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The Changing Game of Online Influencers

Brett Owens

Founder & Chief Collab Matchmaker

Some of us are obsessed with the idea of having more followers. While some online influencers work hard to gain followers, some even opt to buy fake followers.

You will rarely hear an influencer confess but the truth is that even many well-known celebs have fake followers. However, brands don’t really look at such details and some are even willing to shell out thousands for a shingle post.

Sarah realized this when she decided to launch her own brand about two years ago. Her investors and marketing team made her realize the importance of influencers. They can make or break a product.

Sarah, however, wasn’t too thrilled. She was expected to spend up to $30,000 per influencer to get people talking. Since it was just a small startup, she didn’t really have the means to spend such heavily on influencers. Plus, it didn’t make much sense to her. Why should she pay strangers to promote her brand on the web?

She decided to go her own way but admits it was a mistake. However, Sarah isn’t the only one to have experienced this. Many budding entrepreneurs are surprised at how expensive it can be to get influencers to talk about their products.

The Importance of Online Influencers for Marketing

Some do not even understand the importance of influencer marketing. Contrary to popular belief, influencers are not solely for makeup products. They can help promote all kinds of products and businesses from furniture to fashion items to literature.

The idea is to use a popular name to reach a wider audience. It’s not very different from hiring a brand ambassador or working with a celebrity but it’s more affordable – at least it used to be.

The industry is worth billions of dollars today. Influencers enjoy great popularity as they cater to a niche audience.

Their followers do not look at them as ‘paid advertisers’, and hence pay attention to what they have to say. However, the truth is that most online influencers charge for promoting products and some may even talk positively about a product they have never used.

Kevin James Bennett, a consultant helping brands get in touch with influencers, says influencers are “salespersons”, however, he does add that they’re not “bad people”.

The Federal Trade Commission is working on protecting customers. The rules require influencers to clearly disclose if they have been paid (in monetary terms or otherwise) to talk about a product. But, you’ll see influencers break the rule every now and then.

Money Keeps on Changing

Influencers do not only get paid to write or review a product but they often also get paid to “place” products.

Companies prefer silent endorsements to make it look natural. The products you see on the desk are often placed there because someone paid the influencer to do so.

Companies are willing to pay for everything, from hashtags to posts, to mentions to links. The money influencers charge depends on the type of “advertisement” purchased. Some may even offer bundles that include reviews, links, etc.

In addition to this, some online influencers may also charge more for posting on specific social media platforms. For example, if you have 80K followers on Instagram and only 10K subscribers on YouTube then you may charge more to post on Instagram.

Sanders Kennedy talked about how a beverage brand once offered him money to place a product on the table without needing to talk about it. It’s an easy way to market a product and can be quite effective as well.

The Question of Ethics

How do you ask others to use a product you have never used or do not intend to use? Brands are known for telling influencers what to say. In fact, influencers like Thataylaa have talked about turning down brands over such issues.

BetterHelp, an app designed to offer therapy-like services, is a good example of how influencers can end up promoting the wrong product. The company got in touch with a number of influencers including Shane Dawson and Philip DeFranco to help promote its services.

They talked about mental health and the benefits of using the app, motivating followers to sign up for the services. Things turned ugly when a large number of customers started to face issues with the app.

Many users also questioned influencers over promoting something related to ‘mental health’ without knowing about it. The outrage was so huge that some online influencers like DeFranco decided to cut ties with the app. This wasn’t the first time and this may not be the last that such a thing occurred.

Brands often dictate influencers. Influencers often know they’re lying but very few take a stand against it. They also do not have much of an option. Saying no means losing the brand.

However, that’s not the only problem. Some influencers are willing to get paid to disparage a competitor’s product. They usually charge more for such “services” but we know how unfair that is.

Moreover, some influencers can also be out of touch. Many influencers now have teams to manage pages and deal with brands and customers. In fact, it’s also common for team members to respond to queries and comments. You’ll rarely get to talk to the actual person, it’s always a manager. Followers are often fooled as they are unaware of such details.

Prices Are Skyrocketing for Online Influencers

Bennett talked about the huge change in pricing. What cost $10,000 in 2016 now costs $100,000 or more.

You can’t blame one person for the huge rise in the price. While influencers blame agencies and middlemen for the jump in prices, some experts believe it’s due to the huge benefits that brands are willing to pay so much.

Plus, online influencers do not only get paid but they may also get free products, often worth thousands of dollars. While it’s great for influencers, it’s causing some brands to walk away.

Marlena Stell, the name behind Makeup Geek, talked about the huge increment in prices and why she is no more able to afford influencers.

But Not All is Bad

While prices are rising, it does give hope to new and budding influencers who may not have a lot of followers.

Such influencers are affordable and while they may not offer a huge reach, small companies can make use of such local celebrities to market their name.

Plus, not all influencers are ill-informed. Some take their job very seriously and would not promote a product if they have no faith in it.




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