To Pay or not to Pay: the ultimate question for outreach marketers

Should brands pay influencers for mentions or not? This is certainly a hot topic within outreach marketing at the moment as more and more brands are collaborating with influencers, and legal considerations are coming into play.

Many brands have adopted outreach marketing strategies but the majority of them still struggle with this question. Of course there is the practical debate of whether influencer marketing is really worth it and marketing dollars should even be diverted towards it. However, the strategy’s ROI has been proven many times.

Instead it’s the more ethical aspect of this question that I am interested in: is paying influencers for posts and mentions ethical? And what impact does it have on the content itself?

I recently attended a great webinar with GroupHigh on this topic – many of the stats below come from their research.

Yes, you should pay your influencers…

The main argument for paying influencers is that they need to make a living too. For many of them their blog, website and/or social profiles are their job and they need to make an income. Just as companies pay employees for their time and effort, so should brands pay their influencers.

In fact, a GroupHigh survey found that 84% of influencers accept monetary compensation for posts and 70% even prefer this over any other form of compensation. Sending products and samples is always nice – but “they don’t pay the bills” as I’ve heard many influencers say.

…but not as a one-off

However, paying influencers should not be a one-off event for a quick mention or a link. Compensating them should be part of an on-going and mutually beneficial relationship; a way of nurturing your network and offering your influencers value.

This is because purely sponsored posts, without a passion for the brand, clearly lack authenticity. Consumers can see right through this, and these endorsements are therefore simply not effective. Your influencers need to love your brand – if they don’t, not even money cannot get them to ‘act’ well in front of their followers.

At the end of the day, authenticity is important to consumers and so it should be important to influencers and brands.

And don’t forget the law!

In many countries including the UK and the US, bloggers and brands now need to disclose all sponsored activities. This could be as simple as adding ‘#sponsored’ or ‘#ad’ to a social post or a quick sentence in a blog post. Any exchange of goods or money needs to be disclosed – and it’s actually the brands who can get in trouble!

Fortunately, research shows that these labels do not affect authenticity. In fact, my dissertation showed that sponsored YouTube videos had the same volume of engagement (likes and comments) as non-sponsored videos. Interestingly, a thematic analysis of comments even showed that viewers appreciated the vlogger’s disclosure of their brand collaboration and this transparency increased trust levels.

All influencer relationships should be analysed case by case, but paying for content is a possibility – as long as you’re not simply paying for links!

Thanks for reading!

View the GroupHigh research report.



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