Influencer Marketing Failures and How to Avoid Them

Influencer Marketing is quite the buzz these days, and no wonder — the appeal is obvious. Having a “celebrity” endorse your brand to their followers should generate awareness, recognition and even sales, right?

Unfortunately, there can be a few roadblocks on the path to success. Digiday pointed out some of the most blatant influencer marketing failures of 2018:

The California wildfires become promotional
As wildfires ravished California in November, influencers proved how opportunistic they can be. Some influencers used the disaster to self-promote their own profiles and discounts from companies they partnered with using locations and keywords related to the fires, as well as hashtags like #coasttocoastlove and #californialove. Followers and outside voices showed their disgust with the self-promotion.

Floyd Mayweather and DJ Khaled are sued for promoting a cryptocurrency scam
A lawsuit from May showed that influencers may also be held accountable for their roles in sponsoring illegal companies. TMZ reported in October that boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. and rapper DJ Khaled were being sued from investors who sunk $32 million into Centra Tech, which called itself a company that sold financial products related to cryptocurrency, and whose founders were charged in April with defrauding investors. Mayweather and Khaled, who both signed endorsement deals with Centra Tech, encouraged people to buy the coin with Twitter and Instagram posts.

Cîroc ads violate FTC influencer rules
In December 2018, advocacy group Truth in Advertising collected 1,700 Instagram posts promoting Cîroc Vodka from 50 influencers, including stars like Diddy, Ashanti and French Montana, and found the posts did not disclose the paid partnership clearly with either #ad or #sponsored hashtags. TINA wrote a letter to the FTC about the violations, and Cîroc received a lot of bad press for the mishaps. If the FTC takes action, that is another thing. It has only enforced its guidelines on undisclosed endorsements a couple of times, and only toward companies and not individual influencers.

So what can you do to avoid Influencer Marketing failure? Neil Patel offers a few suggestions:

1. You’re looking for the right fit, not necessarily size.
This is the most basic mistake, but unfortunately, it’s still the most common.

Most companies pull up a list of influencers, dump them into a spreadsheet, and then sort by the largest follower counts. But savvy social brands today realize that follower counts mean almost nothing.

For starters, how do you know if each influencer is even right for your business, your niche, your market, and the nature of your product/niche/service? And what does their actual engagement or influence look like with their followers?

2. Qualify influencers before sending out free products.
You’ve found influencers who’re a good fit. It’s time to cold-pitch them and send out a ton of free product. Right? Wrong.

For example, their Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube feeds should be filled with past campaigns or product reviews. Go see how they featured each product, and compare the responses they get (e.g. retweets, likes, shares, comments, etc.) against their follower count.

Smaller, engaged audiences can beat large, unengaged ones all the time (while probably costing you less, too).

3. Clarify deal terms in black and white.
You don’t need 30-page contracts with influencers. But you do need to have the basic deal terms sketched out.

For example, what are you expecting in return?

A blog post? On their site? Yours? Another?
Is video included? If so, will that be on their site? YouTube? Somewhere else?
How long is each piece of content? How is it optimized (or not) for evergreen search traffic?
Do they do an unbiased review, or can you structure more of an advertorial?
Where will this review be shared? If social, how many posts do you get? Are thumbnail images of the product included?
When will the review be posted? What happens if the review isn’t posted by that date?

4. Align influencer benefits with your goals.
Generally speaking, influencers want one of three things:

Money – straight fee or revenue share
Awareness – more traffic to their site, subscribers/followers, etc.
Access – to exclusive events, products, etc.

Depending on how big or savvy the influencer is, s/he might want a combination of these things.

Now, paying an influencer isn’t a bad deal.

But paying an influencer $10,000, with zero guarantees of performance or results for you, doesn’t make sense. Instead, see how you can compensate them with:

Exclusive discount for readers
Rev-share of all products sold

Does it sound like you’re giving up a lot? It should.

You’re getting multiple ways to track each campaign (through personalized discount codes for each site and unique affiliate tracking links).

Now, if it’s structured like this, and you pay one influencer $10,000 that month, it means s/he drove $100,000 in new sales, first.

5. Plan influencer campaigns for the long term.
Product reviews are the lowest-hanging fruit for influencer marketing. They can help get you links and maybe a few customers.

But they’re not going to substantially grow your business. For that, you need to turn your attention to creating a more comprehensive brand ambassador-like relationship that keeps influencers engaged for months and years to come.

Otherwise, someone else — like your competitors? — will come along with better terms and undercut you, replacing your brand as the “top recommendation” and stealing sales out from under your nose.

If you’re still interested in Influencer Marketing despite the potential pitfalls, you should check out our specialist Influencer Marketing course:


In this course, we consider the importance of Influencer Marketing, determine the smartest and most effective strategies — and explore how to identify effective Kiwi micro-influencers who will be good ambassadors for your brand.

Lesson One: Why Use Influencer Marketing

In this lesson, we talk about exactly what Influencer Marketing is, why it matters to you and when and how you should tap into the power of Influencer Marketing. Allow TapInfluence to explain:

Influencer marketing is a type of marketing that focuses on using key leaders to drive your brand’s message to the larger market. Rather than marketing directly to a large group of consumers, you instead inspire / hire / pay Influencers to get out the word for you.

Influencer Marketing has evolved from humble origins to end up as the preferred buzzword to describe the current iteration of a well-established and familiar marketing tool: using “celebrities” to promote your products.

There’s a bit more to Influencer Marketing than just plunking a few celebrities into a TV commercial, however. Today’s definition of “celebrities” (Influencers) has broadened to encompass those who are, in the words of Andy Warhol, “famous for 15 minutes”.

Lesson Two: Most Effective Influencer Marketing Strategies

As it turns out, there’s a bit more to Influencer Marketing than simply tracking down people who seem to have a lot of followers in social media. We share proven strategies which will help lessen potential heartache.

We also examine:

  • the top Power Words to use
  • creative ways to incentivize influencers
  • the four Rs of effective Influencer Marketing
  • how to run successful Influencer Marketing campaigns
  • what Google’s purchase of Famebit tells us about the future of Influencer Marketing
  • why major players are now signing up Influencers
  • twenty trends that will shape Influencer Marketing in the next year

Lesson Three: Choosing Influencers

Not all Influencers are created equal (and there are more than a few pretenders to the throne out there). We discuss what to look for (and what to avoid) — and why you should proceed slowly as you assemble your Influencer team.

Lesson Four: Connecting With Influencers

Once you’ve determined the most appropriate Influencers for your brand, it’s time to reach out and connect. If you’re not careful though, and haven’t thought through the right approach, you might be turned down — or end up paying too much. We share lessons from others that will help ease the way.

And we also also help you to brief your chosen influencers, identifying the key information you should provide to Influencers to ensure that they will promote your brand safely, legally and effectively.

Lesson Five: Finding Kiwi Influencers

There are surprising numbers of influential New Zealanders who have attracted a wide following through their efforts on YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat and elsewhere.

In this lesson, we take a look at some of New Zealand’s most-followed influencers on the social networks, including (just one example) the NZ-based YouTube channels with most subscribers:

  • Shaaanxo
  • Wacky Wednesday
  • Jamie’s World
  • Rainbow Learning
  • AzzMan

(and we rate them in terms of whose following is growing — and whose is not).

We also draw on our extensive databases of NZ users on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to identify potential Influencer partners (and tell you how to find them — and how to evaluate them properly):

An in-depth look at NZ’s top consumer YouTubers, their overall performance, their most recent videos, what categories they cover and how to contact them

An in-depth look at NZ’s top consumer Instagrammers, their overall performance, their most recent images posted, what topics they talk about and how to contact them

An in-depth look at NZ’s top consumer Tweeters, their overall performance, their most recent tweets, what topics they talk about and how to contact them

Lesson Six: Influencer Marketing Measurement & ROI

In this section we explore exactly what you can and should measure in order to ensure that your Influencer Marketing campaigns are as effective as they should be.

Lesson Seven: Influencer Marketing Cautions

We discuss the reality of fake influencers – those with fake followers who will happily take your money – and how you can identify them. We then concern ourselves with the importance of Disclosure (ensuring that your chosen Influencers are transparent about the fact that they are being rewarded for their participation).

And we discuss:

  • why Influencer campaigns fail
  • the fastest way to destroy your Influencer Marketing efforts

Lesson Eight: Influencer Marketing Tools & Resources

No need to reinvent the wheel. We tell you what you need to know to create and manage Influencer Marketing campaigns, including suggested formats, frameworks and processes. And we share plenty of case studies to inform and inspire.

Lesson Nine: Influencer Marketing Trends

Finally, we discuss twenty emerging Influencer Marketing Trends and how they might impact on your activities going forward.


Any Kiwi marketer, or anyone who is responsible for marketing for their organisation, who is considering using influencers to promote their products/services will benefit from this carefully-structured approach to Influencer Marketing.



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This course begins on Wednesday 31 July, 2024.



This nine-part online training course is available for $697+GST. However we offer an EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT of $10 — pay just $597+GST for bookings received by the end of  Wednesday 24 July, 2024.

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