Maris Callahan

What You Need to Know About an Influencer Marketing Agency

By: Maris Callahan | August 1, 2017 | 

What You Need to Know About an Influencer Marketing AgencyInfluencer marketing is a hot topic, top-of-mind for brands right now because trust in influencers continues to increase.

That said, it’s a lot of work to research, pitch, and collaborate with the right influencers,

And it makes it pretty tempting to outsource influencer marketing.

There are dozens of networks that claim to streamline the process of connecting brands with influencers.

These types of companies typically act as an agent, or middleman, between brand and influencer.

They take the heavy lifting away from the brand.

The influencer marketing agency will run your campaign from soup to nuts and get you the influencer engagement you’re seeking.

While they can be incredibly efficient and produce meaningful results, there are a few things you should know before you outsource.

An Influencer Marketing Agency Can Be Very Expensive

An influencer marketing agency can be hugely expensive when you compare their cost to what you’ll pay when you work with individual influencers.

Last year, I ran a program for a brand with an influencer marketing agency that generated 90 pieces of sponsored content on 45 different blogs during a six-month time period.

Each month, we paid the agency $25,000 (a total of $150,000).

Fifteen pieces of content ran that month along with a bunch of social media amplifications.

I eventually learned the agency was paying each influencer $750 for both pieces of content ($33,750), plus social media posts.

That means had we engaged the influencers directly, we could have saved more than $116,000.

Of course, the agency already has a pre-vetted pool of influencers from which they select, and they handle all of the relationship management.

For a single brand owner to do all of that would be a significant time investment.

If you have the time to build relationships with influencers, it’s always better (and more cost-effective, in this case) to work one-on-one.

If influencer relations is the last thing you have time for and you decide to outsource it, be prepared to pay a premium.

Your Influencers May Not Be Hand-picked 

Even though most influencer marketing agencies do have great relationships with some of the top influencers in their industries, that may not be who is working on your campaign.

Most of the agencies connecting influencers and brands have large databases of blogs they’ve prequalified for brands by making sure they fill certain requirements.

Here are some of them:

  • Do they post regularly?
  • Do they have a certain amount of traffic?
  • Have they been blogging for a certain amount of time?

Once you fit those requirements, you usually get a tracking pixel the network makes you put on your blog and then you’re eligible for work.

When a brand hires an agency, they generally send a mass email encouraging the influencers to “apply” for the opportunity.

The influencers fill out the questionnaire and the client chooses the blogs they like best for the gig.

This system is super-efficient for the agency.

But most of the well-established influencers with the highest traffic, most engaged community, and creative ideas aren’t filling out applications for brands to hire them.

They’re pitching ideas directly to big brands at much higher rates than $750 for two articles.

If you’re a brand and you want to populate the internet with content, such as to promote a contest, an influencer marketing agency could be your answer.

If you want to build long-term relationships with high-quality influencers, reach out to them directly and initiate a conversation.

You Pay for Content You Don’t Control

On social media, I see influencers lamenting almost daily about the brands they work with.

“This brand wants me to change my photo,” or “that brand is being way too picky in how I weave in their product messaging.”

As an influencer, I can understand it’s frustrating when a brand comes back to you five times saying they need a photograph of a product label shot at a different angle, or require certain language in a post they didn’t specify from the beginning.

On the other hand, when a brand pays for the content, it makes sense they’d like to control it.

When I worked with an influencer marketing agency as the client, they requested a one-pager with key messages and verbiage from our brand.

We provided it as background information and inspiration for the influencers.

But what we found was a lot of influencers cut, copied, and pasted their way through these blog posts.

As someone who has blogged for nearly a decade, and gives every client original content, I was disappointed.

There’s also not much by way of quality control when you’re working with an influencer marketing agency.

When you work directly with an influencer, they’re accessible to you if you catch typos, misspellings, grammatical errors, or wrong messaging.

In one case, an influencer referred to a competitor’s product instead of my client’s, and the influencer marketing agency didn’t catch it during the editing process.

By the time I saw the posts, reached out to my contact at the agency, who then reached out to the influencer to correct the mistake, they had been amplified and viewed a great deal.

Why Work with Influencers

When I hire influencers for a brand, it’s because I think they can portray our product or service in a different way than we can do ourselves.

That means we want the influencers to be creative with the assignment.

If your influencer marketing agency isn’t challenging influencers to meet the requirements of your program, you should definitely speak up.

Don’t be afraid to demand high-quality content that benefits your brand and its values.

About Maris Callahan

Maris Callahan is the director of communications at @properties, where she manages public relations, digital marketing, and social media. She lives in Chicago with Brad, her significant other, and their chihuahua Henry. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

  • Influencer marketing is something we grapple with all the time. Agencies that specialize in it have amazing contacts and relationships, but yes, they charge an arm and a leg (and sometimes more!) just to connect you with said influencer!

    That said, managing and maintaining those relationships to ensure they are consistent and reliable is pretty tough and it’s often worth the cost to make sure you have a reliable set of influencers at the ready.

    A colleague has been experimenting with a tool called Julius that looks interesting:

    • Thanks for sharing — will check it out! There are definitely some benefits to the cost.

  • Great article Maris. This world is going to continue to become more difficult with the increase in bots and other gaming of systems by “influencers.” I actually was just putting together some “warnings” for brand to make sure their influencers are really valuable. Great tips here.

    • So true! I have used bots just to see what happens and you do get the engagement, much of it authentic, but some of it is not at at all and it just made me feel icky!

  • “…they requested a one-pager with key messages and verbiage from our brand.” That’s a must-have whether you decide to work with an influencer marketing agency or not. It helps your team have clarity on what language to use, what to expect from working with influencers, how to interact and build a relationship with them.

    • It’s a must-have, but someone needs to set the expectations that this is background information/guidelines and not to be used verbatim/word for word. Otherwise you end up with 45 identical posts!

  • paulakiger

    Another thing to consider is if you, as the brand, are willing to police compliance by the influencers with FTC disclosure rules, etc. I often think intermediaries are more trouble than they are worth, but in this case, it may be wise to have someone (agency) running interference for you. // I have “the widget” for one or two agencies but others rely on my self report. I am (skeptic here) of the belief that it is possible sometimes bloggers overrepresent their numbers (i.e., who’s gonna check?) and that only hurts both sides of the equation.

    • Yes, and we also know that “1 million page views” means very little if they have no impact on the brand.

      I have been blogging for nine years, believe that my work is high quality, and don’t have a million readers. The readers I do have though, have been with me for all of those years and you can’t put a number on that value — there is value, but it isn’t necessarily tangible.

      Some of the best work I’ve “commissioned” as a marketer have come from bloggers with 5k, 10k, 40k readers.

      • paulakiger

        Yes, exactly.

  • I think about this a lot. I understand the value of hiring an agency (heck, I own one), but so many clients end up unhappy. I often say that if we teach our clients how to do what we do and they end up building a team internally to do the work, we’ve done our jobs. But that also makes it impossible to scale a business.

    • So true and I think a lot of clients don’t want to do it themselves, they just want it done and not to have to think about it (these are not the greatest clients, speaking as a former agency owner, but that is for another post!). Then there are companies like my current employer that are very entrepreneurial and while we outsource a few things, we do a LOT in house and I like the idea of using experts to come in, educate us, and arm us to do the work ourselves.

  • Howie Goldfarb

    I don’t think I would ever recommend a brand to pay for influence. It is often fraudulent and deceptive (native ads that aren’t explicitly stating it is a paid Ad). We all know how many celebs are in TV ads and most of us never buy a product because of the celeb.

    This fad will go away in terms of paid activity. But brand advocacy will remain strong if you look within your social networks to find you best advocates….and you don’t need to pay anyone for this.

    And your post reinforces to me why my view isn’t changing. You detail all the reasons so many of these agencies are just stealing your money. I shouldn’t have to investigate who is lying and who is real. And maybe Cable Ads are a better investment…or a new direct sales rep? Things to think about.

  • Thack ☁️

    I almost fainted when I learned the going rate for influencers to promote your shizz here in the UK…

  • Jacob Haakonsson

    It really depends how many influencers is on your network, how many relationships you have to manage. Let’s say it’s 3-10, then you’re good to go and try to maintain them yourself.

    But if we’re talking bigger numbers, like 25-30+ of micro-influencers (which are way way cheaper), it’ll become such pain in the ass. I’ve even seen some digital marketing agencies struggling to cope with this micro management.

    In this case agency or managed account at influencer’s marketplace could be the answer.

    At our agency we’re testing two platforms:

    I would say the rule of thumb – go for one with the greatest client support, despite if it’s smaller than the others. This way you’ll be more important client and be able to have more control on selected influencers.