Choosing Between Influencer Payment vs. Product

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Early on in an influencer marketing campaign, if not the first step, brands must ask themselves several questions: How much will I pay my influencers? Do they need to be paid at all? Is there a guideline to what this influencer should receive in exchange for their service? How do I make sure I’m not overpaying or underpaying an influencer?

The reality is, what to offer an influencer is just as unique as any other element of influencer marketing. By determining and establishing this element early on, brands can define the right campaign strategy and maximize their budgets for optimal results.

How much money you spend depends entirely on the nature of your campaign and your campaign budget, as well as the influencers’ following size, engagement rate, and social status. You can most likely find a simple guideline for influencer payment with just a simple Google search. A recent report advised readers that generally, Instagram influencers could ask for $10 per 1,000 followers, Youtubers could ask for $20 per 1,000 subscribers, and Snapchat influencers at $0.10 – $0.35 per view. While being aware of these numbers is a good practice, other elements can alter these numbers.

Short-term campaigns

Using influencer marketing software like Upfluence can give you a better idea of how much an influencer would ask for in a paid-per-post campaign. This usually depends on their follower size, as well as their engagement rate, ranging from a few hundred dollars for smaller influencers, to a few thousand for bigger ones. There are some exceptions when it comes to celebrities or macro-influencers, a.k.a those whose names have much more impact than just their social media presence. (Kylie Jenner has been reported to pocket $1,000,000 for a single Instagram post!)

At the end of the day, influencer marketing heavily relies on communication and relationship building, so make sure to leave space to negotiate with influencers until you reach a number that works for both parties.

Long-term campaigns

Campaigns that require a lot of involvement from influencers may cost more than a single post of social media. In some cases, these campaigns can take form as one or multiple events, where on top of comping for influencers’ travel expenses and housing, companies sometimes choose to pay an extra amount for their time and social media posts.

These long term campaigns can also be an ambassador program. While unpaid ambassador campaigns exist, paid ambassadors can also involve a stricter contract. By paying influencers to represent the brand, companies can establish requirements such as no association with competing companies, or constant usage and promotion of a product or products.

These long-term campaigns are usually costly to begin with, and are more popular within bigger brands as well as bigger influencers. For that reason, most likely, your marketing department will be in touch with influencers’ agents or managers, in order to communicate and negotiate.

A few things to note if you’re running a paid campaign:

  • Brands usually save more on long-lasting relationships. Not only that, but having an established relationship with influencers would always reward brands in the long run.
  • You could always include non-monetary elements in your paid campaigns when negotiating. (E.g. Instead of paying an influencer $500 for a post, ZZZ Headphone company provides that influencer with a new pair of their headphones, on top of $300 compensation.)
  • What is your intended ROI? Generally, companies could earn about $6.5 in media values for every $1 they spend on influencer marketing campaigns. With this in mind, companies need to take a realistic look into their current budget, past campaigns, and potential future return on investment before spending on influencers.
  • Don’t go over your budget, just because an influencer is “hot” at the moment. What matters more is if an influencer fits your brand, and could deliver according to your marketing purpose.

Unpaid partnerships with influencers

It is a common misconception that only smaller influencers take part in an unpaid marketing campaign. At the end of the day, money is not the only attractive quality a brand can offer to their influencers as there can be more value in the collaboration itself.

Free products

Your product or service can have a great enough value in exchange for an influencer’s work. There are many ways for a brand to utilize their products, including sending samples to influencers for a one-time review, or supplying influencers with a period of time’s worth of product. (E.g. XYZ Cosmetics sent their new blush product to their list of 100 influencers, in exchange for reviews on Instagram, or ABC Vitamins offer influencers a year’s worth of products, in exchange for 5 posts within that year.)

Brand association

If your company is particularly well-known in your industry, many influencers can find being associated with your brand an attractive reward. For this to work well, you must make an influencer feel special to represent your name. Finding influencers who share the same values, interests, and possibly aesthetics with your brand will yield better results when getting influencers to support your brand without a monetary return. (E.g. AAA Biking Company chooses 10 influencers in the biking community to become their ambassadors, where they have exclusive perks while promoting the brand to their followers.)

Good cause

Similarly to brand association, some influencers can feel enticed to work with brands or non-profits who promote a cause they care about. Sourcing out influencers with the same passion and awareness is an important step if your company decides to use this strategy. (E.g. Planned Parenthood reaches out to influencers who are passionate about reproductive rights to post about a new campaign they have.)


Some influencers are still actively trying to build their following and name, and if your brand has a larger following on a social platform, you can use exposure as an attractive exchange for their content. This works well for influencers who are already using your products/services, if you’re not planning to send out samples for reviews. (E.g.: BBB clothing line is reposting any content that tags their handle, enticing users and influencers to post content relating to the brand for a chance to be promoted.)

A few things to note if you’re running an unpaid campaign:

  • Certain industries have a better chance of exchanging products/exposure for influencers’ content, like beauty, fashion, travel & leisure, events, luxury goods, etc.
  • If you choose to send influencers samples or products for a review in return, you’ll need to expect that they might not like your product or give it a glowing recommendation. However, there are steps you could take to avoid an influencer leaving you a horrible review, such as searching for influencers who have already used similar products, or better yet, products from your brand.

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