As recently as a few years ago, influencer marketing was still considered an edgy tactic for many brands. Fast-forward to today, and the practice of partnering with social media creators has basically become commonplace — and a proven method of boosting brand awareness and driving sales among consumers.
There are hundreds of agencies and platforms that support the influencer marketing space. Since early 2018, over 300 new ones have entered the market. As the industry continues to mature, it can be increasingly difficult to sort through all the companies that claim to provide the best solution for finding the right influencer for the job.
In the years since I founded my own company, I’ve learned what’s most important to clients when they’re searching for a potential agency partner. Whether you’re considering an influencer platform or a full-service influencer marketing agency, here are five great questions to ask when evaluating your options.
1. Do the services meet my needs?
This one seems obvious, but different influencer-focused businesses provide a fairly wide range of services. Some are limited to offering “influencer discovery platforms,” which are, in essence, DIY interfaces for searching and connecting with various digital creators. This may be the ideal option for a brand that has plenty of internal resources for managing influencer outreach and campaign management. If your company needs more strategic support, you might want to partner with an agency that can handle everything from influencer selection to project management, optimization and reporting.
Start by clearly defining your key performance indicators and assessing the resources you have on hand to dedicate to achieving them. It can be time-consuming to research and identify influencers, manage the contract and negotiations, communicate brand goals and review content for quality and the Federal Trade Commission’s required disclosures.
If you have a team that can manage all that, then focus your search on influencer marketing platforms that augment your own efforts. Otherwise, turn your attention to full-service agencies, and be prepared to ask for a detailed description of what their managed solutions include.
2. What kind of team is dedicated to my business?
With an influencer platform, you’re paying for access to a technology solution. With a full-service agency, ideally, you get expertise and hands-on support from a team of experts.
Start by taking a look at the agency’s About or Staff page on their website. Do they have a large enough team to cover all the services you need? One or two people may be enough to help you run your first campaign, but your needs can start piling up fairly quickly.
For many brands, the minimum to request from an agency team would be an account or sales representative, an influencer representative and a quality assurance analyst. Additional staff could include team members who are focused on client services, reporting and metrics management, and strategy and insights.
Some agencies limit themselves to acting as go-betweens between brand and influencer. Others offer strategic planning and creative ideation as well as influencer management. The value of working with an agency is to benefit from their experience and expertise, so be sure you’re getting the kind of team that can truly help you achieve your campaign goals.
3. How do you vet influencers?
The process of vetting influencers will be different for every agency, and some may avoid vetting altogether in favor of building as large a network as possible.
At the bare minimum, be sure that you’re working with ethical influencers whose audiences are made up of real people. Most well-established agencies have processes for detecting influencer fraud and prioritize working only with influencers who are authentically growing and driving engagement within their communities.
Beyond the issues of fraud and fake followers, agencies ideally should be vetting for campaign performance and brand alignment. Ask how they plan to identify influencers who match your brand’s aesthetic and values, are within the correct vertical with the right audience demographic and are high quality with respect to content and photography.
4. How is campaign quality assured?
A DIY influencer platform may not have any guarantees with regards to quality, but a full-service agency will likely offer some sort of quality assurance process. Do they have a team dedicated to checking the quality of content, brand assets and disclosures? If not, are there at least checkpoints built into the campaign workflow so mistakes can be caught before publication?
Ask what your options are for catching mistakes before and after a post goes live. Can you request edits? Is the contract written so that payment is dependent on deliverables? How are influencers held to the business goals and guidance provided by the brand?
5. What kind of reporting is provided?
The final questions to ask before entering into a partnership have to do with reporting and return on investment. What kind of metrics will be provided to you? Is application programming interface data available for each influencer? How about tracking pixels for website engagement?
It’s perfectly reasonable to request sample reports from an agency when you’re in the evaluation phase. Not only is it important to see the amount and type of data that will be collected, but you’ll also need to be certain that there’s ongoing support for campaign analysis and real-time optimization. After all, metrics are meaningless without understanding, and you’ll want to know whether it’s possible to make changes on the fly based on performance.
While the due diligence process can seem daunting for brands that are just getting started with influencer marketing, there are many benefits to working with a good partner. In the end, you should be able to save time, reduce your in-house workload and have a stronger, more impactful campaign — but that’s assuming you end up with the right partner. Invest the time upfront to find a solid match so you can feel confident that you’ve picked the best team to help guide you toward success.