How To Pay Your Influencers: The 3 Golden Rules

 Beware of the industry ‘average’

While influencer marketing is a well-established part of many brands’ strategy, 86% of them still admit they don’t know how much they should pay their influencers.

And while most brands have been persuaded of the value influencer marketing provides, it’s impossible to understand that value if you don’t have a clear idea of what your investment is likely to be.

What many brands do at this point is to look for the benchmarks – industry averages that give them an idea of what different levels of influencer should cost and how to pay accordingly.

This is a perfectly sensible place to start… IF you bear in mind that average costs can’t really tell you much about your own brand’s unique requirements.

Google ‘influencer marketing costs’ and you won’t be short of sources. There is a study, for example, that reports 66% of brands usually pay under $250 per post. An survey found the average price per post for their respondents was $271.

But while it’s handy to have a ‘ballpark’ for your potential costs, averages like this can easily mean nothing whatsoever to your campaign.

Influencer marketing costs are hard to reduce to a standard menu of prices, simply because every campaign is so unique to the needs of the brand. $271 might be perfectly fine, but if you’re doing influencer marketing right you’re going to be thinking a lot deeper and further ahead than a simple ‘pay-per-post’ approach. Which is where our next big rule comes in.


Pay for what you need

You need to go into any negotiation with an influencer with a clear idea of what you want your campaign to achieve – whether it’s raising brand awareness, driving conversions or simply boosting a social following.

Then you need to understand how this influencer is ideally placed to help you achieve your goal. Who (not just how big) is their following? What is their specialism? How do they engage people? Where will they be able to promote your brand most effectively?

And finally, you need to forget about the ‘post price’ averages. Successful influencer marketing is about relationships – working with the content creators over time to grow your brand in meaningful ways.


Photo credit: Kori Nikkonen

One way to structure your arrangement is to incentivise engagement. You’ll have an idea of how many people your influencer can reach, but what you’re really paying for is how many people they can engage. Combining an upfront fee with bonus payments for attaining agreed levels of engagement is a smart way to make sure you’re investing in the right metrics.

And, while you’re trying to calculate what you need, you should consider everything from the type of content and the number of posts to usage rights, exclusivity and cross-sharing content. In other words, if you want your money to work as hard as it can, you need to do your homework (which can involve talking to experienced influencers about what they usually charge and provide).


You get what you pay for

Paying with a product is still a part of the influencer economy – particularly with micro influencers or high-value areas like travel – but most influencers now expect to be compensated in the same way you would with any other creative marketing resource. In fact, a lot of influencers are now even accepting long-term contracts rather than the old ‘one-off’ payments.

What you need to remember is what it is you are actually going to pay for – beyond the posts, videos, likes, comments and shares.

Working with a specialist influencer gives you access to someone who knows their audience (and your target customer) intimately. This expertise can (and should) be harnessed to shape your campaign, effectively giving you a creative partner who can coach and challenge your brand to have more engaging conversations.

What’s more, when you pay an influencer, it gives you a dialogue with them over how your brand or product shows up. This absolutely does not mean you are buying full creative control! But it means you can work together to make sure they are as knowledgeable and passionate about your brand as you are.


Photo credit: Ebba Zingmark


And finally, payment gives you access to the most precious influencer marketing commodity of all – data. By entering into a formal agreement with the influencer you can negotiate access to their social media insights and analytics, both in real-time and in summary at the end of the campaign.

Analysing this data, alongside your influencer, you’ll be able to incrementally refine and improve your campaigns – and probably improve your return on investment too.