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Hot Take: Why You Should Pay Your Influencers 

Geo West
April 7, 2021

The influencer industry has been thriving for over a decade now and is estimated to be worth $14Bn in 2021 (up from $1.7Bn just 5 years ago!). Whilst countless brands have benefited from investing in influencer marketing, others are still reluctant to part with cash to reap the benefits of creators, their content and their audience. If you’re struggling to unlock budget for this leading marketing channel, it could be because your stakeholders don’t understand the value of influencer marketing and what it is your brand is actually paying for. Let’s unpack this topic together.

But working with my brand is great exposure for the influencer!

This is a common argument against paying an influencer for their services. Whilst it’s true that some social media talent would gain from being associated with a certain brand, or featured in a particular campaign, often this is a full-time job for the creator and their landlord won’t accept great exposure or brand association as payment for rent. 

Also, we shouldn’t forget that brands stand to gain valuable trust and reputation by partnering with an influencer who has a large following or a legacy in their industry. Association works both ways!

My brand doesn’t pay influencers, we only gift.

Taking the time to build meaningful partnerships and negotiate respectful contracts has become more commonplace, but there still seems to be a thriving culture around brands sending product and expecting promotional coverage in return. There are quite a few points to consider on this topic, so let’s break them down:

  • Any payment-in-kind (where some benefit from the brand has been offered to the influencer with an expectation of deliverables), must have a contract in place defining expectation and terms, and must be declared as an ad on the influencer’s content. Check your local advertising regulations for full guidance to make sure everyone is protected and the correct disclaimers are being used

- For the UK, the ASA have this great document which has guidelines for what constitutes a "payment" when deliverables are expected 

- For the United States, the FTC have pulled together this great resource hub for influencer-specific marketing 

- For France, the ARPP has numerous resources including guidelines for influencer marketing. 

  • Without a contract, the influencer has no obligation to promote your brand or product, nor do you have any right to exercise creative control over content they are producing about your brand or product
  • Just because some influencers accept product as payment, doesn’t mean that they are comfortable with that exchange, or feel valued and respected by your brand. If your actions lead them to believe that this is the only way that they will get to work with you, and the relationship is important to them, they may be accepting this trade begrudgingly. Not a great way to start a lasting, valuable partnership.

The cost price of your product (which is how much you are really investing when you “gift”) is worth far less than the monetary value of the influencer’s skill, expertise, time and audience, so have a real think about whether you believe this exchange to be fair.

All I’m asking them to do is post a picture, so why does it cost so much?

Uploading content may be the only part of their job that you see, but what you're asking of the influencer is so much more than just taking a photo and posting it to their channels. When an influencer sends you their fees, what they’re really charging for is:

  • Years of skill, consistently planning, shooting, writing and editing (on expensive equipment and software), relevant regular content to build a dedicated and highly engaged audience.
  • Acute insights into your target audiences, and access to that audience in the way which connects with them the most, in an environment where they are primed, and already emotionally invested in what your influencer has to say.
  • Knowledge and experience in platform performance and best practices.
  • Expertise in your product category. Influencers have hundreds of brands and products at their fingertips giving them elevated knowledge of quality and functionality. Whether you are a startup, a small business, or an industry giant, influencer relationships and feedback will help you to improve your brand, product and marketing efforts.

You chose this influencer because you see value in working with them, and therefore they should be paid appropriately for the value they provide your business. If you believe a potential influencer has an audience worth reaching then you should be willing to pay them for the time, skill and labour taken to build and cultivate that audience.

If I’m paying them, how can I guarantee that the influencer won’t post about my competitors?

In some industries, like beauty, or fashion, it’s unreasonable to expect an influencer to only talk about one brand on their channel. Likely, their business is centered around impartial reviews and demonstrations of a wide range of brands and products. Their audience expects this from them, and it’s how they built their trust and reputation. However, as an unwritten rule, to protect integrity, most influencers won’t promote a competitor product within a campaign period with a brand. To guarantee this, you should be willing to pay extra for exclusivity, and have the terms built into the contract.

By expecting the influencer to not accept work from other brands in your category during the contract, you are paying to take them off the market. If your budget is quite low, then it may not be financially feasible for the influencer to justify limiting their potential income to take part in your campaign. Keep in mind that an influencer’s audience may trust a recommendation for your product more if it is seen alongside other reviews in their feed. 

The value of influencers is so much more than clicks and sales. 

  • It’s beautiful content which resonates with your customers
  • It’s your product being passed around the table over brunch
  • It’s actionable feedback on your offering

By taking the time to build meaningful long-term relationships with your influencers, and respecting the fees to access their services, you’ll be top of mind for them within your category and gain value far beyond the terms in your contract.  

Want more? I offer in depth training videos on topics like this one, including navigating the industry regulations and crafting watertight contracts, on my website happycat.agency/courses

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