When it comes to influencer marketing, you’ve got a ton of options.
You know you don’t want to do this whole influencer thing manually, and that’s a good start.
But which influencer service is right for you?
Generally speaking, you have 4 options, but there are pros and cons to each approach.
While it might seem like a tool, agency, database, or network all get you the same results, they’re actually very different.
Here’s a handy guide to help you find the best influencer marketing service for your next campaign.
The 4 most popular influencer marketing services of 2020
1 - Paid Research Tools
Your first option is to go with a premium influencer marketing research tool.
While these tools have a lot of bells and whistles, their primary function is to help you find and connect with relevant influencers in your niche.
You might like paid research tools like:
- BuzzStream: A tool for influencer research, relationship management, and outreach.
- NinjaOutreach: Locate Instagram and YouTube influencers in this specialized search engine.
- BuzzSumo: This is actually a suite of tools, but it does offer an influencer analytics tool for Twitter and Facebook.
- GroupHigh: Get influencers’ and bloggers’ contact information to build your contact lists.
We could list options until we’re blue in the face. The point is, there are so many tools out there that the options are dizzying.
Depending on the tool, you can filter influencers by niche, type (like “blogger” or “mommy influencer”), and a lot more.
From there, some of these tools help you add influencers to a sorted list by relevance. Some will even help you send out personalized emails or followups.
If you’re using Google to find influencers right now, paid tools are faster and more relevant.
And let’s be real: Excel sheets can be an organizational nightmare.
Influencer marketing tools can make it much easier to organize and automate a few components of your campaigns.
Tools are great for getting very specific information, but you’re still doing all of the heavy lifting.
Not only are you paying to access this tool, but you haven’t even found the right influencers yet!
Plus, you don’t know how reputable these influencers are. Paid research tools give you a good start, but they don’t help you see if an influencer is legit.
Feel free to use a paid tool to speed up the process, but you shouldn’t rely on it for everything.
2 - Marketing Agencies
Your second option is hiring a marketing agency. This is a company that facilitates influencer campaigns, connecting your business with influencers of the agency’s choice.
An influencer marketing agency manages everything on your behalf. From discovery to strategy to execution, they take care of the entire process.
There are a lot of marketing agencies out there, and if you choose to work with one, find someone who fits your needs.
The best influencer marketing agencies:
- Share their pricing upfront.
- Have experience specifically with influencer marketing (in other words, they aren’t a jack of all trades).
- Have an abundance of reviews, testimonials, and data backing up their work.
Once you sign on the dotted line with an agency, they’ll get to know your brand, handle all influencer negotiations, and monitor your campaign results.
If you’re into hands-off marketing, an agency could work for you. They handle literally everything and send you the occasional report.
If you’re at the point in your business where time is more valuable than money, an agency could make sense for you.
Brands like working with influencer marketing agencies because they already have relationships with experienced influencers, too.
Agencies also have a huge staff of folks who can give you advice not just on influencer marketing, but your brand as a whole. That can help you determine which influencers are the best fit, as well as what campaign strategy to use.
The biggest drawback to working with an agency is the price. It can cost thousands of dollars a month to work with the agency—and that doesn’t always include the cost of hiring your influencers.
Also, you don’t have a lot of say with an agency. They call the shots, and if you don’t like the influencers you’re saddled with, tough cookies.
3 - Influencer Databases
To be blunt, influencer databases are the worst option on this list, but plenty of brands still use them.
At first blush, an influencer database doesn’t sound too shabby. It’s a specialized search tool that helps you find and narrow down influencers based on filters like:
- Social platform
However, most influencer databases require a paid subscription, and it’s not always an investment that pays off.
To be fair, influencer databases are easier than starting with a Google search. If you need a starting point that won’t take hours, databases will give you some information.
Databases also make it easier to compare influencers against each other. It’s faster than sifting through Instagram manually.
We could write a book on the downsides to influencer databases, but it comes down to quality.
These databases don’t put a ton of new influencers into their list. Oh, and when they do, half of the data is wrong or just not useful.
Influencer databases just use scraped data and don’t vet these influencers at all. Honestly, you’re wasting your money to get bad information.
It’s shady AF.
4 - Influencer Networks
Influencer networks give brands the convenience of a database, but with pre-vetted influencers and high-quality data.
Actually, influencer networks are about way more than the data. They’re a collaboration platform where brands and influencers work together.
Unlike a marketing agency, which limits your contact with each influencer, networks allow you to DM influencers. You can develop an actual relationship with people, which means more authentic marketing and long-term partnerships.
When you work with an influencer network, you get access to a pre-vetted list of influencers matched specifically to your niche, product, and audience.
Because these influencers are experienced and vetted by the influencer network, you get way better quality in less time.
Influencer networks like Trend use trustworthy, vetted influencers.
We have actual relationships with the influencers in our network, which helps us connect your campaign with the best influencer for you.
Oh, and did we mention that influencer networks are much cheaper than hiring an agency and more high-quality than a database or tool?
An influencer marketing network isn’t a purely hands-off experience. You’ll still need to go into the platform and manage the influencer relationship yourself.
But with so much of the tedium taken care of for you, like billing and content rights, you’ll still spend way less time using a network than any other influencer marketing method.
The bottom line
As you can see, your options run the gamut from a glorified Google search to a smart, curated network if you need help with influencer marketing.
The right choice depends on your goals, budget, and overall time commitment.
But if you want an option that balances time, results, and budget, check out the Trend influencer network.
We curate a pre-vetted list of influencers just for your campaign. Have your pick of the litter and cut campaign management time by as much as 50%.
Curious to see it in action? Sign up for Trend—it’s free!