Influencer marketing is no longer a buzzword or trend in the digital marketing space. It’s serious business, and brands that are doing it well, are reaping the rewards. So how do you do it well? Like anything, you need to invest in it.
Many marketers add influencer marketing to their digital strategy, but group it under PR or social media, and therefore, don’t allocate any budget or resources to it. Often, that results in a half-hearted influencer campaign and limited success. Having access to product or service is no longer enough for influencer marketing - a complimentary product or service needs to be coupled by a budget, yet many marketers don’t see the need.
So, why should you invest budget into your influencer marketing campaigns?
1. A More Collaborative Process
When you have budget to invest in an influencer campaign, the process is much more collaborative in terms of negotiating content aesthetic, timelines and execution dates. Having budget to offer an influencer is the same as hiring a freelancer or contractor, so you can work together to produce a fantastic campaign. There is room to also negotiate the package and what each party is required to deliver and receive as part of the partnership.
2. Better Content
Paying an influencer for their their part in the collaboration ensures that you receive better content from the collaboration, as producing good content often involves, time, effort and additional costs on the influencers end. When no budget is available, an influencer may, or may not, take a quick snap of your product and share it without putting much effort into the content. Whereas when you have budget to invest in your influencer partnerships, you will, no doubt, receive better, high-quality content.
When budget is available, influencers also often provide and share more content than is required. For example, you may engage them for an Instagram campaign but they may also share the imagery on facebook and Snapchat. You could also work with them on content creation for your own social media platforms, and they may share the imagery on their blog too. If high-quality content is what you are after, it is best to invest.
3. Guaranteed Coverage
Influencer marketing without budget is more like a PR exercise - it’s sending media packs and building activations with the expectation that the media, or an influencer, will run the story or feature the product. Just like there is no guarantee when you send a journalist a press release or a fashion editor samples of your new collection, there is no guarantee that an influencer will give you coverage when budget is not available.
If you do want to guarantee coverage and exposure, you have to be willing to reimburse the influencer for their time and effort. There is simply no other way.
4. Influencers Shouldn’t Be Expected To Work For Free
Working with influencers is like working with anyone in the creative industries - they shouldn’t, no should you expect them to, work for free. At the end of the day, influencers have built a business from their influence and skills in content creation, and for many, it is their full-time job and sole source of income. You wouldn’t be expected to go to work for the day without getting paid, and neither should influencers.
5. You Are Receiving Benefit - So Should They
When you engage an influencer for a campaign, it needs to be a mutually beneficial arrangement. You would never approach The New York Times to request them to run a story on your brand and expect they will do itt. The same goes for influencers. They can be hugely beneficial to your brand and digital sales funnel, so why would they scratch your back, when you can’t scratch theirs?
You are receiving a benefit from the collaboration (otherwise why else would you engage them), so it is important to ensure that the influencer receives benefit from the partnership too.
6. Maintaining A Network Of Brand Champions
Influencers love working with brands and marketers that truly value their talent and effort, so when you do have budget available to offer in compensation for an influencer’s time, the relationship is a lot stronger. Over time, when you are able to offer multiple opportunities and revenue streams to influencers, you will build a strong network of professionals who are willing and ready to support your business in any way they can.
This is also important for account managers in digital marketing, PR and influencer marketing, because a strong network of influencers who love working with you is invaluable. Relationships are so important, and you wouldn't want to be remembered as “the person who always wants me to work for free.”
7. Use Of Content On Owned Platforms
When budget is available, it is more likely you will be able to use and share influencer content across your owned platforms, such as your blog, newsletter and social media channels. Of course, paying the influencer doesn’t automatically mean you own the rights to the image, however, it is something that can be discussed and approved in the negotiation phase.
You may want to have a joint copyright agreement in place for use across platforms and commercial use, or you simply might politely ask the influencer if it is okay if you regram their content on Instagram (for regram etiquette, click here), or share their post on Facebook. Whatever the agreement, make sure it is confirmed and approved by everyone involved before finalising the collaboration details.
8. More Potential For ROI
There is no denying that there is serious potential for ROI in influencer marketing. Because of this, many businesses invest very little into influencer marketing, in an effort to increase their ROI. Unfortunately, when you have no budget, you will always have no, or a very limited, ROI.
It is definitely possible to reach a return on your investment even when you are paying an influencer for their contribution to your campaign. In fact, it is more likely that you will drive increased brand awareness, leads and sales when you can allocate budget to your campaigns, because influencers will perform their very best when it is a working relationship. When they know you are supporting them, they are eager to support you back and will often go above and beyond to ensure the collaboration is worthwhile to everyone involved.
9. Expectations Can Be Managed More Effectively
Finally, when budget is offered and exchanged, expectations and guidelines can be managed more effectively and outlined. This is especially important for big corporations or brands that need imagery to be on brand and according to specific instructions - such as angles, logo visibility, features displayed and colour schemes. It is also possible to request influencers to submit content for approval before it is published, to ensure it is on brand and as per the brief. When budget is available, you cannot set and manage expectations, because you are not working collaboratively with the influencer. So, if you want content to look and feel and certain way (which is totally fine), you need budget.
Having budget is a best practice in the influencer marketing space, yet many businesses and marketers struggle to allocate budget to their influencer marketing, for one reason or another. Yet without it, it is hard to see genuine success from influencer marketing. So, will you be investmenting more in your influencer partnerships?
Note: It’s important to keep in mind that budget for influencer collaborations is a means to pay the influencer for their time, efforts and creative talent, and you should always seek to collaborate with influencers who genuinely align with your brand. Also, always check the influencer marketing guidelines in your state, territory or country, as rules and regulations may apply when it comes to providing monetary compensation to influencers.