Ever since Izea made sponsored posts popular, the question has remained: Should you pay influencers to promote your brand’s message, product or service?
On one hand, you have those who say paying an influencer removes the validity of the review since a person can’t possibly remain unbiased when money is exchanged.
On the other hand, you have those who say it’s no different from any other marketing channel. You pay for other marketing channels, so why should influencers be any different?
As someone who’s on both sides of the coin—I’m a marketer who uses influencers for client campaigns, and am fortunate enough to work with brands as an influencer for their campaigns—here’s my take on the topic.
Time is money
How long do you think it takes to create a blog post?
10 minutes? 30 minutes? An hour?
The truth is blog posts take as long as they need. That might sound clichéd, but it’s true. There’s much more to a blog post than just stringing some words together (or images and sounds, if you’re a video blogger or podcaster). Blog posts require:
- Ideas and research
- Links and attribution to relevant topics
- Images and media
And that’s just the creation process. Then you have to market the post, reply to comments and encourage further discussion. If you were to add up all the components, a blog post could easily take up a few days of your time.
And that’s just one post where the blogger knows the topic inside and out, and can create content on the fly. If there’s a brand message involved, you need to further research the product, test any giveaways, liaise with the brand, etc.
That single post has now turned into a mini campaign, and you want that for free?
You can‘t buy trust, but you should reward it
When I started my blog, I made it my mission to never break the trust of the community that grew around it.
That meant I needed to treat all opinions equally as long as they were respectful and on topic, and that I would never promote or recommend something I hadn’t used myself or didn’t 100 percent believe in.
That’s why there are very few ads on my blog, with the exception of those for the WordPress theme I use. It’s also why there have been very few sponsored posts on my blog; there have been perhaps two in more than five years of blogging.
Simply put, if I’m going to recommend something to my community, whether as an unpaid fan or a sponsored influencer, it needs to be right for my audience. There’s no dollar value you can pay to erode the trust between a blogger and his or her community.
Money comes and goes, but trust and a legacy don’t. You can never buy those back.
If you, as a brand manager or agency, want to connect an influencer’s hard-earned community trust to your client, you need to understand what it’s taken to build that trust. It’s the ultimate endorsement for that influencer to not only introduce your brand to the community, but honestly recommend it.
You can’t buy that kind of advertising, but you can reward it.
Relevance = more effective outreach and ROI
There’s a reason today’s definition of influence—social-scoring platforms like Klout—have been very slow at sharing public success stories about their influencer outreach campaigns.
While generic influence as offered by these platforms can help brands gain share of voice and brand amplification, the fact is the influencer identification process lacks true context and relevance to an audience.
While a lifestyle blogger with an audience of women aged 25-44 and 10,000 subscribers might be attractive to a brand looking to promote its latest healthcare product, how many of those 10,000 subscribers is right for the brand?
Let’s say the product is for women with sensitive skin. The product might be relevant to one-third of the audience. What about the other two-thirds? A generic target by score—”This blogger has a score of 72 in women’s products. She’s perfect!”—will immediately reduce your brand’s success rate.
However, get in touch with the blogger who is 100 percent right for your brand and has a highly engaged audience around that topic, and you’ll immediately see both financial benefits and more positive sentiment around your campaign.
It’s why InNetwork’s solution of filtering out the true audience size is a welcome addition to the influence software marketplace.
Instead of wasting time and resources on partnering with bloggers with 10,000 subscribers but only 900 interested readers, connect with a blogger with 1,000 subscribers and 900 interested readers.
Considering you’ll rarely, if ever, have a blog with a 100 percent engagement rate, the 90 percent engagement of the latter example is much more rewarding, especially given the probable cost to work with the former over the latter due to audience size.
That’s a big difference in relevance, and the ratio for success is much bigger. It’s the smarter way to market, and paying the influencer for connecting you to that more engaged audience means less risk, more return and better campaigns.
Influence marketing is a key business strategy
The adage “you get what you pay for” has never been truer when it comes to influencers and how they can help turn a promotional campaign into a loyalty-driven customer base.
There’s a reason people are influential in their communities: expertise, respect, trust and the ability to make things happen.
You have the choice to pay them what they’re worth, but in reality, if you’re serious about your campaigns, there’s only one question to ask: How much is true influence worth to you?
Don’t be cheap with your answer.
A version of this article originally appeared on the InNetwork blog.