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The good and the bad of influencer marketing

Influencer marketing—the strategy of focusing on specific key individuals rather than the target market—is the most popular guerilla marketing strategy of the past decade. And one of the fastest growing. Check this out. When you track the term “influencer marketing” on Google Trends, you’ll see a steady growth over the past 5-10 years. In 2004, influencer marketing had an interest over time (a number that represents search interest relative to the highest point on the chart) score of 7. In 2015, it was 57. In 2016, it hit 98. That’s explosive growth over 12 years. From virtually unknown to ubiquitous.

Not quite enough to convince you? According to a study by Linqia, 86 percent of marketers used influencer marketing in 2016. Of that 86 percent, 94 percent of them found it effective. So, not only is influencer marketing being widely used, it’s also highly successful for those using it.

The numbers also suggest that influencer marketing isn’t going to die anytime soon, so it’s not too late to jump on board. Not sure how to do it? This list gathers the six faux pas committed by those who decided to be experimental early adopters and puts together

Use Your Words

Faux pas 1: Your words are their words. This mistake happens when a brand wants to keep a stranglehold on its message and doesn’t trust their influencer. You can find "cut-and-paste" examples all over social media, where the influencer looks like a novice, and the brand looks like a control freak.

How it should be done: Influencers are creatives. Treat them as such. By definition, influencers are people who have built a loyal following because they have and share knowledge about a certain topic in an interesting way. If you’ve hired a true influencer, there’s no need to tell them what to post. Trust them to represent your brand as well as they do their own. If you don’t think you can trust them, they’re the wrong influencer for your brand.

If you don’t think you can trust them, they’re the wrong influencer for your brand.

If you’re working with someone who wants some guidance, feel free to tell them the tone or idea you’re going for. But there’s never a reason to put words in someone’s mouth. Especially when they’re representing your product as something they use.

Personalize

Faux pas 2: Your first contact with influencers should be generic and impersonal.

Dear Influencer my Gen Z daughter told me about,

I represent BrandYouDon’tCareAbout. We loved your Snap about eating healthy for your body. Want to try our ProductYou’veNeverHeardOf? We know you do! ;)

How it should be done: No. Just no. If your brand wants to make a connection with an influencer, make it personal. And that doesn’t mean referencing one of their recent social media posts.

Look for the people who are already Start to interact with them online. Comment and like their posts. Ask if you can reshare one of their posts.

Think of meeting influencers like meeting someone new at a party. Don’t accost them. Get to know them first, build a relationship, and then ask for their help.

Meet in the middle

Faux pas 3: You don’t have to pay influencers. It’s not payment enough for them to be associated with your brand. Your AC repairman gets paid for his expertise. Your personal trainer gets paid for her talent. So why do you think your new influencer shouldn’t get paid for her valued experience?

How it should be done: All people who work in the digital world have been asked at some point to work for free. Or, for exposure. Exposure is what you die of in winter, not what brings you professional success. Your brand’s agreement with an influencer should benefit both parties.

Exposure is what you die of in winter, not what brings you professional success.

Influencer marketing can have major ROI for businesses. On average, a business will return $6.50 for every $1.00 spent on influencer marketing.

That means that your business is likely to see enough monetary benefit to pay your influencer. Payment also doesn’t have to be a flat fee. Payment can be based on engagement, clicks, posts, free products, or a combination of these. Part of payment might also be that your brand features the influencer on their blog or social media. This gives the influencer access to your audience, increasing their own reach.

Mutual respect

Faux pas 4: Influencers are megaphones for a brand. But wait, isn’t the job of an influencer to use your product for free and then have them blast a joy-filled, rainbow-happy post about how much they love you? No.

How it should be done: This is an easy trap for a business to fall into, but consumers are smart. They can quickly see through influencer posts that aren’t genuine. Influencers should be treated with respect. Most influencers have grown their personal brand or company from scratch with just their social know-how and time.

Think of influencers as a door through which your brand can share with a new audience, Audiences are much more spread out than in the past, which makes them harder to reach than when there were only five TV channels to watch.

You have some choices: Give your influencers the freedom to post about your brand how they want to or work together to co-create a product. This is an opportunity to put together a podcast, make a YouTube video, or co-write a blog post.

This not only gives your brand access to a new audience or niche, but begins the process of establishing your brand as a thought leader, too.

Celebrity status

Faux pas 5: Celebrity fame creates brand loyalty. Celebrity endorsement on products will often increase sales, but they don’t increase brand loyalty. On a practical note, celebrity endorsements are downright expensive.

For one Instagram post from a celebrity who has three to seven million followers, it will set your company back as much as $75,000. And that’s not for the real celebrities. Now, for someone like Kylie Jenner, one Instagram post touting your product will (reportedly) cost you $100,000 to $300,000. Not every company can afford such an investment. (And what about the importance of authenticity?)

How it should be done: Instead of saving up to buy the endorsement of a celebrity, build real relationships with influencers. An influencer is a normal person who has defined himself as a thought leader for a certain niche (that you share) and has gained the follows and respect of an audience (that you want). You should want to know them.

Instead of saving up to buy the endorsement of a celebrity, build real relationships with influencers.

Persona

Faux pas 6: It doesn’t matter if the celebrity and the brand don’t share values. Celebrity endorsements for products are nothing new. But there’s a dark side to asking a celebrity to use their brand to promote yours. There’s the potential for scandal.

Michael Phelps. O.J. Simpson. Lance Armstrong. Michael Vick. When celebrities get into trouble, brands flee. Fast.

And what about Queen Bey? To some her infraction of sponsoring Pepsi while also being part of the former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign would seem insignificant, but to others it was scandalous. This should serve as a warning to marketers to always look out for a conflict of interest. If you don’t, your audience is sure to notice. And your entire campaign could backfire.

How it should be done: You can’t just hire any influencer you find. Your brand’s relationship with an influencer must be believable. Remember, consumers aren’t dumb. They know when a post is genuine and when it’s not.

Consumers trust influencers. That’s one of the reasons why influencer marketing is so successful. When choosing an influencer to work with,

The good and the bad come together

Influencer marketing is a wonderful trend for consumers and brands. It’s pushing brands to be honest with consumers and to have dialogue with fans. But as with any business strategy, the good and the bad come together. There’s always someone who will use a great marketing strategy to take advantage of the consumer.

Not convinced?

Influencer marketers, go out and be the good you want to see in the world.

Page Grossman became an entrepreneur at 22, knowing that she never wanted to settle down in a cubicle. With a degree in journalism, some money in a savings account, and Millennial-spirit, Page founded her own freelance writing business. Page writes about creating an intentional lifestyle through travel, finances, entrepreneurship, health, fitness, and nutrition. Depending on the day, you can find her writing for various blogs, slaying SEO, researching grammar questions, banishing the Lorem Ipsum, fostering kittens, and traveling the world on Instagram.