9 pitfalls of influencer marketing (and how you can avoid them)

Influencer marketing is more than just a shiny new bauble in the communications sphere. It’s a very real and very effective way to build relationships with your audiences.

As with any new media endeavour, the tough part is usually avoiding making the same mistakes everyone else did when they got started.

So here are 9 common pitfalls many companies will make, and what you can do to avoid those mistakes.

1. Not setting a budget for influencer marketing

Very few companies will be able to get away with the ‘we’ll give you free stuff if you post about us’ proposition. The majority will need to add some cash to sweeten the deal, or at least pay for the influencer to enjoy an experience.

While you may find some influencers who will work for free, there tend to be juicier apples further up the tree, so be prepared to spend to reach them. Think of it as setting aside a budget just as you would for paid advertising—determine what you are willing to spend to start a good relationship with an influencer, and keep that sum tucked away until you find the right match.

2. Choosing an influencer who isn’t a good fit

It can be extremely tempting to reach out to an influencer because you can see that they offer plenty of social media followers, great engagement, and a solid post history – and all for just the right price.

However, if they don’t align with your brand values, working together could be less valuable than an influencer that doesn’t look quite as good on paper but better fits your company. 

3. Not picking a specific goal

What is it that you want from your influencer campaign? Like any marketing work, there should be some kind of measurable goal you’re looking to hit.

Whether that’s to boost your own followers, create impressions, send people to your website, or improve the perception of your brand, a specific target will help keep your campaign on track and will give you a metric you can use to measure its success.

4. Forcing your influencer into a corner

While a goal is important, forcing your influencers into a tight brief could throttle their creativity and your success. For example, perhaps you ask an influencer to write a specific post, using a series of predetermined images and a set of hashtags. Even if your influencer did agree to this arrangement, the final post may not be anywhere nearly as good as what they could have come up with.

After all, if you’ve done your research, you should know by now that they are already on top of their game and should be trusted with some creative license. Agreeing to a few ground rules is smart; dictating exactly what the post has to be is likely to be a waste of time.

5. Only looking at social media followers

Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts with five-figures in the ‘followers’ column is one thing, but it doesn’t mean much by itself.

It’s a bit like shopping for clothes online – perhaps a top makes for a nice picture, but you’re not really going to know if it’s a good fit until you feel the fabric, inspect the stitching, and try it on. Purchasing without taking a closer look can be a gamble and is often hit or miss.

Take a closer look at your potential influencers by running a check on their domain and page authorities, read through past posts to see if they have been posting regularly, and look to see if they engage with their followers regularly. For some, this will confirm their potential as a great influencer, for others, you’ll quickly realise they’re not so great after all.

6. Not having a clear agreement

Once you’ve agreed to work together, put down in writing what each of you expect. Even if it’s as specific as a blog with two do-follow links and three Instagram posts, it’s best to have these ground rules laid out before you get started. 

Some influencers may have agreement forms they draw up themselves, while others will expect you to put this together. Either way, get it in in writing before proceeding with anything formal.

7. Trying to hide the truth

If you’re paying to have your name or product shared, don’t expect your influencer to hide that fact. The reason they have so many followers and so much influence is because they are trustworthy. It’s likely they’ll tag posts as sponsored (usually with an #ad hashtag) or include a quick line about your working relationship. This is a good thing—transparency is best when it comes to influencer marketing.

8. Treating influencers as commodities

Consider your influencers as working relationships that will build over time. Should you treat them like something that can be bought, they won’t be able to connect with you or your brand on a personal level – which is really the whole point of influencer marketing in the first place.

Treat your influencers as you would any business partner—with respect, honesty, and fairness. Though being an influencer may seem like a more casual job, most professional influencers take their work very seriously, and will expect you to do the same.

9. Ending on a sour note

Perhaps you find an influencer who would be a great fit for your brand, but they don’t want to take part in your current campaign, or you think their prices are too high. Whatever the case, consider it more of an opportunity for the future than a failure right now. Thank them for their time, and say you’ll keep their name in mind if something comes up that might be better suited. This way, when you do get in touch again, they already know your name and know you’re pleasant and amiable to work with.

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