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April 21st, 2017

By Chris Namiotko

Influencer Marketing Contributor

The Art of Paying Influencers – Cracking the Hard Nut

Not more than 2 or 3 years ago, when the concept of influencer marketing was just starting to appear on most marketing teams’ radars, the issue of how to run campaigns and efficiently cooperate with influencers was vividly discussed. Well, it still is, because finding the sweet spot in this relatively new area of content marketing is no easy feat.
Even though we have multiple ways of measuring influencers’ impact (shares, likes or page views, just to name a few), it’s still hard to translate that into monetary gratification. Numbers are being thrown around, but all we know for sure is that since the rise of influencer marketing, the prices of top players in the game have gone up significantly. Reportedly, the numbers for celebrities can mount up to millions of dollars, like the 15 million dollars a year for famous YouTuber PewDiePie (known mainly for his computer game commentaries), or the 7.5 million for the Canadian YouTuber Lilly Singh (known for ethnically-themed parody videos).
However out of control the money game is at the top, influencers may still be very valuable assets, and working with them does not always have to equate to draining your company budget. Cooperation can also take the form of reviewing products (e.g. freebies) or joint projects. That is why it is vital to find the right people for the job and build an honest relationship that will benefit both parties. Here are some tips to help you figure out how to compensate online influencers.

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Know your influencers

The first thing on the agenda is a sincere conversation about what you expect from the influencer, and vice versa. Being transparent is always a good place to start, and honest engagement on your side can help build a solid foundation. Once the expectations are set and you think you have the right fit, it might also be a good idea to ask them about how you can provide further support. There is also a question of what kind of content the influencer wants to create, and what they feel comfortable with. Forcing content on an influencer is never a good idea, as their following can usually spot ‘fake’ content, which might simply result in negative backlash, harmful for both your brand and the influencer.

Money, freebies, joint projects?

It might turn out that what you need at the moment (and the influencer will be thrilled about) is a review of your product, which you hand out to the influencer for free – these are widely known as freebies. As an example, a computer geek might be more than happy to receive a freebie graphics card, as long as you allow them to write an honest review based on their tests and feelings.
If an influencer has to put in more effort and time into creating engaging content to promote your brand, you might also consider good old, traditional money payments. After all, there is a good reason why money is the preferred mode of payment around the world – even with the best parameters, a freebie graphics card will not replace groceries or electricity bill payments.
There are, of course, more ways to make cooperation mutually beneficial. If you feel confident enough that your goals are aligned, you can propose a joint project with the influencer. This has already been successfully done on various occasions, e.g. when Becca Cosmetics worked with Jaclyn Hill, a famous American make-up artist, on a new line of products (selling over 25,000 units within the first 20 minutes of its appearance). Depending on the business model, paying an influencer for a joint project may involve a flat fee, but also, for example, a percentage of revenue.

Controversies

As I mentioned previously, these last few years have brought a huge spike in what some of the influencers are being paid. It seems that the influencer marketing hype has made some companies very eager to join in on the action without proper planning, which has resulted in the failure of some overpriced campaigns.
However, it’s not only the companies that are voicing their concerns about unfair treatment. Influencers are becoming more open about being cheated or lied to by the companies as well. There’s even a Tumblr website where influencers can write about how much they are being paid to promote brands, but also to bash companies that supposedly scammed them.
Regardless of whether the dissatisfied companies and influencers are right or wrong, we can definitely draw one conclusion from the arising controversies – both parties must make sure that the scope of their cooperation is clear and that their goals are aligned. You don’t always have to (and in most cases shouldn’t) splash out on the biggest names simply because of a huge following. Make sure to do your research before committing – ideally you want to find the right fit not only in the influencer, but also in their audience. When you do, the exposure they can provide your brand can be worth its weight in gold.

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