In the current digital marketing climate, two words seem to be on everyone’s lips: Influencer Marketing. Yet, while 84% of marketers plan to run an influencer marketing program within the next 12 months, they still treat influencer marketing as an experimental strategy and are failing to capture its true value.

Breaking into influencer marketing can seem daunting. There are millions of influencers out there: how do you know which one to is right for you? Nurturing influencer relationships and running campaigns requires womanpower: where will you find that bandwidth in your back-to-back days?

These fears have led brands and agencies to opt for the short-term influencer marketing fix: paying someone else to do it. However, not only does this outsourced model cost you high, non-transparent commission fees, it also prevents you from owning your influencer relationships, resulting in content that is less authentic and effective.

We believe in a better way. Already, the brands and agencies that are thinking about their influencer marketing strategically have opted for a better solution: running their influencer marketing in-house. These brands and agencies include some of the best in the world, including RedBull, Horizon Media, and Edelman.


How Brands Currently Approach Influencer Marketing

The current approach to influencer marketing – the “Managed Campaigns” model – makes sense in the short-term. Paying someone else to provide the influencers and manage campaigns is an easy, quick way to get a campaign off the ground.

Services like these are offered by MCNs and influencer networks. These companies charge you a flat-fee in exchange for running a turn-key influencer campaign. Note that I do not include advertising, creative, and PR agencies into this group of companies because these agencies operate like extensions of their clients, give their clients access to the influencers, and report transparently on costs.

Although this Managed Campaigns model helps you get a campaign off the ground, it fails to leverage the full power of influencer marketing for the following three reasons:

  1. Your authentic brand message is lost in translation: Nobody can communicate your brand message better than you and your agency. Managed Campaigns vendors approach influencer marketing transactionally and prioritise volume over quality. By letting them select your influencers and drive the creative process, your campaign runs the risk of being less authentic and less effective.
  2. Steep, non-transparent mark-ups: It’s standard for these vendors to take a 30-50% commission fee off your spend, cutting your ROI in half.
  3. No long-term value: These vendors own the influencer relationships, even though most of the influencers they work with are not signed exclusively to them and can be contracted directly. You just paid steep fees to rent their talent, and did not succeed in building a substantial relationship with the influencers.

The Managed Campaigns solution makes complete sense when you are testing the channel. But, as influencer marketing matures, the brands and agencies that will yield the greatest returns from influencer marketing are those that start thinking about influencer marketing not as a tactic, but as a long-term strategy.

Influencer marketing is not a media buy. It’s not about transactions, but about relationships. It’s not about buying posts and reach, but about establishing partnerships with the right influencers and collaborating on programs that speak to followers in an authentic and compelling way. To achieve this, you must own the influencer relationships and participate in the creative process.

You must bring your influencer marketing in-house.


Bring Influencer Marketing In-House To Capture Long-Term Value

Companies like RedBull, Horizon Media, and Edelman, run their influencer marketing in-house to have more control over their programs and earn greater returns. They still sometimes work with talent agencies and MCNs that have exclusive relationships with talent, and sometimes even work with Managed Campaigns companies for specific activations that require a lot of manpower. But overall, they run their programs in-house and own their influencer relationships.

Running your influencer marketing in-house pays off in 3 major ways:

  1. Authenticity pays off: People don’t mind sponsored posts, as long as they’re honest and awesome. In fact, as Miranda Sings’ SEXY BUTTERY LOVE SONG (produced for Jack In The Box and coordinated by Horizon Media) goes to show, when influencer posts are especially awesome, people love them! One of the many ecstatic comments on that video includes: “Is it bad that I watched this 62 times?” Communicating directly with influencers yields more relevant and effective content.
  2. Maximize your ROI: Cutting out the middlemen helps you make better use of your budget. Furthermore, influencers often lower their prices once you’ve established a relationship with them as influencers prefer long-term relationships.
  3. Long-term competitive advantage: Brands and agencies that build influencer relationships and influencer marketing expertise today will lead the space for years to come. Doing so now will give your brand or agency a competitive edge that may pay off handsomely in the near future.

It’s important to be aware that bringing influencer marketing in-house is not as easy as flipping a switch. It requires you to build a team, a process, and an influencer network. However, by selecting the right initiatives, the right staff, and the right technology partner, many brands and agencies are succeeding in building their own influencer networks.

In many ways, the movement from outsourced influencer marketing to in-house influencer marketing echos the transition that occurred in with social media & community management. Over the last 5 years, big brands have brought competency in-house, having understood that it is too valuable to outsource. Only those agencies that had built an expert social media & community management department have maintained their accounts.

It’s clear that influencer marketing is here to stay. The brands and agencies that will dominate in the long-run are those that build the expertise and influencer relationships today.