After ten years in the industry with dozens of hashtag campaigns, hundreds of influencers, and more social banter than you can imagine, I’ve had the distinct “pleasure” of putting multiple SMM platforms and SaaS tools through the wringer. Honestly, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

The number of influencer marketing software platforms, all promising to be the magic solution to influencer identification and management, is laughably terrifying. It is all too easy for a novice company to hire on an entrancing sales lead who then builds an even more captivating sales team, all of whom have no experience in influencer strategy or measurable KPIs. After a prospect get whisked off their feet, they’re trapped with a pointless (and expensive) tool that only finds social followings or engagement rates.

When it comes to influencer marketing, my strategies go deeper than sending free product to a hot chick on Instagram just because she has 1,000,000 followers. When choosing a platform, you want something that addresses all of your questions and concerns with product features, and that preferably is industry agnostic. There are 3 must-haves when choosing an influencer marketing platform:

1. Acquiring and Retaining New Business

IMPRESS AND INTRIGUE: These days, nearly no new digital activation pitch comes without mention of influencer marketing. Clients expect their prospective agency to be smarter than them and to provide leadership. What better way to prove out the value of your agency than by providing a strategically-sound roster of both micro- and macro-influencers — all of whom have their own niche audiences, with clear success metrics? Impress a prospect right out of the gate and they are forever yours… but only if you keep delivering on that brilliant strategy.

Nearly every proposal I field has a heavy request for influencer outreach. With an influencer platform, I’m able to provide each and every RFP with a truly tailored sample roster. An assignment that would have taken days to curate manually can now be done in an hour. Before even signing a contract, I’ve provided my prospects a unique service.

Challenging a client is always hard, but when you come to the table with data versus subjective criticism, they’ll likely be more open to listening.

BECOME INDISPENSABLE: On the agency side, there is never a moment where a competitor isn’t gunning for your business. It may be a partner agency, someone who met your client at a happy hour, a kid working out of his car — anyone! This should only make you more eager to dive deeper into strategy and insight.

Pulling together rosters of fresh talent based on late-night email chains, completely shifting the original strategy — we’ve all been there. The ability to stay flexible when a client requests changes preserves your billable hours, makes your agency invaluable, and keeps your time profitable. Win/win all around.

I leverage influencer platforms to explore untapped target markets. My clients are often hesitant to introduce a brand into a demographic they haven’t considered; using a discovery tool, I find handfuls of topically-relevant, true brand advocates who match this demographic. Once the social campaign takes flight, insights are shared cross-functionally for mass media.

2. Improving Client and In-House Strategy

GIVE THEM WHAT THEY DON’T THINK THEY WANT: Sometimes your clients are rushed into a completely nonsensical campaigns by their creative agency. Other times, they’re convinced that working with bikini-clad “instamodels” will reach W35-50 (spoiler alert: it won’t). No matter what, your influencer marketing platform should arm you with data to back up your recommendations.

For example, I’ve successfully used CreatorIQ’s audience insights to talk clients out of flimsy contracts, to request new influencer rosters from media partners, and to reframe a campaign based on a target consumer versus an influencer’s audience. Challenging a client is always hard but when you come to the table with data versus subjective criticism, they’ll likely be more open to listening.

REACH YOUR ACTUAL TARGET THROUGH AUDIENCE ANALYSIS: We’ve all experienced it – you’re in a meeting with the head of marketing and he or she is absolutely convinced that the target audience should be a ‘housewife with teenage girls and a high household income — therefore, Kardashians.’

The strategy? Sign a contract with the Kardashians for an exorbitant amount of money. Using an influencer marketing software platform, you’ll be able to prove to that the vast majority of Kardashian influence is had over boys without a source of disposable income.

3. Verifying Influencer Impact

INCREASED MEASURABILITY: Prior to launching any influencer campaign, your team should be able to provide you with a clear and concise list of both guaranteed (if executing a paid campaign) and estimated key performance indicators (KPIs). Gone are the days where influencer marketing is “un-measurable.”

If your current influencer team or management partner tells you that they’re unable to provide you metrics — run. Below are the minimum of what any influencer marketer should be able to understand and report on an ongoing basis:

  • Estimated Campaign Reach
  • Estimated Social Media Value
  • Estimated Engagements

Your influencer marketing platform should have robust reporting that allows you to show effectiveness and true ROI based on customizable “cost per” calculations, whether at an agency or in-house. With just a click (yes, a click… direct reports don’t need to be chained to their desk for hours), you should have fully-branded and cohesive reports.

Long story short – influencer marketing requires investment, but not in the way you’re thinking. Throwing dollars at Insta-models will not get you the results you need, but investing in technology platforms that bring you insight, campaign management, and strategy recommendations will both generate results and provide you with the feedback needed to optimize future campaigns.

Cristin McGrath

Cristin is the Founder and CEO of Vyzionary, a social marketing consultancy based out of New York City. By day, she’s a social media addict (self-admittedly) and by night, a full-time puppy mom. She graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia and put her skills to the test developing social campaigns for the Philadelphia Eagles, Dell and Chevrolet. She then bounced into social media buying and influencer strategy across entertainment, CPG, beauty and retail. 10 years later, Cristin can usually be found skimming Twitter for comic gold or walking her Chiweenie through the Lower East Side.