Are the benefits of influencer marketing worth the high price tag? The short answer: it depends on what you’re selling.

Have you ever scrolled through your Instagram and landed on an image posted by a celebrity, posing with a prominently featured item about which they can’t seem to stop gushing? If the brand that makes said item is tagged in the photo, or the caption is followed by the subtle hashtags #spons or #ad, you may have come face-to-face with the newest vessel for guerilla marketers to peddle their wares: influencer marketing.

With 26% of desktop users and 15% of mobile consumers using ad blockers to opt out of unsolicited advertising on the web, brands and businesses have begun to put their dollars behind clever marketing strategies that bypass these blockers. Just last year, companies spent an estimated $570 million on sponsored Instagram posts alone. This strategy, known as influencer marketing, has gained traction as celebrities from Kylie Jenner to Reese Blutstein cash in on lucrative brand partnerships.

Influencer marketing can be a high-cost, high-reward endeavor. But before you hop on board and start shelling out the big bucks for your 15 minutes of Instagram fame, there are a few things you should consider.

Consider Your Target Audience, and Influence Accordingly

Apparel and other retail brands can gain a significant advantage from strategic influencer partnerships. Because fashion is such a visually-driven industry, seeing how an item looks on an influencer can have a major impact on a follower’s purchasing decision. According to a 2016 survey, 57% of beauty and fashion companies already use influencers as part of their marketing strategies, while an additional 21% planned to start using influencers in 2017.

The purpose of influencer marketing is to reach an audience whose interests align with the endorser (and therefore with the product being promoted). Because of this, it’s important to consider whether your product will actually benefit from the added boost that a specific influencer can provide.

Say that your product is a cutting edge vacuum cleaner. While your favorite reality TV star may boast 100,000 Instagram followers, those followers are unlikely to be particularly invested in the star’s vacuum cleaner of choice. But if Martha Stewart provides a ringing endorsement of your dustbuster, that could very well provide a significant boost to your sales efforts.

The Classic Cost-Benefit Analysis

Another thing to consider is the high cost of influencer marketing versus the potential payoff for your brand. The business of influencer marketing has largely been taken over by agencies that charge upwards of $30,000 per month for their services, to say nothing of the one-off costs: a single tweet from a famous comedian can run you as much as $10,000.

And because the strategy is relatively new, there’s not a whole lot of data available on the tangible payoff to be gained from this strategy. According to a study conducted by influencer marketing agency Linqia, 78% of the 170 marketers surveyed indicated that “determining the return on investment is the biggest challenge of influencer marketing.”

The bottom line? If you’re unsure that influencer marketing will contribute to your brand’s specific goals, it’s best to put your money, time, and efforts to better use.

Longneck and Thunderfoot offer social media management services to build a vibrant audience for your brand across all media channels. Learn more about social media and PR here.

Author Ami Foote

A graduate of the University of South Carolina, Ami is a staff writer at L&T. She has previously written for Ireland.com, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Britax Child Safety, and a variety of non-profits around the country. On a good day, you can find Ami obsessively consuming one or all of the following: folk music, NPR, black coffee, jeopardy, or Guinness.

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