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There are no shortcuts in influencer marketing

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Over the last year, influencer marketing has been one of the most talked about digital tactics in all of marketing.

We’ve seen scores of articles about best practices, tips and case studies. And, in many of those articles, brands and agencies make it look easy.

These articles talk about tools the author/brand/agency use to identify influencers.

And, of course, agencies will talk about the relationships they have with influencers (some agencies are completely built around the concept of influencer marketing) and how powerful those can be.

In many cases, it simply sounds too good to be true.

And, that’s because it is too good to be true.

The harsh reality is this: There are no shortcuts in influencer marketing.

Because the harsher reality is this: It takes a lot of time, effort and research to execute a well-planned influencer marketing program.

I see three key areas where extensive time, effort or commitment is needed:

Identifying the right influencers to work with

The up-front research is easily the area that requires the most hard work, and time and commitment. Sure, there are numerous tools out there that claim to do this work for you. But, don’t believe the hype. All have their drawbacks. And few (if any) can equal the results of good, old-fashioned research on your own. What does that look like? It includes initial scans on Google (yep, that’s how I begin many of my searches). It includes digging into top influencer lists posted on media sites and blogs. It includes wading through many, many tweets and posts by influencers looking for personal preferences and to see their tone and style (and if it matches with your brand’s tone and style). It includes actually emailing and/or calling the influencers to get more information and ask about web metrics and other behind-the-scenes numbers. In short: It’s a LOT of work.

Managing long-term relationships with influencers

This is an ongoing and time-consuming job. Because, if done right, it involves much more than just monitoring their Instagram profiles every few days. Managing an effective long-term relationship with an influencer is a commitment. It involves scanning their social media accounts DAILY–you want to know what they’re talking about each and every day. It involves monitoring their posts to ensure they’re disclosing paid affiliations (because, well, FTC guidelines demand it and you could get sued for millions of dollars if you don’t). It involves checking in with the influencers every so often (I would usually say monthly at a minimum) to see how things are going and to answer questions. Managing influencers is a lot like managing media relationships—in one big key way: it’s time-consuming and very much worth it (in the long run). 

Managing ongoing content creation with influencers

Much like the areas above, this isn’t a one-time deal either. It’s an ongoing effort to work closely with influencers to either co-create content, or, at the very least, to give them effective guidance on the kinds of content you want them to create on behalf of your brand. And that, my friends, is not easy work. For those who have treated it as “easy work”, well, we’re starting to see the outcomes. One agency sued an influencer recently for failing to live up to his/her end of the contract. Listerine seemingly failed to give one influencer it worked with effective creative direction earlier this year. The result was a sh*tstorm of backlash about the influencer’s apparently “trite” post on Instagram. If you want to work with influencers to create breakthrough content that capture’s customers’ attention, you must treat it like a process worthy of your valuable time and effort.

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There are no shortcuts in influencer marketing

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