11 big mistakes in influencer marketing you are currently making

Some of the common mistakes that brands make in dealing social media influencers are:

Being a control freak

Trying to control the content too much. The social media star knows their audience better than anyone. When brands try to make the posts or videos look too much like commercials, it rings inauthentic. That results in negative feelings toward the sponsor and the influencer. An influencer doesn’t want to lose his or her audience in exchange for a short-term cash payment.

For example, some brands want the product mentioned in the first 15 seconds of a video. If you want people not to watch your sponsored content, do that. That’s a great method for failure. You can provide some brand messaging information, but you need to actually listen to your influencers feedback on incorporating it organically. Remember, you are working with social media star because they are the experts at this and they know their audience.

Focusing only on followers and not engagement

Hiring influencers based followers without looking at engagement (likes, shares and comments) or views/impressions is a huge mistake. I know many YouTube personalities that have “a million followers” but whose videos only get about 60,000 views. On Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, there is an issue with some influencers buying fake followers. Look at their number of followers and how many likes, shares or comments. If someone has say 250,000 followers and there are only 10 likes on their posts on average, something isn’t right.

There are a few websites out there that look at instagram and twitter accounts and will tell you if the followers are fake. For Instagram, www.followercheck.co and for Twitter www.twitteraudit.com. However, be aware that these people who sell fake followers have gotten even more wise and now include farms that like posts and make comments. I know frustrating.

Hiring the same influencers everyone hires

I see some influencers where many of their Instagram posts are advertising. If you look at the comments and views, you start seeing the tone is negative about the advertiser. The views are way lower than their organic content. You can’t hire Jenna Marbles, Samantha Ravndahl, Cody Johns, Nash Grier, Bethany Mota, Cameron Dallas, Trey Kennedy or similar for every marketing campaign. Update your influencer mix with different ones that brands haven’t used over and over and over and over and over.

Hiring influencers with no real influence

Hiring influencers who are too small to make a difference. I see plenty of asks, especially from publicists, for an influencer with 5,000 to 50,000 followers, especially in the fashion or beauty category. These are too small to really make a difference for most brands. Unless that influencer is very specific to an industry (think government contracting in Asia) or a segment (african american pregnant moms who live in Salt Lake City), you are spinning your wheels and the views as well as the engagement will show it. You would be better off spending that budget on YouTube pre-roll advertising, facebook ads or other digital marketing.

Thinking influencers are salespeople

Brands that think an influencer campaign should include a sales function don’t get social media or influencer marketing. Sure, there can be a call to action in the messaging (or even a discount code), but the content can’t feel like some Saturday afternoon car dealership commercial. Recently, I had a brand offer a deal for an influencer with over 10 million followers that included a sales minimum to get paid. Of course, we turned down that deal. The influencer didn’t even want me to try negotiate on the offer to take out the sales portion.

Influencers don’t take place of your sales team. The same publicist claimed that YouTube star Logan Paul took this exact deal. Ummm, you know I have Logan Paul’s cell phone number and can call him to check? It’s kind of a small world and most influencers know each other and will check on deal points that brands claim to have given.

Thinking that YouTube’s revenue sharing model will work for your unknown social media or mobile app

Many new mobile apps think that influencers will work for revenue sharing deal. I get this almost every week, a new app will call me with a revenue sharing deal for influencers. They figure because YouTube does revenue sharing that they should be able to do the same thing. Nope, it doesn’t work that way. YouTube already has a major audience, you don’t. I’ve seen it all with these requests, once from an 1980s rocker who thought his name would parlay into influencers coming onboard. I didn’t have the heart to tell him most 18 year olds didn’t know his name or his band. If you want to engage influencers like this, you need to at least provide a floor (a minimum cash fee) so they will take the risk with you. Most of the real influencers will still turn it down. However, you might be able to engage mid-level influencers this way.

Thinking real influencers will post in exchange for free product or a chance at a prize

This is just pathetic in my book. It shows a lack of respect for the influencer’s business, their audience and their success. I know many publicists seemed to be focused on this with bloggers, where they will send a product in exchange for a pre-negotiated post. It’s a great way to show the client some type of ROI on your retainer, especially if you have no real press relationships.

It, however, doesn’t work with social media stars. Recently a publicist tried to convince me that an influencer with 600,000 followers and great engagement numbers should post a picture on her instagram account of her wearing a free bathing suit. She tried to describe this as a “brand deal.” Why would someone that charges brands $5,000 per post do that? For a swimsuit that probably cost the brand at best $5 to manufacture? Hire an advertising agency for your influencer marketing, not a PR firm. Most PR firms don’t understand social media anyway.

If you want to seed product, imitate Garrett Popcorn whose head of marketing sends personal notes of congratulations with a large tin of their popcorn to influential people in the news or celebrity talent. There is no pre-negotiated quid pro quo “here is our product, post this on your social media or else!” Garrett Popcorn have gotten more earned social media out of this nice gesture made without any obvious agenda.

I know gamification is a great way to engage consumers, but not influencers. “Win a free prize if you post this on your instagram!” I saw a major luxury car brand trying to do this with influencers. Obviously some PR agency sold them a bill of goods (or had an influencer budget and kept it all for themselves). I did see a few “influencers” (I’m using quotes intentionally) post, but those people had anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 followers and very little engagement (in other words, they probably bought their followers). The agency should have been fired right after that campaign.

Not supporting an influencer campaign with a digital advertising campaign.

Call out attention to the content by advertising on the platform as well. This seems obvious but you would be surprised how many brands forget about this.

Inviting social media stars to an VIP event if and only if they post on their channels

If you are inviting influencers to a invite-only VIP event, making posting on their social media a condition of attendance, is very d-list. That’s why brand promotion deals exist. Rule of thumb publicists: if it’s negotiated in advance, you have to pay, just like any other advertiser. If, however, the influencer attends the event, has a great time and posts on their own, that’s earned media. You remember earned media right? However, make sure your event is social media friendly if you want this to really happen.

I’ve had influencers attend events and had a great time. One posted six snapchat stories, one instagram picture, two tweets and a facebook post. The event, a movie premiere, got at least one million impressions alone from showing her a good time. At a videogame premiere, one influencer posted a picture of himself to his 750,000 followers with a character from the game.

The message you are sending out when you ask for posts is that the event is desperate. You don’t require press to report on your event as a prerequisite to attending; you don’t require celebrities to do this; why do you disrespect social media stars like this? And if you are still of the old-school mindset that social media influencers aren’t celebrities, read this Nielsen survey at your nursing home.

Using a smaller influencer to get a bigger influencer to come to an event as a condition of the invite

If you are inviting an influencer because they are best friends with or dating an even bigger influencer, and you make their attendance a condition of attendance bringing the bigger influencer, you should expect both not to ever show up. Go invite the big influencer separately. I had that happen recently with a highly engaged influencer (with 6 million total followers) who a film premiere publicist said if he brings his girlfriend (who has 14 million followers and stars on a Hulu series), he can come. They passed on attending the film premiere after they heard this. Seriously, could that publicist have been any more offensive?

Not knowing your KPIs and communicating those clearly to the influencer

Whatever your KPIs for the campaign is, please communicate this clearly to the influencer. You have no one else but yourself to blame when you don’t meet your campaign KPIs because you can’t communicate clearly. Similarly, if you don’t know what your goals are for an influencer campaign, please stop and start coming up with them. They should be precise, attainable and measurable.