Influencer marketing is a successful advertising strategy for businesses in a range of industries. Whether you’re looking to partner with an influencer for a one-off campaign, or you’re trying to forge a more long-term relationship with a creator in your sector, knowing where to start can be a challenge.
In an industry estimated to be worth over $16 billion in 2022, there are plenty of potential influencers looking to make a name for themselves and work with brands. But how do you know who to choose?
Finding and vetting potential brand partners takes time and energy, but the investments you make upfront will increase your odds of a successful advertising campaign that resonates with your target audience. Let’s go through some of the initial steps to narrowing down the right influencer for your brand campaign.
Formulate a plan for your campaign
Before you even think about looking for possible influencers to work with, you need to be armed with a game plan. Do your prep work first and have firm ideas for the following:
- Marketing objectives and KPIs.
- Budget, for both the influencer and the campaign promotion.
- Target audience.
- Social platforms to use.
All of these factors will heavily influence that type of creators you can, and should, work with while immediately ruling out others. Knowing this information upfront means you’ll save time both on your end and that of your potential partner. Your internal team will lead the strategy for the majority of these ideas, with your influencer partner taking the lead on content creation.
Decide what you need in an effective influencer partner
When you’re trusting the name of your brand to someone who doesn’t work internally, there are inherently risks involved. That’s why it’s crucial to know exactly the type of creator you want to work with before heading out into the wild west of social media to look for them.
Having a few “must haves” can be helpful. If you’ve worked with influencers before, you may be able to put this list together based on what went well and what could’ve been better last time. But if you’ve never ventured into influencer marketing, some of the key things to remember are:
- Does the influencer align with the audience you want to reach?
- Have they worked with other brands in the past?
- What evidence of successful partnerships can they present?
- How engaged are they with their audience?
- Should you use software or start the search manually?
- Are the influencers you are considering within budget?
Knowing what you don’t want is just as important as what you do. Put together an immediate red flag list for topics or other scenarios that you don’t want your brand tied to. This is especially important if your product or service doesn’t align with certain key aspects of their audience or the influencer when it comes to how they present themselves online.
For instance, if they don’t disclose when they’re working with a brand or creating sponsored content, or if their profile is full of sponsored content but not much organic content, you may want to rethink working with them. Remember that it is required by law to disclose all ads and sponsored content.
Vetting potential influencers for a campaign
Once you’re ready to start looking for influencers to work with, you can put together your shortlist and do a deeper dive into their social profiles. This should also be the point where you start reaching out to influencers directly and expressing your interest in working with them.
In your initial communications, the influencer should be sharing information about their audience demographics and any details of ROI they generated for previous brands they’ve worked with. If this is information that they aren’t forthcoming about, move onto the next person on your list.
A few key characteristics of a good influencer include:
One key area that brands need to vet influencers for is their credibility. For instance, if your influencer is a makeup artist, do they regularly use your products? Or do they only validate the product quality when being paid to do so? In other words, how obvious is it that they’re only expressing enthusiasm for a brand or product because they are being paid to do so, rather than choosing to work with brands they truly stand behind? Audiences are incredibly attuned to what they perceive as transparent cash grabs over genuine product affinity.
Credibility goes beyond their own audience too. Assess whether you think they have mass market or commercial appeal beyond their current followers. Do they have a unique point-of-view that can translate into other marketing channels and possibly future campaigns? Or are they simply “obsessed” with every product or service they’re paid to talk about? This is especially important to determine if you want to build long-term relationships with your influencers.
Particularly if you’re looking to work with big-name influencers, your credibility vetting should also extend to their previous work with other brands and their backgrounds more generally. Essentially, you’re looking for evidence that they’re free and clear of any scandals or issues that could negatively impact your brand should your name be attached to them.
Beyond knowing whether or not influencers are genuinely likable, it’s also important to look at how much effort they put into their sponsored work. Do they create high-quality content for brands? Are they responding to comments and questions on branded content? Or do they post and ghost, never to be seen on that sponsored content again?
While not every influencer-brand contract explicitly states that replying to follow-up questions or comments on advertising content is required, a good influencer should understand that this is part of the job to be attentive to this. Look for evidence that the influencer continues to advocate for the brand they’ve worked with after the initial campaign or ad goes live.
All deliverables and outputs from the campaign will come from the contract, so it’s important to know what to include and how to cover mutual interests before you begin. Contracts with influencers will govern the entire arrangement including:
- Payment terms and details (such as net 15, any commission or incremental affiliate revenue).
- Do’s and Don’ts for the brand.
- Go-live dates for campaigns.
- Exclusivity, if any.
- Cross-promotional channels, repost rights, and any fees for whitelisting or extended ad rights.
Contracts are written, signed, and agreed upon before the first piece of content is ever created. And while not every type of influencer outreach requires a solid contract, gifting for example is contractless, it is critical for content you intend to have created for a specific purpose or ad.
Finally, remember that if the brief did not explicitly say to include it or outright prohibit it, the brand cannot ask for a reshoot of the content based on an arbitrary attribute it decides it did not like after the fact.
Once you feel happy with the influencers you’ve reached out to and signed on the dotted line, it’s time to start thinking about the content itself and what needs to be invested in creation and promotion to make the campaign a success.
A strong influencer marketing campaign will take time to put together, so prepare in advance as much as possible and have a solid plan in place for what you want to achieve.