As interest in influencer marketing has soared over the last several years, so has the number of agencies that promise to help brands get it done. And finding influencers, vetting them, briefing them, executing contracts with them, paying them and then ensuring they do their assignments can be a ton of work. It’s little surprise then that some brands would want to outsource it to experts.
The logical next question, however, is how to choose among the thousands of specialty and generalist agencies that all say they can help. What follows are eight criteria to separate the experts from the wannabes, and to make your search for the right influencer marketing agency a bit less confusing.
1. Relevant Experience
Influencer marketing is nearly 15 years old at this point, so many agencies now have lots of experience. Simply asking for relevant case studies for your industry (i.e., food, fashion, CPG, etc.) and your desired outcome (i.e., web traffic, in-store sales, etc.) is a good place to start seeing who to have deeper conversations with.
2. Influencer Selection Criteria
A few years ago, influencer selection often simply involved finding someone who created content relevant to your industry and who seemed to “fit” the brand. Today, we can actually analyze the makeup of an influencer’s audience to ensure their audience overlaps with the brand’s audience. We can see their saturation rate — meaning the percentage of content they produce that is sponsored — to make sure it’s not too high. We can see if they’ve mentioned competitors recently in their posts. We can see if their language is brand-safe or not.
With so many advanced filtering systems in use today, using “brand fit” only is no longer acceptable.
3. Content Evaluation Criteria
Over the last few years, our influencers have produced tens of thousands of pieces of branded content. What we found in evaluating this dataset is that there is wide variability in performance from one piece of content to another. Unsurprisingly, some content works, and some content does not, just as with content created by a brand or its creative agency.
Given the performance variability, how does the agency evaluate each piece of content after it goes live to measure performance?
Content should be scored based on its organic performance in terms of likes, comments and shares, but it’s also important to review those comments to look out for signs of inauthentic, off-topic or purchased comments.
4. Targeting Strategy
An agency that’s simply offering to find, brief and manage influencers for a brand isn’t adding much value to the modern marketing mix.
Organic influencer content reaches a certain subset of the influencer’s followers (usually around 9% in our experience, although that varies based on what social networks are utilized).
As no brand or agency can control which 9% see the content, what’s the agency’s strategy for ensuring the content reaches the exact target audience of the brand? That high-performing content that was scored in Step No. 3 can now be boosted through a paid strategy to reach the right target audience.
5. Measurement Strategy
Influencer marketing measurement is worthy of separate articles on the topic. But one basic question to ask influencer agencies is how they count impressions of the content. Are they counting one impression for each follower an influencer has? If so, given the roughly 9% organic reach number, they are using a method that overstates reach by more than 10 times. Can they report on true views of the content only?
In addition, neither reach nor engagement rate correlates with sales, so measuring impressions and engagements only is not sufficient. What business metrics can the agency measure beyond these vanity metrics? There are many sophisticated measurement methodologies available now. You should choose one of the many agencies that offers those.
6. Optimization Strategy
A lot of influencer campaigns rely on influencers producing their content according to a calendar and then watching to see what happens. But every other form of digital marketing is optimized, usually daily, to maximize performance.
Influencer marketing can be optimized as well, with everything from the content to post types to targeting, and even influencers being adjusted as we go. What’s the agency’s plan for optimization?
7. Content Rights
Brands are investing significant resources in this branded content. Different agencies work out different agreements with the influencers on what rights the brand gets to that content. In the best case, brands get a perpetual license to reuse the content on any platform. Ask the agency what rights your brand would have to the content being produced.
8. Guaranteed Results
Finally, what outcomes will the agency guarantee to their brand clients, if any? Are they guaranteeing deliverables, such as the number of influencers and the number of pieces of content that will be produced? Are they guaranteeing more than that, such as a specific volume of traffic to a targeted website? What happens if they don’t reach these guarantees? What remedies are open to the brand?
While guaranteeing sales is extraordinarily difficult in most agency relationships, influencer agencies should be able to guarantee certain specific outcomes around true views, engagements or web traffic.
Choosing an agency of any sort is a difficult undertaking, as one can start to sound very much like another. By going into the conversation with these eight specific criteria, you should be able to filter the list to find the subset most likely to drive strong results for your brand.