Advertising with social media influencers is unlike any other type of advertising. There is a learning curve that comes with finding and connecting to the right influencers as well as setting up a realistic, successful campaign. Inspired by the stories from the detailed FoolishnessFile’s ‘Influencer Marketing Mistakes’ Guide, we have summed up some of the best practices for both influencers and advertisers when starting in influencer marketing.

The following quotes about influencer advertising come from the same article; for a very in-depth analysis about how to avoid certain mistakes in the game, give it a full read! For now, though, we have a quick guide highlighting what to do– and what not to do– when going into the influencer advertising space.


1. Advertisers: Set Up A Goal

Before you begin to find influencers for your campaign, you need to figure out what the ultimate goal of your campaign is. Are you looking for brand awareness and getting your name in front of as many people as possible? Are you looking for conversions in the form of link clicks or product sales?

Once you have figured out what you want, you need to set the performance goals you are looking to reach. How many views are you looking for? Are you looking for many impressions with content views, or is engagement in the form of likes, comments, and shares more important to your campaign? What realistic goals does your budget allow?

When you have answered all of these questions, you are able to start looking for influencers that best fit your campaign.

Set a clear goal – I’ve seen companies that go into influencer marketing without a clearly defined goal of what they are trying to accomplish.  You need to start by defining the key performance indicators (KPI’s) you are going to monitor for your campaign. You can pick a single KPI or multiple but its best for you to think through what you are trying to accomplish with your campaign and select the most applicable.  Next, you need a way to measure them, you can use Google Analytics, Mixpanel, unique phone numbers, whatever. You just need to make sure you have things in place to measure that you are meeting your goals and defining success.

Rick Ramos (@ricktramos) – rickramos.com

2. Advertisers: Connect With Influencers Early

Influencers with large followings tend to be very busy people. Unless you have a significant budget to incentivize an influencer to join a last-minute campaign, you often will not get the influencer you want if you do not give them plenty of time to respond and schedule in your campaign. Reach out to influencers to gauge their interest early on! See which ones reply quickly and which do not seem to have as much enthusiasm for your campaign.

I think the biggest problem with influencer marketing is not taking the time to build a relationship before reaching out and asking demands or favors. Influencer marketing is a long term strategy and it takes a long term effort to pull off.

Paul Back – Founder of Earn a Living Blogging

A crucial mistake I’ve seen others make is not to develop relationships with influencers before they need them. Relationships take time to develop and the best way to nurture them is by being helpful.

Mary Jaksch (@WritetoDone) – WritetoDone.com

3. Influencers: Success Will Not Happen Overnight

With exception to a ‘regular person’ suddenly becoming viral such as Instagram’s @doctor.mike did last September, becoming popular on social media is not an overnight success. Should you ever reach this level of success, it will likely be after putting a large amount of work and time into your platforms. Once you are there, maintaining that presence largely becomes a part of your lifestyle.

Thinking that you can be an influencer overnight. I’ve helped clients BECOME influencers, it takes a while, and key relationships in your industry help make it faster but it still takes time to build those too! Plan on a solid year to two years of hardcore influencer marketing. (I made this mistake at the beginning too!)

Jaime Tardy (@eventualmillion) – eventualmillionaire.com

The biggest lesson I learned as an influencer, is that you can’t be an influencer from 9 to 5 , and then get back to a “different life”. It’s not even a job. It’s a lifestyle. The way you articulate people around you is so intricate and yet so simple, that, at some point you really have to blend all of the “techniques” and “strategies” into your lifestyle. That’s how it works, for me. Influencer marketing is not about what you say, but mostly about who you (really) are.

Dragos Roua (@dragosroua) – dragosroua.com

4. Advertisers: Influencers Are Not Your Employees

An influencer is not a journalist. Most of them have no idea about the social contract that typically exists between journalists and corporations. They don’t really care about it. The biggest mistake that brands make with influencers is trying to control them or treat them like journalists, instead of peers, partners or friends. Influencers will – typically – say and do what they feel, which may be in contrast to what the brand wants. If you can’t swallow that, don’t attempt to use influencers.

Mitch Joel (@mitchjoel) – www.mitchjoel.com – Six Pixels of Separation & CTRL ALT Delete

Just like advertisers will talk with other companies to share both good and bad experiences with specific influencers, social media stars will speak with their peers about which brands were great to work with– and which ones were absolute nightmares.

Influencers are their own bosses. While the majority of the influencers out there are happy to follow some guidelines regarding endorsed posts, such as no explicit language, most will not appreciate having all aspects of their content being controlled by a brand. Furthermore, if, as an advertiser, you try to go beyond what was negotiated in a contract, influencers will remember and they talk about it.

For 2-3 years a very well-known brand kept inviting me into their influencer program, but it was easy to say no thanks each time, because they never explained a benefit to me, the influencer – their pitch was all about them! Eventually they wore me down enough that I asked a friend who had been in the program, another top-Forbes-ranked influencer. “Look out, they’ll try to take advantage. That’s why I dropped out.” Yikes. I asked another friend, a very-high-profile speaker who had spoken at one of their events. “Oh, they’ll use you if you let them. Steer clear!” This perception is almost universal among top-tier influencers – and guess what? The “influencers” in their program today? Nearly all are people you’ve never heard of, with small followings, who have no sway in the B2B world this company sells to. Suffice it to say, I’ve never had an easier time saying no in my life.

Ted Coiné – openfor.business

5. Influencers: Find Your Niche

YouTuber leighannsays focuses on makeup, hair, and fashion. She communicates with her audience when her video is sponsored or not sponsored in her YouTube description. The above video is not sponsored.

If you try to appeal to everyone, you will appeal to no one. When you create your social media platforms, you want to dedicate a theme to them. Is the platform reviewing sports news or just everything related to football? Are you a nature photographer or a portrait photographer? Are you focused on gaming or vlogging? It is important to figure out what you want your channel to focus on and conquer that specific niche.

The biggest mistake I ever made in Influencer Marketing was to think I could build a business by creating content for everyone. Only once I learned to focus on a target audience did I finally see results.

John Meese (@JohnRMeese) – johnmeese.me

If you want to be well known and be an effective influencer, it’s important to be known as an expert in a particular area. Don’t just talk about any topic that comes up, focus on one particular area. This will usually be whatever your main business focuses on (in my case, buying/selling websites). When I first started out, I used to try be an expert on everything and pretended to know about every subject. While it’s helpful to have a practical understanding of all areas of business, you can’t be an expert at everything. Keeping focus means you are more likely to be recognised as the “go to guy/girl” in your niche.

Thomas Smale  feinternational.com

6. Advertisers: More Followers Does Not Mean More Conversions

My number 1 mistake when it comes to influencer marketing is to overlook someone who may be the perfect fit for my brand because they don’t have a huge following. I used to only want to focus on those who have top-tier communities; but I soon realized that the pay-off is not as good especially if they are not extremely targeted. Now I know that the focus should be more on the quality of their network and their relevance to my business instead of just the number of followers.

Nellie Akalp (@CorpNetNellie) – CorpNet.com

Advertisers, you want to target influencers who will be the most influential to their audience in regards to the product you are selling. For instance, if you are selling fishing gear, a social platform with 50,000 engaged followers that is completely dedicated to fishing is more likely to grant you conversions than a social platform with 500,000 engaged followers that is about animals.

When finding the perfect influencer, you want an influencer that has not only an engaged audience, but relevance to the brand you are promoting. If the platform has absolutely no relevance to your brand or an audience that would not be interested in your brand, how are they of any value to you?

Assuming that a large following will equal large conversions. Just because an influencer has a large following does not mean their following is relevant to your audience or it’s worthy of any influence at all. It’s better to find highly targeted influencers that have a strong brand associated with quality content and interactions that generate consistent ROI for themselves and others.

Cody McLain (@codymclain) – codymclain.com

7. Everyone: Find Partners That Fit Your Image and Brand

It is important for both influencers and advertisers to find partners that fit one another. It makes no sense for an influencer who is all about promoting a healthy lifestyle to take an offer from an advertiser with a product that is unhealthy. The advertiser should not reach out to them in the first place, and the influencer should not accept the offer because it would go against their own personal brand image, ultimately hurting their influence with their audience.

Advertisers need to not only pay attention to the influencer’s preferences, but their audience’s demographics and preferences. For instance, someone with a million followers is no good for someone selling life insurance if 90% of their followers are under 24. You want to target not only an influencer, but an audience that matches what you are trying to sell. If they’re actually interested in it, you are more likely to get a good ROI.

I think the biggest mistake brands make is reaching out to me and asking me to promote something to my audience that has nothing to do with my audience. My audience is all I got, and I respect the hell out of them. To think I’d sell them out for what? Never.

Peter Shankman (@petershankman) – shankman.com

More often than I’d like, I see a large gap between a company’s core audience, and the influencers that marketers are engaging with. For example, the retailer who predominantly sells to low-income, 18-30 year olds – but was courting influencers who are powerful on LinkedIn… that audience isn’t spending any time there! It’s frustrating because the missing step is so banal: talk to your customers! Find out where they spend time online, where they do research, and who they trust for information about products/services like yours.

Rob Ousbey (@robousbey) – ousbey.com

8. Influencers: Engage With Your Audience

I’ve seen business owners hire the wrong type of influencers to market their brand. This is because, a seemingly large network and a big follower count, are often their only qualifying metrics for what constitutes an “influencer”. Instead, business owners should look for the “influencers” who are creatively engaging their audiences and generating actual conversation surrounding topics in their niche. For example, a topical expert who responds to tweets from a wide variety of people (and not just from other influencers).

Melanie Nathan (@melanienathan) – positiondigital.com

As this market matures and advertisers realize that engaged audiences are the best way to sell their products, it is important for influencers to create an engaged audience. How do you do that? Engage with them! Answer their inquiries, throw them questions in your content, and thank them for their support. The more you engage with them, the more likely they are to engage with you, and the more valuable your platform becomes to an advertiser.

9. Advertisers: Find Influencers That Fit Your Budget

You don’t necessarily need to use influencers with millions of followers to have a successful campaign. You want influencers that fit your budget; for the top 1% of influencers, you will pay top dollar to have them. However, there are still plenty of very engaging influencers amongst the 99% that will not only be more likely to respond, but could overall be a better fit for your campaign.

Over the years I have noticed that too many “marketers” try to reach out to influencers that are simply unrealistic targets. This is especially true for new products and brands. It’s all about being smart when choosing your targets. While you want quality, you cannot expect a professional athlete or actor to endorse a product or brand (without a lot of money) that is relatively unheard of. It’s honestly one of the BIGGEST mistakes I see (and it happens all too often). I recently went through this training a recent college graduate on influencer outreach for a new brand. A lot of it is poor training. Some of it is unrealistic expectations and marketers wanting to “shoot for the stars”.

Michael J. Kovis (@tk421digital) – tk421digital.com

10. Advertisers: Allow Influencers To Be Creative

The biggest mistake I’ve seen (and see regularly) is brands that don’t allow the authentic voice of the influencer’s their working with to shine. Time and time again I see brands try and use an influencer’s platform, just for their reach (and not for their voice). These types of campaigns, at least for me personally, have been the least successful with my audience – and as a result, for the brand as well.

Erin Falconer  PickTheBrain.com

Influencers and their creativity are an asset. Let them use their creativity! They have managed to build an audience that enjoys them for their own voice. Smart advertisers work together with influencers to create a concept that fits for the both of them instead of trying to control every aspect of the creative process. When both sides are involved in the creative process, it is a win-win situation.

The biggest mistake that I have seen with influencer marketing was when the brand hampers creative freedom. The purpose of having an influencer market your brand is to spread your message in a very authentic way. However, many brands decide to control every element of the campaign causing it to flop because they don’t understand the best way to push something to a different type of audience.

Jeet Banerjee (@TheJeetBanerjee) – www.JeetBanerjee.com

11. Influencers: Don’t Sell Out

The biggest mistake I’ve seen many influencers make (especially on Instagram) is promoting products and services that don’t align with your existing platform. For example, a fitness influencer promoting a product that has nothing to do with fitness (like financial). It’s important to know your audience’s demographic and whether they align with your current platform. Don’t just be a frickin’ pitchman/woman, give real value and your audience will LOVE you!

Ebong Eka @EbongEka (twitter, snapchat, instagram [every dang social platform]) – EKAnomics.com & EbongEka.com

This goes hand in hand with sticking with your brand image. It is equally important for influencers to maintain their authenticity to their audience. If you are ‘selling out’ at every branding opportunity that comes your way– even when the product has nothing to do with your audience’s interests– you may very well lose the interest of your audience. Make sure whatever you are promoting is relevant to the people watching you.

12. Everyone: Clearly State It Is A Paid Endorsement

One quote that struck in particular was this experience from Gini Dietrich:

I just had a personal experience where a brand wanted me to work with them, as an influencer. It’s a product I use so I was very open to the possibility, but when we began our work together, they wanted me to use their messaging, wanted to write the content for me, and didn’t want me to disclose the relationship. Not only does the latter violate ethical considerations, it makes it hard to be an influencer when the words aren’t your own. I stepped away from the relationship and leave this as my advice: Don’t try to control the relationship. The reason you want to work with the influencer(s) is because of the trust they’ve built with their audiences. Let them do what they do best while supporting your product or service.

Gini Dietrich (@ginidietrich) – spinsucks.com

Not only is this unethical, but it is also illegal in many countries around the world. In the United States, the FTC published these helpful endorsement guidelines useful for both advertisers and influencers. We recommend seeking legal council in regarding advertising guidelines in your country.

For advertisers, the consequences are clear: the last thing any brand wants is to get in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission. What of influencers? Dietrich said it best: influencers build a trust with their audiences. If an influencer does anything to jeopardize that trust, there may be no way of ever gaining it back. Being transparent with your audience about branded, endorsed content is a good way to keep their trust.

13. Everyone: Create a Relationship

The biggest mistake I’ve seen in influencer marketing is brands not taking the time to actually build a relationship. I get pitched by numerous brands every day, but very few ever take the time to build a relationship with me, and more importantly think about what I want – rather than just what they want from me.

Sean Ogle (@seanogle) – Location 180

Influencers are people, too. Somewhere along the line of social media stardom, both advertisers and fans begin to forget that behind every upload is a person who began this as a labor of love and discovered that quite a few people were interested in what they had to say. If both influencers and advertisers remember that on the other end is a unique individual with their own quirks and aspirations, it may be easier to build a genuine relationship with them.

The biggest mistake I see people making is not being personal. Sometimes people will send an email asking for something, and they don’t have my name, my name is spelled wrong, or it’s clear that they haven’t actually listened to my podcast, read my blog, or gotten familiar with who I am or what I’m about.
No bueno! I’m a person – and I like to be treated like a human, not a transaction.

Sonia Thompson
 www.trybizschool.com

That’s all for now. Have any thoughts or questions? Leave us a comment!