Influencer marketing: do you need a specialist agency or team?

Image on post by Clarity Comms on the rise of the influencer marketing agency

Influencer marketing: do you need a specialist agency or team?

Influencer marketing and influencer management are the latest buzzwords to enter the social media marketer’s dictionary. This has led to the rise of specialist influencer agencies/divisions who promise to connect clients to the hottest digital/social talent. So do you need a specialist influencer marketing agency or team?

Do they add value to social media marketing? Here’s our thoughts, based in part on working with one such business.

The rise of the social media influencer

There’s no doubt that influencers are becoming important to social media marketers. Social has changed and brands’ social media strategies have needed to adapt. The need to move outside of a brand’s owned channels has long been recognised.

Over the last few years, a large group of talented bloggers, photographers and other content creators have emerged. They’ve built networks around their passion and expertise in their chosen field from cookery to heavy metal and everything in between. Brands have been looking to work with them to reach new audiences for their products and services. On paper, specialist services to support this make sense.

Influencer marketing isn’t new

The reality is that connecting with influencers isn’t new. PR has long sought to connect brands to interesting partners and to use the outputs to drive coverage. And we’ve been working with bloggers and content creator since day one.

The challenge is in finding those who can genuinely amplify a brand and reach new audiences. Equally, some ‘influencers’ can be better used as content creators where the value of their networks is less important than the content they can create for a brand to use on its channels or to bring something different to a wider promotion.

So what are these influencer marketing agencies actually offering that we’re not already doing?

From the blurb it’s hard to tell. Buzzwords about. Substance is in short supply. From the actual outputs, it’s equally opaque that there’s little there beyond basic desk research.

There’s no doubt that finding and connecting with the right influencers is time consuming. And it’s a task that agencies should be remunerated for. Yet badging services into a little silo seems to lose sight of the bigger social media picture.

It starts with the brief

Successful influencer marketing is part of a wider social media strategy. It can’t and shouldn’t be implemented as a standalone part of social. For one, all social media marketing (and wider marketing) needs to be integrated. Utilising influencers is an important component of social. And most social media teams will have existing networks which continue to grow as each client brief opens conversations with potential new influencers.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is ensuring that chosen influencers share the same brand values and passions. This helps maximise the chances of success. Yet this implies a bespoke approach stemming from the brief. So how does that benefit from past campaigns? Or from a packaged influencer product?

Influencer marketing agencies: smoke and mirrors

Whether clients benefit from a dedicated influencer marketing agency or division is open to question. These agencies may look like an attempt to cash in on a trend. And if they don’t deliver, the risk is that this reduces the credibility of social media.

Influencers do have a role to play in social. We think that the role starts with the client’s social media brief, having the right team to deliver the brief and trusting the outputs. That might mean that influencers don’t feature as part of the campaign. And if they do, then it’s about finding the right people for the task.

Does that require a specialist influencer marketing agency? Not really. And certainly not agencies with funky, trademarked names with opaque, buzzword-laden services.