If you thought social media influencers were just a buzzword, think again. More than 60 percent of marketers increased their budgets for influencers in 2017. Largely misunderstood as the use of celebrities to hawk a product (though, to be fair, influencing can take this form), influencing also extends to practices such as getting a niche industry expert to promote a service. In short, the idea is that if an influential social media user backs your business or product on their page, it will send out a siren song to your target market.
Instagram influencers are particularly popular – not only can their written endorsement lure new consumers toward a product, but a compelling photo adds to the pitch. However, while Instagram influencing has double the potential, it also leads to double the gaffe when it goes south. If you're considering using influencers, it's important to understand the goals of this practice so you can avoid common pitfalls.
Understanding the Goals of Using Influencers
To wield influencers the right way, you should understand what this type of social media marketing is good at and when you need another angle. The primary benefits of influencing are to promote your brand in an authentic way, reach a large audience and create a positive impression of your company. In other words, users need to be convinced the influencer actually uses your brand products and/or services. If you can't get in touch with an influencer who organically makes sense with your brand, or if you're not ready for an influx in traffic to your website, etc. – you may not be ready to implement influencers on Instagram.
So you think you're ready to put out influencer posts? Only if you're prepared to dodge and weave right around these all too common and very embarrassing mistakes. If you've seen these influencer fails in action on Instagram, you'll know the influencer and the brand often get called out in the comment section of the post. And it can get brutal.
1. Captions Gone Wrong
The caption on an influencer post is very, very important. Given that your influencer has thousands (if not millions) of followers, you can't proofread the caption enough. One of the more common and humiliating gaffes related to Instagram influencing is when the influencer accidentally posts the brand instructions in the caption. For instance, the caption might include a message from your marketing manager that reads something like "Please post at noon this Friday with a message about how you love to use ACME products after a workout." This lets the audience in on how the sausage is made. It not only takes away from the authenticity of the post, but it shows sloppiness and generally looks bad.
Captions gone wrong can also include mistakes like spelling errors, bad grammar or verbose paragraphs that don't make a lot of sense. Train your influencer on how to write a clear, concise, well-written caption. You may want to craft one yourself and send it over (and instruct the influencer to remove all surrounding text, of course).
2. Busted With a Competitor
If your influencer is telling the world they love your food and then a week later they post a candid shot of themselves eating a competitor brand – no one will take their sponsored posts seriously again. Make sure your influencer won't post content with a competitor. If you're in the travel space, your competitor shouldn't be swearing by your booking tools one week and then using a competitor the next, so choose your contract language carefully. When you're researching an influencer before you agree to work together, see if they've done sponsored Instagram posts in the past and then scour their photos to make sure they don't brand jump.
3. Really Bad Timing
Even a clever Instagram post from an influencer can turn sour if it's posted in poor taste. Often, this means it had insensitive timing. If you have an influencer post that is about to drop on the day that a hurricane hits Florida, using language about how your Miami-inspired swimsuits will "blow people away" isn't a good move. In the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, be very careful about what you deploy. Often, the right move is postponing the post for a week or so. Your influencer may not think to make these nuanced choices, so stay in regular communication about when to post which content.
You also need to consider your influencer and their overall reputation. If you have a relationship with an influencer and they get into hot water over hateful comments online or another PR disaster, pull the plug on your post! It's bad timing to partner with someone who has a bad reputation while they're in the thick of a scandal. In many cases, ending the influencer relationship altogether may be called for.
Instagram influencing can get your brand in front of a lot of new eyes in a short period of time. The ROI is often significant, making this type of digital marketing very appealing for brands across the spectrum. Just make sure to choose your influencer wisely and remain in touch regarding how they present your brand on their page and when. Then, watch the new fans of your brand roll in!