4 Jun, 2019

How to Build a Winning Influencer Strategy & Avoid Fake Influencers

On the surface, it might seem like influencer marketing is just about having an influencer make a post or two and you’re done.

But brands with this mentality will feel the sting afterward.

Just like pretty much any marketing endeavor (or any life endeavor in general, when you think about it), your odds of getting good results are slim if you don’t have clear intentions and goals to guide your efforts. In addition to having those goals, you’ll need to set up a reliable system to track them.

A lack of strong influencer campaign strategy is a key pitfall when it comes to influencer marketing.

But here’s the kicker: it’s notoriously tough to attribute ROI back to specific influencer marketing strategies and tactics. So unfortunately, even businesses that have an excellent influencer strategy in place will still fall victim to foggy results and tracking difficulties.

That’s why you have to hit the ground running with a well-defined influencer strategy, comprehensive tracking, and careful analysis.

Take it from Gil Eyal, founder and CEO of HYPR and influencer analytics expert. He believes that a brand’s approach to influencer marketing should be just as strategic and carefully-orchestrated as any other marketing effort, while still taking into account all the special considerations and changes in the industry.


Gil Eyal, HYPR

There has to be a method to the madness, and brands that select influencers by skimming over their social profiles and trying to guess if they would be a good fit are leaving money on the table.

For starters, every influencer has a unique audience, and you want to make sure they affect that audience within the right context. Furthermore, they’re replaceable but you need tools to help you identify which ones are most likely to succeed in reaching your audience.

Influencer marketing is no longer a ‘gut feeling’ driven activation, and an influencer marketer needs to use the same fundamentals used in other marketing channels – and specifically identifying the right audience, creating the right message, and measuring performance.

In this article, we’ll cover some fundamentals for how to build an influencer strategy that kills, including steps to:

  • Choose a compensation model
  • Set specific goals and KPIs before launch
  • Make everything as trackable as possible
  • Avoid getting tricked by fake influencers

Don’t wait for someone else to do it. Hire yourself and start calling the shots.

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Choose a Compensation Model

While your individual influencer program agreements might involve some negotiation for exact terms, it’s good to have a handle on your finances. This includes knowing how you can compensate your influencers.

There are four main ways that you can ‘fund’ your influencer strategy:

1. Pay Per Post

This influencer pricing strategy is a classic and simple model. You offer the influencer a set amount of money in exchange for making an agreed-upon post, whether that’s a shoutout on Instagram, a YouTube review, or a contest posted on their blog.

You can use this handy earnings calculator to see how much money an Instagram influencer might charge per post.

Just type in an influencer’s username or the URL of a specific post, and it will show an estimate that you can use to set your own budget.

You can see in this example that life and style blogger Andrea Pion is estimated to make about $500 to $835 per post.

2. Gifting, aka Free Product or Service

Here, you give the influencer your product or access to your service for free, in exchange for promotion. This is typically seen in review-style posts or shoutouts, often accompanied by photos of the brand’s products in action.

Lithuanian dropshipping entrepreneur Karolis Rimkus used this influencer strategy to grow and evolve his brand’s Instagram page.

Karolis Rimkus, Dropshipping entrepreneur

In the beginning, I did a lot of outreach. I offered micro-influencers, Instagrammers with 8,000 to 10,000 followers, a product they could use for a giveaway, or just mail them a sample in exchange for a mention.

The strategy worked, and my brand and sales started to grow.

When my page hit 15,000 followers, I was able to switch up my strategy. I had a powerful audience of my own, so I offered up-and-coming influencers the opportunity to be profiled on my brand’s Instagram.

They would buy something from my store and take a photo of themselves wearing it. Then I’d feature them on my page. It was a win-win.

3. Pay Per Sale

This is also called affiliate marketing. In this influencer pricing strategy, you pay the influencer a percentage of every sale from their efforts. This is a great incentive to get results, but you’ll need a good tracking strategy to ensure you know which sales are theirs.

Usually, this involves unique checkout codes, UTM parameters, or help from a special tool or app. We’ll get into this more in a bit.

4. Pay Per Engagement

In this influencer pricing strategy, you can pay them for each like, share, comment, mention, and/or other engagement on their content. You might also choose this model to compensate for other results, like sign-ups for a contest.

New businesses, especially ecommerce or dropshipping businesses, opt for gifting because it’s generally the most affordable and budget-friendly option. I recommend giving this influencer campaign strategy a shot until you have a solid understanding of how your overall influencer strategy is working for your brand, then upgrade to paid partnerships.


Set Specific Goals and KPIs Before Launch

The more specific you can get with your goals and key performance indicators (KPIs), the easier your path to tracking them and evaluating your influencer program’s performance.

According to Linquia’s The State of Influencer Marketing 2018 report, 90% of respondents measure their influencer program’s success by engagement, followed by 59% measuring clicks, 55% measuring impressions, and 54% measuring conversions.

Let’s break down what each of these means for your influencer program:

  • Engagement: Likes, comments, shares, mentions, etc. – any user activity that directly interacts with the post
  • Clicks: The number of times a link inside the post was clicked, which could lead to your website or a special landing page, for example
  • Impressions: The number of times your brand post showed up in a user’s feed – whether or not they read or engaged with it
  • Reach: The number of people who see your post – it’s similar to impressions, except reach counts the number of users, while impressions count the number of times a post was displayed in a user’s feed (this means that the same user can rack up multiple impressions if the post showed up in their feed several times)
  • Conversions: A certain user activity that you’ve set up in advance, like filling out a form or completing a purchase
  • Product sales: This is technically a type of conversion, since you got the user to perform the activity of buying your product
  • Audience alignment: Looking at user data to confirm that your influencer content was seen by people who really fit with your brand, thus building positive brand awareness and exposure

Avoid measuring success based purely on reach or impressions. These metrics just mean that your post showed up in someone’s feed – they don’t mean that the user engaged with it… or even read it!

Whatever you decide to focus on, it’s critical that your benchmarks align with your influencer program goals.

Common influencer program goals include:

  • Product/service sales
  • Sales leads, especially if the sales process is longer or your offering is expensive
  • General brand awareness
  • More followers on social media channels
  • Increasing website traffic
  • Email newsletter subscribers
  • Customer retention and building brand loyalty
  • Reputation management

While some of these are tangible goals, like sales, other goals like brand awareness can be practically impossible to track.

Which brings me to the importance of setting good goals.

You’ve likely heard about setting SMART business goals, which stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Agreed-upon
  • Realistic
  • Time-based

No exceptions for your influencer strategy.

So instead of just saying, “I want more sales,” try saying: “I want 5 new customer sales from this month’s influencer strategy.”

Instead of saying, “I want more people to see my brand,” say: “I want 200 total engagements on each influencer post.”

When you can set clear, attainable goals, you’re better equipped to measure the true value of your campaigns. You’ll also find it much easier to tweak and change certain things that aren’t working, while doubling-down on the things that do.

Make Everything as Trackable as Possible

Your goals are useless if you can’t actually see if you’ve accomplished them.

But the thing is, even the best influencer marketing strategy can face trouble.

Linquia’s survey shows that 76% of respondents see their biggest challenge to be determining ROI for their influencer marketing program.

So how can you avoid this pitfall in your influencer strategy process?

Let’s go over a few ways to keep your campaigns trackable and accountable for your brand’s ROI.

Google Analytics is truly a blessing. If you don’t have it set up for your website yet, do it today!

It’s critical that you have this set up if your influencer strategy will lead any users back to your website or a special landing page (which we’ll get into shortly).

Google Analytics shows great influencer program metrics, like:

  • Which links, pages, and websites brought users to your site. You can then tie this activity directly to an influencer’s posts on different channels.
  • What those users did while on your site. Did they fill out any forms or make any purchases? Which pages did they visit?
  • How long those users stayed on your site. Did they leave immediately or browse for a while?
  • Demographic and behavior information. Info like their age, where they live, and even their interests.

Set Up Google Analytics

Google Analytics is truly a blessing. If you don’t have it set up for your website yet, do it today!

It’s critical that you have this set up if your influencer strategy will lead any users back to your website or a special landing page (which we’ll get into shortly).

Google Analytics shows great influencer program metrics, like:

  • Which links, pages, and websites brought users to your site. You can then tie this activity directly to an influencer’s posts on different channels.
  • What those users did while on your site. Did they fill out any forms or make any purchases? Which pages did they visit?
  • How long those users stayed on your site. Did they leave immediately or browse for a while?
  • Demographic and behavior information. Info like their age, where they live, and even their interests.

Use UTM Parameters

UTM parameters are simple tags you can add to your URLs to track certain campaign elements. The five main parameters are:

  1. Source: Google, Facebook, Instagram, a newsletter, etc.
  2. Medium: paid ads, email campaigns, social media campaigns, etc.
  3. Name: the name of the specific campaign you’re tracking – you can label it by influencer
  4. Term: for paid keywords (mainly for Google Ads, not your influencer strategy)
  5. Content: to differentiate items like ad content

It may sound intimidating, but you can build these links easily with Google’s Campaign URL Builder.

Say you’re doing an Instagram influencer campaign with an influencer named Emily Emison (yes, I made this name up). An example of a finalized URL might be:

  • http://www.yoursite.com/?utm_source=instagram&utm_medium=influencer&utm_campaign=emily-emison

They look pretty ugly, so you can easily shorten it using bit.ly. So it can look something like:

  • https://bit.ly/2pT9Zux

Then you can give this link to Emily Emison to include in her sponsored content. Whenever someone clicks it, it’ll be tracked in your Google Analytics account.


Other Influencer Program Tracking Ideas

Custom landing pages: Lead users to a special landing page just for your influencer program campaign. This way, you can specially tailor the messaging to better connect with users and get them to perform whatever action you’re looking for, from signing up for a demo to buying a specific item.

Discount codes: If you’re an ecommerce company, create discount codes for each influencer and campaign so that you know precisely where those sales came from. Even if you’re not ecommerce, you can use these codes to have users sign up for certain things, like a free demo, premium content, or another offering.

Affiliate links: If you’re using an affiliate marketing model, affiliate links will track the activity of each influencer. Special affiliate marketing platforms will typically provide you with this link and tracking capabilities.

Branded hashtags: Create unique hashtags for your influencer program campaigns so you can keep track of how often they’re used. Say you want to boost brand awareness while holding a contest: you can have users make a post with the hashtag as part of their entry into the contest.

Once you have all this beautiful user and activity data, you can use it to follow-up on your new leads and convert them to customers. Strategies like email marketing and remarketing on social media are great for this.


Avoid Getting Tricked by Fake Influencers

I’m not gonna lie to you: there are a lot of hustlers and scammers out there. This comes mainly in the form of users who buy fake followers on social media.

This is more of an issue than you might realize, with big brands like Unilever cracking down on influencer fraud.

The good news is that it’s fairly simple not to fall prey to them. You just have to make sure you give your research and vetting process enough time and resources.

It may seem like it’s taking a lot of time – because it will – but that will prove invaluable in the end. If you’re stressing about this part of your influencer campaign strategy, but don’t have a large budget for a turnkey platform or full-service agency, it may make sense to try using ‘freemium’ tools.

These are tools that offer free features to start, and you can start paying for upgraded services and more bandwidth when you’re confident it’s a good choice. To get started, you can check out our list of the 8 best influencer marketing platforms

There are also some quick tools to help you make sure your best candidates don’t have fake followers, like the Instagram audit tool from HypeAuditor.

Just pop in the username of any Instagram account larger than 1,000 followers, and it gives you a report on how authentic their account is.

Influencer Marketing Hub has a simplified version that gives you rating scores.

Take a look at this example of beauty mega-influencer Huda Kattan’s Instagram account.

You can see that her scores aren’t particularly special, and maybe it’s worth looking into someone else. 

When you click ‘View Audience Quality Report,’ you can find more details, including their current follower growth rate, and audience insights like their age range and location.

If you want a more in-depth report, HypeAuditor offers the first report for free. Then you can buy reports for about $2 each, with the cost decreasing for larger bundles.

Other paid tools include FakeCheck.co and Social Audit Pro. You can also try the free tool IG Audit.

Regardless of how you go about it, don’t flush your hard-earned money down the toilet with a fake influencer.

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Amanda Gaid: Amanda Gaid is a digital marketer and copywriter who helps brands create awesome content that drives engagement and better business. As a seasoned digital nomad, her trusty laptop is her best friend.