Can You Try Influencer Marketing Without an Agency?

               

As an influencer marketing platform, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this post may be just a tad biased. After all, our entire raison d’etre is to cut out the middleman of influencer collaborations and allow brands and influencers to connect easily and directly.

However, at CI we’re nothing if not realistic, and we know that the actualities of everyday office life do not always allow the time and manpower that successful influencer marketing requires. This is where specialised agencies are really coming into their own, offering the expertise and pre-existing relationships with influential online personalities that may seem a mystical mystery to in-house marketing teams. But are they always necessary? Do influencer marketing endeavours have to be micromanaged, big-budget productions to be successful?

In this blog post, we’re going to be taking a closer look at how influencer marketing works when conducted in-house, and whether using an agency is really the right move for your brand. Here goes…

The question of authenticity

As much as agencies are trained to understand and communicate the needs and objectives of the brand they represent, no one can communicate your core values and what you need to get out of an influencer partnership better than you can. It’s a simple case of things getting lost in translation; however diligently the agency takes note of your desired KPIs, ROIs and endless other acronyms, they’ll be clearest coming directly from you. This minimises the risks not only of your brand being misrepresented by the influencer, but also of your expected outcomes being misunderstood or conveyed inaccurately.

It’s undeniably true that putting together vital information and communicating it to the influencer(s) you’re working with takes time and effort, which is only too easy to outsource. It may be a small comfort though, to know that taking influencer marketing in-house is a very front-loaded process. We’d be massive fibbers if we said there wasn’t a large outlay in terms of the time and man-hours required to identify the influencers, approach them and communicate your objectives to them clearly. Not to mention identifying those objectives in the first place. But if you focus on getting that part of the process right, the rest is made infinitely easier and the workload lessens dramatically.

Authenticity also works both ways. In the same manner that you can communicate your brand more authentically than an agency can, any influencer will undoubtedly feel more connected to and passionate about your brand if they’ve been involved with you directly. However good your intentions, hiring an agency to talk to influencers for you can very easily look like you simply don’t have the time to engage, and view it as not worthy of your personal attention.

The question of effectiveness

It sounds like a sweeping statement, but authenticity breeds effectiveness. This actually makes a lot of sense under close scrutiny – the more genuine the relationship between influencer(s) and brand, the more truthful the content and the more the audience will respond to it. In an article published on Business2Community, Misha Talavera states:

“Nobody can communicate your brand message better than you […]. Managed Campaigns vendors approach influencer marketing transactionally and prioritize volume over quality. […] By letting them select your influencers and drive the creative process, your campaign runs the risk of being less authentic and less effective.”

In other words, people respond to authenticity. And they respond positively.

So that covers why conducting your influencer marketing in-house rather than through an agency can be a hugely positive step to take… but how does one go about it? How difficult is it for a brand newly dipping its toe into influencer waters?

Well, not too difficult, if you take time to plan.

We know planning is not sexy or exciting. But we also know that good in-house influencer marketing hangs on it. The following steps are essential, and, when you think about it, are a lot easier for you to take yourself than paying an agency to.

  1. Decide who you want to reach

    Influencer marketing is all about having your brand and/or product placed in front of an engaged audience who are likely to buy into it. Sounds easy enough, but identifying this audience is CRUCIAL. It may be that the audience you want to reach aren’t best accessed through influencers, but generally speaking, most are. Although agencies can undeniably help with audience identification, in all honesty, no one knows who buys and engages with your brand like you do. This step is almost exclusively best done in-house.

  2. Identify who that audience listens to, and where

    This is the tricky bit, and the bit with which an agency will be able to help the most. BUT, it can be done just as well in-house. There are countless tools (and indeed blog posts) that can help with each part of the process, and using an influencer platform such as, we don’t know, maybe CI, you can advertise your needs in terms of audience reach for influencers to pitch directly to you.

  3. Decide how best to work with your influencer(s)

    As much as the success of influencer marketing hangs on the right partnership between brand and influencer, it is also greatly affected by how the collaboration is conducted. There are countless ways in which brand and influencer can work together to reach a certain audience, and in this instance, it is usually the influencer(s) who will be best placed to advise on how, rather than an agency. Keep an open, trusting and honest dialogue with your influencer(s), and combine your expertise and knowledge to devise the best solution.

Of course, all of the above is much easier said than done, but influencer marketing often seems mystifying because it is so wondrously simple – it’s just basic human nature, no algorithms, no psychological profiling, no complex diagrams. Just identifying who you want to reach, and what human voice(s) can allow you to reach them. It’s a simple question of genuine relationships and authenticity. Give it a try – you’ll see what we mean.