Influencer marketing campaigns are popular with brands and companies because of their powerful ability to reinforce customer loyalty, give inspiration for increased product usage, attract new demographics of customers, and drive e-commerce sales.

In many cases during the global pandemic, consumers flocked to the content and took action as a result of strategic influencer campaigns, but there were a few cases where brands fell short of deliverables or consumer favor.

To ensure that influencer marketing is a sustainable and efficient strategy for your brand, here are a few recommendations to avoid pitfalls and instead relish in the positive.

Watch out for influencer "bait and switches."

Beware of big promises from influencers and influencer marketing partners. The market is hot, and everyone wants your business. It's key to be thoughtful in choosing who you work with.

Many potential partners will showcase super impressive influencers in proposals and make it sound like those influencers are within your budget reach. Yet the reality is that sometimes big names get thrown around to win business and that level of influencer commands fees that go way beyond projected budgets. If the story seems unrealistic, it likely is--know the market.

Pick influencers with a history of brand friendliness.

First, do a deep dive with an agency that keeps historical tracking information about influencers who have a history of controversial posts or bad behavior during a campaign. You want influencers with a longitudinal track record of successful brand campaigns and professionalism when it comes to meeting deliverables, content guidelines, and deadlines.

The best partners to shepherd your influencers will know what working with individual influencers is like because of history, vetting, relationships, and comprehensive back-end tracking. There are way too many fantastic influencers developing content for a brand to waste any energy on difficult creators. A team with established relationships will know which influencers with proven track records to serve up to you.

Craft an out for any influencer misbehavior.

Anticipating what could go wrong is just as important as planning for what you want to go right in engaging influencers. This proves especially true in highly regulated spaces such as pharmaceutical or health brands or with high profile, integrated marketing campaigns.

FTC compliance; adherence to messaging guidelines; respectfulness of timelines; on-brand language, visuals, and attitudes; and audience-friendly content beyond campaign specific posts are all expected of influencers in a campaign. An influencer's inability to meet these expectations can turn consumers against a brand and even lead to steep FTC fines.

Influencers are real people, and sometimes real people misbehave socially. Don't let this be a shocker! Have a plan in place before a campaign starts so you aren't left scrambling. Often this means clearly communicating expectations to influencers before a campaign starts and letting everyone know of penalties--like removal from a campaign, docking compensation, etc.--if bad behavior that could damage your reputation takes place.

Draft reviews.

Is your legal team still a bit nervous given some of these risks? To reduce the risk of coming across as tone deaf, arrange for a draft review agreement. A draft review done well preserves an influencer's personal style while ensuring correct facts and adherence to your brand content.

Ideally, your team should make this arduous task as streamlined as possible, with carefully crafted review systems. It's also critical you maintain influencer relationships in the process by not asking for changes that strip away a creator's voice, come off as overly commercial, and alienate the influencer's core audience. The balance can be delicate, but experience and knowledge will get it right.

Don't underestimate the amount of time it takes to manage influencers.

A successful influencer campaign doesn't just mean eye-catching, engaging content-- it also means a seamless experience in that content creation. An influencer marketing campaign cannot simply run itself, not unless you want to face a possible disaster. 

This is what many of the SaaS platforms offer under the guise of being easy, yet I've seen a mess unfold as a result. Working with people requires people and not automation, despite how good the latter might sound to a busy marketing executive. Negotiations, post monitoring, reviews, influencer questions, campaign pivots, reporting, and more actually need to happen.

These steps need to be acknowledged and handled and not ignored. Influencer marketing is one of the most high-touch, engaging, and people-centric marketing strategies you can utilize.

The benefits from a successful campaign can be immense for consumer awareness, loyalty, conversion, and voice. But when it fails, the downfall can be harsh. What the above tips prove is that taking the human element out of a people-focused strategy, as most SaaS platforms in the space do, is ultimately the biggest mistake a brand can make.

Shortcuts in influencer marketing do not equal payoffs. Smart relationships with a hands-on approach will avoid problems and serve as both your best defense and your secret to success.