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Agencies vs platforms vs in-house influencer marketing: which one is the right choice for you?

Francesco Pastorelli
Marketing Growth Lead at Make Influence, I have a background in growing early stage startups through digital...

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With over 1 billion active users on Instagram, and 80% of them making a buying decision based on Instagram research, it’s hard to grasp the size of the value Instagram actually generates for brands active on it. One thing is sure - Instagram is the place to be and establish your brand footprint.

The challenge with being on Instagram as a company is catching users’ attention. And this obstacle is not to be underestimated - Instagram users have progressively developed a natural brain barrier to ads, which makes ads be barely noticed and instantly forgotten.

Fortunately, you have a couple of extra allies to get around this. There is no better way to be noticed than using the non-intrusive help of influencers. Unlike paid ads, influencers grab the attention of their audiences because they want to be engaged with the content influencers present.

But how do you get started with influencer marketing? While influencers marketing is a beneficial activity when done right, it is worth noticing that it is a resource-intensive activity - especially in terms of time and strategy if you are new to the influencer industry. The mix of time, budget, and employees you choose to allocate to your influencer marketing program will largely depend on your company situation. There are three main options or setups (and related strategies) you should consider: manage your program in house natively, hire an influencer agency to run it for you or a hybrid version where you or the agency use a platform or marketplace to manage it. In this article, we will walk you through the pros and cons of each of these options, and present an infographic to summarize the learnings and help you make the appropriate choice for your influencer marketing strategy.

  1. Should you go for in-house native influencer marketing?
    1.1. What is in-house influencer marketing?
    1.2. What do I need to do to get going with native, in-house influencer marketing?
  2. What do you need to know about influencer marketing agencies?
    2.1. Dealing with agencies, while managing influencer marketing in-house
  3. What can an influencer marketing platform do for you?
  4. So, influencer marketing agency, platform, or in-house - which one fits your needs?

 

Should you go for in-house native influencer marketing?

What is in-house influencer marketing?

Let us begin with the first logical starting point: in-house, native influencer marketing. What is it? Quite simple: in-house, native influencer marketing is when you decide to manage the influencer marketing yourself, within the company, using standard tools you already use in your marketing setup (Google Analytics, Instagram, Gmail etc...) and maybe some free tools. On the contrary of in-house, native influencer marketing would be outsourced (for example through an agency) or platform-aided (using a set of ad-hoc tools) influencer marketing.

do it yourself

 

What do I need to do to get going and achieve some results with native, in-house influencer marketing?

To have an effective influencer campaign running in place, you’d need two components: knowledge of the influencer industry with its ins and outs and time - lots of it!

But that shouldn't come as a surprise to you given that you’d be doing everything manually and internally. In-house influencer marketing can be the cheapest option to get started, yes, but the most time-consuming and hard to scale one as well. It’s a hands-on example of opportunity cost: what you save from using an agency (cost) takes up from your time.

Moreover, there are hidden costs when managing internally your influencer marketing efforts. Do you think you know enough about how to get started with influencer marketing, especially as a small business? For example, do you know how to select the right influencer and how to convince them to collaborate with you? That’s the advantage of influencer marketing agencies and platforms: they already have a list of influencers that are verified, active, and more willing to hear you out. At the early stage, how you spend your scarce resources (money and staff’s time) is of importance and can have a big impact on how your business is going. There are a couple of parameters to review and we’ve written a guide about it if you want to dive into it.

Also, probably you might want to get some good results out of your effort, right? But do you know which performance marketing metrics to look at? Here’s another guide for you to study and not fall for the so-called vanity metrics.

All in all, in-house influencer marketing is cheaper (if you exclude the hidden costs) but time-consuming. It requires that you know how to proceed and that you already have what’s needed in your team to make a captivating campaign. Not to mention that you should measure the performance post-campaign if you want to see how the campaign went and decide what to do further on.

If you are not confident that you have the information, employees and tools to help you with all the above, stay with us for your next options.

What do you need to know about influencer marketing agencies?

 

On the other side of the spectrum from in-house, native influencer marketing, you have fully managed influencer campaigns by an agency. When companies decide to get another company to do a service for them instead of handling it in-house, that’s when agencies come into play. Agencies offer their competencies in a particular business area and can do your digital marketing, sales, web development activities and so on.

Influencer marketing agencies are no different from that definition, and they specialize in, you guessed it, influencer marketing. However, you might also work with a traditional marketing agency that does what you would typically do in-house on your behalf, including occasionally collaborating with other influencer agencies to access talent.

Typically, influencer agencies have a number of social media influencers that they work with and represent. Most agencies focus on representing bigger, more established influencers, usually micro (10K-50K followers) and mid-tier established influencers (50K-500K+ followers). Influencer agencies serve both companies and influencers as they also find clients for the influencers, help them organise their schedule and payments. In this way, these agencies make the life of both parties easier by facilitating the process of executing an influencer campaign. How they go about it though varies on the influencer marketing agency and the collaboration type - you can have a one-time collaboration with a selected influencer for a few months and decide to have a mix of responsibilities, or you can let the agency run the whole influencer program.

to infinity

Beyond their different approaches on how to employ the power of influencers, when you set a contract with a particular influencer agency, you choose to work with their specific pool of influencers. On the contrary, working with a marketing agency could give you more freedom of choice, as the agency does not usually have particular ties with specific influencers. A good agency would ask you about your brand and how you want to be perceived, what is your target group and so forth. The influencer agency’s specialists would understand what you want to communicate with them and match you with an influencer that aligns with those criteria. This is a time-saving activity for you since you don’t need to go through the influencer recruitment stage, spend efforts building a relationship, and be rejected by the influencer(s) by the end of it.

In general, using an influencer marketing agency would save you time all-around since you won’t be the one dealing with the planning, organisation and execution of the influencer campaign. You would have a team of professionals to take care of it.

To sum it up, what you get out of working with an influencer marketing agency is:

  • Influencer marketing expertise
  • Mentorship
  • Access to established influencers with more followers
  • Saved time
  • Performance measurement (potentially)

All of the mentioned advantages, however, come with a conspicuous fee. You pay for two services - the agency for their assistance and the influencer for their work. To top it up, the more help and work you need from the agency, the more expensive it becomes for you for the same results. Also, you pay not based on how the influencers perform with their assigned campaign but based on a set price. Usually, those prices are high because you would collaborate with bigger influencers who can be more selective.

 

Dealing with agencies, while managing influencer marketing in house


Sometimes, particularly when you decide to do your influencer marketing in-house, you might stop on a specific influencer that you reach out to. It is possible that the only way to collaborate with them is through the agency or the talent manager who represents them.

Then what you need to consider is: how much can you afford to spend on influencer marketing activities and what are your campaign goals? A key metric to review is your ROI (or better, ROAS) - are your returns going to be higher than your investment? Agencies’ strength is in maximizing your ROI if your goal is raising brand awareness because the influencers they represent have a higher follower base which leads to higher exposure (lots of impressions). If you, however, would need more tangible results and pay for direct sales, clicks and so on, it is better for your business to use platforms that provide performance based collaborations. Brand awareness is hard to measure, consequently so is your ROI.

Also, the influencers that agencies connect you with require a bigger budget on your behalf. In this sense, agencies are not affordable for smaller businesses. Even big companies begin to reassess their influencer expenditure and look for smarter ways to optimize their money spending. They internalise their influencer marketing activities by going with influencer marketing platforms.

This is a middle-way option that allows you to run influencer marketing internally but with the aid of ad-hoc tools to manage your program at scale, more efficiently and effectively.

It is a particularly appealing option for companies whose goal is to have a more direct return on investment by focusing on generating quantifiable conversions from their influencer marketing activities, such as traffic and sales.

So let us review the next option.

 

What can an influencer marketing platform do for you?


Are you in the position of wanting to scale your influencer marketing activities in a way that is efficient, measurable and yet not putting a big strain on your budget? There is a middle solution to that need - influencer marketing platforms.

Influencer marketing platforms are a combination of both worlds: they have a number of influencers on their platforms for you to review and chose from. Some marketplaces like Make Influence go an extra mile and they’ve done the ground check and all influencers on their platform are verified, so you do not have to worry about fake influencers.

But there is much more an influencer marketing platform can do for you! Taking an example with our platform, Make Influence, after you discover influencers, you vet them with a consideration of the data that you are provided with on there. You can connect with influencers, manage expectations, agree on a commission, track performance and handle the payout automatically - all available on the platform.

To add to the list of benefits, you can build professionally-looking campaigns and publish them within the platform. In this way, influencers can see the campaign and reach out to you themselves.

perfect

In general, managing an influencer program through a platform is faster than through an agency or in-house, with fewer resources, and you save money from agencies fees and other hidden costs. By using a platform, you have the possibility to reach an influencer and establish a relationship with them - something that you will not be able to if the agency overtakes all influencer marketing activities, or if you do not approach an influencer the right way when you do it in-house. You have more control over your collaborations and you can do a performance based collaboration where you pay based on influencer’s conversion rates. That can be campaign clicks (Pay-Per-Click - a super useful feature if you want tangible results!), sales conversions, clicks on affiliate links. And you agree with the influencer for expected payment based on the conversion rate. In this way, you pay for what you get and not upfront like agencies typically work. Make Influence is one of the influencer marketplaces that offer you various options on how to pay your influencers based on their performance. You can track influencers’ performance with data that is extracted from Instagram Insights and presented in a digestible way on Make Influence’s platform.

If you are curious to read about Make Influence’s different product packages, or if you want to directly experience our platform with a free trial, click here to learn more.

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So, influencer marketing agency, platform, or in-house - which one fits your needs?

Summing it up, it is all up to you, the resources you have at hand, and what is your influencer marketing objective. In a sentence or two, here are the main characteristics of

  1. In-house native influencer marketing - if you want to test out the waters with managing influencer activities, you have just started with it and would like to expand gradually, you have some budget but not it is not exponential, this is the step to take.

  2. Influencer marketing agencies - if you are in a company with the means to pay for outsourcing influencer marketing and do not expect to see immediate ROI, agencies are an appropriate choice.

  3. Influencer marketing platforms - if you have experience in managing influencer marketing, you want to keep on having it internally, however, you desire to optimise your processes, save time, yet scale up and get performance based ROI, platforms have the data to help with that.

To ease your decision-making process about your influencer marketing strategy, we have made a clear-cut table with the pros and cons of all the options.

Table-comparison

Want to get started with influencer marketing?

Book a free strategy consultation with us or create a free account on Make Influence and get started by yourself today. 

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