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how to vet influencers for influencer marketingA recent incident involving YouTube star Logan Paul illustrates the importance of vetting influencers. Paul, who boasts more than 15 million YouTube subscribers, got into hot water when he posted a video of a dead body on YouTube. After finding a body while visiting a forest in Japan known as common site for suicides, Paul joked about the body while friends laughed in the background. He later removed the video and apologized on Twitter and YouTube, saying he had meant to raise awareness about suicide prevention. [His apology was actually a good example of how to deliver a sincere apology for an error.]

It wasn’t the first time a social media star has drawn negative attention. PewDiePie was criticized for publishing racist material.

Most influencers have enough sense to recognize inappropriate material. Paul himself has posted hundreds of videos without major complaints. However, influencer marketing poses risks for brands, especially when they work with less experienced creators with little or no support staff.

Vetting influencers is especially important since influencer marketing campaigns often grant influencers wide creative latitude. Some brands even allow influencers to temporarily run their social media accounts. In addition, marketers may encounter more complications as they develop relationships with micro-influencers, who may be less experienced.

“Influencers, while they may be very good at what they do, don’t necessarily have the same quality control measures as traditional broadcasters, nor the same understanding of the negative implications of their work,” notes Andrew Hutchinson at Social Media Today.

How to Locate the Right Influencers

Following these recommendations can help PR and marketing professionals find the right influencers for their brands and develop mutually beneficial relationships.

Analyze their content and audience. Evaluate the influencer’s content and posting style to find if it aligns with your brand’s image. Consider what types of posts receive the most engagement and if top-performing posts are similar to content you desire. While audience size is a factor, consider their engagement level, likes, shares and comments, to gauge audience interest. Analyze the demographics of their followers to determine if they match demographics of your targeted audience.

Examine the influencer’s other branded posts. Beware of influencers who share promoted posts too often. Your content may get lost in their stream of advertising or seem insincere. Some marketers try to completely avoid influencers who post competitors’ content. However, competitor posts can reinforce your brand’s credibility, says Alex Ditty at SEEN Creators. They help establish the creator as a fan of that type of product or service.

Whitelisting. Whitelisting, or collaborating with a limited list of trusted influencers, can help protect reputations. More brands are embracing that practice, Ditty says.

Written agreements. Written agreements with influencers can set expectations and help avoid complications. By outlining details for compensation, content, disclosure, performance measurement and other key issues, written contracts can prevent misunderstandings.

Set performance-based payments. Partnering with top-rate influencers, doesn’t mean overpaying, asserts Laurie Cutts, vice president, marketing, at Acceleration Partners. “While brands used to pay massive fixed fees for influencer support, the payment landscape is shifting to a fairer exchange based on performance metrics such as clicks, orders, and sales,” Cutts states.

Start small. Many brands work with multiple influences, which can increase chances for unhappy relationships. Instead, work with a small number of influencers initially and build on success, advises Katie Carlson, contributing writer for Experticity.

Keep tabs on them. As campaigns progress, note how audiences react to posts and shares. Analyze if your brand is getting an increase in positive mentions and any uptick in sales for the specific product. “Measure all earned media and identify which influencers and which topics lift your brand the most,” Carlson recommends.

Employ a media monitoring and measurement tool. A social media monitoring and measurement service can identify ideal influencers for brands, what content they share, and how widely their content spreads across the internet. A media measurement service can also help analyze the results of influencer marketing campaigns.

Bottom Line: The key to effective influencer marketing is finding influencers who can be trusted to post appropriate and compelling content, rather than trying to control their posts. That’s why marketers need to place greater importance on vetting influencers. Falling into inappropriate partnerships can waste resources and create long-lasting headaches.

William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.