I've been doing influencer marketing campaigns for years both as the lead on them and as an attendee. Here's what I've learned that might help you. The tips I'm sharing with you come from both in-person events and with sponsored post and other campaigns with lifestyle bloggers.
Biggest Influencer Marketing Mistakes:
Mistake #1: Thinking that you have nothing to offer if you don't pay bloggers
Ok, so you have no budget – or it's small. Time to get creative.
Example: Roots Tech conference
A few years ago I was hired to head a team of bloggers to attend and cover Roots Tech – the largest family history conference in the world. They'd tried to involve bloggers in the past but there was no real momentum with lifestyle bloggers. Family history bloggers were there but they wanted to reach a broader audience.
After listening to their goals and asking questions I thought about what we could do to appeal to lifestyle bloggers. Bloggers want to meet the media or be treated as media and that was the key. So our plans centered around giving bloggers opportunities to be part of the media. We gave them access to the media hub and they got exclusive interviews with the celebrities and speakers. We also gave them backstage passes and opportunities to get interviewed by traditional media. There was some tension between the groups (I remember the complaint, “they're not media trained!”) when bloggers started taking selfies with the celebrity guests.
What we did right:
Bloggers responded with great enthusiasm and many became loyal fans who attend every year. They started to participate in new ways, such as enter the apps competition. Here are some of the things we did right:
- Invited bloggers to the media events.
- Give bloggers VIP seating for keynote (Laura Bush spoke).
- Let bloggers interview and be interviewed along with traditional media.
- Encouraged bloggers to use the event hashtag and live tweet/cover the event.
- Invited bloggers to attend special events with their family and let them reserve seats before they were open to the public.
- Allow bloggers to have a table in the vendor area.
What could've been improved:
- Educate all groups – interestingly, there was tension between family history bloggers and traditional media and we could've done better to educate and even to bring the groups together.
- Communication (this is normal, it's a huge conference and our first time working together). Later they added a private Facebook group and that facilitate more communication between groups.
- The biggest mistake I see is not treating bloggers like the VIPs they are. Some people get the wrong idea that bloggers are demanding or snotty (some can be) but in reality many of my clients do not understand the power of aligning your brand and the right bloggers. Many are celebrities to their readers and have a wide social media footprint. Once we treated bloggers like VIPs they participated more and actively promoted the conference (which came out of genuine enthusiasm they felt).
That said, the brand did have A LOT of value to offer bloggers. If you don't, you should pay.
My biggest mistake in Influencer Marketing is to mistaken Influencers as ambassadors to the brands I was serving. Ambassadors are invited but influencers are hired. I have mistaken the number of page views as power of influence. Influencers are meant to be for campaigns and not for long-term social conversation like the ambassadors.
Mistake 2: Mix Bloggers and the Public
When you're planning a live event at your business – it's ideal if you can close your business to the public during the event. Bloggers like to hang out together and it's easier to play off the energy when everyone in the room has their phone out and is sharing. Even if you can't close your business completely try to create a space or hold the event in a room. That way you can easily communicate and interact with bloggers during the event.
Example: The Baked Bear Grand Opening
The Baked Bear recently opened their first store in Utah and had a public grand opening. We came in and planned an event just with bloggers the night before the public grand opening. They had a backdrop for bloggers to pose with their favorite ice cream creation and a photographer on hand to take photos that the brand can use on their social media pages. Over 100 bloggers attended and we had gift bags for the first 30. The next day (not just due to the blogger event), the line was out the door and snaked around the parking lot. It was long! Whenever I drove by there was a line. The Baked Bear did an incredible job on Facebook leading up to their grand opening for several months before with giveaways and teasers. It was hugely successful.
I've seen other openings where it was a mix of the public and bloggers and that dilutes the effect. One blogger got behind the counter and took a video of herself making her own ice cream sandwich creation. She interacted with the staff too – which probably wouldn't have happened if the public was part of the event.
Mistake 3: Inviting the Wrong Type of Bloggers to your Event or Campaign
Just because someone is famous online doesn't mean they're a good fit for your blogging event. For example, I attended an event at a restaurant. The PR firm invited a local tech blogger and a YouTube celebrity who both had HUGE reach and a devoted audience. However, they really weren't the best fit because most of their audience are either outside Utah or they never (or rarely) talk about food or restaurants.
This may not always be obvious though. I may not seem like the best fit either but on my personal blog I do write about Utah businesses and food. I promote giveaways that I write about on Facebook where I get pretty high engagement – and link to my post. I sometimes run Facebook ads on posts that do well organically to get even more reach.
It's ok to ask bloggers to tell you why they might be a good fit if you're unsure. Or hire someone like me who has the relationships to find out for you.
Mistake 4: Not Testing First
The more high ticket your product is the more important it is to vet bloggers by starting out with smaller requests first. Cast a wider net to see what types of blogs or what you can learn from a test run. Then, select bloggers with the most responsive audience to join a higher paying more exclusive campaign. Otherwise you'll send out a ton of free product or pay bloggers and could get mediocre results.
Even starting with a small group can be smart if you're not sure your product is a good fit for bloggers. I did a campaign with an artist and it was probably my worst performing campaign. After the campaign ended a blogger told me she finds it tough to sell art (I think because the relationship with the artist is important to the sale, plus the lack of ability to really see details in images). I learned not to take that sort of client again. I always want a win for both the blogger and the brand.
Example: Purple mattress. First, we found bloggers with a large audience on Facebook to promote their Kickstarter campaign. That was a larger group and a few drove tens of thousands worth of backers for the campaign. Next, I came up with the idea to send bloggers a seat cushion made with the same material that was in the mattress and have bloggers do a raw egg test where they took a video of them sitting on an egg on the cushion to see if it would break. These were original videos with very few guidelines and we did pay for them. The bloggers who performed well on that went to the next level, they got a mattress (and were compensated). A few bloggers are consistently selling mattresses every month (me included) since we posted our reviews.
Mistake 5: Not Sharing Stories about Your Business or Product with Bloggers
It's important to give bloggers information that you want shared and to share stories or facts that they can use in their posts.
Example: A Utah restaurant held an event where the waiters were afraid to talk to us (the restaurant has since closed). When it comes to food events, we want to know everything. Tell us stories. Tell us where the food came from, and why you started your business. Give us something to talk about with every dish – the more unusual or unexpected the better. My very first blogger event that I hosted was with a restaurant called Communal. They did it right. The owner talked to us about his passion for locally sourced food. All these years later I remember the whole experience. We tried many dishes. Looking back, we should've had our bloggers make sure to drive people to their grand opening – specifically sharing when it would open and where the new restaurant was located. I would've also had a giveaway for gift certificates and to enter bloggers had to write about the experience on their blog or social media specifically using the hashtag and mentioning the details about when the restaurant opened.
One campaign I did with my orthodontist had a surprise – he started talking about an appliance like a retainer that helped kids with ADD. The retainer has small balls on it that kids could spin with their tongue and it was soothing. Bloggers loved that and wanted to take pictures. They asked a lot of questions.
Another bad example is the restaurant opening where they put us in a room together and had food ordered. We never heard from the owner or manager. There wasn't a hashtag. They didn't tell us anything about the food or dishes.
I always favor giving bloggers information at the event that tells them the hashtag (or put on nametags) and gives talking points for the event. You can email it to them but why not have some sample tweets or facts right then? I actually hate if I miss stats or info that I want to share on the spot and have to wait to get slides from events. Ideally you give it all to them at the event itself or send out the link beforehand so they can quickly access it.
Mistake 6: Asking People to Do Too Much to Close the Sale
The best bloggers have relationships with their readers and trust what they read from them. You are paying for some of that goodwill and influence. You're paying for the unique angle a blogger can bring. So let a blogger give all of the information and content. Then lead them to a related landing page. On that page you can assume that the blogger has already done the groundwork for a sale. You shouldn't over complicate it.
Example: I did a campaign for a company where we had bloggers do reviews of the product and then drive people to a site to get a free sample. The bloggers got paid for the post and per sample, as well as per sale. The problem is the business messed it up and there were no sales. In fact, there were almost no sample requests.
One problem of many is that the bloggers prepped everyone for the sale and then when people landed on the site there was a long survey to fill out. Instead they should've asked for name, email, and mailing address. By asking for too much, they lost the sale.
Mistake 7: Not Amplifying or Participating in the Campaign
You've spent time and money on an influencer marketing campaign but launch is not the end, it's just the middle phase. There's still active participation during the campaign and follow up afterwards. This is where a lot of brands burn out or fail. They do not retweet, promote, feature or otherwise share content or posts from the campaign as they are being created. They're not commenting or participating in any way. Bloggers love it when a brand participates by sharing content or engaging.
Example: Whole Foods sponsored an event with a local beauty brand. They brought food. They also brought their enthusiasm. They posted signs asking bloggers to share what they think (with the hashtag). They were active on social media the whole time and even after the event – especially on Instagram. It was a total party and the party continued on Instagram for hours after the event. We stayed on for an hour or more just to chat and share. Whole Foods participated the entire time and made it so fun.
I'll end with this last warning. Never ever put high value spa gift cards into a pinata and have bloggers fight it out. You might end up with a blogger in the ER and a fight worse than Black Friday sale at a Nike store. Don't ask me how I know…