Influencer Marketing: Creating Lightning in a Bottle Over and Over

The influencer marketing industry has never been this captivating or carried this much momentum. But there are so many instances of companies misrepresenting data that are detrimental to the trustworthiness of the industry as a whole.

Waves of new companies have flooded the industry over the past three to five years, and with overcrowding comes attempts by some to establish themselves as something they have not yet become — a company rich in data, experience and universally successful capabilities. They’re all sizzle, but no steak…

When vetting an influencer marketing company, there are a few important factors to keep in mind.

Influencer campaigns perform differently based on circumstances.

When a competitor company is promoting an influencer marketing campaign touting a reported 11x ROI, we say, “awesome.” But anyone can create lightning in a bottle once. In this case the lightning was one campaign at a particular time, for one kind of product and one specific audience. Results are not one-size-fits-all. Influencer campaigns perform differently at different times of the year, and differently for each category, retailer, geography, etc.

This stat is being used by the company as an industry standard, but it’s not an industry stat, nor is it a category stat — it’s a case study, and when companies use it as anything but a case study, it is setting expectations that are deceptive to potential clients and negatively affects perceptions of the industry.

Instead of touting one “awesome” campaign, companies like this should have been benchmarking campaigns across many categories for several years now, monitoring the shifts in content views, engagements, time spent with content and more. It should be a priority to leverage this data to educate clients, allowing them to understand industry standards for their specific product/retail channel before signing up.

There is disparity in measuring and classifying social engagements.

Some influencer companies consider clicks and pageviews as engagements. Pageviews, while a valuable metric that should be sought, counted and benchmarked, are not social engagements and falsely inflate overall engagement metrics if they are incorrectly categorized.

In influencer marketing, a click is simply a click (and can often be accidental — fat fingers are mobile marketing’s best friend), a pageview is a pageview, and an engagement occurs when someone willingly and intentionally endorses a piece of content by liking it, sharing it, pinning it, etc. These actions should not be considered one and the same.

So how do you create lightning in a bottle repeatedly?

There is no generic recipe for repeating influencer campaign success. It is a careful blending of art, science and experience, but there are three things to consider off the bat:

1. Find an influencer marketing provider with the ability to gauge success through accurate, relevant benchmarks. Your provider needs historical data across categories, retailers, geographies, demographics, platforms, seasonality, etc., and the skillset to appropriately (cautiously) associate trends to the different variables of each client’s campaign.

2. Find a provider who can also predict success. Once a provider has ingested this data, they must understand how to predict the success of future campaigns through proprietary algorithms that weight the variable combinations of your potential campaign.

3. Creativity is paramount. Take the gloves off and allow your influencers to do what they do best: create. Not to mention, never give pre-scripted content to an influencer. Beware of influencer companies that allow brands or advertisers to supply their own script. It’s in direct violation of FTC disclosure statements of “All opinions are mine alone.”

Buyers of influencer marketing programs need to make sure they have a complete understanding of what is being measured, to what they are being compared, and how they can make the most predictable, efficient investment in influencer marketing programs. Intelligent companies, much like intelligent consumers, won’t be lured by a bait-and-switch.