Influencer marketing has never been more popular with businesses and organizations. Consumers no longer trust the brand or media and corporations. Marketers and public relations people have understood the importance of going through the influencers to reach their customers again. However, entrepreneurs and leaders of corporations still misunderstand the role and function of influencers. The debate currently raging on the question: Are influencers earned media or paid media?
Should we pay the influencers?
At this point, opinions are divided and fluctuate depending on the market in which they operate. AUGURE conducted a study of more than 600 communications officials, which revealed that just over 30% of European respondents reward influencers while in the US that figure rises to over 54%. Statistics that have many of my colleagues wince.
On one side there are those who claim the influencers gain notoriety and credibility by partnering with brands, and they would hurt their influence by agreeing to be paid. On the other, there are the defenders (of which I tend to belong) who argue that influencers deserve to be compensated in the same way as any service provider. So when will we pay the influencers?
There are no rules to follow. In my opinion, it comes from the ethics and personal motivation of each influencer. But when a company or organization uses an influencer to create content or to promote a brand or product, compensation should be treated as a normal and fair trade for their time. Most of the time, opinion leaders are independent contractors, and no contractor delivers products and services for free.
Between protecting a reputation and sponsored content
According to the Edelman Barometer, consumer confidence in brands, media and organizations has never been lower; less than 47% of people put their trust companies (down 15 points from 2014), and down a little more, the media (as opposed to 58% in 2014). Peer-to-peer recommendations have definitively replaced ads. And, as I mentioned earlier, to reach their customers again, the contribution of influencers, therefore, appears all the more essential for brands and organizations.
However, businesses and organizations must differentiate between buying loyalty, and paying a professional blogger or influencer to create and promote sponsored content or participate in an event. A recommendation program doesn’t necessarily have the same impact, longevity, and results as a long-term relationship developed with leaders in a community. In each case, protecting reputation and credibility is not the same. In this sense, we must distinguish between ¨influenceratis¨, ambassadors and thoughts leaders to better understand their real significance. (Read also: The Influencer Marketing – More than just popularity)
The winning combination of marketing mix
With social media, the key to inbound marketing is to reach people with promotion and publicity. Don’t tell people you offer the best product or service, but ensure others do. The success of a marketing campaign on social networks is often based on a winning combination of paid media, earned and deserved (Paid, Owned, Earned Media), objectives of the campaign and the target audience of the influencer.
The ¨influenceratis¨ represent, in some ways, the paid marketing mix. Their range is substantially the same as ads, or campaign spokesmen. These are the new celebrities, who take advantage of new platforms to reach very large audiences, such as the Italian blogger Chiara Ferragni (3 million followers on Instagram), and YouTuber PewDiePie (40 million subscribers) or Rémi Gaillard French (5 million subscribers). Although their content quickly becomes viral and is quickly relayed by their large and loyal community, it creates a false illusion of popularity. But they often harvest several thousands (if not millions) of dollars in sponsorships.
Ambassadors are more spontaneous and unpredictable. These are the satisfied customers (or the opposite), and happy employees and employees (or not), who will not hesitate to recommend (or criticize) a product or service in their network. They prove sincere and authentic opinions of primary consumers. Companies and organizations are getting (or not) their support because they have won (or lost) the confidence through experience. This support can be rewarded and valued in many ways, but their loyalty can not be bought.
Experts and opinion leaders are in between the two and have several ways they can intervene in companies and organizations. Their professional skills are highly recognized , they create content, and recommend products or services in their network, but also participate in events and act as consultants and trainers to staff and companies. But before endorsing a product or brand, these influencers protect their reputation, which is their main asset. In this perspective, remuneration is not always their primary motivation.
Establish sustainable and equitable relationships with thought leaders
To collaborate with influencers, companies and organizations must first obtain their trust. Confidence will be built over time, through profitable and lasting relationships between both parties. Also, before seeking opinion leaders, and discussing collaborations with them, entrepreneurs and leaders must first seek to understand their motivations.
Opinion leaders are not publicists or journalists, but rather independent professionals who have developed skills over the years, and earned a recognizable authority in their industry. Becoming a leader in this sector requires a large personal investment. And these skills and reputation, are hard-won and command respect from the brands.
For influencers, the question of remuneration is often more of a question of value. Before accepting a sponsorship, they will seek first to preserve the credibility and influence they have developed in their community. But from the moment they agree to endorse a product or service and promote it through their network, they decide how they want to be paid.
What do you think? Do you believe that businesses and organizations must pay influencers as well as all other service providers? Or is a fair exchange of public relations profitable for both parties? Are influencers earned media? Express your opinion by sharing your comments with our readers.