Earlier this year I traveled across Thailand for an entire month, scuba diving, yachting, fine dining – all without paying a dollar out of pocket. As a group of micro influencers with a following geared towards travel, we often looked like a mobile film crew: constantly creating content for these fantastic companies we felt fortunate and excited to partner with on our respective social media platforms.

Every morning my friends and I would wake up to new email opportunities for partnerships and sponsorship in Thailand, inspired by the prospect of creating content and going above and beyond on our collaborations to post to our collective 50,000 followers.

One morning, we received a pitch from an up and coming American bean chip company. Imagine our reaction, halfway through countless collaborative experiences overseas, when the bean chip company in question propositioned us to post on their behalf in exchange for a bag of chips. Yes. A single bag each.

Suffice it to say, we exchanged a good laugh and ultimately deleted the email. As you might imagine though, every time I see that same bean chip brand at the supermarket…it leaves a bad taste in my mouth (pun intended). Those chips definitely make for a funny anecdote, don’t get me wrong.  But their marketing approach struck a nerve.  And here I am, 8 months later, still thinking about their lack of genuine interest or intent to effectively collaborate.

So, what did this bean chip company miss?


The Devil’s in the Details…

 “Just this week on my Instagram alone, I was pitched by brands to promote a diet supplement, new clothing line, a mail-able mattress, and a mobile massage company – and they all seemed to use the same format, not ever considering my brand or followers.” quoted Sarah Silva (@sarahsilval), an upcoming Instagram influencer from Los Angeles.

It’s no secret that influencer marketing is a powerful and viable strategy for ROI and credibility for almost any brand. Keeping that in mind, why are influencers feeling like companies constantly try to take advantage of them and undervalue their work?

The answer is simple: Influencers need to be seen as artistic directors of a campaign, not as a means to an end.

An influencer’s following, engagement, reach, and impressions are not only business KPI’s that could positively affect the bottom line. They represent people.  These people are multi-faceted, emotionally-driven consumers, dynamically impacted by their favorite Youtuber/Instagram celebrity and their lifestyle.

In fact, a 2014 survey from Variety stated that “the five most influential figures among Americans ages 13-18 are all Social Media stars, eclipsing mainstream celebs including Jennifer Lawrence and Seth Rogen.”  Gone are the days when marketing teams vied for a big movie star name to promote their brand and services.  In today’s business landscape, directing energy and resources towards social media influencers who have a more easily measurable reach on their respective platform proves much more viable and cost effective.

The young consumer demographic is no longer watching tv shows on television, advertisements on commercial breaks, or films in theaters. Content is being consumed at an exponentially increasing rate, primarily on mobile devices.  With this increasingly diversified market, it only makes sense that advertisements and commercials should target more specific audiences.  This ushers in the capacity of the influencer.  With a measurable and distinct audience (based on an influencer’s brand and style of content), both the company and influencer have an opportunity to tailor their advertisements to a niche-market.  This is arguably more effective and efficient for the product’s digital strategy.


Now four years after that Variety survey, those same 13-18 year olds are most businesses’ key  target age demographic. Since 84% of marketers today are using at least one influencer marketing campaign within the next 12 months, we now live in an influencer’s world.

Embracing The Change…

Part of this change comes with giving the responsibility of collaborating on creative content to the influencer and being fair and forthright in negotiations. Digital creators want to be taken seriously by the brands and offered compensation or trade that is relative to the ROI you can receive from their followers buying your product.

In our experience, influencers who take their brand and marketing seriously (the only ones you should want to work with!), also take digital content creation seriously and most likely are not interested in a complementary packet of skinny tea or a bag of chips in exchange for a curated and well thought out post. If they are interested, trust me, you get what you pay for.

Actually, many influencers even as soon as 10,000 followers are beginning to demand sums or product trade of $250+ for each post – a more than fair sum for their energy, time, and influence.

For some perspective on the influencer’s end, a single shoot for one of the brands we partnered with in Thailand would take an average of 4-5 hours to complete in full. Influencers wear many hats; videographer, photographer, editor, copywriter, SEO specialist, set designer, artistic director, grip, gaffer (lighting), to name a few. Many of them have backgrounds in these industries or have years of experience with digital marketing. Some are union performers with SAG-AFTRA or DGA.

With years of experience under their belt, plus the time and diverse skills required to produce the content itself, these creators deserve to be treated as industry artists. This is why it is essential to establish a rate and conditions standard to adequately compensate influencers. It is a mutually beneficial collaboration. With that in mind, the more equitable and generous the brand is, the more invested influencer becomes in the content they produce, ultimately producing better results for the campaign.

PEOPLE Magazine, the second largest publication reach in the nation, has been known to charge $118,000 for a half to full page ad toward the back of their magazine. Their reach is estimated to be around 81 million.

At this same scale, an influencer with 8 million reach per content posted should command $11,800 per post (which is about correct). Again using this scale, an influencer with 80,000 reach should receive $180 per post.

Before you start to pitch mid-size influencers $180 per post, keep in mind that this doesn’t include content creation; the actual photo of themselves they need to shoot and edit (sometimes extensively) to fit their page. PEOPLE Magazine wouldn’t bring in a photographer to shoot your ad and edit it to fit the magazine for the same rate, so why would you expect an influencer to do so for free?

It also doesn’t include the personalized category specific endorsement from the digital celebrity. The same way you would pay extra for a “name” in a film or commercial, influencers are on a relative equal scale. In this case, there are difference tailored niche audiences that the influencer has created to provide companies in that field even better returns and potent reach.

Influencers work on creating an authentic relationship with their followers. Stories, live video, direct messages, comments, all play in to the results of the influencer campaign. Unlike billboards, commercials and traditional advertisements, posting an endorsement of a product or service is perceived by the “followers” as a personal and, even more importantly, a trustworthy endorsement from the influencer.

This is why the FTC provides regulations on influencer posting for profit or trade. #ad and #sponsored (among others) are now required in each post to abide by consumer fair marketplace guidelines.


Here are five things to consider when looking at your next influencer campaign:


What is the influencer’s brand?

 Who is their target audience and how does this fit (if at all) with your campaign? Take the time to diagnose the influencer’s main brand points, their style of content, and how they engage with their following.  These factors all play a role in the type of branded content that you will develop together, in order to most effectively impact your audience.

What is your focus KPI?

What is most important to your campaign; your reach? Your product sales? Your brand recognition and credibility? These are all questions to address before reaching out to an influencer so that your communication unfolds transparently and productively.

What is the influencer’s skill set

Consider if your influencer is specifically skilled with photos, video, comedy, etc. Help steer the campaign in that direction for them.  Through researching their specialized skills in content creation prior to reaching out, you will get more bang for your buck and the influencer will feel more confident and invested in the product they develop.

Who is in their circle of influence?

Which other influencers, producers, and artists do these creators regularly collaborate with in their posts, videos, and events? This could play a major role in further diversifying your content’s reach.

How is your brand’s social media presence?

Before reaching out to any creators, it is essential to evaluate these three points: brand, quality, and consistency.  Do you have a quality page with consistently posted, well-thought out content within your branding? If not, many influencers will be less interested in collaborating with you.


Remember, an influencer is now a collaborator and temporary member of your team, so choose your new partner wisely!

Written by the TSMA Consulting team, a national social media consulting, management and strategy group working primarily in entertainment.

TSMA and media influencers are joining us at the Social Media Strategies Summit in San Francisco. Their panel, Best Practices in Content Creation with Digital Influencers, will highlight the key pieces of a successful influencer campaign!

#SMSsummit SF Register now!

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