Around five or so years ago we were still living in an age where influencers were (more often than not) seeking gifted opportunities in exchange for exposure on their platforms.
Of course paid-for activity has also existed alongside this, but go back a little further, say ten years or so, and influencer gifting was king.
However, the world evolves, social media grows, new platforms emerge – or old ones decide to make dubious rebrands (naming no names) – video content booms, and suddenly the value of influencer marketing skyrockets.
In recent years, many digital creators have gained more traction, experiencing popularity through likes, comments and follows, which has led to a new meaning of the word influence and where creators and brands alike are starting to have a clearer understanding of influencer marketing’s true value.
Since the dawn of Instagram, there have always been some influencers who have charged for their services. And rightly so.
These days, there are many creators who rival the reach of A-list celebrities and give the big media houses a run for their money.
What is influencer marketing?
Let’s circle back for a moment. When we talk about influencer marketing, we mean a type of social media marketing, which might include some form of promotion or endorsement from influencers, organisations or other individuals who have a built up credibility and reach within their field via their social channel(s).
Channels might include TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, You Tube, X (previously known as Twitter), LinkedIn or via a blog or website.
As long as that platform has a decent reach and good engagement, there will always be an inherent value in working with influencers.
Why is it important?
We live in a digital world where content is downloaded onto devices and where the majority prefer scrolling through social media and other types of short form news e.g., Vice, HuffPost BuzzFeed. This is the first reason why it’s important to be working with digital creators and influencers – it’s where the party is at.
Another reason is due to the high level of credibility and trust that influencers have nurtured with their following. When an influencer with an engaged following makes an endorsement, this offers your brand a form of social proof to potential consumers. Though their endorsement, you’ll achieve greater visibility for your brand, increased reach, often among new audiences and an increase in brand awareness too.
Not only that, collaborating with influencers can be a great way to create a buzz online. Often influencers are a dab-hand at getting people excited and inspired to follow their lead and check out your brand or offering. Working in this way also helps you to strengthen your brand reputation, start new conversations and boost conversions.
It allows you to focus on niche areas of interest such as campaigns targeted specifically at pet owners or audiences that are predominantly interested in travel, beauty, health, and fitness. These niches can therefore allow you to test out specific campaigns or products geared up to certain audiences e.g., a female-focused umbrella brand trying to promote a new male-targeted product.
Paid vs Gifted
Many influencers do still accept gifted items in exchange for promotion across their channels, however, it really does depend on a few things, such as whether the influencer has approached you directly, perhaps they’re already a fan and happy to mention your product. It will also depend on the value of the ‘gifted item’ a box of chocolates vs. a hybrid bike is a big difference in value. When working with gifted items, it’s important to not have high expectations – after all, the influencer isn’t being paid in this context.
It’s also worth noting brands need to be mindful of the changing regulations from the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) and Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA), who now stipulates that gifted items and trips (as well as paid-for activity) is clearly tagged appropriately e.g. ‘Ad’, ‘Advert’, ‘Advertisement’, ‘Advertising’, ‘Advertising Feature’. Wording such as ‘Gifted’, ‘PR Invite’ or ‘Thanks To’ are no longer accepted by the ASA and CMA and should not be used.
These days, the benefits of paid-for campaigns outstrip the gamble you take and the fine line you walk with ‘gifted’ activations.
When establishing a paid influencer campaign, the relationship if often be easier to manage, deliverables no longer a grey area, and messaging clear and brand aligned. Unsurprisingly, the quality of content will be much stronger and the result more compelling, leading to better engagement.
Often, influencers will offer a range of content packages to suit your budget and requirements and if you select a range of activities with them – such as 2x Reels, 1x Grid Post, 10 Stories and video content usage post-campaign – you’re likely to be able to negotiate a bundle deal you’re both happy with.
Not only that, engaging with influencers on paid-for activity will mean reporting and measurement is much easier as you’ll be able to request insights and statistics on engagement and ensure there’s more control built into the campaign.
How can brands start working with influencers?
Partnering with a digital creator who has millions of followers may sound like the holy grail but it’s important to decide whether their content is the best fit for your brand. Although some influencers have a large audience, broad appeal and span a range of demographics, sometimes narrowing down your audience might be what’s best for your brand and/or campaign. Sometimes a more targeted and engaged community might be the better fit.
It’s helpful to do your research. Ensure you have likeminded values – what kind of other brands have they worked with before? What sort of engagement did these posts get? What kind of comments do they make and receive? What’s their strength – photography stills or video vs. your requirements? What are their tastes – do these have a synergy to your offering?
It’s important to determine your campaign goals and overall objectives. Have a defined budget and understand what’s important to you – do you need to create a way to gather email sign-ups or is growing your own social following more important? Or perhaps you’re looking for both. What are your visual expectations for photography and video content and what are your key messages you want your influencer to communicate?
Ultimately, there’s a great deal of value to be found in paid-for influencer marketing and it is a great way for brands to stand-out in the digisphere.
We’re entering a paid-first era with the demand for value and conversions that influencers can offer at an all-time high. Let’s face it… you wouldn’t consider not paying an invoice for a Facebook ad, so why should influencers be any different?
If you’re considering incorporating paid influencer campaigns into your marketing strategy, and want some help get in touch at: [email protected]