Top celebrity influencers can charge hundreds of thousands of pounds for a single post on their social channels. Is there still value in using paid influencers – or have we reached ‘paid ad fatigue’?

Of course, most of us won’t have that kind of budget for influencer marketing, but many companies now see it as an important part of their overall strategy. A recent report by Celebrity Intelligence revealed that 42% of respondents said their budgets for this kind of activity would increase moderately or significantly in the next 12 months.

Get influencer marketing right and it can be a brilliant investment, but it’s easy to miss the mark and end up feeling like your money’s been wasted. We look at how to find the best influencers for your brand, how to secure them and make the relationship work …

The cost of working with influencers

Influencer costs can vary from simply offering free products, to the likes of Kylie Jenner who reportedly charges up to $400k per post.

Celebrity Intelligence’s report suggests that most organisations are getting a good return on their investment. The research showed that for every £1 spent on a talent-led campaign, brands are getting an average of £17.21 back.

But there’s currently no real benchmark for what to pay influencers or celebrities – it generally depends on negotiation and a lot of variables will come into it. Treat it as a two-way process and be open to discussing a wider programme of activity to try and stretch your budget further.

If you’re starting by offering influencers product-only as payment, you need to consider the value of your product. If it’s a low value item, remember that it needs to be a fair exchange, and you may need to package it up to make it more appealing.

What is the influencer looking for?

Having a budget to offer your chosen celebrities or influencers might not be enough to convince them to work with you. The best influencers will receive many offers to work with companies and brands, so you need to offer them more than a cash transaction. Think about:

  • Is your company/brand a good match for them? Do your homework first and see if they have worked with similar brands before, covered similar ground in their content or talked about relevant topics.
  • Pitch your reasons for working together – show that you have a clear reason why they should work with you.
  • How will it benefit them? Are there any other benefits (beyond payment) for the influencer to get involved? Consider it from their point of view and package up the wider benefits into your pitch.
  • What will they earn? Of course, this is the bottom line and many influencers treat this kind of work as a paid job. Be honest about what budget is available, but steer clear of exact amounts until you reach negotiation.

How to find the influencers that are right for your business

  • Cast the net wide – try not to get fixated with just one or two ‘perfect’ influencers. Draw up a long list and then narrow it down according to their interest, availability, cost and suitability.
  • Find their passion point – again, identifying the influencers who have a connection to your world is paramount. If they don’t, and they still choose to work with you, it’s time to ask yourself why. Influencers who are only in it for the money won’t make good brand advocates.
  • Be clear about your objectives – what is it that you want them to deliver – and can they do it? Be clear about the outcomes you want to see – provide a brief and even a contract to avoid misunderstandings. But be flexible enough to allow them creative freedom too.
  • Ask your audience who they like – if you’ve got a strong community on your existing channels, don’t be afraid to ask them who they would like to represent your company. This can be a good tactic if you have narrowed your options down to a small group and want to get some feedback.
  • Do your research – see the section below for tips on researching influencers.

Authenticity is key

At a recent panel discussion about celebrities and influencers at Social Media Week, there was much discussion about the importance of authenticity with this type of marketing activity. It can be tricky to pull off paid endorsements that remain authentic, but the panel had some great advice on how to tread the thin line:

  • Avoid feeding them a script – sometimes it’s good to get the ‘warts and all’ view so people can see it’s authentic. If you aren’t prepared for it to be ‘rough around the edges’ you might as well run a straightforward ad.
  • Make a connection – they have to be invested emotionally as well as financially to truly get behind your business or product. This comes back to finding the right influencers to start with; the ones who have a proper connection to your world and care about your company values.
  • Admit there is a paid transaction – of course, it’s important to declare this through the #ad on influencers’ content, but don’t be afraid to go further if necessary. Allowing your influencers to speak freely about their relationship with you – and why they chose to work with your company or brand – will show that you’re an open and transparent organisation.

Research tools to help you find influencers

  • Tools – like Buzz Sumo and Follower Wonk allow you to search for influencers and analyse your current community.
  • Manual research – this can be time-consuming, but there’s no substitute for your own research. Look online at different social channels, blogs and search keywords relevant to your organisation – then cross reference to narrow down your options.
  • Networking – use the real world to find influencers too! Treat events and meetings as opportunities to tell your connections what you’re looking for and if they can recommend anyone.
  • Focus groups – for those with more time and a bigger budget, focus groups can be a useful exercise to quiz your target audience on who to approach. Or use the tactic above of asking your existing community.
  • Top shortcut – if you have already found one influencer who you are happy working with, ask them to recommend others. They will be in the same circles as other influencers in their field and a personal recommendation can be a fantastic shortcut to finding your next person to partner with.

Have you used celebrities or paid influencers in your social media campaigns? We’d love to hear your thoughts on making the relationship a success – what have you learnt from the process? Find out more about what we get up to at AMBITIOUS Tell us in the comments below or tweet us @AmbitiousPR.

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