Let’s get straight to the point; brands recognize the huge opportunity within Influencer Marketing but not many brands feel that they are being successful at it. Especially with large enterprises the hiatus that is left between blue sky thinking and operational reality is arguably larger than the shock of a Trump news conference. In a time where brands often say “Influencer Relations is a core part of our strategy” and “we have not engaged with influencers yet” in the same sentence, something needs to change.
Such an intriguing dichotomy has been intrinsic to Influencer Relations since it became a buzzword in 2015 and is one of the reasons why there is a land grab between Marketing, Comms, PR, Content, Digital and Social teams as to who should “own” this discipline.
Through our work over the last 7 years with brands and agencies both large and small from around the globe here are the 5 most common reasons why we believe Influencer Relations programs fail.
THE REASONS WHY
1) Lack of influencer-focused resource
Interestingly when searching for people that work in Influencer Marketing on LinkedIn there are currently 20,580 results for the search term ‘Influencer Marketing’ and 1,549 for ‘Influencer Relations’ – so 22,129 in total. To put this into context, there are 5.8 million results when searching for ‘Social Media Marketing’ which is over 262 times more prevalent than Influencer focused roles.
Now, I acknowledge that this is a crude measure, but it does show that Influencer Marketing / Relations is not called out as a key focus for many Marketing, Comms and Social Media positions which is to be expected in an area that is still maturing.
In a time where additional head count is often hard to secure and many large enterprises seem intent on restructuring every 6 months, immature categories such as Influencer Relations will always be disproportionately affected. Also, what do people actually mean by the term Influencer anyway? Are the influencers offline or on social media; how many of these influencer roles are focused on paying influencers or developing organic long-term relationships?
The truth is if Influencer Relations is a small part of your remit you are not going to able to prioritise developing sustainable organic relationships with your relevant influencers. The opportunity deserves a full time focus on building an effective channel of influencers.
2) Lack of program management or measurement
The saying goes “if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it”. Far too often influencer programs do not have focused objectives that are aligned with business or marketing objectives. Many people are experimenting and learning whilst doing and the lack of understanding as to how a brand can effectively measure success can often act as an initial barrier to implementation. Also, if there’s no official program scorecard or manager demanding results, employees will naturally be less motivated to succeed and may well concentrate on other KPIs.
To credibly measure your Influencer Relations work, steer away from vanity social media metrics and concentrate on creating KPIs around Developing Relationships, Engagement and Outcome-based measures around Awareness, Perception or Consideration.
3) Lack of quality content / brand messaging
Influencer marketing isn’t as simple as just knowing who your influencers are; content creation is a key part of sustaining the dialogue on social media and driving brand awareness. If your employees do not feel confident in your brand’s appeal to the influencer community, they are far less likely to engage on social media and share relevant content.
The amount of content being published by brands, publications and individuals has gone through the roof- according to the Content Marketing Institute “80% of B2B marketers and 75% of B2C marketers include content marketing within their overarching marketing strategy”- however, 48% do not document this strategy; highlighting a need for investment in this area.
This has created so much noise that content needs to be high quality to cut through and deliver real signal to the influencer community. In fact Influencer Orchestration Network claim that in 2016 “78% of brands increased their content output, but average content engagement decreased by 60%” which highlights the challenge if your content does not cut it.
Investing in informative or cool content that the influencer community are likely to share is a key component for program success as it will enable your employees to provide value to the influencer community even if they are not an expert on your product or thought leadership topic.
4) Employees’ lack of confidence in building personal relationships
Building relationships with influencers is something that is often easier said than done. Communicating with someone with the sole intention of building a relationship can often feel quite mechanical, intimidating and false. This is not a social media challenge but predominantly a societal one where employees may feel uncomfortable with reaching out to strangers. They might also feel rejected or that they have failed if the influencers do not respond.
If the individuals developing relationships on the front line fail to understand the value of the relationship towards the influencer then the program is destined for failure. Ideally, the first 2 months of an Influencer Relations program should be solely focused on how you deliver value for the influencer, with no selling! It also helps to share a best practice framework on how to approach influencers and run a few workshops so that your team has the confidence and are in a better position to engage.
Senior Management often do not see social media as core to their main business objectives; hence the number of Influencer Marketing pilot programs throughout 2016 to prove the concept to Senior Management.
In B2B for example paid search/webinars can sometimes yield instant sales results and senior management understand the ROI. Building longer term relationships with key influencers arguably yields much better and more cost-effective results in 3-6 months but, in a world where instant results are demanded, it can be so much harder to justify adequate investment for a discipline promising results later down the line.
While senior management may be harder to convince, once they are, they may well be the biggest advocates across the company for Influencer Relations.
If you’re experiencing Influencer Relations challenges, why not take our free online self-assessment to see where you can improve? Happy influencing in 2017!