With the rise in popularity of influencers, the definition of the term “influencer” has also changed dramatically. Influencers can be anyone from TikTok stars with millions of followers to thought leaders with a small following that specialize in a niche topic.
Despite this massive spectrum of influencers, the marketing tactics for executing an influencer campaign has begun to be viewed as a “one size fits all” approach that can be executed with quick turnarounds and minimal strategy.
In reality, it’s quite the opposite. Influencer campaigns, whether you’re looking for a dancing TikToker or an expert in a niche field, require a significant amount of planning in order to be successful. Outside of understanding your client’s goals, budget, creative needs, and limitations, you also must ensure that your client, team and influencers are set up for success well before anyone presses the shutter button on their camera or smartphone.
But with almost a decade spent shaping the creator economy, Viral Nation has gotten the process of executing an influencer campaign down to a science. The below 5 tips can transform an influencer campaign from good to great, and these tips can also be implemented as preliminary action items before you or your influencers even begin creating content.
1. Your brief determines your success
You’ve likely heard the saying “The creative is only as good as the brief”.
Like many things in life, the most important part also happens to be the most boring and tedious part. With 5 years under my own proverbial belt in the influencer world, I quickly learned that the same mindset applies when planning a creator-led campaign.
Your creative brief should be a one-stop shop for creators to constantly refer back to at every stage of their content creation process. At minimum, your brief should include:
- Brand background and key information
- Campaign goals and objectives
- 3-4 key messages and a primary call-to-action
- Creative requirements
- File size, format, dimensions, royalty-free music requirements, character limits, campaign hashtags, required brand tags, etc.
- Brand-specific dos and don’ts
- Key dates and a recap of deliverables
- The deadline
2. Set aside an “Oh Sh*t!” budget before you start negotiations
Much like in real life, influencer campaigns do not always stay perfectly on-budget. While it is always recommended to plan for both your ideal offer and maximum offer within a campaign budget, I have found that setting aside some extra funds to account for anything that may have gotten missed often ends up being instrumental in the success of a campaign.
“Oh sh*t!” budgets do not always need to be used for a math-related oversight – they can also be used for the following costs that often get overlooked in the planning process:
- Additional creative revisions requested by the client outside of the agreed-upon contract terms
- Reimbursing creators for purchasing the products they are featuring in their content
- Compensation for the extension of usage rights should there be changes to the campaign timeline
- Compensation for additional influencer exclusivity required if timing changes
In the happy event that you do not need to use your “oh sh*t!” budget, you can reallocate the funds as you see fit to boost the success of the campaign. This could be used to increase a paid media amplification budget, or to negotiate additional deliverables from a top-performing creator.
3. Manage client expectations regarding influencers’ creative freedom
When planning an influencer campaign, your own preparations are not the only factor to consider. There are many instances where clients may understand the importance of influencer marketing, but lack experience in executing the campaigns.
In these cases, clients may expect full creative control over how the content comes to life. While this may be ideal from an approvals standpoint, often the best-performing sponsored content is what feels authentic to the influencer rather than the brand.
I have found it helpful to kick off a briefing session with the client by explaining that while they will be involved in every step of the review and approval process, the brief is their only opportunity to control how the content comes to life.
It is important to explain that the influencers selected for the program are being hired as experts in their field. They know what performs best with their audience and how to naturally integrate a sponsorship to ensure their audience views it as a true recommendation, rather than a scripted ad for some extra cash.
The creative approach of the influencer is what will differentiate the content from being viewed as a true partnership vs. just another sponsored post.
4. Relationships are everything
Maintaining positive relationships in the influencer industry can make or break a campaign. When it comes to the planning process, take a moment to refresh your memory about any influencers you are reaching out to. Have you worked with them directly before? Have you worked with the agent before with a different creator?
Going the extra mile to share your past positive experiences with the people you’ll be working with will establish a friendly tone right off the bat, and help you maintain a good rapport when going back and forth with negotiations and creative reviews.
Some examples of this can look like:
- It was great collaborating on [insert campaign]! We’d love to partner with you again on [insert new campaign details].
- We worked together on [insert campaign] and it was such a great experience! Would you happen to have any creators on your roster that could be a good fit for [insert campaign details]?
5. View everything with a “test and learn” lens
Last but not least, influencer campaigns are a great vehicle to test and prove different theories.
For example, if your client been inquiring about the difference between TikTok’s new static carousel feature and traditional video assets, your next influencer campaign is an ideal opportunity to experiment with creative formats and benchmark the results to share with your client.
But this needs to be done in the planning process to ensure that your campaign contract allows flexibility with deliverables and results based on these theories. This will also impact your negotiations with influencers, which is why it’s best to use your client kick off call to understand what they are trying to achieve, but also what they are trying to learn.
This tactic can also elevate your campaign reporting. Rather than hard data on a PowerPoint slide, your next wrap report can share that your team proactively went ahead and contracted the same creator to post 1 video asset and 1 static carousel on TikTok, noting the results and key differences between the 2 posts and what your team would strategically recommend the next time around.
Lastly, be sure to keep your influencers in the loop with these experiments as well. Not only will it contribute to a more collaborative approach across all parties, it will also equip them with helpful information to share in their next brand deal opportunity and support a positive relationship moving forward.
As influencer marketing continues to gain momentum, keep in mind that not every client or cross-functional team has a full understanding of what executing a successful influencer campaign truly entails. Implementing the above tactics will not only increase your likelihood of a successful campaign, but will reassure your clients that your team is well-equipped to own and execute a campaign with minimal oversight.