influencer marketing tips for brandsMany brands wonder if their influencer marketing programs are working. They worry about influencers with fake followers, inauthentic engagement, and exorbitant fees. They fret if their marketing messages reach customers, and if influencers really influence customers’ purchase decisions.

Influencer marketing has grown so quickly in a short time, some fear the influencer marketing bubble is about to burst.

Rather than polling marketers, Kristen Matthews at digital marketing agency eAccountable surveyed influencers for their views of how they work with brands and engage followers. While the complete report is available for download, here’s a summary of its key findings and recommendations.

Budget Adequately

As influencer marketing has become more competitive, brands have become more concerned with rising costs. Most mid-level influencers, those with 10,000 to 100,000 followers, charge between $250-$400 per blog post with full social sharing.

Brands often offer influencers free products, hoping for mentions. But almost all influencers prefer monetary compensation over free products.

Those with less than 10,000 followers, so-called micro-influencers, who were not surveyed, may be more open to mentioning brands in return for free products. Some experts argue that micro-influencers are more effective because they enjoy higher engagement rates and are more affordable.

Also, influencers don’t like to be paid by commission. “The pay-per-post model will get you the most, and the best, influencers,” Matthews writes in Social Media Today.

Recommendation: Budget adequately. Expect to spend $200-$400 per post, and plan to send products to each influencer. Consider re-directing some funds from paid social or banner ads.

Blogs + Social Media = Success

Surprisingly, most influencers consider their blogs as a strong marketing channel for brands, despite the newfound popularity of Instagram for image sharing. Blog posts appear in Google results for years, while social posts create a short-lived flash.

Recommendation: Seek influencers who publish blog posts in addition to social media posts. Combining blog posts with social media promotions produces the best results.

Don’t Sweat Disclosure Rules

FTC disclosure requirements remain a concern. The FTC requires influencers to flag sponsored posts with #ad or #sponsored. Some marketers worry that could diminish the effectiveness of their ads. But influencers surveyed say their followers still trust their recommendations even when marked as ads (although their response is undoubtedly self-serving).

Consumers understand that influencers are trying to earn a living and believe they mention brands they genuinely like, not just for the money, Matthews says.

Previous research by influencer marketing company Markerly also found that followers are not put off by sponsored content. Sponsored posts and non-sponsored posts enjoy nearly identical like rates, and followers usually tend to engage more with sponsored content than non-sponsored.

Keep mind that both influencers and brands can face monetary fines, in addition to PR damage, for failing to meet FTC requirements.

Finding Influencers

Marketers and PR pros say that finding the right influencers is challenging. About half of the influencers say they actively reach out to brands.

Recommendation: Be “influencer friendly.” A link from your homepage can point to a landing page where they can learn more about how your brand works with influencers. Influencer networks offer another option. The networks have proliferated, and networks specialize in almost every industry. About 75% of influencers surveyed work with networks.

The Influencer Marketing Measurement Challenge

Brands typically cite measurement, or the lack of it, as a main challenge in their influencer marketing campaigns. Numerous surveys show PR and marketing pros have difficulty measuring results of campaigns.

Influencers say brands use a range of metrics to measure success. About three-quarters cite impressions and almost two-thirds named website referral traffic. Other meters include sales, the number of earned media pieces, and new followers.

Recommendation: While revenue is most important, select a few key metrics that make sense for your business.

Some marketers ask influencers to include UTM tracking codes in URLs in their posts to link to brand offers, making their referrals and conversions easier to track.

Many experts recommend social media measurement tools to determine the value of influencer marketing and demonstrate its value to management. Social media measurement tools can identify ideal influencers for brands, what content they share, how widely their content spreads across the digital landscape, and how they improve public sentiment toward the brand.

An increased reliance on contracts that require influencers to report analytics can help brands better measure influencer marketing results.

Bottom Line: As brands continue to pursue influencer marketing, competition for top-flight influencers becomes more intense. Knowing influencers’ preferences and views can help PR and marketing devise more successful influencer marketing campaigns.