Hatch Communication
Paying for popularity

We are all aware that digital media has changed the way we live our lives immeasurably, and the same holds true for the relationship between businesses and their consumers.

Effective digital marketing strategies are centred on a combination of owned, earned and paid media. These three interlinked aspects of digital marketing are reasonably straight forward. Owned media is all the communication channels belonging to the brand like their website or social media accounts. Paid media refers to measures to gain more exposure for your owned media through paid advertising such as pay per click or social media ads. Earned media is the traditional focus of PR – encouraging publication to write about a brand (through added value content creation) to reach their target audience and increase their credibility. These third-party endorsements are perceived as more trustworthy messaging by many consumers, who are sceptical about paid advertising. Earned media can include anything from traditional media coverage to blog mentions, social media posts, and product reviews.

One of the biggest impacts digital and social media had on brands, is that consumers can interact more with brands (and vice versa) and the reach of these interactions are amplified. One Facebook post can be read by thousands of people. Digital word-of-mouth can, therefore, carry great value in building credibility among a wider target audience. Brand advocates, who are engaged and enthusiastic about a brand, and can recommend it to their connections has become a valuable PR asset.

As brand advocates grew in prominence and became part of standard PR practice, this evolved to where opinion leaders and influencers are becoming one of the biggest focuses of PR campaigns today. But as the influencer industry is developing it is shifting from being solely earned media to being part of paid media strategies. Social media influencers understand the value of their services and are asking payment in accordance; with many making a living from charging for their time and ideas. We are past the point of asking if influencers should be paid. The question from a PR perspective is now how to determine the appropriate value for an influencer’s contribution to a campaign and justifying the price that some influencers will charge.

The most obvious justification is the number of followers an influencer has, and thus the potential reach of collaborations. But having thousands of followers does not necessarily mean that the influencer will be able to drive their fans to actions (especially with the possibility that many of these fans can be purchased bots). Engagement rates are thus a more important metric. This may mean that influencers with significantly smaller, but a more engaged following can create more high-quality leads, conversions and brand awareness.

Choosing the right influencer for your brand is thus very important – the first question should be what kind of influencer should be posting about my brand? Influencers should be content creators who are an authentic match for your brand and campaign so that the collaboration feels genuine and organic. A further determinant of the value of an influencers work is the quality of the content they create. As this article sums it up “when you’re sourcing influencers, you’re recruiting artists to interpret your brand, which is a beautiful thing.”

But coming back to the original question of how much to pay an influencer – the answer seems to be that there is no standard answer. It will depend on the type of campaign and the budget available.