The big mistake companies make with influencers

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Working with influencers is a great way for brands to reach their key audiences, especially targeted audiences. And while there are several different ways brands can collaborate with influencers, it’s common to see influencers attend events and visit company headquarters for tours, experiences and other activities. But the big mistake many companies make is to treat influencer content as advertisements (they are not), which eliminates the authenticity of the content and makes it less appealing to the influencer’s audience. Instead, brands need to do something that’s really uncomfortable: give up control.

When influencer trips happen, there’s a clear benefit to both sides. The influencers receive access and unique experiences that their audiences will be interested in, while companies benefit from the content created about their brand and/or products. Companies almost always provide travel and accommodations to the influencers and some brands go a step further and pay for the influencers to publish specific content. This is also where some companies make mistakes.

When it comes to sponsored content, some brands can be incredibly prescriptive about what they want influencers to post. From the photo or video to the voiceover or caption, companies have a specific idea of what they want to see and pay for – just like an advertisement. The problem here is that this isn’t an advertisement that people see while reading a magazine or scrolling through a website. Influencer content is about reaching a key audience that already likes and trusts the individual they’re following.

The best approach is actually really simple: empower the influencer to publish the content they believe their audience will like best and engage with the most. Rather than analyzing every word of a caption, let the influencer decide what feels most natural to them. Instead of examining each photo option, trust the influencer to pick the one they think will resonate the most with their followers. When you work with an influencer, you’re buying access to their audience and their creativity. If you don’t take advantage of their creativity, you’re missing half of the value.

On trips where travel is covered, but the content isn’t sponsored, simplicity remains the best approach. Be confident in your brand. Don’t set specific content parameters that influencers must follow. Instead, let them decide what their audience will enjoy. For example, we recently arranged a trip for four technology influencers to visit a large ag-tech company. This was unlike anything the influencers had ever experienced before, and while the content was related to tech, this was not what their followers were used to seeing from them.

From the beginning, we were clear that there were no content expectations. The influencers were allowed to create and post whatever and however much they wanted to. This allowed them to go into the trip with a completely open mind, taking in everything and deciding what content their audiences would enjoy the most, rather than being focused on specific content and missing the forest for the trees.

In the end, they created and posted an enormous amount of content across all of their social channels, including two long videos and a podcast episode. Their followers were incredibly engaged the entire time. This also allowed us and our client to focus our efforts on creating interesting and fun experiences for the influencers, knowing that it was our responsibility to put together a trip that was worthy of sharing. This approach enhanced the experience for the influencers and resulted in content that was interesting, engaging and creative – a win-win.

So next time you’re thinking about how to engage influencers for a trip or to create sponsored content, remember that they know their audiences best. The best thing you can do is to empower them to create the content that inspires them, and trust that their followers will engage with energy and enthusiasm.


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