Influencer marketing may be the new, sought after affiliate partnership strategy, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy! Learn common mistakes that can be made when partnering with influencers and how you can avoid making them in this blog post. 

Influencers may be the hot, new trend in digital marketing, but are you creating headaches for yourself when trying to form influencer partnerships? Even though influencers are sought after in affiliate marketing, many brands will still face challenges with forming successful partnerships because the landscape for influencers is unlike anything else. Making these mistakes can hinder or even downright prevent success in your influencer affiliate strategies, and be costly to both yourself and your influencer partner.

Read on to learn five of the most common mistakes that advertisers can make when looking to form influencer partnerships, as well as how to avoid them and build a successful influencer effort for your brand! And if you’re looking for even more information on partnering with influencers, you can join us for our webinar on March 8.

1. The “More Followers = More Influence” Belief

For all the misconceptions marketers will have about properly valuing influencers, this is going to be the most common. The assumption is natural enough – if a person has more social media followers, they have more people they can reach, therefore they must have more influence!

Except this is false because it confuses influence with reach. Reach is the number of followers a given social media post touches. Influence is the number of people that interact with a social media post. Influencer marketers can have reach without influence and it won’t do the advertiser or themselves much good. Forming strategic influencer marketing partnerships will be a challenge for marketers who don’t know to look past this metric.

Strategy: Don’t convince yourself that the number of followers an influencer has is equated to their value as an influencer – that’s not the metric you should be evaluating! Instead, focus on engagement metrics such as likes, comments, and reposts, to help evaluate influence.

2. Trying to Take Creative Control

Authenticity. Trust. Passion. These are three key words that describe the value influencers have to their followers and their partnering brands. When an influencer shares their perspective on something, their followers take it as gospel. This is because the influencer is passionate about what they talk about, and authentic in the way they do it. There’s no marketing copy with an influencer – what they share with their followers is who they are. Brands and followers alike win because of that.

So it’s an absolutely huge mistake to try and take that creative control away from an influencer .

Asking an influencer to look at some of the benefits or features of a product you partnered with them on is one thing. Telling them what they should and shouldn’t say about the product is another. In the former example, the influencer is just being made aware of all the product has to offer and will be able to take that into consideration when they go to write their review or talk about the product in their posts. In the latter, the influencer is being editorialized and, worse, stripped of the three traits that make them so valuable to advertisers in the first place. Avoid this pitfall at all costs!

Strategy: Help the influencer understand your product, don’t help them write their content. They know what their audience will want to hear about in regards to your products, and their audience will know how they write – and be able to tell if something is up. Avoid a headache and work with them rather than try to use them as a marketing mouthpiece.

3. Forcing Partnerships That Aren’t There

Influencers are great resources for prospecting new customers who may not have heard of your brand, but that doesn’t mean every prospective customer will need your brand. If you owned a steakhouse, would you want to partner with a vegan lifestyle influencer? Of course, you wouldn’t – there’s no value in it for you, the influencer, or their followers because it just doesn’t fall in line with what they care about.

Unfortunately, the reason this is a mistake is because most times the situation isn’t as clear-cut as “I’m a steakhouse looking at an influencer who’s a vegan lifestylist!” Sometimes the partnerships can seem like trying to fit a rectangular block in a square hole – it looks like it should fit, but it doesn’t. This issue comes from a lack of understanding who the influencer is, what their audience would be interested in, and how the partnership can be beneficial to the brand, the influencer, and the audience.

Strategy: Work with your influencers to understand who they are and who their audience is. This might take a couple of conversations or emails, but that’s okay. Remember that influencers are going to be seen by their audience as ambassadors for your brand, so you’ll want to pick the ones that will best represent who you are and what you have to offer to an audience that will care.

4. Ignoring Metrics that Matter

There’s a challenge with understanding how influencers fall in the path to purchase for customers. It can be easy to look at things like last click numbers and see that maybe influencers don’t convert as much, therefore they aren’t as valuable, but having this perspective is a huge mistake and creates a disadvantage to your affiliate marketing strategies.

There’s two key metrics that mistakenly get overlooked: influence-measuring metrics (which we mentioned above) and where the customer is using influencers in their path to purchase. Through attribution measurement, research at Rakuten Marketing found that influencers tend to come much earlier in the path to purchase, often helping guide the customer early on and, in many cases, introducing new customers to brands and products they wouldn’t have otherwise considered. The value of influencers is much clearer when you use attribution tools to measure those results, but many advertisers are still learning to measure these metrics when evaluating influencers.

Strategy: In addition to leveraging engagement metrics (mentioned above), leverage tools like Cadence to get a better picture on not only what influencers are doing to help your brand, but when in the path to purchase they’re doing it. Using these metrics to help measure the value of influencers and the role they play will be vital to making your partnerships with influencers more strategic and beneficial.

5. Treating Influencers with the Same Models as Other Publishers

Influencers are unique. While they might fit closest to content publishers (and in many cases may do a lot of focus on content publishing) there’s really no other publishing model quite like influencers in the affiliate channel. One of the biggest mistakes you can make, therefore, is trying to treat influencers like any other channel.

The fact is influencers have a much different approach and role within the affiliate channel. Interviews with influencers have shown as much, but it’s important as an advertiser to recognize that and do something about it. Developing an effective partnership model by working to understand and meet the needs of the influencer is vital because not only does it allow the influencer to succeed in their role, it also helps their audience get a better idea of what your brand is about and what your products can do to benefit them. Don’t make the mistake of thinking influencers fall into another publisher model and can be treated as such, work with influencers to understand their needs – and help meet those needs!

Strategy: Talk to your influencers. Understand what their needs are in terms of a partnership model. Work with them to find mutual ground that benefits both them and your brand.

But Wait…What If I’m an Influencer?!

If you’re an influencer reading this post then, first and foremost, excellent decision – one of the most important things you can do for yourself is to understand some of the challenges that advertisers face with this new publisher model.

More importantly – the best thing you can you do is work with your advertisers. Have a media packet, demonstrate your value to your advertisers to help them understand what it is you do, why it will help their brand, and how you can both be successful. Communication is important, but understanding what they’ll be experiencing and what you have to offer is just as important as the communication itself. Come prepared with research and numbers on who you are, who your visitors are, and how you can help their brand succeed.