On the surface, influencer marketing seems oh-so-glamorous. Scrolling through your Instagram feed, you may find bloggers frolicking at a beach party wearing the latest boho styles, Real Housewives posing with the latest and greatest beauty products, and of course, a Kardashian or two swearing by the latest fit teas and waist trainers.

It’s enough to make you want to shell out thousands upon thousands of dollars and let your influencers do all the heavy lifting, right? Not so fast! Influencer partnerships may seem like easy money, but they come with a lot of risk. Not only do you risk investing in the wrong influencers for your brand, but there’s always a chance that these digital celebrities will royally screw up your messaging and strategy — angering not only your customers but your boss, too.

Need more proof?

Here are some good, bad and downright ugly examples of influencer marketing partnerships, and how you can learn from them:

THE GOOD: Adding context to products and services

Best way to start the day 🚴🏻 thank you @lindsaymbuckley for helping me stay fit & sane ❤️ @soulcycle #teambuckley

A post shared by Kyle Richards Umansky (@kylerichards18) on

The most effective posts show how influencers use your products and/or services in their everyday lives. Sometimes, these posts are overly staged, with influencers posing for the camera or strategically positioning the product so the label is visible. We can’t help but think of infomercials or home shopping shows when we see these types of images and, to put it bluntly, they scream “phony” and “we paid for this image.” Try to be cognizant of how images are structured and try to provide your influencers with some guidelines so they know to post images in a more casual, authentic way.

This post is great because it shows Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Kyle Richards in the moment. Her hair is up, she’s in workout clothes and her face is a bit red from her workout. She’s even posing with her SoulCycle instructor. While SoulCycle is clearly tagged, the image is extremely authentic in nature. It’s evident that Richards turns to SoulCycle for her workout needs and is loyal to a specific instructor. She’s not just a paid influencer.

When you’re researching potential influencers, onboard the ones that are already fans and followers of your brand. Have they tagged you in any images? Do they attend any of your events? Have they been photographed wearing any of your items? These influencers are low-hanging fruit opportunities because your brand already plays a role in their everyday lives. This makes their images and messaging about your products or services more authentic in their followers’ eyes.

THE GOOD: Putting influencers behind the camera

If your influencer has enough clout, they won’t need to always be in front of the camera. Kim Zolciak Bierman, for example, is a known reality star and has a loyal fanbase. She frequently posts selfies and images of her with her husband and children, but sometimes, she lets her favorite products shine.

In this photo, Bierman is showing off a new set of bracelets touting her favorite saying: “Ask Believe Receive.” She even added the brand’s web site, social information and email account as an extra perk for followers interested in learning more. While it looks somewhat promotional in structure, the bracelets are lying on what looks like a counter from Bierman’s home — making the image more authentic. The caption is also extremely personal and authentic, making it easier for followers to connect with the image and get interested in the brand.

THE BAD: Falling victim to copy and paste

Many brands have gotten into hot water recently because their celebrity endorsers and influencers have forgotten to remove copy — proving their posts are staged. This image, accidentally posted by Scott Disick, shows that the BOOTEA brand gave the reality star all the details he needed to publish the sponsored post seamlessly, including the caption and the time he should post.

Scott Disick

Supermodel Naomi Campbell committed a similar faux pas while posing with a new pair of Adidas kicks. However, Campbell’s message proved to be a little more intimate and embarrassing in the long run. Mashable makes an interesting point: Are these posts truly accidental or are they merely a ploy to bring more attention to the brand and the celebrities’ personal brands? Either case could be argued but we believe these errors do more harm than good, especially for a brand with the history and cloud that Adidas has.

Naomi Campbell influencer fail

It may be tempting to stage a similar post, but don’t give in. Instead, give your influencers some high-level direction on style and tone but give them full creative control. This will prevent you from falling victim to a similar copy-and-paste error.

THE BAD: Ignoring influencer personalities and their unique voice

Some brands get a little crazy with their sponsored posts — especially if they’re promoting a new product line or charitable cause. We know in cases like this, accurate and compelling message is extremely important. But when you’re using an influencer to amplify your story, you need to let them add their own perspective, opinions and unique voice.

This post from Ramona Singer is a great example. First and foremost, you can definitely tell she fell victim to the copy and paste problem, just like “Lord Disick.” The “here is the draft with some language for the post” at the beginning of the caption is all the proof you need. But there’s a more significant underlying problem here. The Real Housewives of New York star is known for her “no nonsense” attitude, and for speaking her mind in a blunt and humorous way. This post is long, complex and sounds extremely professional in tone. Considering most of Singer’s followers are looking at this photo on their mobile device, a caption this long is simply unnecessary and redirects attention from the charitable element of the #FRGoNaked campaign.

Ramona Singer

If you want to onboard an influencer to promote a campaign or charitable cause, focus on the most important details: the charity, the duration of the campaign, the guidelines and how followers can participate. Then, let your influencers share their own reasons for participating.

One final note related to this and the previous image: If a celebrity or other influencer is directly promoting a product line, it is extremely important that they adhere to new Federal Trade Commission endorsement guidelines. They need to provide clear disclosure that their post is sponsored, either by placing “#ad,” “Ad” or “sponsored post” in their caption.

THE DOWNRIGHT UGLY: Using an influencer that isn’t a fit

Now that Allen and I are parents we are making more of an effort to live a clean & eco friendly life. And it all starts with the little things such as the products we use everyday. Although we want people to continue #drivingdirty to help save water in California, I’m happy that @VolvoCarsUS is introducing an eco-friendly car wash solution called Consciously Clean. I'm that girl who rarely washes her car (anyone else like me? 🙋🏻), but when I do I cringe by all the toxins that are used and all the water that is wasted. It's the little things that we do that makes the biggest difference. 🌎 Edited: After seeing all the comments I wanted to clarify… I'm not saying that I'm perfect and live a complete 100% eco friendly life, but since I've become a mom I have become more aware of the toxins that we use everyday. I'm only human and striving to become better everyday, and that is the message I wanted to send to you guys. By all means I did not mean that I was perfect..I still have a long ways to go. Thank you for your support and for understanding

A post shared by Chriselle Lim 🌟 임소정 (@chrisellelim) on

The key to effective influencer marketing is identifying and building relationships with people you believe align with your brand and your story. Whether they’re authors, bloggers or celebrities, your influencers should reflect your company, its products and the message you’re trying to convey to current and potential customers. They should reflect a lifestyle that you’re encouraging your consumers to follow.

The worst thing a brand can do is onboard a celebrity or talking head for financial gain alone. While it’s great to identify influencers that may connect you to a broader — or completely new — audience, if they aren’t a fit for your brand, people will immediately call the influencer out. Let’s use this image from fashion expert, model and blogger Chriselle Lim as an example. Chriselle has always been known for publishing authentic lifestyle photos of her travels, her favorite fashions, beauty trends and even her family. All of her photos are beautiful and aspirational, but she also makes sure her captions have her natural tone of voice and reflect her personal opinions.

This image, however, has several glaring issues. The most significant one is the product Chriselle is promoting. Sure, she is a mom and she does publish photos for a variety of mom-oriented brands and products. But photos focused on cars are extremely hard to come by on her feed. She’s usually posting about fashion, beauty products, her family and her travels around the world. In fact, when you sift through her Instagram feed, the only mention of Volvo is when she’s attending a sponsored event. (You can see other examples here and here.)

There are a few other issues with this image:

The image looks a little too staged. It almost reminds us of something you’d see in a magazine advertisement or on a stock photo web site. Rather than showing her putting her daughter into her carseat or taking shopping bags out of the trunk, they’re perfectly placed in front of the car, which is angled so followers can see a complete snapshot of the car’s design.

The caption is too buttoned-up. Touting a variety of hashtags, current events and a “green living” message, the caption seems to hit on messaging points established by Volvo. It is unknown whether Chriselle came up with the caption herself or if it was suggested by Volvo, but it ignited anger among her slew of fans and followers. So much so that Chriselle had to add more context to her caption to support the image and the message she was trying to convey.

Every influencer campaign has the potential to be good, bad or downright ugly. If you follow some of the best practices outlined in this piece (and avoid the common pitfalls), you’ll be well on your way towards success.

Know any hilarious influencer fails? Hit us up in the comments.

Want to receive even more influencer marketing tips and insights? Here are some of our favorite blogs to help you:

Looking for ways to discover influencers who have an authentic voice? Check out Curalate Explore, which can help you find influencers to work with, form relationships with micro-influencers and find high-quality content piece-by-piece.