Influencer Marketing Horror Stories And How to Avoid Them

Ghosts, witches, and skeletons are not the things you should be scared of this Halloween season. No, for brands, their biggest nightmares are marketing campaigns gone horribly wrong – and the negative results last much longer than one scary night.

As a Dad, my biggest fear around this time of year is how much time I’m going to have to spend at the dentist, thanks to all the trick or treating my kids plan on doing, or that I, God forbid, get my kids the wrong costume. But as a marketer, my biggest fear is watching brands choose the wrong influencers for their marketing campaigns – and with devastating results.

During this scary, spooky time of year, leave the horror to the kids’ Halloween festivities and avoid making influencer marketing mistakes that no amount of chocolate or candy can fix.

Running an Influencer Marketing Program
So you want to run an influencer marketing program to boost brand awareness, get compelling content created for your brand from authentic storytellers with large audiences and drive targeted leads to your website.

If you’re like many marketers I’ve worked with, then you probably have some idea where to start. You might’ve read some great bloggers who you thought would match your brand voice or style. Or maybe you’ve worked with a blogger in the past that promises to run a campaign with their entire blogging community for a reasonable fee.Sounds great, right? What could go wrong? 

Well, unfortunately lots of things. Just because a blogger is a good writer doesn’t make them a good project manager. And just because you’ve worked with them once, doesn’t mean they can guarantee the results you’re looking for.

Questions to Ask Before Choosing an Influencer Marketing Program
There are a few important questions you need to ask before you choose your influencer marketing program. Asking these questions (and getting the right answers) can be the difference between ending up a marketing horror story or a marketing success story.

  • How will this influencer be choosing the bloggers? Is there an application form or will they be picking all of their blogger friends with the prettiest foodie Instagram pictures? You need to make sure you have the right bloggers (who can exemplify your key messaging and speak to the right audience) writing about your brand – not just any bloggers.
  • Will they be providing you with any statistics or analytics about these bloggers and the type of reach you can expect?
  • If they are providing you with statistics, are they providing you with the right metrics? One big mistake I’ve seen is a blogger who says they get 10,000 page views a month and brands don’t ask about engagement. Then, they’re shocked when click-through and engagement rates turn out to be less than 1% of that. Don’t fall for vanity metrics.
  • Will these influencers be contracted? Most likely not – and without a contract, they’re not committed to delivering on time, sticking to your key messaging and maintaining a professional demeanor.
  • Will the influencers take the easy way out? The most effective bloggers use their own unique voice to weave in a brand’s key messaging – not just copying and pasting a blog someone else wrote and saying the job’s all done.
  • How will the influencers be paid? How can you make sure they’re paid promptly and properly (and avoid any legal issues)?
  • What will happen if a blogger drops out mid-campaign? Or if the bloggers write content that does not fit your brand’s key messaging?
  • Does the blogger have campaign management experience? Do they know how to coordinate messaging and content across a team of bloggers and ensure everything is completed on time, with your brand’s approval?
  • Once the campaign is done, will you be provided with detailed analytics?

Why spend time and money answering these questions before you launch your program? Because if you don’t, the repercussions to your brand are going to last forever, in our nothing-is-erased-online-world.

Even Oprah Gets it Wrong Sometimes
A brand pairing up with Oprah sounds like a dream come true, right? Well, turns out that Microsoft could’ve used an expert or two to help manage this influencer campaign. To help drum up excitement for the new Microsoft tablet, the Surface, they teamed up with Oprah to tweet out about the product. The only problem?

She sent the tweet…from her iPad! (not the Surface that she “love”).

Avoid this mistake: The smallest details matter. You can’t avoid overlooking even the smallest marketing messages, like a tweet, which is one of the reasons to work with a seasoned project manager who can make sure your influencers are not only spreading the right message, but doing so on the channels you choose, and approving them in advance (so something like this doesn’t happen to you).


Letting the Amateurs Handle It
Before you put your influencer campaign in the hands of just anyone, learn from US Airways’ mistake. In 2014, an employee “accidentally” posted a pornographic image to their Twitter page, which quickly went viral.

Avoid this mistake: Don’t let amateurs handle any aspect of your marketing campaigns, from social to blogging. If you choose an experienced project manager, you can make sure they approve all blogs and social posts before they’re live.

Keep in Mind
Those are just two of the (unfortunately) many examples of influencer marketing horror stories gone wrong – I don’t want your brand to be added to the list! Working with a blogger you happen to know and trusting them to run your entire influencer marketing campaign can wreak havoc for your brand. Other things that could go wrong include:

  • Not meeting deadlines
  • Not achieving any quantifiable engagement that brings you ROI
  • Influencer doesn’t actually match your brand
  • Incorrect content (from typos to incorrect information about your company)
  • Payment and legal issues
  • Incorrect messaging that is off brand
  • Lack of campaign management experience and tools
  • Lack of proper reporting

Now, don’t be scared away from running your next influencer marketing campaign – they can be extremely successful, if done right.

Just make sure you’re choosing a seasoned project manager who knows your goals and has the experience necessary to make sure your campaign sees the results you’re looking for – don’t just choose your daughter’s friend’s cousin who happens to have a 10,000 following on Instagram. You have to choose the right bloggers, for you.