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Avoid these 16 influencer marketing mistakes at all cost

A mini-course on influencer marketing. Estimated read time 9 minutes.

I started my growth lead role in one of my previous companies, and I had a gigantic challenge to solve.

I had to grow the company from $3.2MN to $100MN within 12 months.

So, I thought about adding influencer marketing to my marketing mix. I have done affiliate partnerships previously but never influencer marketing. I was like – How hard could it be?

I took a bet.

I've spent $450K on influencer marketing.

I have made a ton of mistakes that you should avoid (the 16th one is the most obvious I have seen more people make).

Why try influencer marketing:

  • Scaling video ads

  • Expanding to a new audience

  • Increasing brand awareness

Anyway, I made some assumptions that turned out to be wrong:

  • Influencers will be dying for my product (the product's story was amazing)

  • Influencers are reliable

  • They know organic social and video storytelling well

However, I didn’t start with paid influencer marketing. Instead, I started with a seeding strategy. You can listen to this pod or read this blog to learn more about this strategy.

Essentially, seeding means you get a free product in exchange for posting about your product organically. It’s cheaper, and you don’t have to pay influencers anything but a free product.

More context about my product:

  • The audience was parents aged 30-45 in the US

  • It was a course product, not a physical one

  • It took on average 6 months to realize the value of the product (the activation moment)

  • You don’t immediately get into the product – it is a kids’ course, and you have to wait at least a month or two to start the course

  • We only wanted to go after Instagram influencers

Some other stats before moving:

  • We reached out to 1400+ influencers (parents with kids between 6-13 yrs)

  • Around 150+ of them said yes to receiving a package and starting the program

  • Around 100 of them tried the program

  • Only 30 of them posted free content at least once

  • 7 of them were paid promotions too

  • We only were successful with one paid influencer (tracking-wise)

Have you tried influencer marketing before?

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So, now you have some context, here are some mistakes that most people can avoid:

1/ Don’t go with the seeding strategy if you have money

Seeding is a great strategy for organic & bootstrap companies. Bootstrap companies can offer free products, and some of them will post. So, your product gets traction without paying anything.

But if you have money and want to see if your influencer has the potential to bring folks to your website and convert them, go with paid promotion first. You’ll save time.

If you have money, you are fighting with time.

2/ Having the wrong goal for influencer marketing

I thought influencer marketing was a conversion play. No, it is a brand awareness play. It might be the first touchpoint but not the last one.

It’s about signaling and the mere exposure effect.

3/ Not going niche first

Our product was converting for niche gifted kids and homeschooling markets well. We should have started with some of the best-fit influencers in those communities. Before going live with generic “parent influencers”.

Once you have or haven’t seen success, try to expand to the broader market.

It would have cost us less and must have needed fewer resources to test and scale.

We wouldn’t even need an agency for this.

4/ Not doing prospecting right

We used MightScout as our software to find influencers. It’s expensive, so most companies hire agencies for prospecting, list building, and pre-vetting.

The list is essential for you to keep an eye out for.

Your prospecting defines “who,” and your "who" dictates the success of the response and the campaign.

5/ Not seeing the engagement metrics dictates success

While doing prospecting, I didn’t pay much attention to engagement metrics. A follower-to-like or follower-to-view ratio is important here. Anything below 1.5% is a no-go.

6/ Not working with “fewer similar influencers with the same audience”

Many influencers in the same niche are friends, and their audiences are similar. If you only focus on them, they know their audience is similar. It creates a halo effect – people see it everywhere. And if you match the timing of it – it would work.

Think how Fire Festival exploited it.

7/ Not further vetting the influencers’ video storytelling skills

I learned it the hard way. Not all Influencers have good storytelling skills. Just because they have an audience, it does not mean they know how to shoot and capture attention well with video.

I should have dug deeper into their storytelling skills. Why? Because that would have worked out well with Ads.

Some influencers have allegedly bought their audience, so you need to separate signals from noise.

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We had a session last week, and some marketers have a ton of experience.
I am about to share it in a private newsletter.

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8/ Not giving them enough guidelines and ideas

Many influencers I worked with were not that creative. You need to handhold them, but in the seeding strategy, you can’t give them guidelines because they are using the product for free, and if they like it, they’ll post whatever they want.

So, regardless of your free product — give them guidelines and ideas if they ever need them.

Hope is not the strategy.

9/ Not delighting them properly when they got the box

So, we were not an ecommerce product but a tech product with a course. I sent $100 worth of boxes at their door with a book, a game (that kind of represents us), and some merch.

This is not enough. The box is the first proper touch - It should be ABSOLUTELY amazing, or I shouldn’t have sent it.

We didn’t write the book, and the game wasn’t ours, but the merch was – in general, everyone gives gifts for free.

I’m yet to discover these box ideas, but if I find some, I’ll share them in my newsletter.

If you have some, reply to this email.

10/ Conversion Tracking

Although we had a good partner marketing solution, we could not track their posts to conversion. It turns out reels and posts don’t let you do that properly.

We couldn’t use discount codes either. Only stories work well, but stories disappear after 24 hours, and not everyone clicks on them.

We didn’t enforce sticky stories or link in the bio for free or paid products.

Get those sticky stories and link in the bio for seven days at least.

11/ Not focusing on influencers who have a big email list

I wish I had done this with all influencers. Whenever one of my influencers sent these emails but also posted on socials – we saw conversions.

If conversions are your goal, then go for influencers who have a newsletter and social following.

It’s the best of both worlds.


Many UGCs creators are popping up these days. I highly recommend working with them if paid ads are your goal.

Influencer Generate Content (IGC) costs too much if you want something organic and paid.

UGC creators know how to hook the attention and tell a story in 60 seconds. They cost $100 to $150 per video, so it’s easier to try more and see what sticks.

Check out this UGC creator - Video to discover why UGC creators make better videos.

In a nutshell:

  • Curiosity-based thumbnail header - gets the attention

  • Sparks a tension

  • Video editing is done well

  • Eloquently expressed – Problem – Agitation - Solution

13/ Go for Mega Influencers if you have the budget

We had a mega influencer who had a 400,000 newsletter audience. He charged $36K for 6 newsletter issues, and we passed our break even.

One influencer with a ton of audience on email can be a gold mine.

I wish I would have at least tried 2-3 mega influencers for socials with their complete email, social, and podcasting audience.

So, if you have money, don’t wait.

14/ Not paying upfront

Many influencers asked to get paid, and we denied it due to the seeding strategy. Usually, paying upfront isn’t advised, but an influencer you think knows storytelling, gives you a license for ads, runs whitelisting ads, and more.

I wish I had paid upfront to stronger influencers who could have done a good job.

The only caveat is that influencers should be very relevant to your niche.

We used one for webinars, and she brought so many leads — we also did pay her.

15/ Not testing other channels

Many influencers cross-pollinate their audience with TikTok and Youtube.
I wish I would have at least tried to see the difference.

Instagram is one medium, and each medium has different kinds of followers.

Once I test other channels, I’ll report back to you.

16/ Sending weaker cold email copy early on

Influencers get bombarded on their DMs and email all the time. So you need to stand out - a free product doesn’t cut it.

I sent 500 emails and only got 21 opt-ins. This was the email with 5 follow ups including Insta DMs.

First copy

So I fixed the copy and hired a copywriter to send better emails – The opt-in increased to 50+ and above.

Improved email copy

It worked because it is a conversational style, is bold, and has a personality.

Influencer marketing isn't dead. It just didn't have the right tactics along with the right product. I think it would still work well for ecommerce or quick-value software products.

I would still use influencer marketing in the future, but this time more carefully.

And if you don’t want to get burned out as I did - Try minisocial (they’ll manage it for you), intense, or billo app to help you get started.

That’s all from this week. Next week, we’ll analyze another brand or two competing brands.

Happy Growing with Paid Social,

Aazar Shad

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