Unleash the power of Influencer Marketing: Why Sprout Social & Hootsuite are wrong

Unleash the power of Influencer Marketing: Why Sprout Social & Hootsuite are wrong

February 24, 2023
power of Influencer Marketing
“So what should be our target here? The followers? And if so, how much should we be paying per follower?”

In the last six months I’ve had way too many conversations from CMOs, Marketers, Entrepreneurs and Brand Managers like the one above for an influencer marketing campaign strategy. My own investigation has shown that almost every article in the top 5 links on Google are wrong and they’re mistakingly focusing on elements that don’t matter to the ROI of your campaign. I have a sneaky feeling that these articles are misinforming CMOs. 

What do I know? Well I’m a talent manager who not only represents some of Australia’s biggest talent, but also brands for campaigns alongside my specialised team. Those brands want results, and if I want to get paid, we need to deliver those results.

In this article we’ll unpack the proven influencer marketing strategies used by top brands to drive sales, increase brand awareness, and boost ROI on these types of media buys.

People also ask about:

This article:

  • Why are Sprout Social & Hootsuite wrong
  • What to target and pay for with influencers
  • Campaign Creative focus
  • Infatuations with vanity metrics
  • An Alternative Model: What to ignore and what to explore
  • Creative as the driver to outperformance

Why are they wrong?

When I look at the top 4-5 sources in google for “Influencer Marketing Strategy, my results (as of 31/10/2022) give me the following sources:

The first thing that stands out is that all of these websites are social media management software companies. They are not category experts for influencer marketing practice or application.

“Yeah but why do they rank the highest Jordan?”

I won’t go into the particulars of how SEO and SERPs work, but the reality is that these websites have massive budgets to put into SEO driven blog writing, their website has massive authority, so ranking for sub-topics like Influencer Marketing is a problem. It’s one of the many issues that relates to Google’s SEO ranking for certain topics; that they portray a group-think that exists, simply because they’re the biggest. That doesn’t mean they’re right.

The common myths that exist in these articles are around what matters to the campaign, specifically:

  • What to target and pay for
  • Campaign creative focus
  • Extreme focus on Influencer types (nano, micro, macro, etc)

Let’s dive into each point.

What to target and pay for with influencers

Straight out the gate, the Brand Watch and Sprout Social articles have completely misguided the audience as to what matters in terms of price; Followers. A huge misconception, as no brand worth their salt pays for followers on any social platform, as we know it’s not cost effective. Followers are merely a by-product of the growth of a brand during a social campaign. 

From Brandwatch:

Brandwatch's view on talent spend per post
Brandwatch making very little sense here

From Hootsuite:

Hootsuite's view on talent spend per post
Now Hootsuite's turn

What matters more is views/impressions/downloads, as this is the tangible factor that creators or influencers can control. It’s how we respond to quotes when a brief comes in for talent.

Campaign Creative focus

A consistent recommendation in these influencer marketing strategy articles is that you should select from a list like so:

  • Guest posting
  • Sponsored content
  • Mentions
  • Contests or giveaways
  • Takeovers
  • Affiliates
  • Discount codes

And that creative needs to have consistent call outs within the content that gets posted.

You really have two options as a brand when it comes to any campaign, do you want to drive:

  1. Brand Awareness
  2. Conversions or Sales Volume

For the vast majority of influencers, brand awareness is where you're going to get the greatest results and utility. There are not 1000s of Kim Kardashians who can blow up your brand overnight, and the ones that do are often pulling high 5 to 6 figure fees for a campaign.

In 99% of campaigns that we see go live, where there is a strong callout like “Get XYZ% off” and the creator is blatantly performing to camera about the brand, results are below average. That budget would have been better spent elsewhere.

In 99% of campaigns where the creators are given a simple 1-2 line prompt, and basic do’s or dont’s, the results outperform. Now I know this is anecdotal, but we’re in the midst of working out a system similar to the IPA’s Databank to analyse campaigns that go out into the wild. For the moment I’ll just have to say “trust me”. We’ll cover what kind of brief makes for good campaign creative later.

Infatuations with vanity metrics like micro influencers

We’re probably into year 10 (let’s say since 2012) that digital influencer marketing became a thing. The latest iteration we’ve seen is this obsession with influencer categories. Nano, micro, macro, ibso, facto, lacto. You’ve heard it all before. Particularly from Big 4 agencies that like to pretend they know what they’re talking about. 

This time it’s Hootsuite’s time to step up to the plate and be “different”, with their focus on influencer types.

Here’s the reality; you categorising an influencer by follower type just ignores what I said above about views/impressions. The dissonance that humans fall into by obsessing about pattern matching (in this case on followers), won't get you the outcome you want - attention. But it will certainly make your campaign super organised.

An Alternative Model: What to ignore and what to explore

Neuralle’s method is very straightforward; how many views can I get per $1. Or what’s the cost per view? Am I getting it overvalued or undervalued?

Too many people are getting into this sub-industry of media and entertainment believing that they need to reinvent the wheel.

Let’s pull it back to what brands and media buyers know or buy. You can spend a dollar today on Meta, TikTok, YouTube, Google, Billboards, TV, Papers and buy the following:

  2. Impressions
  3. Clicks
  4. Conversions
  5. Time

1 & 2 are the only items you can really control with an influencer. 

3, 4 & 5 are exceptionally hard to impact, and inconsistent across a campaign that covers 20-30 influencers. 

If you rely on views or impressions, you can allocate a consistent method across all of the people you hit up for the campaign. This then allows you to pull data into spreadsheets or project management tools like we do on a campaign.

So what’s a good price? My take is that to evaluate the campaign you need to be getting bang for your buck per $ spent. Whether someone’s a micro or macro influencer, it doesn’t really matter.

If the view is worth $5 per 1000 and you’re getting it for $3, I’d say that’s a win. I’m going to show you how we do that, but beforehand I need to explain a core concept: CPMs.

Cost Per Mille: An important explanation

The definition of Cost Per Mille is “the cost an advertiser pays for one thousand views or impressions of an advertisement.” Essentially what you will pay to get 1000 views, impressions, clicks, etc.

Now, not all CPMs are made the same, and this is dependent on the platform. The way you as a media buyer or brand need to think about it is that you are buying attention. TikTok is going to have less attention than a YouTube video because the attention is less sticky and the nature of TikTok is very ephemeral, in that people are just constantly flicking through. The same can be said for Podcasts versus Instagram, TV versus radio, etc. 

It all comes back to attention.

So what are fair CPMs per platform and creator? Well everyone’s different based on the engagement they will generate or the significance/sophistication of the creator. What we’ve found is that Influencer Marketing Hub is pulling good numbers for averages as well as whatever is ranking for “XYZ PLATFORM cpm”.

Here’s what we’re working with internally as a marker (in USD):

  • TikTok - $5-6
  • Instagram - $8-12
  • YouTube - $15-20 (this one is very tricky as podcast channels can often blow this out)
  • Podcasts - $30 (working with one of the world’s largest podcast networks their minimum rate as of 2022 was $60USD)

Alright, now that we have a measurement concept, time to move onto implementing this in the campaign.


The Campaign

Of course, there are so many things I’m not mentioning here that go into our own secret sauce of running a campaign. I need to make money somehow.

Insight, image, source
- 3 to 4 things I want to ignore

- 3 to 4 things I want to focus on
# of times required for repeat purchases that influencer marketing must be done

Brief creativity as the driver for exceptional ROI

Creative is the defining factor in any campaign. You could have great audience selection from data and insights, but the campaign will still flop. This underlines the importance of creativity, and why in 2022 we still pay for creative agencies. 

Remember that when you engage an influencer you’re paying for a combination of things, their power to distribute and their creativity. Don’t waste your money and nullify both by telling them what to do. It’s the antithesis of influencer marketing and your money would be better spent on telling a creative agency what you want in a TVC (which I wouldn’t suggest anyway as they likely still know more than you).

So what makes a good campaign? Emotion.

The science of marketing in 2022 is pretty clear and heavily informed by organisations like the IPA and it’s all knowing Databank, Peter Field, Byron Sharp and that whole gang. Our friends at Neuromarketing have a straightforward chart that shows campaign effectiveness for rational, combined and emotional campaigns. In all cases, emotional campaigns were 2x more effective for brand profitability.

Emotive campaigns trigger deeper responses within us. Agencies like Hardhat have developed businesses simply on the basis that they know how to unlock those emotions through Cognitive Biases and Behavioural economics. There’s a reason why it works.

Campaigne Effectiveness

So on that basis, we always suggest that you go for emotive campaigns when doing brand work like influencer marketing. Let the influencer unlock the emotion with their audience.

Now that you have that context, you’re getting on to the brief. A good brief and contract with an influencer will contain a few things; specifically a “ring” around what they can and can’t do to prevent damage to the brand, plus a simple prompt to take an emotive approach to your campaign.

A brief and agreement should have 1-5 pages max. 

Page 1 is the brief.

Page 2-3 is the deal schedule.

Page 4 onwards is the legal conditions of your contract.

My own thoughts on the core brief elements that matter are:

  • A prompt for the talent’s content - This needs to be 1-2 sentences that condense exactly what you want to get out there, in terms of messaging. Remember that influencer marketing is often a brand play, not a sales volume play, so utilise a core brand message rather than just “hey this is 15% off”. Anecdotally, when an influencer is asked to include transactional, short term elements in their content, it underperforms 9/10 times. When an influencer is given 1 or 2 sentence prompts to engage their audience, 9/10 times it performs well above expectations. I don’t have the data to prove this point, but it’s part of a larger project underway here at Neuralle to showcase that the difference is BLEEDINGLY OBVIOUS. All I can do for now is yell at clients to get it into their heads.

  • Do’s & Dont’s - Often you have brands that set up Do’s & Dont’s. I personally steer clear of suggesting Do’s as it caps the talent’s creativity. The prompt for the content should cover you there. Dont’s are a must to cap your downside for brand damage, depending on how you portray yourself publically. For example, preventing swearing, disparaging comments, racism, etc.

  • Usage & Amplification - In my opinion, this is often missed by brands. They focus on a fire hose approach, rather than targeting a broad group, then doubling down on the best creative by amplifying. Consider how you would complete an online campaign. You test with 3-6 pieces of creative and turn off what doesn’t work after a week across your Ad Groups. The same goes for influencer marketing. Utilise the contract to complete a test with an initial group of, say 10-20 creators, then double down on the 2-3 that have the most impact, with options (not guaranteed fixed fee usage), to utilise the creative for paid media usage. Too many people blow their budget by paying upfront for paid media usage on a second piece of creative, just to end up not liking it.

  • Exclusivity - To me, this is one of the biggest wastes of money. Large brands are obsessed with locking in talent for 3, 6, or 12 month periods of exclusive access, just to never use them again. Any talent manager (like me) worth their salt is immediately going to add pricing on top of the campaign quote, as you’re capping the talent’s earning power. What’s more, their audience pretty much forgets a campaign after 2 weeks, particularly on platform’s like TikTok. My suggestion is to include exclusivity of 1 week either side of the campaign posting date, and most manager’s will chuck this in complimentary

If you can nail these elements together, and choose the right people, you might just be on your way to Bandt or AiMCO awards, good for you!

A lot of people feel that their $’s are better spent engaging experts like us to get as close to that as possible.

creativity as the driver for exceptional ROI
Source: Midjourney


The influencer marketing strategies offered by companies like Sprout Social, Hootsuite and Brand Watch are wrong. They focus on the wrong metrics, like followers, and have misguided recommendations for campaign creative. 

What matters to you as a brand is views and impressions. Don’t obsess over vanity metrics like followers. 

Your primary takeaway from this article should be that; when you run a campaign, give influencers creative freedom (within reason) and identify the talent that give you undervalued spend per $1 to cap your downside in running the entire campaign.

If you ever want to chat to our specialists, don’t hesitate to book a meeting and find out how we’d represent your brand.