Read our new manifesto

The influencer economy is doing fine; just ask the influencers

This promoted content is produced by a member of The Drum Network.

The Drum Network is a paid-for membership product which allows agencies to share their news, opinion and insights with The Drum's audience. Find out more on The Drum Network homepage.

Samantha Wright, Webfluential

It was bound to happen. First, a social media exec confessed that brands are throwing too much money at influencers. Days later, Gawker hit publish on a feature about how the influencer economy is collapsing, followed by this opinion piece from Dom Burch, calling bullshit on influencer marketing.

Well, is it? Let’s ask the influencers.

There’s a new website in influencer town, where creatives can share the skinny on which brands have approached them, how the brief went down and how much they were paid – or have yet to be paid, in some cases.

It’s a breath of fresh air in an industry where there’s way too much secrecy, if you ask me. Yes, there’s a mix of the usual grumblings: scope creep and late payments. But what you’ll notice that just about every influencer who shared details of their gigs is A) a professional in the creative industry, and B) being paid fairly for their work.

Their work. Not just their audience.

I’m not talking about celebrities punting weight loss tea here. I’m talking about the other 99% of influencers, with followers they’ve built the old-fashioned way: with hard work. Yes, influencer campaigns fail to hit the mark sometimes. It’s not because the influencer was overpaid. It’s because the content – the love child that too often is the result of a once-off quickie between brand and influencer – well, it sucked.

A few bad runs aren’t enough to cripple an industry. In fact, the influencer economy is still growing at a steady pace. I know this, because I work on new influencer campaigns every day at Webfluential, and it’s not slowing down. We have more than 1,000 influencer campaigns under our belt.

Here’s what you need to know when you’re working with influencers:

Let the influencer do the talking

Audiences are smart; they can smell a fake brand plug a mile away. Remember that it’s the brand’s roles to write the brief and not the content. Using an influencer as a puppet to wax lyrical about your product, reading them straight from a brochure, guarantees failure. Influencers know their audience better than you do – let them craft the message, that’s what you’re paying them for.

Followers aren’t everything

Engagement should trump following every time. 100,000 subscribers on YouTube looks good on paper, but what is the view time of the video? Are people watching for longer than 30 seconds? The influencer you want to work with might have 64,000 Twitter followers – but will all 64,000 of them click on the link in your sponsored tweet?

Search for The One, not just anyone

Investigate the social feeds of potential influencers you’d like to collaborate with. Look for someone who is picky about the brands they work with, and not an influencer who says “yes” to every brand that comes a knocking – your content won’t get the love it deserves. Do they work for the competitor? Do they attend every single event they’re invited to? You need to search for an authentic voice with a true passion for your brand and products, rather than just someone with a big follower count.

You pay for what you get

You’re not just paying for a photo to be taken or a few sentences to be bashed out on a keyboard. When you pay an influencer you pay them to create content that their audience will engage with. Creating content costs money. You’re also paying for the access to the influencer’s audience. An audience you didn’t have access to previously. And it’s not just content creation - you’re also paying the influencer to endorse your brand. Whether we like it or not the moment they create content for the brand they’re aligning with it.

Influencer marketing works, just look at Casey Neistat’s work with Mercedes-Benz and well, there are plenty of other examples. Like any marketing effort, you need to be smart about who you partner with. It’s a relationship, not a one-night stand.

Working with the right influencers will deliver far more engagement and adoption for your brand than a billboard can deliver. And have you seen how much billboards cost these days?

Samantha Wright is business development manager at Webfluential.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis