Pros and cons of agency led influencer programs
With 84% of companies saying they will execute an influencer marketing campaign in the next 12 months, it’s important for your brand to decide whether it is willing to invest in the fastest growing marketing strategy.
Lack of resources and internal knowledge are some of the reasons brands outsource influencer marketing to agencies. However, as is the case with other marketing initiatives, the more important the channel of acquisition, the more important it is to own it in-house. If a brand wants to create long-term partnerships with influencers, track valuable data such as sales and impressions, and generate large quantities of content for various marketing channels, dedicating in-house time and resources to oversee your program is the best way to ensure you’re accomplishing your goals.
We spoke with several brands who’ve had experience running an influencer program through a full service agency as well as with an internal team in order to better understand the pros and cons of agency led influencer programs.
What are influencer marketing solutions?
The three most prominent options for influencer marketing solutions include:
- Agency: There are tons of full-service agencies that run influencer marketing programs for brands from strategy to execution and reporting. This allows brands to be hands-off with their program and spend more time on other company initiatives.
- In-house: Many brands hire a dedicated employee or team to run an influencer marketing program. In-house influencer programs allow brands to be directly in touch with influencers and have complete control over campaign strategy and execution.
- Platform: An influencer marketing platform is a full-service, end-to-end solution that allows you to plan an influencer campaign, search through a huge database to find specific influencers, sign contracts, and have full transparency throughout the whole process. Many brands’ in-house content teams utilize platforms to streamline their influencer programs. At AspireIQ, we even offer managed services to help brands mass-scale its in-house strategy. This team works closely with your in-house team to understand your needs, budget, goals, and more. Then, we do the heavy lifting of executing the campaign, while allowing in-house teams to maintain control and transparency throughout the whole process.
We spoke with several brands that have run an influencer program through a full service agency as well as with an internal team in order to better understand the pros and cons of agency led influencer programs.
Pros and cons of agency led programs
- Brands can leverage the knowledge of experts in the social media marketing space
- Brands can utilize an existing influencer network
- Brands do not have to hire someone internally for campaign execution
- Brands are able to allocate internal resources for other initiatives
- Agency fees are significantly more expensive
- Brands have little to no direct relationships with influencers
- Brands lack transparency and campaign learnings
- It can be difficult to find the right agency
- Agencies generally have access to a limited roster of influencers
- Brands experience longer campaign turnaround
Pros and cons of in-house programs
- Brands cab build organic, ongoing relationships with any influencer
- Internal brand knowledge ensures every campaign meets company goals
- Brands have full transparency into campaigns
- Brands have full control over campaign execution
- Brands have access to data and findings that help them run successful subsequent campaigns
- Brands can run campaigns on any budget and allocate spend directly to influencers
- Brands may face a learning curve if there is no existing in-house expertise
- It can be time consuming to source and manage relationships without the right tools
- Brands need to hire an employee or team to manage the program
- It can be difficult to sale a program in-house without the proper tools
Although both solutions have their benefits and drawbacks, there is no objective “better” option. Whether your brand decides to use an agency or create an in-house influencer program is all dependent on the bandwidth of your team, the expertise of your team, and the various initiatives you have around influencer marketing.
Handling influencer marketing in-house with the help of the management tools found in an influencer marketing platform gives brands the most transparency and control. However, some teams may not have the resources needed to execute successfully. How do you know if your brand is ready?
When does bringing influencer marketing in house makes the most sense?
If you can’t afford an expensive agency
While global influencer agencies can do great work, they can also charge high fees for their marketing services. Working in-house allows you to invest all of your budget towards content creators themselves. With more budget, your brand is able to work with more high-quality social influencers, increasing your ROI. Nick Deyo, Senior Social Media Associate at Grubhub, claims that “depending on the agency, it could be 2, probably 3 times more expensive” than running a program in-house.
Although for some organizations, there can be costs associated with training or hiring internally, most influencer marketing platforms, like AspireIQ, cost a flat monthly fee that is substantially less than agency retainers. Tools like this allow even the smallest teams to run full scale programs, saving your team time and money.
If speed and agility are factors
Running an influencer program through an agency can take months because of the inevitable back and forth communication. Between check-ins, content reviews, and questions, the process can often be drawn out. Shelby Jacobs, Social Media Manager at DG Premium recalls that when working “with an influencer’s agent or through an agency, it takes five times as long to get stuff done.”
By removing the middleman, brands are able to speak directly with influencers. And because teams have internal knowledge of the brand’s needs, they can approve influencer rosters and content almost instantly.
If you want access to any and all influencers
Many micro-influencer agencies have a short roster of influencers that they recommend to all of their clients. By working in-house, you can access any influencer on any social media platform. No one knows your brand better than your internal team. When you outsource your influencer marketing, you are putting your brand’s potential look and feel into someone else’s hands and limiting your ability to partner with influencers who are genuine fans of your brand. When you’re spending thousands of dollars, you do not want to risk receiving content that does not resonate with your target audiences or does not meet brand guidelines.
Additionally, in order to see long term benefits, brands and influencers must build long-term relationships that move beyond just transactions. Social media manager of Greats, Kristin Sword, stresses that creating a successful influencer program depends on “building true relationships and understanding that influencers are a marketing channel, but they’re also people.” Long term relationships between brands and influencers produce the highest value. When running influencer marketing through an agency, you are essentially creating a short-term, transactional relationship with an influencer.
If you require valuable tracking data and insights
Joshua LaCroix, Assistant Digital Marketing Manager at FGX International says “the more data we gather, the better we can make decisions for future campaigns.” Some agencies send weekly or monthly reports for campaign performance data. If you see influencer marketing as an important part of your marketing efforts and would like to learn from first-hand experiments and data, keeping your program in-house is the only way to achieve this.
Outsourcing your influencer program does not give brands access to the data and findings that can be used to improve an existing marketing channel over time. However, make sure to equip your internal team with tracking tools to gather real-time performance metrics, without the headache.
If you’re looking to scale out your program
When you run your program in-house, you have the ability to control exactly how much time and money is spent on managing influencer relationships as well as how many relationships you prioritize each month. Unfortunately, when working with an agency, scaling a large program will cost much more money — not to mention time. When you put the work in someone else’s hands, you risk being lost in the shuffle, especially if the agency you’re working with is handling other marketing initiatives for your brand. If your brand is working with more than 10 unique influencers per month, invest in management tools that can help you streamline your process.
If you have the internal resources
Influencer marketing requires time, testing, and investment to see tangible returns. If your brand is not able to dedicate at least 5-10 hours per week using appropriate software (or 15-20 hours per week without software) to run an influencer program, it is best to outsource the program to a team that is able to dedicate the necessary time and attention.
That being said, an in-house influencer marketing team does not need to be large. With the right influencer marketing software platform, a small team can manage as many relationships as necessary with just a few hours per week.