In theory, the idea of collaborating with social influencers to scale the creation and distribution of content sounds great. Online influencers are people who create and share interesting or valuable content with the niche audiences that follow them. They might be bloggers with large readerships or socially savvy consumers with loyal followers on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Pinterest. Influencers are trusted by their audiences and typically focus on a particular area like food, parenting, fitness, fashion, entertainment or technology.
It’s a powerful way for brands and agencies to meet the consumer’s insatiable appetite for information. Publishers with key audiences and large followings represent a perspective brands will never be able to: that of another consumer. So why not leverage that reach?
Using content from influencers can be a powerful way to win the war on content, or it can be littered with landmines that leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth, including the consumer. The first big mistake many brands make is thinking that the process of finding and choosing the right influencer is a one-way street. The reality is that influencers are (and should be) just as selective in choosing a brand partner. If they aren’t, they risk alienating the very audience that makes them influential.
A TapInfluence survey conducted in April 2014 of over 5,000 content creators and social influencers revealed their top concerns when evaluating sponsored opportunities:
1. Poor organization. If marketers are working with a handful of publishers, most issues can be handled immediately and personally. But when programs scale to include more than a dozen influencers creating content for a brand, organization is key. Marketers must have their strategies clearly articulated and available to make it easy for influencers to know exactly how to do a good job. This includes clarifying what type of content they are looking to create, which brand assets are approved for use, when blog and social posts are to be published, and which social platforms they care about most. Most bloggers and social influencers who work on sponsored campaigns genuinely want to do a good job. They want their content to be engaging, compelling and meaningful to their audience while best representing a brand’s value. They also want long-term partnerships with marketers. Goals and expectations about performance and results must be clear so influencers can help ensure success.
“Communication is key to a successful campaign whether it be about issues, problems and especially positive/negative feedback”. (Cat Davis, FoodFamilyFinds)
2. Product fit. One of the key reasons brands work with influencers is to launch new products or get existing products into the hands of new customers. As influencer marketing becomes more scalable, it’s inevitable that some influencers will join only to discover later that they don’t like the product. Most will try to professionally bow out, but when schedules, contracts and costs have been committed, brands often expect publishers to fulfill their obligations, creating an awkward and unpleasant situation. Marketers should think strategically and give these influencers a way to opt out gracefully. Another campaign down the road might be a perfect fit.
Don’t pitch me if I’ve never written about anything even close to being in your product’s category. (Erika Sevigny, AllThingseBlog)
3. Compensation. Social influencers have become a powerful part of the paid media ecosystem, driving social content strategies, but there is still a wide gap between what brands are willing to pay and what influencers think they are worth. Publishers can earn anywhere from $50 for a blog post to thousands of dollars for a video, depending on reach, perceived influence, and audience engagement. Brands can avoid conflicts by looking at what the industry has compensated for similar campaigns. Publishers sometimes need to understand the importance of building a portfolio and history of sponsored content before asking higher rates. The paid content landscape is still very fragmented, but standards will emerge as the industry matures.
If you want quality influence, be willing to share quality compensation. (Amber Edwards, JadeLouiseDesigns)
Brands should focus on and set compensation based on the quality of the work being done, not just traffic stats alone. (TerriAnn van Gosliga, Cookies and Clogs)
4. Amount of work. If the top reason for negative experiences is a poorly planned program, it’s not surprising influencers feel many campaigns were more work than expected. Publishers cited unclear deadlines, extra requests outside the contract and unresponsive brand representatives as reasons campaigns required more attention than expected. And if that additional work is required after compensation has been negotiated, it can add to the frustration. Both parties need to be realistic about what is expected and negotiate exceptions up front.
I’m going to give 110% effort to creating a great blog post. In turn, support or feedback from a brand is very valuable. (David Dial, SpicedBlog)
5. Audience feedback. While research and careful vetting optimizes the odds, there are no guarantees a campaign well-suited for an influencer will also be a fit for their audience. It’s tempting to assume this is because readers and followers didn’t like the product, but it’s often because they didn’t like the program. Campaigns that are too focused on sales, too product-focused, show no creativity, and are complicated to join, will turn off consumers.
Let influencers promote your brand in the way that works best for them and their audience rather than trying to enforce specific statements (in a blog post, for example). I think sponsored content is most successful when it doesn’t come across as sounding sponsored. (Alexandra Azary, NoshOn.it)
Marketers can win by choosing content creators wisely, being clear about goals and performance metrics, resisting the temptation to overly control the creativity, and letting influencers do what they do best: telling good stories about experiences and products they genuinely care about.
This article first appeared in Media Post.