Choosing an influencer agency isn’t always easy.
With so many considerations, from your goals and expectations, to the kind of influencers you can partner with, here are the things to look for and the reasons a traditional influencer agency might not be the right fit.
What is an influencer marketing agency?
An influencer marketing agency is a traditional PR or advertising agency focused specifically on pairing up brands and influencers and running campaigns between the two.
In the context of this piece, we’re using the phrase to refer to traditional influencer marketing agencies. These types of agencies feature a traditional hierarchy with a handful of stakeholders on each account, and they’ll often have complex tech stacks with different tools for monitoring each part of a campaign—the costs of which typically get billed back to the client. Most don’t even have a book of talent partners. Instead, they have to manually research and identify influencers for each new campaign.
We’ll talk more about the differences between traditional agencies and today’s alternatives later on, but it’s important to note that difference up front.
Most brands start to look into working with an agency when they realize the potential of influencer marketing or are ready to scale their efforts but lack the resources, knowledge, and time to do it in-house.
What do influencer marketing agencies do?
The services an influencer marketing agency offers will vary on a number of levels, but generally speaking, most agencies will have a similar menu of offerings:
- Find relevant influencers: They scour the web (or, often, their pre-vetted books) to find the right creators for each campaign
- Outreach and contracts: They reach out to influencers with pitches and offers and when an influencer accepts, they create and manage the contracts
- Plan campaigns: They map out the trajectory of each influencer campaign and plot what activities need to happen and when. This process often involves a meatier dive into audience research, goal planning, data analysis, and trend forecasting to determine what works best for each client
- Create content briefs: They set up briefs for each campaign to balance expectations and make sure brands and influencers are on the same page
- Monitor campaigns and track ROI: They check analytics regularly and track the performance of campaigns, often using a mixed bag of tools to do so
- Report on results: They provide updates on how a campaign is doing and deliver reports at the end of each week, month, or quarter
- Help you build your strategy: They analyze your existing strategy and map out a path forward based on your unique needs and goals
- Run sponsored ad campaigns: They design and execute paid campaigns on social media, including the set up and monitoring
- Ship your products: They send off products to influencers to use in their content and campaigns
What to look for when hiring an influencer marketing agency
After doing initial research, when narrowing down your options, it's important to consider whether an agency can fit your needs, your goals, and your restraints. In order to make the right choice, try to focus on these seven areas when doing your research:
1. Key services on offer
There tend to be two types of agency: full-service and specialized. It’s the same with influencer agencies—do they offer a full-service experience covering not just influencer campaigns from start to finish, but other marketing activities too? Or do they only specialize in influencer marketing?
A full-service agency can be a good option if you’re looking for help across other disciplines, while a specialist agency is better if you want expert help with just influencer marketing. And even then, there are a ton of services to get to grips with: Do they run ambassador campaigns? Affiliate campaigns? What about product seeding?
If you’re not sure which type of agency is best aligned with your wider marketing goals, go for one with a wider scope. You’ll have more room to tailor campaigns according to your brand and goals.
2. Relevant influencers
Even the most promising campaigns can go awry with the wrong influencers, so it’s critical that you choose an agency with an extensive library of relevant influencers.
Before you engage with an agency, ask them:
- How do you find and vet your influencers?
- Do you have a broad range of influencers in my industry?
- How do you select influencers for a campaign?
- Do you take a percentage of influencer fees?
- How do you estimate how much an influencer will cost you?
Ideally, you want to work with an agency that has a broad range of influencers to choose from. This includes those with varying audience sizes, from micro to mega, as well as influencers in a wide variety of industries. Most importantly, any agency worth its salt should have strong relationships with its influencers and continue to foster those connections.
3. Experience with brands like yours
We know it’s tempting to choose an agency based purely on their past clientele (especially if it’s a brand as big as Coca-Cola or Microsoft), but try and look past the glitzy names on their roster. Instead, choose agencies that have experience relevant to your brand. If you’re a small mom-and-pop store that sells handmade dungarees, your campaigns are going to look very different from multi-million dollar corporations.
We recommend browsing any available case studies and checking out the live campaigns on social media for yourself. You can take it one step further and speak to other brands that have used their services—most agencies will gladly put you in touch with their previous clients if you’re looking for a first-hand testimonial.
When digging into an agency’s previous work, take some time to explore how they manage the creative aspects of the campaign (do you like the visuals?), the strategy (how does each campaign come together?), and the execution (is the end result what was expected?).
4. Analytics, measurement, and reporting
Understanding the metrics behind your campaigns is the key to improving future performance. It’s important to choose an agency that not only monitors the success of each campaign, but that does it in a way that aligns with your overall business goals.
Consider whether they take a data-driven approach to campaigns—do they analyze insights to find out what’s working, which influencers get the best results, and what could be improved? It’s also worth having a discussion about the technology they use to access real-time data. A lot of agencies use a handful of different tools and integrations, so it can help to know whether they fit into your existing tech stack or if you’ll rely on external reports.
5. Channel-specific experience
Instagram has long been an influencer’s playground, but this is rapidly changing with emerging creator-specific features from TikTok and YouTube. Choose an agency that has knowledge of the platforms you either already have visibility on or would like to increase your reach on. For example, if your brand is generating lots of interest on Instagram, look for agencies with specific Instagram expertise or who have partnerships with specific platforms.
It’s also a good idea to find out how an agency keeps up with platform trends. The whims of social media change on an almost daily basis, so it’s critical that they have the stamina and ability to adapt quickly.
6. Campaign extensions
There are multiple ways you can extend a successful influencer campaign, like allowlisting and turning influencer posts into branded content ads. The possibilities are endless, so it’s important to choose an agency that offers these additional services and does them well. For example, do they work with paid social teams? Are they familiar with the Meta suite? Or do they work seamlessly with other platforms, like Impact or Shopify?
FYI: Aspire offers a variety of integrations that can be easily managed on one platform–that’s the kind of ease you’re looking for. Opting for an agency that is well-acquainted with these additional extras will save any future headaches when it comes to expanding your campaigns.
7. Expectations and processes
Even if you choose the best-fit agency in the world, there’s still room for things to go sideways if you don’t lay out your expectations upfront. Think about whether you’re looking for someone to handle the entire process or whether you simply want a partner to help you flesh out an existing influencer marketing strategy.
Then, check how adaptable and flexible the agency is. This is a good time to learn more about their processes and how they fit with your expectations. For example, if you’re looking for a hands-off partnership but an agency wants you deeply involved at every step, it’s probably not going to be a good fit.
The downsides of working with a traditional influencer marketing agency
Working with a traditional influencer marketing agency can be a great way to dip your toes into the influencer marketing world. But, when it comes to more complex campaigns and scaling your efforts, it can get a little tricky.
We’re not saying you should steer clear, but it’s worth keeping in mind your end goal with influencer marketing and how well the agency you choose is equipped to meet that goal. For example, traditional agencies often have a limited pool of influencers they work with over and over again—do you need more diversity? Do you want to penetrate markets where they have a limited supply of influencers? Food for thought.
Another thing to consider is how you’ll determine the cost of the engagement. Traditional agencies often merge together service frees and influencer fees so you don’t get to see the real value of your dollars.
Traditional agencies may also lack detailed campaign insights if they’re using a variety of tools to track and measure your campaigns—are they able to bring everything together in one easy-to-access place? Or will the data forever be spread across multiple platforms?
And, if your campaign is doing well and you decide you want to build on it with paid ads, branded content ads, or allowlisting (like Ruggable did), is the agency you’ve chosen set up for that? There can be a disconnect between influencer campaigns and paid social media if they’re managed separately, which is often the case with traditional agencies.
We know how effective influencer marketing is, so if you’re just starting out it can be difficult to picture the possible results (and returns!). It’s worth thinking ahead and exploring whether a traditional agency is able to manage, organize, and store influencer generated content at scale and rapidly grow with the performance of your campaigns.
Platform-backed agency services: An alternative to traditional influencer agencies
You’ve probably noticed we’ve added the word “traditional” in front of the agencies we’ve talked about above and that’s because, while we’re totally in favor of agencies as a whole, we believe the future of influencer marketing will thrive better under agencies that adopt a modern, innovative approach like us.
We’re calling them platform-backed agencies—or those that have powerful, full-service software behind them.
Aspire’s agency services combine the knowledge and human touch of traditional influencer marketing agencies with a dynamic software ecosystem that stores, manages, and tracks every part of the process in one accessible place.
Here are the pros:
- Fee transparency: We don’t take a cut from the influencer fees. Brands are fully aware of every cent they spend on creators. Because of this, we’re able to negotiate the best rates on behalf of the brands we work with.
- Data-driven insights: Access to robust software and real-time data makes it easy to make insight-based decisions that actually move the needle.
- Best in class technology: Our platform allows us to pivot quicker than traditional agencies. We can get campaigns up and running quickly, have the ability to scale on a dime, and use real-time analytics to optimize on the fly.
- Early adopters: We’re always on the pulse of what’s next. Our deep understanding of the industry combined with a passion for learning helps us stay ahead of the curve.
- Unlimited influencers: We have solid relationships with pre-vetted influencers, but we also source relevant creators outside of the platform where needed. These influencers cover a huge cross-section of industries—and if there’s none that match your needs, we tap our network to find more!
- Concise reporting: Instead of creating a Frankenstein library of tools, we use just one piece of software to pull and track data from every part of the campaign.
- Easy integrations: Our powerful integrations with Meta and Shopify can connect ads and ecommerce in a couple of clicks, and we’re also partnered with TikTok and Pinterest for easy feature access.
- Adaptable and flexible: We aren’t rigid in our systems and processes. We offer custom, turnkey, a la carte, and hybrid packages to cater to your needs, and take a full-service approach to support you across the entire influencer campaign lifecycle.
- Transparent overview: See everything from start to finish with accessible dashboards and a comprehensive insight into what’s going on at any given time.
Combining agency know-how with powerful influencer platforms is the way forward
Aspire’s agency services provide an alternative to traditional influencer agencies for brands that want flexibility and scalability within their campaigns. We use deep data and insights to drive every decision in our campaigns and combine this with our extensive knowledge of influencer marketing and the key social media platforms.
Platform-backed agencies provide a mix of industry expertise and pair it with detailed data, a database of relevant influencers, and a connected platform that provides a transparent view of campaigns and performance.
Ready to get started? Speak to our agency services team today.