Influencers have been put on a pedestal for the past few years. Everyone from top global brands to small startups have used influencer marketing to promote themselves. But if you’re keeping your distance from this marketing channel, it’s likely because you’re afraid of the challenges you might have to face.
Like every other marketing channel, influencer marketing also has a few unique challenges that could get in the way of success for a brand. But understanding these challenges can equip you with the knowledge to overcome them. And that’s exactly why we’ve spoken with some of the top experts in influencer marketing to see what kind of challenges they experience.
By knowing which challenges you could possibly face, you can prepare to face those challenges. Here are some of the biggest influencer marketing challenges, according to 45 experts so you can plan your next campaign better.
#1. Jeff Bullas – JeffBullas.com
The biggest challenge is measuring its effectiveness. That spectrum ranges from the old traditional metrics of impressions right through to the ROI of leads and sales.
Brands need to make sure that they are able to measure the results with data for the outcome they are looking for.
#2. Lee Odden – TopRank Marketing
In a B2B context, brands have had a tough time letting go of traditional approaches to content creation and often rely on influencers solely to add flavor after a content project has already been created.
Involving credible third party voices to a project from the start will inspire more active engagement and promotion. B2B brands that let go of the idea that only marketing can create content are able to develop relationships with a VIP group of influencers that can provide a significant boost in brand content quantity, quality and reach.
#3. Ted Rubin – TedRubin.com
Influencer marketing, when used to its best effect, is about building a network of business relationships that will yield results over time. You’ll get as much out of the program as you put into it. So if your goal is to find a platform, and make this like programmatic advertising, and do whatever you can to automate the process… you will be throwing the majority of your budget down the drain.
A Network Gives You Reach… But A Community Gives You Power! Relationships are like muscle tissue… the more they are engaged, the stronger and more valuable they become. So if you are only focused on the Money… You risk completely overlooking the People.
#4. Shane Barker – ShaneBarker.com
The challenge is also mainly due to the limitations in influencer marketing tools. Most tools can help you find influencers and connect with them. Not a lot of tools give you the ability to keep track of the campaign performance and activity. That’s why I like tools like Assembly, which helps you keep track of what your influencers are doing and what kind of results they’re driving in real time.
With the right tools, marketers will find it easier to overcome common influencer marketing challenges, such as finding the right influencers, reaching out to them, and analyzing campaign performance.
#5. Mark W. Schaefer – BusinessesGrow.com
I just authored this research paper on B2B influence best practices that may be helpful as well.
#6. Ian Cleary – RazorSocial
#7. Steve Rayson – BuzzSumo
For example, the number of followers someone has is not a good indicator of engagement. Look at retweet rates i.e. how often their tweets are retweeted on average.
Look for people with just say a few thousands of followers but a high level of engagement in your niche. Often it is easier to build relationships with these individuals.
Also when it comes to reach don’t neglect new journalists. I have found that building relationships with junior journalists, and even interns, can be very beneficial. Start as always with how you can help them, for example what data, case studies and insights can you share that will be valuable to them.
#8. Marsha Collier – Cool eBay Tools
I am a writer. I write books and content, but I don’t sell myself as an influencer. I’ve built a long and profitable career by selling close to 2 million books and more recently branding myself on social media.
I’m not self proclaimed, I became an influencer because I did the work.
#9. Erik Qualman – EQualman.com
To ensure I over-delivered on my commitments I nearly ground myself into a nervous breakdown. I learned a tremendous amount from this experience. Today, I find myself saying “no” more often then I say “yes.” The beauty of this is that allows me to really develop deep long term relationships with incredible brands and partners – friends really. Both sides benefit! By saying no more it allows me to say yes more to the best future fits.
#10. Sam Hurley – OPTIM-EYEZ
I’ll break it down into 3 pitfalls…
#1: Lack of research — Brands reaching out to marketing influencers to promote travel services, for example.
Follower counts attract attention, but for conversions..? Relevancy matters infinitely more than potential reach!
The right influencer for travel services would be an influencer heavily involved in the travel industry (or one of similar relevance).
#2: Lack of time — Brands not allowing space for adequate planning; contacting influencers with the intention of promotions going live tomorrow…
This isn’t conducive to best results.
#3: One shot ‘campaigns’ — Optimal ROI is achieved when real, long-term relationships are formed between influencers and brands.
A single tweet may work wonders for some… But often, this isn’t ideal.
When relationships and promotions are built over time, audiences and customers begin to identify these human connections; they take notice and gradually merge the authority of influencers with the brands they promote — establishing great trust and recognition.
This perception enhances brand reputation. And solid reputation attracts custom.
#11. Mark Fidelman – Fanatics Media
#12. John Hall – Influence & Co.
Most marketing speakers I see leading the way are big fans earning influence first. If you start by building your own influence, influencers want to work with you and they will want to advocate and be connected to your brand. Influencers love one thing more than getting money and it’s getting more influence. If you can help them gain influence by being connected to your brand then the relationship will have much more ROI in the long term.
#13. David Meerman Scott – DavidMeermanScott.com
#14. Noah Kagan – Sumo
#15. Aaron Orendorff – iconiContent
Every industry has thought leaders. Every industry has stand out stars. In B2B, influencers are especially apt at distribution and co-creation of content. However, never overlook the relational side. Building affinity and an emotional connection between an audience and a brand is a must. Influencers can often be that connection point if leveraged over time instead of in a ‘one and done’ blitz.
#16. John Jantsch – Duct Tape Marketing
#17. Brian Carter – The Brian Carter Group
And of course, I’m referring to “high influence” influencers here – celebrities or niche micro-celebrities that the end consumer doesn’t know personally. Results vary… from simple awareness and engagement, all the way to sales and profits.
It’s not that it doesn’t work – it’s just that it’s not the only option, it requires a lot of manual coordination and it’s hard to control. And most companies can’t afford a Beyonce or Matthew McConaughey, so we get into gray areas with micro-celebrities where it’s impossible to tell how influential they are unless you use great link tracking and analytics, and even then you only find out after you’ve already paid.
But the research suggests that our friends and family may be even more influential than what we normally think of as influencers. Friends and family may be “low influence” or “medium influence” globally, but they are powerful to us personally.
So, we prefer an alternative type of influencer marketing: creating social proof and word of mouth via social advertising.
We work with a large number of low and medium level influencers (your friends and family) who engage with you rather than a small number of famous strangers trying to impress you. We prefer to reach a large number of people who will pass things on either accidentally (via newsfeed display algorithms) or intentionally to the people they have strong emotional bonds with. We don’t have to seek out, contact, organize or manage these people. It’s much lower maintenance that way.
What that looks like is creating compelling content (image or video) and advertising it via Facebook ads and Twitter ads. Then people comment and share and their friends see it and engage also. You can control the content you create, and via an ad platform, you can test a lot of different content to see what works best and control who sees what.
You have less control or testing ability with high influence “influencers” because they may limit how many posts they give you, they post publicly and everyone sees the same thing. You have one chance to get it right. And if all the data on content tells us anything, it’s that which content drives customer responses is often surprising, so you have to test a lot of content to get stellar results.
If we use video content, we can create a video retargeting audience from that, then create a conversion-oriented ad campaign to turn video viewers into sales. That’s ideal for us, because many influencer campaigns end with just awareness and engagement. Yes, awareness is a critical part of the funnel, but there are ways to get awareness that don’t make conversion easy. This retargeting option does. It’s nice to have that, if you care about driving toward revenue and profits.
#18. Shama Hyder – Marketing Zen
#19. Daniel Knowlton – KPS Digital Marketing
I invest a lot of time in building these relationships because I know they are valuable, but still, it’s difficult to measure ROI.
For example, X client converted because they may have:
- Seen X influencer speak about me on stage.
- 3 weeks later they randomly saw one of my tweets and follow me.
- They see another influencer share one of my videos.
- 1 week later they read one of our blogs and contacted us and then convert.
Tracking every touch point in this kind of customer journey is difficult.
#20. Lilach Bullock – LilachBullock.com
It doesn’t matter if we’re talking one piece of sponsored content on their blog, or if it’s a bigger campaign with an Instagram star, the product needs to fit the influencer and the influencer needs to seem like he or she would genuinely be interested in it. Their audiences trust them for a reason, and if the influencer doesn’t respect that trust it can definitely damage their reputation and even their influence.
When using influencers, it’s important to find the right ones for your particular needs – and then let them use their best judgment on how to create content for their audience; after all, there’s a reason they got to where they are and there’s a reason why people follow them.
#21. Dave Schneider – Ninja Outreach
Will they read your email?
Get interested by your well-crafted subject line?
Will they notice your tags on social media?
Would they reply to your expert roundup request?
Will they find your blog post valuable?
What’s the best approach to let them know you exist and want to connect?
Nailing up the best strategy to get through busy influencers’ filters is, in my opinion, the first and most difficult part of influencer marketing. Maintaining a relationship with influencers is also challenging, but before all else, you have to overcome that hurdle of getting your foot in the door.
#22. Rebecca Lieb – RebeccaLieb.com
On the B2B side, there remains confusion between “influencer” and “shill.” Demands and quotas are being made on influencers that could jeopardize their status as influencers, e.g. “we’d like you to speak at this event, in return you have to blog X number of times and tweet these specific tweets.” Marketers have to loosen the reins and trust that influencers know how and when to speak to the audiences they’ve built because of influence, not marketer demands. It’s a delicate balance!
#23. Aaron Agius – Louder.Online
I’m not talking about the kind of influencer marketing where you pay someone to pitch your product via sponcon. That’s actually pretty straightforward – it’s the relationship-building stuff I see people really struggling to get right.
A lot has been written about how you need to build relationships with influencers who’ll put your brand in front of their audiences, letting you leverage their reach (I’ll be honest – I’ve written some of it myself). But too many people are trying to shortcut the process by spamming out requests to influencers in their field. Relationships aren’t built that way.
Really taking advantage of influencer marketing isn’t something you can “hack” in a day. I get emails all the time from people asking me, “I think your audience would love my article – can you share it with your followers?” That’s not a relationship. That’s just you trying to take advantage of the audience I’ve built.
Doing influencer marketing right is a long-term game. It’s about networking, contributing value to relationships, and creating something that’s actually worth sharing. If you aren’t willing to put in the effort, you need a different marketing strategy.
#24. Michelle Killebrew – MichelleKillebrew.com
However, brands continue to struggle with proving return on investment (ROI) for the programs’ efforts, especially at an influencer-specific level. I believe we will see brands and influencers forming longer term relationships where they can both derive value from a deeper understanding of each other, and earn deeper trust with between the brand, the influencer and the audience.
#25. Mike Allton – The Social Media Hat
Influencer Marketing takes time – no matter how you approach it or what tools you use. That’s because, at its core, influencer marketing is about building relationships.
Better tools and approaches can no doubt save you time in identifying influencers and streamlining success. However, the individuals you begin to work with will still move forward at their own pace, regardless of your needs. That means you need to have patience with them, and it may mean that management has to have patience with you!
As long as you put the right processes in place, you can remain confident that your influencer marketing activities will pay off, in time!
#26. Brian Fanzo – iSocialFanz
This failure occurs because they start their influencer marketing efforts with who they want to work with, or what platforms they want to use rather than asking themselves the following questions first:
- What business goals do we seek to achieve or business problems we want to solve?
- What does success look like for us the brand, the influencer and the community?
- What data will we have available to measure these objectives?
The recent documented success of “niche influencers” and new media influencer collaborations on networks such as Snapchat, Instagram and Musical.ly are a direct result of brands focusing on success, business goals and how to measure before thinking about who they will work with and what networks they’ll leverage.
The reason this mindset shift is so important is because there are more than one type of influencer and in many cases a campaigns success requires working with more than one type of influencer.
The three types of influencers:
- Celebrity / Social Amplifier
- Subject Matter Experts / Employees
- Thought Leader / Connectors
Brands must embrace this new approach so they can document the success of these influencer marketing campaigns and begin establishing partnerships, not just one off contracts with influencers allowing them to build unique campaigns to solve unique business objectives.
#27. Dan Scalco – Digitalux
It’s important to create a relationship rather than force anyone into anything. The number one thing you can do is spend some time getting to know the influencer, who their audience is, and what motivates them. If that aligns with your brand, you have a good relationship and a (possibly) successful campaign on your hands.
#28. Eric Enge – Stone Temple Consulting
It starts with identifying a few people you’d like to get to know better and build a relationship with. Then, you’ve got to spend time learning about them so you know what’s of interest to them.
Then you can use that information to find ways to engage with them, with a focus of adding value to their day. In the early going, you need to give, give, give. Share lots of their stuff, comment on their posts, and support them in many ways (but don’t go way off the deep end into stalker mode with this). What you get in return at this stage is a gradual building of trust with the influencer.
Then, as you get further along, you can look for opportunities for collaboration. Some ideas:
- Ask them to contribute a quote to an article (or a roundup like this one!)
- See if they’ll let you interview them.
- If they share something with you, or openly online, that is an area of interest to them, suggest a project where you could so most of the work, but you collaborate on definition of the project, and in promoting the result.
It’s a process, and you need to embrace that to be successful!
#29. Chelsea Krost – ChelseaKrost.com
Funny enough, most of the challenges I have experienced has more to do with the client than the actual influencers. I find myself needing to extensively educate the client on the impact of Influencer Marketing because of the skepticism and confusion on how to track ROI. Millennials are getting most of their information on social media and making purchases based off Influencer and Blogger content and reviews.
Twitter users report a 5.2X increase in purchase intent when exposed to promotional content from influencers. As traditional marketing methods become less effective – brands need to realize that Influencer Marketing will help generate engagement, user generated content, and brand exposure into new niche markets, which will subsequently help increase sales. If brand awareness is not enough, then clear goals should be established to track results with metrics like website views, click rate, video views, app downloads, email opt-ins, etc.
#30. Chad Pollitt – Native Advertising Institute
These people are typically very busy and probably get pitched all of the time. Send too many impersonalized pitches and you look like a spammer. Send just a small handful that are highly personalized and you run the risk of not getting any influencers. There’s an art and science too it. I recommend taking a page out of a PR book on good pitching and experiment with that as your baseline.
#31. Susanna Gebauer – The Social Ms
But even if they do, meaningless messages and messages that do not fit the influencer’s audience are only going to hurt both your and their reputation, with the marketing effect being mostly negligible.
Without a carefully crafted and meaningful message that speaks the language of the influencer’s audience, influencer marketing will only lead to frustration and not to success.
Far too many people don’t invest enough thought into choosing the right influencer – and thinking about what kind of audience this influencer has. Crafting the right message for the right influencer audience is what is key to successful influencer marketing.
#32. Jason Keath – JasonKeath.com
Influencer marketing works really well over the long term but is not great as a short term spike in sales or awareness. Yes, it’s difficult to find quality influencers that match your goals. Yes, it’s difficult to manage great influencer campaigns and scale their effects. But the key is to work with experts and have manageable expectations.
One big piece of this is that you need to choose either awareness or conversion as your goal. And focus efforts there. Doing both is rarely possible with influencers. And influencer marketing is immensely better at awareness that direct sales conversions.
Focus on how influencers can help you build awareness and have a long term view on your relationships with influencers. Then pair your influencer marketing efforts with retargeting. That’s where the work pays off.
#33. Jenn Herman – JennsTrends.com
The brands have long lists with up to 20 requirements, including a set number of social media posts, a set number of mentions, requirements for email campaigns, the type of content that must be included in the photo or video, who can appear in the photo or video, and so many more criteria. While a few of these criteria as guidelines is good, a laundry list of requirements will not land you a quality influencer.
Any good influencer wants to have creative control over how the content is created and distributed. They know their audience and what will resonate with them or drive interaction. So brands need to pull back on the control and build a relationship of trust with the influencer first to establish a working relationship that is mutually beneficial to both parties.
#34. Doug Kessler – Velocity Partners
That’s a serious investment but well worth it if you’re serious about playing a role in your industry’s conversation. Most people who get called ‘influencers’ are getting approached a lot.
You need to think hard about what you can do for them before you ask them what they can do for you.
Have you read everything they’ve published?
Have you commented on it, shared it, recommended it?
Do you understand the value they bring to their audience and know how you can add to that value?
If you don’t have good answers to these questions, don’t approach anyone yet.
#35. Gini Dietrich – Spin Sucks
Clients tend to want the big names because they’re well-known and flashy. But it’s rare you actually have sales from those big names.
I much prefer to recommend organizations work with micro-influencers. These people are well-known in their circles, have loyal followings, and can sell a product if they are inclined. Sure, they may have only 100 fans/followers, but if all 100 buy when the influencer says they love something, I’d much rather have that than say, a Richard Branson who builds huge awareness but zero sales.
Be smart about your influencer outreach. Find the people who will help you achieve your business goals—not just those who have big names.
#36. Shonali Burke – Shonali Burke Consulting
They *get* that it’s not about quantity but quality. They *get* that good influencer marketing requires an “always on” approach.
They *get* that it’s an investment, not just of money, but of time, which is at a far greater premium.
But they are so often under the gun to deliver “results” that all this goes out the door, and they end up paying for influencers, e.g. through a marketplace. And they may get short-term benefits, but they definitely do not get long-term results… and that’s very disheartening.
#37. Marji Sherman – MarjiJSherman.com
There are too many misconceptions out there around what makes a great influencer. We need to educate brands more on what influence actually means. Influence is about changing behavior, it’s not about mere popularity.
Many brands think an influencer is just someone with a ton of followers on their social media networks, when it is really way more than that. You need to make sure the influencer who are looking at is influential in your community.
Take a look at how many times their content is shared, and, more importantly, who is sharing it. This will tell you if they are reaching the right audience for your brand.
#38. Cameron Conaway – CameronConaway.com
#39. Debra Mastaler – Alliance-Link
I couldn’t agree more. I work around this issue by giving each influencer a unique URL to promote, this way we track the custom URL’s and have a much easier time assigning credit and determining sales numbers.
You can also do this with special coupon codes. Have you ever landed on a site offering discounts to GoDaddy and noticed the discount code includes the name of the site? This makes it easy to see where the coupon code came from and track conversion rates. If you search on the phrase “promotional code software” you’ll find lots of sites offering software to create and track special promo codes and unique URL’s.
Keep in mind “influencer marketing” doesn’t always have to refer to a person; websites/webpages can also be influencers and part of your focus. (Note: I have no affiliation with Linqia or GoDaddy.)
#40. Shelly Kramer – V3B
Add to that inexperience and lack of personal network of many who manage influencer programs, especially for large agencies, and you’ve got a recipe for an influencer program that won’t deliver the kind of results brands seek.
Great influencers aren’t solely identified by friend/follower bases. True influencers have credibility, a network, a community that goes far beyond numbers, which can be and routinely, are gamed. The right kind of influencers have the right kind of audience and, equally as important, they understand how to compel that audience to action. Those things take skill.
In addition, often brands or agencies managing influencer campaigns don’t know the right kind of ask of an influencer. They take a formulaic approach like: “Write this, share it twice on Twitter, twice on Facebook, and twice on Instagram.” Boom. Done.
The reality is that with all the competition for attention today, it takes more strategic thinking than that to deliver successful results by way of an influencer program.
In sum, biggest challenges for brands is finding the right influencers, working together to craft the right kind of campaigns, and mutually understanding how to compel an audience to action.
#41. Mike Schiemer – Bootstrap Business
It’s relatively easy to locate potential Influencers and to measure their actual influence (cutting through the vanity numbers on social media), but you don’t know for sure how they will execute their campaigns.
I hate to use pathetic pop culture references (my wife unfortunately watches a lot of E News that I overhear), but I will because they stand out in my mind as horrible examples of Influencer marketing. Last year socialite Scott Disick posted a sponsored Instagram post including the copied and pasted text of the actual online campaign instructions.
Very recently actress Tia Mowry was promoting DQ (Dairy Queen), and in the same promotional interview she talked about staying in shape by avoiding dairy!
Black sheep Rob Kardashian was being paid well to promote sock and clothing brands before going off on an explicit and borderline illegal tirade about Blac Chyna.
These are epic fails in the execution phase and you can’t be sure a similar result won’t happen with your Influencer(s). And that can make all the difference for your campaign ROI. This can make Influencer marketing somewhat of a gamble depending on your company.
For additional opinions and insight, I hope you will read my article Influencer Marketing Tips 101.
#42. Ross Simmonds – RossSimmonds.com
The best approach for marketers would be to be a bit more strategic in the message the influencers are putting out there and arming them with the direction you want them to take. Rather than simply sending a check and product, marketers need to be explicit in stating they want the influencer to help them generate email leads or actual sales using a promo code. Marketers need to help their influencers help them drive meaningful and measurable results!
#43. Ana Hoffman – TrafficGenerationCafe.com
Influencer marketing has nothing to do with marketing TO influencers.
Influencer marketing is relationship marketing. And you cannot build relationships using software, or following templates.
There are no shortcuts to building relationships.
#44. Josh Steimle – JoshSteimle.com
The kind of influencers I work with are journalists, writers, and contributors at top-tier publications. As a contributor myself, I know what works with me, and it’s when someone reaches out and doesn’t simply ask for a favor, but gives me real value, develops a relationship over time, and then they don’t even have to pitch me, because by this time I want to help them out.
I follow the same recipe with those I reach out to, and although the relationships I develop sometimes never result in a story or write-up, that’s fine, I enjoy building relationships for the sake of getting to know new people and if there’s any other value that comes my way as a result that’s the cherry on top. But this recipe takes time to cook up, and most people aren’t willing to spend that time.