You may have seen (or heard about) Digiday's "Confessions" Q&A with a social media exec on the rocky relationship between influencers and brands. For many, that confessional sounds all too familiar. Getting started with influencer marketing can be frustrating, and many brand marketers don't know how or where to begin.

Although word-of-mouth marketing is nothing new, digital influencer marketing is—and all parties involved have a lot to learn about it still. However, for this nameless social media executive to say influencer marketing is fizzling out... well, that couldn't be further from the truth.

What is true is that many brands are approaching influencer marketing the wrong way, souring results and leaving them less than impressed with the ROI.

Here are some easy fixes to the main pain points outlined in the Digiday article that can help brands get their influencer marketing program functioning like a well-oiled machine.

'We threw too much money at them and did it too quickly'

It's easy for influencer marketing to get expensive fast. Often, marketers make the mistake of focusing on subscriber count as an indication of a creator's value. However, engagement metrics are much more telling of an influencer's overall reach and impact, and that is what pricing should be based on—not subscribers alone.

A good approach is to look at the average views of the influencer's previous 10 videos. That's approximately how much you can expect the creator to get on his or her next sponsored video. Then, calculate CPM to get an idea of cost range.

Influencer marketing platforms and social analytics services can help brands understand what influencers should be paid and even what ROI they will generate, so brands always know where they stand in relation to the bottom line.

'Oh, my kid likes this guy'

This is the equivalent of investing in McDonald's because your kid likes Happy Meals. Though it's great to get advice from members of a younger generation on the types of influencers they like, it shouldn't be a company's sole methodology for selecting whom to work with.

Identifying the right types of creators for a campaign—those who reach your target audience, highly engage that audience, and align with your brand—is crucial to a successful influencer marketing campaign. Consumers can see right through a forced relationship between a brand and creator, which can have negative and lasting effects.

Fortunately, there are tools that allow brands to select creators via tags and other filters to meet their specific criteria. But, even before that, you have to go in knowing what your campaign goals are, you have to set expectations, and you have to have way of making sure the creator meets those needs.

'Now, if you work with some big YouTube guys, the Casey Neistats, those types of people charge $300,000 to $500,000...'

"The bigger, the better" mentality has traditionally been indicative of a successful advertising/marketing campaign. The long-held belief is that the brands shelling out for the most popular social media sensations are the ones that get remembered and drive the best results. That approach is dated—and expensive.

It's also why more and more smart brands are turning to micro-influencers—or influencers with a smaller, devoted fan base.

These micro-influencers typically have a passionate audience and they are much more willing to work with brands collaboratively to get the brand messaging and image just right. Why? A lot of them are getting to the point where their social media presence can be a full-time career instead of an exciting side hustle, and they're willing to put in the time and effort to make it work for them and the brand.

For example, Walgreens has opted to work with more smaller creators, rather than a few YouTube superstars. That strategy is not only budget-savvy but also, often, more successful: One particular Walgreens campaign significantly outperformed that of a competitor that chose to work with bigger-name social media stars on a similar campaign, boasting 41% more views and 76% more clicks, and costing approximately $7 less in cost per click.

* * *

The bottom line is this: Don't let one person's bad experience deter you from what can be a highly effective marketing strategy. In fact, tons of brand marketers, from L'Oréal to LG, are getting big results from influencer marketing.

Consider the numbers:

  • 81% of marketers who have used influencer marketing judged it to be effective.
  • 51% of marketers say they get better customers from influencer marketing. That's because the relationship began with trust in the influencer.
  • 59% of marketers will increase influencer marketing budgets in 2016.
  • 8 in 10 of the most influential people for teen audiences are YouTube stars.

Influencer marketing is here to stay, and getting it right doesn't have to be complicated. Like any other business decision, make sure it's the right fit, find out how much you want to spend, and apply expertise from the countless tools available that can help both to narrow down the best influencer for the job and to measure results.

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Influencer Marketing Isn't Broken, You're Just Doing It Wrong

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image of Brendan Lattrell

Brendan Lattrell is the founder and CEO of Grapevine, a comprehensive influencer marketing platform.

Twitter: @brendanlattrell

LinkedIn: Brendan Lattrell