6 telltale signs of a doomed influencer campaign in 2021

by | Feb 15, 2021 | Analysis, Public Relations

Cast your mind back to the early 2000s. It was an age in which the concept of the social media influencer was taking its first tentative steps into our cultural consciousness, and nobody could reliably foresee the marketing behemoth it would eventually become. Indeed, many brands were fundamentally distrustful of influencers in those early days, before the era of wall-to-wall influencer posts of beautiful young people on sponsored exotic holidays became the norm.

That said, working with influencer campaigns—just like with any other marketing practice—features no shortage of pitfalls. There are signs to watch for that may indicate your influencer campaign is headed for disaster. Let’s take a closer look at some of the main signs of a doomed influencer campaign, and figure out what to avoid when you’re trying to ride this marketing trend.

Influencer marketing: It’s here to stay

Today, the influencer scene has evolved considerably and has had its share of ups and downs. Following a series of high profile kickbacks against covert advertising on Instagram—still the spiritual home of the social media influencer and with an active audience of a billion users—the way that influencer marketing is implemented has begun to change.

Indeed, most of the larger social networks have pledged to crack down on misleading advertising practices. Instagram has begun toying with the notion of paying influencers via its own channels, something which suggests a new wave of influencer marketing is on the way.

Whatever happens in the ever-developing landscape of influencer marketing, there’s no doubt about the fact that it’s here to stay… in one form or another. It remains one of the most effective ways to build a brand and find a wider audience. In an age when positive brand image and customer loyalty are more important than ever, there’s still plenty to explore in the world of influencer marketing.

You’re not cutting through the noise

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you’ll know exactly what kind of noise we’re talking about. The influencer recruitment pool has become an abyss completely oversaturated with options. The result is endless ineffective campaigns and a poor ROI.

In markets and industries with overwhelming numbers of competitors, this becomes a significant uphill struggle for emerging brands. Indeed, the ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ that heralded success just a few years ago no longer wield the same power and you probably won’t be able to rely on them to form the crux of your customer journey. 

Influencers who don’t convert, or worse – who are in it for free goods and a taste of online fame—aren’t any good to anyone but themselves. Overcoming the challenges of the abyss, cutting through the noise, and ensuring your ROI is doing your hard work justice is always central to any marketing campaign. The ubiquity of influencers, and especially ineffective influencers, has only made this all the more obvious.

Your influencer campaign boosts numbers—but not engagement

Your brand’s objective is to engage your audience, to bring them on your journey with you, and to convert them into paying customers.

Influencers can do a great job of achieving this, but it won’t happen by waving a magic wand, scratching an impressively large check, or as a simple result of increasing the number of likes and follows alone. In fact, the value proposition of an influencer, and of an influencer campaign in general, is determined by one thing only: the measurable impact upon their followers. Not the number of followers they have, or the number of likes they bring to your content on Instagram.

You’ve failed to pre-vet your influencers

You wouldn’t take on a new team member without a thorough vetting process, so why jump on board with an influencer who promises the world, but doesn’t deliver the goods?

Influencers are, by their nature and business, good at selling themselves. Anyone looking to utilize a social media influencer in their marketing needs to get used to the idea of vetting, even if it can be a tiresome and often time-consuming process.

Just as in any HR process, those selecting influencers need to consider the mindset, drive, ethics, and qualifications of the influencers they are considering. There are more than a few examples of brands being severely damaged by the misbehavior or poor judgement of their influencers. In today’s market, where customer bases are eagle-eyed and quick to pick up on ethically questionable behaviour, this is something that really needs careful thought and due process.

You’re not focused on security

Another common source of potential failure for influencer campaigns – and one that can lead to significantly more damage than just lost revenue, is giving influencers undue levels of access to your IT systems, or allowing them to use these systems without the correct security measures in place.

This is an easy mistake, because once you get to know your influencers they can come to seem like employees. Be wary, though. Keep tight control over who has access to your network and data systems, and that everyone using them, including influencers, takes basic security precautions such as using a VPN, firewall, and appropriate malware protection. Cybersecurity software is not expensive, so there’s no reason not to require anyone using your network to do so with safety in mind. It wouldn’t be the worst idea, either, to figure out a way to keep your influencers on the outside.

You’ve overlooked the power of micro influencers

Hand in hand with the backlash against many of the bigger and more famous influencers arose the micro influencers; those with between 1,000 and 40,000 followers on any given social platform, and whose followings are based upon carefully curated specialisms and enthusiastic engagement.

Micro influencers represent one of the newest waves of influencer marketing. If you haven’t already looked into their impact, you’re doing your brand a disservice. Often, micro influencers will work with brands for free, or in exchange for free trials and samples – their followers look to them specifically for recommendations and lifestyle tips, and as such, conversion levels tend to be impressive.

You’ve failed to consider rev-share

Despite the fact that for many emerging brands finances are tight, it’s highly recommended in today’s marketing scene to enter into rev-share opportunities with influencers.

This boosts loyalty and effectiveness, and opens up new revenue streams for their work as influencers. Furthermore, rev-share is relatively easy to establish once an agreement between your brand and the influencer is reached, and it allows for a more enduring professional relationship with greater impetus to succeed.

Make your influencer campaign fly in 2021

Despite an occasionally shaky reputation, influencer marketing and advertising campaigns backed by an influencer remain effective, efficient, and more affordable than traditional methods.

From small-scale micro influencer campaigns to high-flying celebrity ambassadorships, there are many different options in the influencer marketing space; something which has led it to rapidly becoming a multi-billion dollar industry, and even more quickly has become one of the central ways for consumers to discover new products, services, and brands.

By avoiding the common pitfalls associated with influencer marketing in 2021, and by staying on top of both new trends and common sense, there’s no reason that this advertising tactic couldn’t work for you in the way it has done for many others.

Brian Skewes
Brian Skewes is a technologist into deconstruction. Through the process of two decades of self-employment, he has synthesized more inadvertent real-world lessons related to building, running, and preserving a small company than he can recall.


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