Not all marketplace users are experts in influencer marketing; they are often used by various marketers of different fields. These people may be experts in their own field but may not possess the required level of expertise in this particular area of marketing.

Influencer marketing experts, on the other hand, work for a specialised agency that focuses solely on influencer marketing. While these agencies use various sources and technologies to source influencers, their value lies in the significant expertise that they have in designing, building and managing authentic marketing campaigns.

These platforms are a lot like Tinder; they connect brands and influencers together and generally go as follows:
  1. The brand visits the platform and signs up.
  2. The influencer signs up in their own private capacity.
  3. The brand then searches for an influencer on the platform, based on filters and selected criteria.
  4. Once the brand has found an influencer, it then sends a brief for the influencer to review. If the influencer accepts, then they both engage directly with each other via the platform.
There are significant differences between content creation for a social media advertising campaign and an influencer marketing campaign. For social media marketing, the content is more of a corporate message.

It is generic in the sense that even if the campaign is extremely targeted, everyone within the target audience may see the same message. The brand speaks directly to the audience and the marketer carefully designs every detailed aspect of the content — design, message, fonts, size and placement of the logo, colours, etc.

For influencer marketing, however, the brand does not speak directly to the audience but relies on a third party to speak to his/her own captive audience. The message is not generic because it comes from an outside voice that reflects their own style. The same target audience might see different content, depending on what influencers they are following. 

While social marketers must be experts in creating perfect content, influencer marketers must be experts in creating the perfect framework from which the third party's content will perfectly align with the brief — while remaining authentic, highly engaging and protecting brand equity.

It is this onerous task of creating the perfect framework, that brings about maximum campaign success. There are significant differences between an influencer marketing platform and an influencer marketing expert, regarding their services.

Here are five integral differences:

1. Expertise

Influencer marketing requires a lot more than choosing a third party and tracking metrics. Setting up a successful campaign is like baking a cake. Trying to bake with the ingredients only — but without the recipe — will lead to catastrophic results.

And even when the recipe is provided, without expertise in executing it, the risk of failure will be high. Even if the result is good, it will never be as good as when it is executed by a pastry chef. The level of quality will inherently vary.

Similarly, in influencer marketing, their marketplaces/databases will provide a brand with the ingredients (the list influencers). But if the campaign is executed by someone who is an expert in his/her own field of marketing and not an expert in this particular area, the campaign/project's quality and performance may not produce the full potential desired compared to when executed by an expert.

It is also critical that all the risks are fully understood and accounted for during the campaign design, building and management processes.

2. Brand equity, strategy and framework

Specific sets of knowledge/expertise, as discussed above, allows for the campaign to be very authentic and engaging and also protects the brand equity. This protection is achieved through a dedicated high-level marketing strategy and framework setup for the campaign.

The marketing expert, in setting up a framework, is concerned with the following:
  • vetting the third parties
  • vetting the content quality
  • identifying cultural and other potential conflicts of interest
  • knowing about industry-specific marketing regulations and/or laws
  • identifying other salient factors that can backfire on the brand equity if they are unchecked
An agency guides the third party without scripting the content and brings about the best strategy to promote an authentic, storytelling campaign that creates a long-lasting emotional connection with the audience.

There are many risks specific to influencer marketing. Masterful management will ensure performance success and brand equity protection. Some of the risks that are very specific to this industry segment are:
  • selecting third parties with the wrong audience
  • a brand strategy that may result in audience alienation
  • content that will look like a plain endorsement rather than being authentic
  • incorrect use of story-telling
  • non-respect of the mandatory disclosure regulation and restrictions
  • inefficient engagement mechanisms to create a positive conversation about the brand, with a clear buying signal
  • engagement mechanisms that may lead to negative PR, driving the conversation to a competing brand, etc.
  • low influencer engagement rate
  • incorrect metrics
  • mismanagement of the influencer-brand relationship (that could turn into a toxic relationship)
  • content that does not match the expected quality or the brief, etc.

3. Strict audience matching between the influencer and brand

Upon request by the brand, the platform will only suggest third parties matching the search criteria. Specialised marketers, however, go further in ensuring a perfect match between the brand's target audience and the third party's captive audience.

For instance, in a campaign R-Squared managed, it was presented with a female third party by a top female fashion brand in South Africa. When analysing her audience, the brand realised that the model was followed by an 86% male audience, while the brand's target audience is females.

More than 50% of the model's audience was based in the United States of America, with only 13% in South Africa. Even though she was a fashion model and highly relevant in fashion, her mainly male audience was interested in travel and photography. Her audience was interested in seeing her travel pictures more than her fashion pictures. This depicts how important it is to make sure that a third party's audience corresponds with the brand's audience.

4. Regulations

In practice, it is not the duty of the marketing platforms to ensure compliance with specific regulations (i.e., the mandatory sponsorship disclosure, industry-specific regulations, etc.).

This is understandable because it is a DIY platform. An influencer marketing expert, on the other hand, ensures that its' strategy and frameworks, as well as the third party's content, are in accordance with all relevant regulations and laws.

5. Reserved influencers

While good influencers might be on these platforms, the perfect ones for a particular campaign might not have signed up. The database might also be highly skewed to certain categories of demographics, countries, or languages.

Marketing experts in this area must have the expertise and capacity to source for the best third parties for their campaign/project, regardless if using a marketplace or other sources as their means.

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