The influencer marketing gurus out there often have some horror stories from when they were early in the game. Defining a new marketing channel means making mistakes, trying things out, getting it wrong and then getting it right.

I would love to go back in time to when I first started working with influencers and running campaigns, shake my younger self and say “No you idiot! Don’t send that message, send this message!” amongst some other lessons learnt the hard way. We may never get it perfect, but that’s not the point. Good marketing is about experimentation and taking some obscure paths to engage consumers. Hearing the stories of other marketers on their journeys through the wild-west of influencer-marketing can be useful to avoid future pitfalls.

This month I spoke to a select group of ten experts in influencer marketing from brands and agencies and asked: If you could go back to when you first got into influencer marketing and give yourself one tip, what would it be? Here’s what they told me:

Kelly from Wedderspoon - Raw honey brand

“Invest in the people who have been loyal to your brand and create relationships with those who will act as true brand ambassadors. The type of content that comes from it will always be better than a one-off paid promotion with a person who doesn’t know your brand as well or who may be forcing the content to look like they use your products, when in reality it’s just for the photo or video.”

“Don't waste hours and hours each day going through Instagram to find influencers manually. I could've saved time using an automated Instagram search tool and have been using that time to build stronger relationships with influencers and develop songs campaign further.”

Victoria from Cheat Sheet Co. - Social media agency

“Be organized. Understand that there's a lot to stay on top of and report on. Things are always moving, emails come and go so quickly - so getting organized is essential. Map out each step of the process, how you're going to manage each step, and go from there. Decide on a few tools or software that comes easiest and most efficiently to you and use it constantly!”

Tom from The Influence Marketer - Influencer marketing consultant

“Influencer marketing is about partnering with influencers to co-create content together, not to advertise.”

Mike from Tinysponsor - Influencer marketplace

“We focus on the context for both creators and brands, then structure this into inventory and build tactics into our brandmatch score. No single metric or qualitative element (follower count, engagement rate, etc) is decisive. This approach of contextual matching vs leading with singular metrics is something that should be emphasized from the very beginning industry wide.”

Ivana from Social Lite - Marketing agency

“Don't get discouraged by one bad collaboration. It happens. You cut your losses and move on, don't dwell on it. I can say that in having run dozens and dozens of influencer campaigns, I have only ever had one negative experience.”

Max from WeVideo - Online video editor

“Don't create content for the sake of creating content. You owe it to yourself as well as your audience to provide content (whether that be video, written, audio, or image) that provides value.”

Mike from Kairos Media - Online video editor

“I would double down on YouTube marketing. Now prices have raised due to the competitive nature of the industry, whereas at the start Youtube was hugely undervalued and delivered tremendous ROI. We can learn from this with platforms such as TikTok on the rise, these should be a huge focus due to the ROI potential, before prices rocket.”

Shawn from Influencer Creation - Creative influencer agency

“Focus more on building long term relationships with influencers and not just one-off programs or campaigns. This helps create long term benefits such as trusted partnerships and content authenticity.”