Should influencers be compensated?

Even though this question is asked a lot, it’s the wrong one. Influencers definitely should be compensated. The only question is how.

Influencers benefits and fees are a delicate issue. It touches the soft spots in today’s marketing: How to reach the audience organically and not through regular ads?
How to reach genuine reviews?
How transparent should we be?

All these issues are challenged in the intersection of brands meet influencer. You just can’t avoid it.

What’s Wrong With Free?

Wait, shouldn’t an influencer be happy to collaborate with brands for free? Won’t they be thankful just by being approached by the industry top companies? Why are we even talking about a compensation?

Because influencers work hard and they risk a lot when they collaborate with brands.

Their influence didn’t come easy. It was built with solid work and dedication. They spend loads of energy and time building their influence. Step by step they created an online presence that brings them joy, social impact and prestige.

For most of them, these online posts and photos are not what puts food on the table. But it does seems like a part time job. When they review a gadget they play with it for days and pay attention to every detail in it; when they try a new line of clothes they take tens of photos before posting anything to Instagram; and when reviewing a restaurant they dedicate their evening for it.

And that’s just the time it takes to think and create the videos, posts and images they post. Later on, they’ll spend a lot of time interacting with their audience and being there for them.

Their notable work deserves something in return. The question is what would it be: Payment? free samples? event tickets? What would be an appropriate payoff for their work?

Paying an Influencer

That seems like the right thing to do. You ask them to work for you, so they should get paid. That sounds reasonable.

The talents are looking for this kind of approach. Not only due to the tangibility of money, but also for the professional acknowledgement that accompanies it.

Payment creates some obligation between the brand and the influencer. It entitles the influencer to share something with his/her network. The essence of what it’s going to be depends on the creative freedom both sides agreed upon.

The other matter with payment is how much would be right for that kind of content. Each industry has its own standards. But if you need to internally justify a certain amount of money to allocate to an influencer campaign, ask yourself a simple question: how much is the exposure worth for you compared to the alternative of paid media?

The “Quid Pro Quo” Way

Money is not the only option for joining forces with influencers. In several industries, it is even a common way to compensate influencers – not with payments but with free tickets or experiences. In the tech world, music or automotive industry it is common to see free invites to concerts, conferences or get gadgets and music access for review.

Some would see this as less obligatory and a softer way of compensation. But it is still giving something to an influencer, expecting something in return.

Pay or Not: Make Them Feel Special

54% of influencers state that being treated as any other publisher is highly important to them when collaborating with brands (source).

In other words, compensation is important but without a long-term relationship it isn’t worth a lot.

If you’re not creating a close relationship, this collaboration won’t stick. Unlike other marketing methods, like celebrity endorsements, loyalty here is worth a fortune. These influencers are supposed to be your tribe leaders, do you really want your leaders to be mercenaries?

What You Should Pay is Attention

Influencers should be compensated. No question about it. But sticking to terms of transactions will frame your relationships to give-and-take interactions. Nothing more than that.

Whatever your influencer strategy might be, it is important not to distance yourself from the influencer and think only in terms of compensation. If you are still struggling to determine your strategy here, feel free to start with our Influencer Marketing guide.

There are many ways to keep close relationships with influencers. You should make them feel special and proud to work with you. Be there for them with marketing advice, assist with professional knowledge, and follow their work, even when it’s unrelated to your brand.

Make sure they’ll know you thought about them.

Are they Jewish? Make them a yamaka, like Airbnb did. Vegan? Buy them a dog. hmm, on second thought forget about that, it might backfire. Even if you send him a private jet, be sure to include a personal hand-written note. See how Atomic, Buffer and Slack did it? That’s how they get personal with their close influencers. Remember, the most expensive things aren’t bought with cash.

This feeling of paying close attention and showing interest in their work is what sticks. It will resonate in the social content as well.

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