As a blogger, I’ve created content for multiple influencer marketing campaigns. And as a social media manager, I also advise brand marketers on developing their influencer strategies. I know how both sides work – and the misconceptions each has about the other.
As a member of a number of blogging groups on Facebook, frustration with brand managers and agencies is a topic that comes up frequently. Some of these frustrations are justified; others are born out of a lack of understanding.
There’s an old expression about how the best way to understand someone is to walk a mile in their shoes. Knowing the facts behind the fiction about what makes marketers tick can lead to better results and more work.
So here are four myths influencers sometimes believe about brand marketers.
Myth 1: They make unreasonable demands
Some marketers are well versed in the intricacies of influencer marketing. Many aren’t.
Most brand marketers juggle multiple responsibilities. They are often jacks-of-all-trades. Consequently, they rely on other experts such as lawyers, who draft 30-page contracts that are necessary for a large supplier but excessive for a freelance influencer. Or they may set the campaign budget but it may be their agency who decides to offer you a pittance for your time and effort.
In the same way that an influencer is simultaneously a photographer, copywriter, lawyer and accountant, marketers also wear many hats. Not all of them fit. Some of them they give to other people to wear.
And sometimes they may not even know exactly what they want from influencers. You may well have better ideas how to fulfil their objectives. A good influencer will interpret the brief and deliver it well. A great influencer will reinterpret the brief to produce the best possible content for the target audience.
Marketers are often surprisingly receptive to new ideas and suggestions that improve their campaign. And sometimes all it takes is for someone to gently point out the error of their ways when they’re asking you to reshoot a photo for the fifth time. Just be diplomatic and kind.
Any marketer can make a mistake once. A good one won’t repeat it once they know it’s a mistake. There’s a big difference between being unaware and being unreasonable.
Myth 2: They use agencies because they don’t want to deal directly with me
Some marketers – particularly ones for smaller brands – will deal directly with influencers. Others won’t, and will employ an agency instead.
Don’t take it personally. Remember what I said about marketers being jacks-of-all-trades? They use agencies because they do all the things a marketer isn’t knowledgeable enough to do, or too busy to do. A brand marketer doesn’t book TV ad slots; a media buying agency does. They don’t spend hours sending out samples for bloggers and journalists to review; they use an agency or a fulfilment house.
And sometimes it’s just a matter of process. A big multinational brand is used to trading regularly with a small number of large suppliers. All their systems are geared up to do this. They don’t want to deal with lots of small self-employed businesses who may only invoice them once for £100. Big companies are often really bad at doing this kind of small transaction. Which is why they employ agencies to take that hassle off them.
It’s not that they don’t want to deal with you. It’s more often that it is inefficient for them to do so. And, more importantly, you don’t want to have to deal with them.
Myth 3: They have huge budgets (they just don’t want to spend them on me)
Influencer marketing is often only a small part of a larger range of activities. A brand might be running a £2 million campaign, which sounds impressive. But that might be spread across several countries and include a product launch event, Facebook ads, video production, maybe even TV. Out of all that, the influencer budget may be only a small proportion.
If the brand is using an agency, they will give them the budget and ask them to spend it in a way that maximises their return on investment (ROI). The agency will take some of that budget for themselves. They’re a business, not a charity, after all. And then it’s a case of delivering as good an ROI as possible. Less scrupulous operators may try to get away with the absolute minimum for influencers’ efforts, sometimes offering nothing but ‘exposure’.
I’m not advocating this approach in any way: but it is what happens. As an agency, if you can get away with paying an influencer a pittance (or, indeed, nothing) for their work and make your client’s budget go further, why wouldn’t you? An agency is motivated by producing good results that mean they’ll get to run the client’s next campaign too.
Here’s the thing, though. Depending on how hands-on they are, the brand marketer may not even know how much each influencer is being paid. They almost certainly won’t know what an acceptable fee for an Instagrammer with 50,000 followers is. That’s what they employ an agency for.
So it’s not that brand marketers undervalue influencers and deliberately set out to screw them. Often they may not even know that their agency is employing dubious tactics. If an agency is delivering results, often marketers won’t ask any questions. They will instead on focus on the issues they can see, not the ones they can’t.
Myth 4: They don’t know I’ve bought thousands of followers
Influencers – in particular Instagrammers – have been doing this for as long as they’ve known that they can make more money by artificially inflating their numbers. Sometimes that involves buying followers and likes in huge volumes. At other times, groups of influencers organise ‘pods’ where everyone likes everyone else’s content to fool Instagram’s algorithm into thinking a post is more popular than it really is.
It’s not illegal, as such. But it is a form of fraud which (some) influencers have been getting away with for years.
That is starting to change, though – in two ways.
Firstly, brands are getting wise to this now. Marketers hate wasting their money. If they feel that influencer marketing isn’t authentic, they will take their budget elsewhere. There is no shortage of ways for them to spend it.
Those who do want to invest in influencers are increasingly demanding that agencies do more to audit potential influencers to ensure they deliver authentic value. However, this is time-consuming to do manually.
Which is where the second driver of change comes in. Arfifical intelligence (AI) tools can do this analysis faster and better than the human eye. Is an influencer’s engagement-to-follower ratio suspiciously low or high? Do the same set of followers consistently like their posts within minutes of being published? Is there a high volume of follow/unfollow activity?
This kind of analysis is difficult to do even using AI – algorithms often raise lots of false flags as well as real ones – but the tech is getting better all the time. Off-the-shelf tools such as HypeAuditor are commercially available to both agencies and brands. It’s getting harder for fraudulent influencers to slip the net.
Increasingly, agency contracts include a clause where the influencer must declare that they have not engaged in buying followers, likes and comments, or in any other form of fraudulent activity. If you lie about this, you might get away with it today – but you might not tomorrow. In which case, you would be in breach of contract and technically liable to pay damages. You really don’t want that. So don’t do it.
If you’re an influencer, does this make you think any differently? What are the myths that marketers have about you that you would like to dispel?
If you’re a brand marketer, is there anything else you would add to this list to help influencers better understand the challenges you face?
Join the conversation in the comments below.
Written by Tim Liew.