Top 7 influencer marketing mistakes and how to avoid them

How to spot 7 common influencer marketing mistakes and then avoid making them through better planning, relationship building, co-creation and more.


What’s the secret to successful influencer campaigns? Data insight, contextual intelligence, creative flair and relationship-building skills. Get the blend right and influencer marketing becomes a powerful discipline for any communicator. Get it wrong and… well, you don’t need to get it wrong, just follow these tips and avoid seven common influencer marketing mistakes.


#1 Lack of planning


All successful communications work starts with understanding your objective. The planning phase essentially answers questions like what are we trying to achieve? How exactly are we going to go about achieving it? And, how will we know whether or not we’ve achieved our objective?

The planning phase begins with knowing who you’re seeking to influence (the audience). What the client wants to accomplish. And how this work fits into your client’s bigger communications and business strategy.

You need to know what the budget is, what the timings are and fundamentally whether or not an influencer marketing campaign will be the most effective channel to meet your client’s communications and business objectives.

Is the goal to build brand awareness? Drive more sales? Nudge people into downloading an app? Or is the goal to prompt prospective customers to search for more information about a product?

Avoid poor planning problems. Set up measurable and realistic goals. Having a detailed plan will give the campaign a vital dose of purpose. Consider elements such as:

What Key performance indicators (KPIs) are you going to measure your campaign with?

  • Number of people reached
  • Engagement rate
  • Click through rate
  • Conversion rate
  • Revenue generated
  • Cost per lead
  • Organic traffic

SEE ALSO: Influencer marketing benchmarks: how to measure success

What data will you need from the influencer to help measure this success? Do you need to access any of their private data for numbers around impressions, engagements or perhaps Instagram Stories data? Always be upfront when outlining what you will need in the reporting phase.


#2 Making it all about the brand

Yes, you want to use an influencer to promote your brand. But effective influencers knows their audience intimately. They’re influential because they consistently produce compelling content which resonates with that defined audience. As a successful influencer marketer loosen control and allow the influencer to at least co-create the content with you follow a brief.

According to research conducted by Crowdtap, a people-powered marketing platform, 76% of surveyed influencers said they will work with brands that grant editorial and creative freedom. Conversely when asked about what they dislike about working with brands, 47% of surveyed influencers said their editorial guidelines are often too limiting or strict.

Listening to influencers ideas about content direction and creation is not solely an issue of sensibilities. There are commercial implications, too. On Instagram, for example, overly branded images can come across as unnatural and disruptive to the style of the feed. At best this will lead to poor engagement rates on sponsored content. At worst it will end with an influencer losing their following.


#3 Failing to disclose material connection between brand and influencer

Influencers might not disclose the material connection they have with brands. They do this for several reasons:

  1. Brands and influencers are not familiar with disclosure rules and regulations
  2. Brands push influencers not to disclose sponsored content
  3. Influencers don’t want to advertise the fact that they’re promoting a brand

Brands and influencers might elect not to designate sponsored content appropriately because they think it will have a detrimental impact on engagement levels. The fact is, as consumers we don't care if a piece of content is organic or paid-for. We understand it’s often a commercial imperative for many influencers to work with brands. If they don't get paid by brands for partnership content they can't produce organic content.

SEE ALSO: Why disclosure is good for business in influencer marketing

Influencers are influential because their audiences trust them, and all it takes is one bad campaign for that trust to erode.

We don't care whether content is organic or sponsored with two provisos:-

  1. We don't feel hoodwinked into thinking it's editorial when it's paid-for content
  2. The content is good quality. It’s entertaining, educational, or solves a specific problem.


#4 Equating influencer marketing purely with reach

It's understandable that brands embarking on their first influencer marketing campaigns become seduced by social media stars purporting to shine via their stellar amounts of followers.

But, social media ‘influencers’ with large follower counts aren't always ‘influential’. Big is not always better. Here are six reasons why reach is often a myth:

  1. Fake followers
  2. Bought followers
  3. Follow4follow system
  4. Inactive accounts
  5. Social media platforms killing off organic reach
  6. Big numbers but either wrong demographic or audience is located in wrong country for your purposes

Influence is contextual. In terms of influence it's the context of relationship an influencer has with their audience which is more relevant than the number of followers.


#5 Assuming all engagement is born the same

Identifying accurate influencer engagement rates is an important issue for the discipline. The reasons why not all influencer engagement is created equal can be divided in two:

  1. Deliberate ‘fraud’; buying engagement or colluding with other Instagram users.
  2. Lack of expertise or access to data on the influencer marketer’s part.

We’ve written before about why not all influencer engagement is created equal. It’s easy to artificially inflate your Instagram engagement rates. At first glance this looks impressive. But it doesn’t indicate that your content actually has any impact. There are four main ways unscrupulous Instagram users bloat their engagement:

  1. Buying engagement
  2. Hashtag collusion via #like4like
  3. Instapods
  4. Outsource engagement to a bot

SEE ALSO: 9 reasons why not all influencer engagement is created equal

Of course, not all engagement is fake, bought or colluded engagement. Influencers are influential because of their ability to nudge their following into taking action. Influencer engagement rates are (usually) calculated as the sum of engagements divided by the follower count. These numbers are often problematic for the following reasons:

  1. Combining organic & sponsored content engagement
  2. Insufficient sample size
  3. Rising reach might mean skewed rates
  4. Treating engagement rates across all verticals the same
  5. Popular posts mask poor engagement


#6 Being unrealistic with deadlines


Creating quality content takes time. So too does influencer identification, selection and briefing. Taking time for creative dialogue with influencers is crucial to achieving valuable outcomes from the collaboration.

First-time influencer marketers are often unaware about how time-consuming campaign activation can be. Rushing the campaign by pressuring the influencer usually only negatively impacts the quality of content - and, therefore, results.

SEE ALSO: How to write an influencer creative brief [checklist]

Avoid this influencer marketing mistake by outline key dates and deliverables in advance. Influencers need an accurate sense for when to start production and a timeline so they won’t double book.

Timeline considerations

  • Are there any specific filming days which need to be agreed?
    • Perhaps you’ve lined up an interviewee for a particular date?
    • Maybe the interview needs to attend a concert or other event for the campaign? Include these times and dates.
  • Is there a need for an update meeting or call? Agree the times upfront for this too.
  • Are you co-ordinating this influencer campaign as part of a wider integrated communications program?
  • When does the content need to be produced by?
  • Is there an approval process? If so, how long will the client approval stage take?
  • When is the go-live date? Is it a single day or is it to be staggered with several posts falling on separate days?


#7 Long-term relationships


Ditch the tactical and the temporary in favour of long-term business growth partnerships with influencers. Much of the hard work connected with influencer marketing is front loaded. Setting goals, identifying a long list of potential influencers, screening the list to whittle the potential down negotiating building a creative brief.

Real influence is accretive. It strengthens over time. There needs to be consistent, long-term content and, in addition, honest recommendations from sources that consumers trust.

Extending beyond the single campaign benefits influencer marketers with:

  • Better results as both influencer and marketer know how each other works along with their brand voice and values
  • Faster turnarounds on creative activation as it removes repeated identification, selection and creative briefing requirements
  • Increased cost effectiveness. Not having to front-load influencer work with repeated identification, selection and negotiation each campaign
  • Bulk discount. Cost per creative post can be negotiated down when it forms part of a long-term commitment between influencer and brand.

The influencer marketing industry could be worth $10 Billion a year by 2023. Marketers who embrace the discipline and avoid these common influencer marketing mistakes will add commercial value to the brands they represent in today’s media-fragmented, ad-block-heavy landscape.

CampaignDeus is the leading independent provider of influencer marketing campaign data for Instagram and YouTube. Our platform identifies and classifies brand sponsored influencer campaign performance metrics, tracking hundreds of thousands of posts.

We use this data to provide Brands & Agencies with industry insights across verticals, benchmark campaigns against vertical & competitor averages, and equip clients with in-depth reporting and recommendations on how to make campaigns more effective. Get in touch for more details.

Scott Guthrie works with companies to drive business growth in the social age through strategic insight and technical know-how. A former digital director of influencer relations at Ketchum, Scott is now an advisor at CampaignDeus. You can find Scott on LinkedIn and Twitter, or on his blog.