Influencer marketing may be an incredible tool, but it is not without risks. Allying yourself with a personality means their behavior reflects on your brand. While it may not necessarily be true, any controversial statements made by allied influencers can be construed as ideas your small business promotes. Whether that's true or not is irrelevant - what matters is that you keep your company safe should those statements start going against your brand.
Here are a few things you can do to safely work with influencers:
Influencers and authorities often want the same thing that your small business does - the attention of their audience. This means that your respective approaches will align on many points, from the choice of language to possibly the colors you choose. It's also, on a base level, a more practical approach. Smaller influencers with the right audience are infinitely more valuable than a large one talking to people who will never want your offering.
In terms of protection, nothing is safer than both of you having the same target audience. It's in the influencer's interest to stay in the market's good graces, which means they'll treat them with the same care you will. This protects your brand image, and should they suddenly veer off course, it'll reflect more on them than it will on you.
One of the best ways to ensure that an influencer will almost always work in your best interests is to tie your fate to theirs. A mutually beneficial relationship, for example, puts your success on their to-do list. If they, for example, successfully promote your product and it's a hit with their audience, their credibility shoots up. More credibility means more authority, which often translates to greater reach. The greater their reach, the more leads they can generate.
This also means supporting them in times of trouble, whether it's standing with them for a cause, or helping them should they commit a social faux pas. Generally, you'll only want to support them if it's something that matches your brand or if you were involved in the error. Otherwise, it's often best to stay out of it.
It doesn't take a lot of time for something to go viral. Overnight, a once beloved influencer can get savaged by the Internet due to a single post. It might not even be a mistake, and it might not even be bad for them -- it could just be something detrimental to your brand. You need to know about these events as soon as possible so your team can engage in damage control.
It's important to remember that those errors are rarely made out of malice. There's no reason to burn a bridge because of a mistake, but that also doesn't mean you shouldn't be careful and protect yourself.
The best part about influencer marketing is that there is a "fire and forget" element to working with them. Usually, you just give them the gist of your message, what you're offering, and let them work their magic. That's how many podcasts or YouTube sponsored advertisements work. However, this isn't always the best case. Even thoroughly vetted influencers can surprise you with their approach.
Working with them and giving them feedback can keep them on message, which keeps your small business safe. Make sure to approach them with a light touch. Micromanaging them can quickly sour the relationship.
The worst thing you can do to your small business is work with an influencer you know nothing about. The less you know about them, the more risk you incur. Study what they do, who they're attracting, and the company they keep. It may seem clinical, but this is ultimately a business transaction. Approach them with the same scrutiny you would a partner or employee.
The option to work with influencers should always be on the table, but it must come with caveats. You cannot align your brand and small business with just anyone. Practice due diligence and always keep your company safe.