The Iron Triangle of Influencer Marketing

Opinion: Brands should be looking to optimize all sides of the triangle

Often referred to as the iron triangle, the concept of fast, cheap and good has been thought to be the best way to manage opposing forces. It is meant to aid decision-making based on known constraints such as time and resources.

In the age of influencer marketing, the same competing forces exist. Standards are forming, and finding the balance between brand and creator needs is increasingly complex. Depending on which side of the fence you stand, one topic that is ripe for debate is the economics of it all.

The Internet Creators Guild recently put out a study encouraging influencers to charge more. Now that is a strong statement to makeؙ—especially one that unilaterally gives permission to creators to charge brands based on channel size alone and without any regard to more meaningful key performance indicators.

This during a time where some of the largest advertisers in the world are beginning to demand more transparency and accountability for the performance of their media investments and the return on investment of influencer marketing itself is under broad attack.

All influencers are not created equal, and that is also true for the makeup of their respective audiences across social platforms.

Sponsorships with influencers don’t all derive from the same vantage point. This is evident by the sheer number of business units in a single organization dipping their toes into the influencer waters.

The most understandable and “first one in” were the public relations or communication teams. From there came digital marketers and media agencies. And now you are seeing groups that are traditionally tasked with looking at lower-funnel investments such as econtent and the digital shelf take notice.

Why? Because, when done well, it works. Notice I didn’t just say, “It works.” It often doesn’t and can sometimes leave a bad taste in marketers’ mouths. This is why it is important to look at all the aspects of influencer marketing when setting out to develop a strategy and well before jumping into any negotiation with an influencer over costs.

Instead of picking two out of the three—the iron triangle’s elements include fast, cheap and good—brands should be looking to optimize all sides of the triangle when looking to develop a successful influencer marketing campaign.

The triangle of influence

Good: If you start with the right creators, it makes things a lot easier. You must understand your brand deeply in order to start the discovery process for finding which influencers to work with and what platform makes the most sense.

This starts with clearly defining your target customer and brand voice. Once that is clear, it will be easier to identify influencers that match.

Likewise, they need to be authorities in their space. While it’s tempting to work with someone who is trending, that can be the thing that sets your entire campaign astray.

There are exceptions to every rule, but for the sake of tackling “good,” it is best to find people that look and feel like they naturally could become an extension of your brand. This includes looking to see if the creator has worked with any other brands in your category recently and if the content being produced is brand safe.

Fast: Your content is only a thumb scroll away. Social media and word of mouth have significantly cut the time to market and ability to create and distribute content at scale. Influencers that understand your brand and are able to plan within their editorial calendars will also be more accommodating for fast turnaround projects if clear expectations are set up front. Traditional production houses are known to charge rush fees or overtime for last minute or fast follow opportunities.

Conversely, influencers typically see news and media happenings as perfect catalysts for content and discovery. Brands that are nimble and open to true collaboration will be able to get fast, quality content from influencers. Livestreaming will further redefine the standard for “fast.”

Cheap: No one likes to be called cheap—ow about we call this efficient? Agencies and brands are constantly being asked to do more with less. One approach is to find the biggest channels with the cheapest rate. Bad idea. Another might be to look for the influencer and try to over-negotiate with them so much that they are left with an unfavorable view of your brand. Another bad idea.

The right way to balance this is to determine your top objectives and optimize your budget and the influencers who maximize against those objectives. If it is about awareness, let’s optimize around cost per view. If driving traffic to your website or a retail landing page, let’s optimize around engagement and click-through rate. And if the goal is to get as much social proof as possible for you to further distribute yourself, then find micro-influencers that would be thrilled to work with your brand and are efficient on a cost per asset basis. That way you will be able to reinvest some of your budget to helping drive more discovery of the content.

This actually can help you drive more efficiencies and build the influencer’s brand, which helps when negotiating rates.

So, let’s toss the old philosophy of the iron triangle and its requirement to force choices between good, cheap and fast aside, and let’s recast our own prism for looking at how to work with content creators so that everyone wins.

The triangle of influence is a new way of looking at how brands should plan for, manage against and execute on any influencer marketing strategy.

Jessica Thorpe is president of influencer marketing platform gen.video. Follow her on Twitter: @jessicagnon.

Image courtesy of art-sonik/iStock.