these items addressed before you launch will provide a solid foundation for a successful campaign.
As someone who has worked with many brands as an influencer, organization makes all the difference for how I participate during a campaign and how I perceive the brand afterward. If you want to get the most out of your campaigns, be mindful of how you want your influencers to feel after the last tweet has been sent.
A treasured relationship creates powerful brand loyalty.
Influencers who feel like a used sock after the campaign are much less likely to spread positive awareness about your brand. While influencers who feel valued and connected are more likely to work with you again, connect you with other influencers and express positive sentiments about your brand long after the end of the program.
Mistake #3: Poor communication. Oh boy, this is a big and often overlooked one! Going back to both organization and choosing the right influencers, communication is a key component to your success. Engagement is the heart of your influencer program! How can a brand effectively leverage an audience if it is not strategically communicating and building a relationship with the leader of the audience? It can't.
Design communication into the architecture of your program. Map out when you (the brand) will be emailing, calling, tweeting, messaging, on a Hangout, Skyping... connecting with each influencer. Make sure they understand exactly what your goals are and how each tweet, Facebook update, Google+ post, blog post etc is helping you to achieve your goals. Know how this campaign will benefit your brand AND the influencer's audience. Ask questions and answer theirs.
Express gratitude for their participation.
Let them know that you want THEM to succeed. This is huge!
Mistake #4: Hiring a service to manage the campaign and not connecting directly with influencers to maintain brand integrity. When a brand hires a service provider to manage an influencer campaign, it is a bit like hiring a nanny to take care of your baby while you are away at work. You hope that the nanny will take care of your child with love and discipline and that your baby will be happy and well taken care of when you come home from work... But maybe you worry that the nanny will have a deeper relationship with your baby than you do or that the nanny isn't really treating the baby how you would and that may have a negative impact on your child.
What would you do to ensure that your baby was getting the best care while you are away and that your relationship with your baby is still strong? Would you have the nanny Skype you with the baby during the day so you could connect? Maybe you would get a nanny cam to check in on your baby and the nanny during the day, unannounced? Would you come home at lunch to see your baby? Or, would you just go about your business at work and just assume that your baby is doing fine at home and there is no need to worry?
While there are a lot of incredibly organized, friendly, professional influencer campaign managers out there who do great work, there are also many who are doing damage to a brand's reputation by being disorganized, rude, unprofessional and dishonest (unfortunately, like some nannies). How can you build relationships with the influencers in your campaign without stepping on the "nanny's" toes?
If your brand is your baby, who is taking care of it while you are away?
I have been fortunate enough to work on campaigns that were successfully run by brands without a middleman and this is where I felt most connected to the brand for months after the campaign was over. Part of this had to do with the fact that I was consulting the brand on the program while also participating as an influencer, so friendships were formed. Interestingly, I noticed that the other influencers participating in the campaign felt more connected to the brand as well. They had established relationships with people within the company who were tweeting, emailing and engaging with them. They felt like the brand cared about them.
As a brand, do you want your influencers to drop off and disappear after the campaign? Or do you want to nurture that relationship that you have already invested in? You can still hire someone to manage your influencer campaigns, but make sure you are also engaging with the influencers to build a strong and on-going connection.
Mistake #5: Not paying influencers. A lot of bloggers and "emerging" influencers will work with brands in exchange for product, experiences, invitations, discounts and the like, but you can't expect to create meaningful exchanges from those types of campaigns. They are built on objects and not substance. Companies like Klout, Peer Index and other "perk" based models may increase brand exposure somewhat, but in the long run, the brands aren't building a relationship of value with anyone. In addition, there is still a tremendous cost of time and money to implement these campaigns.
Why not direct your resources to strategically building relationships with influencers, compensating them for leveraging the audience that they have spent their time and money building and value them as partners in your community in the future?
For brands that are looking to maximize the return on an influencer campaign, study these mistakes and don't make them! These are simple things that are unfortunately often overlooked and could be detrimental to your success. Hire influencers and influencer campaign managers who match your brand values and understand that integrity is essential to building healthy, long-term, loyal, mutually beneficial relationships.