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.

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.

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