KOL marketing is rapidly replacing the role of traditional PR and advertising, with more marketing budgets being allocated to influencer collaborations. Being such a new form of marketing, it’s no wonder that some marketers are having a hard time adjusting, and its not uncommon for them to make major faux pas when approaching KOLs.
After conducting interviews and surveys with thousands of influencers in ParkLU’s database, we’ve come to understand how KOLs operate and what they look for in a successful collaboration. Never forget that they are people too; for many, despite social media being a (lucrative) business, their primary objective is to create quality and engaging content for their followers. So if you can find ways to help them do that, you could have a win-win situation right there.
Below are ten common mistakes we’ve seen when brands deal with KOLs, and what to do instead if you’re guilty of them:
1. Budgeting too little for KOL campaigns
Across the thousands of collaborations we’ve seen, campaigns with the highest ROI tend to include a mix of mid-tier and top influencers, so make sure your budget is sufficient in order to see real impact. A couple of top tier influencers will give a “halo effect”, lending credibility to the brand, and thereby influencing mid-tier influencers to also engage.
2. No budget – product only campaigns
While it’s more affordable to give away products rather than pay for sponsored posts, the effect will always be limited and scattered. KOLs are so used to gifts, that they will not likely be too committed when it comes to posting for you; you’re basically leaving it up to chance, or waiting to see if they develop a liking for your brand.
3. Not engaging suitable KOLs
KOLs can be powerful in creating influence in their sphere of expertise and credibility, but if you ask a beauty blogger to post about food, don’t expect her followers to be very engaged. Take the time to understand what content the KOL is known for by looking through her past posts, and take note of how her followers react to different types of content.
4. Not allowing creative freedom
When you have too many restrictions and requirements, you are jeopardising the very authenticity that the KOL has worked so hard to achieve. Let them be inspired by your brand and references, so that they create their own content — you might be pleasantly surprised at how much more engaging it is to their followers.
5. Aiming for mere reach
Yes, she might have a million followers, but are they your target customers? Try to understand the demographics of a potential KOL partner, and consider whether she is a good fit for your brand and product type (see #3).
6. Not giving enough prep time
Don’t be last minute: 5-10% of KOLs drop out of campaigns without notice due to all sorts of valid circumstances, so ensure you have extra time to recruit backups. Also keep in mind it takes time to search, vet, negotiate, and choose partners, then send product for reviewing, and finally content creation. We estimate it takes over 50 work hours to engage 10 KOLs, in the best of scenarios. Check out our handy calendar of major retail dates that will keep you well planned in advance.
7. Expecting immediate sales results
Influence and awareness grow over time. I often talk about no less than eight touch points a Chinese consumer needs to make before purchasing from a foreign brand, so a KOL campaign could be sowing the seeds for a future purchase several months later (probably offline for luxury and travel sectors). An integrated digital strategy should set realistic goals to track from a KOL collaboration.
8. Overestimating your collaboration’s appeal
Particularly for in-kind collaborations, keep in mind KOLs may receive these offers all the time, so it’s up to you to invite and convince them to partner with you on content collaboration, and gauge what they are comfortable doing for you.
9. Being too campaign-focused
Remember that you are developing a friendly business relationship with the KOL, and stay open to the possibility of working with her on an on-going basis in the near future. Not only will this be beneficial for the brand, it will also make your negotiations much easier.
10. Expecting one hit wonders
Don’t expect every KOL to drive conversions, especially if your brand is new to the market. Take a wider campaign view, knowing that campaigns optimise over time as you identify the right KOLs to help you achieve your goals.
To discover more about influencer marketing, visit ParkLu.com.
Kim Leitzes is CEO and founder of ParkLU, a marketplace connecting consumer brands with China KOLs. Her web and mobile platform, which has enabled independent and global brands, including H&M, Abercrombie & Fitch, Macy’s and Swire Properties, to collaborate with KOLs. Connect with Kim on LinkedIN or visit ParkLu.com.