Is Influencer Marketing a Waste of Money?



You may have heard about an agency that recently eschewed social media and influencer marketing because “it’s a waste of money.” And the article headline about said agency mentioned that they were thriving because of it.

Did the article get you to click? We clicked. We read.

It reinforced a core belief of ours that it is the task of the digital marketing agency to educate their clients on the how’s and why’s of influencer marketing. The key to finding and executing an influencer strategy that works is knowing what you want to say and finding others to say it with you. Let it be a voice amplification strategy, not a hunting for likes and followers strategy.

The question around the value of using influencers and thought-leaders to promote brands is not new by any stretch of the imagination. There will be instances when it’s not the right fit and it is a waste of time, energy, and resources.

If you’re anxious to read the specifics on how to make influencer marketing work for you, jump ahead.

A lack of success in the social media and influencer space can often be attributed to the mindset of the brand, agency, individual, etc that is running the program. Here’s what stood out to us:

  1. They don’t boost posts or “go hunting for likes and shares”

  2. Staff was allocating 80% of resources to social media and 20% to traditional PR and they discovered no client was happy with that split

  3. Even though they are no longer working with “influencers” they still seek out “people who are respected by their peers or industry as thought leaders”

We have so many thoughts.

Let’s break it down…

1. They don’t boost posts or “go hunting for likes and shares”

We hope that no brand is doing this anymore. Well, the hunting for likes and shares portion of that statement. We do advocate for boosting posts as long as it’s not for boosting’s sake.

Create value. Develop content that says something. Make a connection.  

If a brand’s first question is centered around how they can start and sustain a meaningful conversation with their potential advocates and customers, they will already be a step ahead. Perhaps the audience they reach at the beginning is smaller, but, this is where the age-old quality before quantity comes in.

Don’t go hunting for likes and shares. Go hunting for like-minded individuals who believe what you believe.


2. Staff was allocating 80% of resources to social media and 20% to traditional PR and they discovered no client was happy with that split.

Data. The bedrock on which all marketing programs should be built. Social media ROI is traceable, as is the tangible business impact that influencers have…or don’t have. 

Craft the elements of your marketing program carefully and always tie back to what you’re aiming to achieve. Are you launching a new product? Put more resources towards traditional PR. Are you trying to build a group of brand advocates? Social media or influencers are the way to go. It is not one or the other, rather, how much you are going to invest in each at any given point in time. And the mix is ever-changing as your brand evolves.

3. Even though they are no longer working with influencers, they still seek out “people who are respected by their peers or industry as “thought leaders.”

Uhm. These are still influencers. They are the legitimate influencers that all brands should be searching for at the beginning of their programs. Thought leaders will have engaged audiences that take action.

You might have heard this before: everyone on Instagram is an influencer which means no one is an influencer. It just means that the definition of influencer has changed. And we do like that the article used the word “thought leaders.” Find those individuals who are respected, engaging, and have actual metrics that prove their value.


How to Make Influencer Marketing Work for You

Use an influencer discovery tool: There are many tools out there that enable deep dive vetting of potential thought leaders around engagement rates, activity levels and red flag topics, just to name a few. Try Traackr, HypeAuditor or any one of these free options. This should be the first phase of the identification process. Be aware of these 6 things that you should do before working with influencers.


Be highly targeted in your search: Prioritize the factors. Put follower size and number of likes lower on the list and bump up link clicks, website traffic, follower location, and engagement rate.


Ask influencers to provide metrics: Once you’ve engaged in conversation with those influencers that are identified as a potential fit, dig deeper. Don’t take their follower size at face value. Ask them for specific action metrics such as website traffic, Instagram story link clicks, past campaign performance and incorporate this ask in to the contract. Influencers should be able to provide deep metrics for every campaign in your partnership. Inability to do so is a deal breaker. If they say that they can’t or won’t provide this information, walk away, especially if it would be a paid collaboration. This is not an unreasonable ask.


Create custom influencer tracking: How do you measure the effectiveness of your influencer campaigns? Build out custom tracking links and tagging structures that will allow you to determine just how much website traffic, engagement, and goal conversions originated from your thought leaders. You will also be able to see which particular influencers are effective based on how their users interacted with your website and content.


Understand your campaigns: Know what you want influencers for. Try a tiered approach. Work with different types of influencers (ie: mega, macro, etc) and split your thought leaders into two groups – one-off campaigns and always-on partnerships. Learn how to build the perfect influencer mix.


Build a relationship: You could treat your collaboration as a strictly financial transaction. But we—along with every other top social media and influencer marketing company—guarantee that when you put the time and effort in to building a lasting relationship, you’ll see better results.


Amplify your influencers: Don’t leave them hanging. A good partnership works when both parties are invested. Tout your influencers, engage with them and share the content they’re creating on your brand channels.


Experiment with paid media: Is a thought leader creating custom content for your platforms? Use their engaged social media fans to build a targeted audience list and use it in social media ads. When we do this for clients, click through rates are 6% higher and cost per click is 8% lower.


Engage an agency: There is always the option to bring on an agency to help build and manage influencer campaigns. Not only will they be up on all of the best practices, they should have access to tools and platforms, as well as existing relationships with thought leaders. Let them do the heavy lifting.


Stick with agencies that do one or the other – traditional PR or social media / influencer marketing. We’ve yet to find an agency that has been able to excel at all three at once. In these instances, specialization is key.

And kudos to The Atticism. They did their traditional PR job well. You and I both know about them, now.