Here’s my answer: It really depends. It depends on your long term goals and knowledge of social media platforms. The problem I find when brands try to do these campaigns on their own if they’re not strong in marketing or on social media is they tend to pick an influencer based upon poor metrics and poor planning.
Brands are often concerned with answering the question, does this influencer fit with my brand? What you should be asking is, are my target customers following and engaging with this influencer?
Each platform (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Etc) has its own influencers and platform-specific tactics you’re going to want to know about. There are also false flags you’ll want to look for on each platform. High followers/likes/subscribers but low engagement is a sign that the influencer might have fake followers or unengaged followers.
Facebook provides a lot of insights for brands and influencers to know what their audience break down is.
So if you’re going to work with an influencer on Facebook ask to be added as an analyst. This will allow you to look at their data without being able to post. Some influencers will be paranoid about this so a screen share is an acceptable alternative during your vetting process. This can take a long time if you’re weak in your knowledge of social media and you’ll want to partner with a platform or a consultant that can do that work for you. There are software solutions that pull the stats of an influencer through API’s but you’ll want to verify that’s where they get the data instead of Influencer supplied results.
So if Influencer Marketing is going to be a 1-3 times a year thing for you then I would recommend working with an Influencer Agency or Platform that makes this easier and cost effective. Most brands that I work with do 1-3 big launches a year and then produce or leverage influencer content to continue the impact of those campaigns. If they were to do this in-house it would cost them an additional $100-$150k a year in salaries and software to have a team do this, not to mention what you’re paying the influencers.
However, If you’re planning on doing a lot of Influencer campaigns year round then building and maintain a long term relationship with these influencers is worthwhile. I’m seeing a lot of media companies trying to build influencer platforms in-house, and this is a great strategy for them because they’re planning on doing this daily for years. So the initial investment in engineering and staffing will pay out over years.
Even if you’re a small company that does constant influencer marketing it might make sense to hire someone in-house to manage your influencer outreach, management, and execution. If you’re going to be working with a lot of influencers there are software solutions that make the monitoring and tracking of these campaigns a lot easier so you don’t have to custom build your own software.
If you’re only working with a handful then a simple project management tool and monitoring/scheduling tool like Buffer might be all you need.
Many of the bigger Influencers will push you to a network or agent they work with. Though if you’re going to only be doing a few pushes a year go with a network. Select a network with past success in the available space, one that pays for performance and not just posts.
Performance should be measured in the following the ways:
Reach: How many people saw the posts, videos, etc
Engagement: How many people are commenting, sharing, liking, reacting to the posts. What are the sentiments of those posts.
Side note: Almost any advertising campaign will have its share of haters. So don’t take some negative feedback as a bad sign. But if a majority of the comments and such are negative that might be a sign of poor brand alignment.
Actions Taken: Are people clicking on the link to find out more, signing up for a newsletter, following your page. Then what are the quality of those actions, how long are people staying on site, are they exploring other content etc.
Conversions: Are people actually signing up or purchasing your product? For some this can be much harder to track if your service is available in Brick and Mortar locations vs online. There are also several other factors that might affect this.
Earned Media: Is your content or other posts causing other people to share and comment about your brand? Often if something going viral other companies and influencers will take it make and it their own so they can grow a brand around themselves.
Influencer marketing isn’t rocket science but it isn’t a color by numbers game. You’ll want to partner with a company and influencers that can deliver the results you need.