We often consider the rise of Instagram influencers to be the start of influencer marketing, but the reality is that brands have been using influential people to boost their reputation since the 18th century. In modern society, social media influencers seem to be everywhere, on every platform, posting about every brand.
Statistics show that 60% of marketers have found that IGC performs better and drives more engagement than in-house branded content. In today’s marketing world, people rely on influencers for product recommendations.
In fact, one survey showed that 40% of respondents had made a purchase because they saw an influencer promote the item.
But, many companies make several of the same mistakes when they start their influencer marketing strategy. These mistakes are driven by common myths about what influencer marketing is and isn’t.
Let’s break these misconceptions down.
5 Biggest Misconceptions About Influencer Marketing
1. Misconception: You can get better content in-house.
Influencer-generated content (IGC) may indeed not have the same quality of in-house content, but there are ways to prevent these issues from arising.
If you have concerns that the influencer’s content isn’t up to the caliber of your in-house standards, you can start by running an audit on the influencer in question.
What types of images have they created for other brands that they’ve worked with? Will the aesthetic of their Instagram match the vibe you’re attempting to form with your content?
Go beyond the numbers.
If you’re concerned about their content’s quality, it doesn’t matter how many engagements they’ve received on their previous sponsored posts.
If you’re pleased with the kind of content this influencer has created for previous brands and their own personal posts, your next step is drafting content guidelines.
Without content guidelines, the influencer can essentially post whatever they’d like. That may mean that you’ll end up with a post that you can’t repurpose or fit into your brand voice and image.
Content guidelines educate an influencer on not only your brand, but the specific campaign they’ll be working on.
Consider creating a visual guide to the brand, including brand colors and additional assets. Don’t tell an influencer what to say or do in their image and caption.
Instead, give talking points, ideas for utilizing a product in an image, and pictures from what other influencers have created for your brand to further help them understand what you like in your IGC.
When you send over an agreement to work with an influencer, ensure that they have these guidelines. Don’t forget to add in your agreement that you maintain the rights to reuse their images at your own discretion.
2. Misconception: Influencer marketing content has a low return on investment.
Influencer marketing can indeed be costly. But, perhaps the most challenging aspect of influencer marketing is that it can be difficult to discover just how much your return on investment (ROI) is.
This issue mainly comes down to brands looking at immediate sales as their primary goal. A long-held belief in the marketing world shows just why this way of thinking isn’t helpful for influencer marketing.
According to the Rule of 7, a potential customer sees a product seven times before making a purchase. If you’ve just started an influencer marketing campaign, it’s unreasonable to think that you’ll see sales straightaway.
That isn’t to say that sales can’t happen with influencer marketing. According to a case study compiled by influencer marketing platform Mavrck, the fashion brand Express received a 168% ROI from online and in-store sales when they ramped up their ambassador program.
But, their true ROI can actually be much higher. As many marketers have learned through their influencer marketing endeavors, ROI isn’t simply measured by sales.
As most people do not make purchases at the first touchpoint, it’s worthwhile to consider how many eyes are on your product as a part of your ROI.
The more impressions your influencer’s posts receive, the more your ROI can increase, as well.
Your ROI can also rise later on.
When you opt to repurpose content created by influencers, you’re saving money that you would’ve used to photograph in-house. Those images can be used on your website, in paid ads, billboards, and anywhere else you use in-house content.
3. Misconception: Reach and engagement matter most when choosing an influencer to work with.
While impressions are crucial for future sales, choosing an influencer solely because of their reach may result in a lower overall ROI.
Macro-influencers generally have a lower engagement rate and can cost thousands per post. They also have a lower measure of audience trust than a micro-influencer.
For the cost of one high-tier macro-influencer, you can typically work with dozens of micro-influencers, meaning you’ll get more content for repurposing later.
Engagement shouldn’t be the only metric you rely on either. Just like an influencer can pay for followers, they can also pay for likes, boosting their engagement rate even though their real followers may not be engaging.
Always check the like-to-comment ratio of the influencer you want to work with. If you use an influencer marketing platform, this ratio may already be in the influencer’s profile. If not, take five random but recent posts, calculate the like-to-comment ratio on each one, and then find the average.
You should also take note of the caliber of the comments. Are the same people the ones commenting? They may be in an engagement pod, a group of influencers, usually micro-tier, who like or leave comments on each other’s posts to boost their engagement levels.
Since engagement is manufactured through trading likes and comments, content supported by engagement pods is not an authentic indication of how much influence the influencer truly has.
At a time when it’s challenging to find the true engagement rate for an influencer, you might be better off simply looking for influencers whose content you can repurpose. Find ones who fit your brand’s style and who can post high-quality images.
By working with an influencer who takes the kind of images you’d want to repurpose, you don’t have to rely solely on the influencer’s reach and engagement to ensure that you’re getting a good return.
4. Misconception: If you didn’t get sales with an influencer, you shouldn’t work with them again.
An influencer’s value might not be solely and directly monetary. Invest in long-term collaborations with influencers who can help you think creatively about your brand and extending it in various campaigns or platforms.
If your influencer is talented with styling a product shot, for example, you just got an image that could be reused as a product listing on your website.
Or, perhaps the influencer has an eye for incorporating your clothing and accessories into their daily outfit. You could turn those posts into styling inspiration to encourage further sales on other products, like fashion subscription company JustFab does.
5. Misconception: Influencer marketing only works with B2C brands focused on Gen Z or Millennials.
It’s true that more than half of the global Instagram population is under 34 years old. And, TikTok’s larger demographic is aged 10 to 19. But, that’s not the case for every social media platform. The largest demographic on Pinterest is aged 50 to 64, who make up 38% of users.
In addition, although social media is also treated as a haven for B2C brands, many B2B companies have found creative ways to utilize influencer marketing.
Through a partnership with National Geographic, for instance, Microsoft found a way to think outside the box, gain stunning content, and further position themselves as thought leaders on—and outside of—social media platforms.
On International Women’s Day in 2017, Microsoft worked with National Geographic’s photography influencers to create content that inspired women to change the world of STEM.
Microsoft drove traffic to their brick-and-mortar stores by organizing free workshops with these influencers, where they spoke about their experiences in STEM education.
Through the workshops, these influencers brought more eyes on in-store Microsoft products, further encouraging engagement with the Microsoft brand, and driving more sales.
Influencer marketing still remains a new endeavor for the marketing world, and we’re always learning how influencers drive purchase decisions.
Considering how social media constantly advances, with their algorithms being notoriously difficult to comprehend, marketers will need to evolve their influencer marketing strategy as their business needs shift.
But what won’t change is that high-quality content from influencers can take your company to new heights, saving on in-house costs, increasing the authenticity of your photos, and furthering your brand’s image and reach.
License this cover image via StonePictures.