Actually, there’s nothing not to love about influencer marketing. Yet, most advertisers may find it hard to build a strong affiliate channel if they solely rely on influencers.

One of the biggest hurdles for working with influencers is that many of our clients at eAccountable don’t want to work with influencers in the same way that influencers want to work with brands. We often refer to affiliates as your commission-only sales force.  Influencers don’t want to just be commission only sales people in most cases.  From the standpoint of most influencers last-click attribution doesn’t work for them and that’s the default of most affiliate networks.  Now that is changing with some of the technology being rolled out by the networks, but I’m sure that historically there have been productive influencers that never got credit for their efforts because a coupon site swooped in at the last second and got credit for the sale.

At the same time, for our clients to work with traditional affiliates, the relationship has almost no hurdles.  We help the Advertiser join a network, we recruit affiliates/publishers/influencers and pay a commission when a sale is tracked. Simple. Time-tested.

What we’ve found is that most quality influencers want free product and/or a placement fee that can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands. So if we provide a product and/or pay a placement fee, how do we show that value to our a client?  How does our clients CEO, CMO, Ecommerce Director evaluate success?  Likes? Shares? Friends? Engagements? This is very reminiscent of display advertising and traditional media, where advertisers believe there’s a benefit, but it’s historically been hard to tie a monetary value to it.

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half.” – John Wanamaker

I think the biggest hurdle we have right now is that the lines are very blurred between affiliate marketing and influencer marketing. We’re seeing more influencers in the affiliate networks which is great, but is it our job to teach influencers about affiliate marketing if they aren’t?  Speaking recently with a major influencer recruiting platform, we asked how influencer marketing services are priced and their advice on best practices. Their advice was to do it on a campaign by campaign basis and clearly define what the scope of that campaign is. They suggested, as an example, target 10 influencers matching X criteria to write about your brand in the next 30 days.  We’ll need to budget $500-$1000 for each influencer, plus a product giveaway, plus probably a coupon to entice the customer to purchase… and the agency needs to get paid for doing all the work: researching, recruiting, negotiating, checking the content, making sure the influencer does as contracted... and more. And then the agency need to track the performance metrics. They suggested “building brand awareness” as a goal.  As you can see this is very different from traditional affiliate marketing.

But how do you track brand awareness? Building brand awareness is a thing, but it’s a terribly hard thing to quantify.

For us at eAccountable, I think we will need to pull some of the pieces of influencer marketing into our daily lives while looking into rolling out an addon service in the future to also be able to support the 1 on 1 campaign driven influencer marketing that some clients want to see happening.

So, how do we go about getting more engagement with these influencers/partners?  And once we get their attention and initial engagement (almost exhausting, isn’t it?), HOW DO WE SUSTAIN and GROW that relationship?  Especially if we do not have a per post budget?   Is the merchant engaged?  They have to be 100% onboard.  I think that once you can get this buy in, you can grow that partnership.  And most importantly to have any great partnership you have to have COMMUNICATION…..makes or breaks every relationship.  If we have more communication on both sides, we are golden.

We believe that an actively engaged advertiser with an actively engaged influencer, with the proper incentives: maybe a combination of pay-per-post, a product to review and being paid on a sale where we can make sure they are protected from coupon, deal and offer sites getting last-click attribution can satisfy all parties. This isn’t a pipe dream because as an agency we are doing this every day. It’s time consuming, it’s not in our normal day-to-day affiliate routine, but it most assuredly works and is successful.

From the placement fees, free product giveaways to the metrics of success, there are major hurdles for any brand and they have to have defined and understood. Yet, Influencer marketing can be a piece of affiliate marketing. Another way to say this is that Influencers have a place in affiliate marketing.