Social Media Marketing (SSM) has become a major focus for companies of all shapes sizes, from fortune 500’s to your local mom-and-pop shop, and of course, everything in between. And while the dot-com industry has provided businesses with an outlet to advertise their products and services on websites, it wasn’t really until Facebook evolved that many companies have took to influencer marketing to reach a more targeted audience. Statistically, companies find that they’ve been able to better manage their budget by procuring “influencers” that match the target audience and location range that they want their product/service to be seen, which nearly guarantees that they have an exponentially higher chance of their product/service being seen through that influencers account, as opposed to if they were to put that same budget into a television commercial, where, who knows if the dog is watching, a child, or an adult within their target audience.
The Needs of a Brand
A quick Google search will list the top 10 companies with the highest advertising budget, which, according to Business Insider (dated 2015), are;
Procter & Gamble
General Motors Company
Ford Motor Company
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Walt Disney Company
A brand, no matter what their marketing/advertising budget though, wants to get their name out there. After all, it’s all about the sell. And if you haven’t noticed, all of the above brands have caught on, and utilized influencer marketing through the YouTube, Instagram and Facebook platforms. Those big companies that used to flourish in the spotlight of TV advertisements, like , are actually suffering as a result of not changing with the fast pace of where the marketing and advertising industry is headed.
The Role of an ‘Influencer’ (otherwise known these days as a ‘Content Creator’)
The reason why I also mention marketing in addition to advertising, is because influencers are doing it all these days. Not only are they advertising a product/service of a brand to their audience, but they’re creating the content, verbiage, and utilizing their talents to ensure successful deliverables to help the company meet their goals.
Below are the sum of responsibilities I have, when a brand reaches out to me to want to “partner”, “collaborate” or “work together”;
Decide if the brand is one that I use, enjoy, and feel comfortable putting the time in to promote. Also decide if my audience would like to try the product/service, and if it is directly relatable to them.
(The brand usually does this research before reaching out, however, oftentimes they don’t research that influencers specific audience and deliverables enough… for example; I’ve had brands reaching out to me to want me to promote mensural pads, simply because I’m an adult woman, not knowing that I keep my female hygiene completely to myself. Not to mention, my audience is made up of 60% women and 40% men, so this company would be wasting their budget on someone like me where nearly half my audience is made up of men who wouldn’t benefit from a product like that.)
Make sure that their budget is within my fee structure and they’re not trying to take advantage.
(Since Influencer Marketing is a relatively new industry, many companies will lowball their offers as if all the influencer has to do is take a selfie on their smartphone and post, when really, it’s much more complex. Brands will oftentimes undermine the work capacity involved in a simple post or campaign, and assume that the influencer’s work isn’t worth more than their final offering. For example, a fortune 500 brand reached out to me recently to curate 5 posts, 3 stories, their link in my bio for 24 hours, my stories in my highlights for life, and get on a call with them and their offering for all of the above was $2,000. This company is suffering compared to it’s other thriving, competitors. Their Instagram has 1/3 of the followers of any of their competitors, and they’re not willing to put up when it comes to their influencer marketing budget.)
Review the legal (contract or agreement), send to my Attorneys, endure some back and fourth (which usually takes weeks to months depending), and sign.
Craft the content based on their deliverables. For one Instagram post and 2 Instagram stories, for example, this includes;
The influencer will be approached by the “influencer marketing agency” that the brand has commissioned to secure the content creator to advertise their product/service. When I receive brand opportunities, I am oftentimes approached by the agency where, in their signature, they boast all sorts of titles. “Digital Account Executive”, “Head of Casting and Collabs”, “Community Manager”, “Senior Vice President, Director, Talent and Partnerships”, “Regional Manager”, are all but just a few titles of the representatives who cast influencers for the brands who choose to hire their agency. Essentially, they’re the “middle-men” between myself, the influencer, and the brand. This means that everything the brand tells them, must be parlayed to me, and then from me, back to the agency, back to the brand, so on and so fourth, which oftentimes causes lots of delays.
Also, it is the influencers responsibility to ensure that the idea aligns with their own values and style. For example, if a swimsuit brand envisions me laying on the side of a pool in their one-piece bathing suit holding a piña colada, I would make sure that they’d approve the idea of me standing on the side of a lap pool holding my goggles and swim cap ready to jump in, instead, so as to ensure that it fits with my brand of fitness and triathlon.
Typically I allocate four to seven days to get the job done
Photoshoot: full day
Which usually now requires hiring my own photographer: $700-$1,500/day
Editing: 6-8 hours
I edit on my own, though if I do decide to procure editing services – like I do with my YouTube videos, that’s $200-$300/minute, and for a 3-12 minute video, that’s $600-$3,600
Caption (an Instagram caption or Story caption is what is stated beneath or on the picture/video being posted): 4 days
I usually do my research on quotes and depending on when the post is going LIVE, have to plan where I’ll be and when, accordingly – example, not posting that I’m in Amsterdam when the post will be LIVE two weeks from now when I’ll be in California
The caption has to be sent to legal to approve/deny – usually this involves several days, if not weeks of back and fourth because… #ad
Story Filming: 2 hours
And usually filmed on my $2,700 DSLR with $2k lens then compressed and reframed into an iPhone display. I usually have to re-film myself saying the same thing over and over again to make sure I don’t mess up or say the wrong thing.
Everything must be submitted to the brand for review, which usually takes several days to a week for them to respond, at which point they approve, or request changes. If they request changes, it’s back to grabbing another photo from the shoot, re-editing, new stories, verbiage, etc., to send back to them for a hopeful timely approval. Note that I won’t receive my fees until typically, 30 days after I have officially posted to my account. Until then, all of these efforts are created on my own dime and time.
Posting Day: 1-3 hours
There’s a pressure to post everything coherently, from the IG post and then the stories and then the link in bio, while also ensuring that I meet all expectations, use all applicable hashtags for FTC compliance and company analytics. Posting one post/story last week took me 5 hours because the frame wouldn’t fit properly into my feed. Seems minuscule, but when we’re talking money and advertising, you wouldn’t expect to see a Tide commercial taking up half the screen, while the other was blacked out. As an “Influencer” (aka. Content Creator), we are expected to ensure that all photography, editing, filming, distribution and marketing efforts are met to a T.
Most brands require reports so they can “boost”, “whitelist”, “repost”, etc. They are able to use your curated art in the form of photo or video, to repost anywhere that their heart desires – on their website, their social media accounts, in other advertisements, press, etc., and once you sign that contact, there’s not much you can do about that. I look at it as, well, my name will be further distributed in the world, and I can only hope in a positive way. But there is also an element of trust with each brand I work with, along with the press. Over time and having done this for years, I know a good brand or news outlet when I see one.
I think I can speak for many other influencers and bloggers out there in that, you want to create a longstanding relationship with your client and do all that you can for them within your means. I will usually throw in a cross-post to my 3 Facebook accounts (101k+ audience), Twitter, and even YouTube videos sometimes. Not to mention adding them as a ‘Partner’ on my website, in possible press releases, in future books, movies, documentaries, etc. I like to help brands I love wherever possible and surpass their expectations even though it’s not necessary.
Since influencers are typically seen as “independent contractors”, they have to fill out all of that required paperwork, submit an invoice, send the contracts to their attorneys, and then wait usually 30 days until they see the payment in their account.
And remember, as an independent contractor, I’ll speak for myself in saying that I take out 30% of each paycheck to then put into my tax savings account, along with another 10% for my emergency savings account, and 10% for my regular savings account. So if I make $4,500/post, all of that work amounts to $2,250. Oftentimes, I won’t break even depending on attorney fees, videographer/cinematographer/editor fees, travel costs, etc.
Every campaign is different; some brands require YouTube videos in which case, it takes me weeks to film and 8-16 hours to edit, hiring a videographer, editor, etc., some brands require an event – whether it be a day or week-long. Either way, there’s no doubt that these brands should be looking at influencer marketing the same way they would a TV ad. Let’s put this into context.
How much do companies spend on TV ads on average?
According to this source, one, 30-second commercial on a local station can cost anywhere from $200 to $1,500 to produce??. I’m going to attempt to do some basic math here, even though math isn’t my strong suit. Say a company was willing to shell out $1,500 for a basic image with some text layover and royalty-free music. Once the content is created, they then have to sell it to a network, displayed on a local cable channel. The average spent for a 30 second commercial on a local network is $123,000, according to this source. And “… If you want to show your commercial in Los Angeles, and your local station tells you that 500,000 people will see your ad, then you can calculate a fair price by multiplying the CPM by the number of viewers (in thousands). In this example, the price for a 60 second ad in LA would be approximately 500 x $34.75 = $17,375”. You can head to that link to read more, but for the sake of the point I’m trying to make through this article, I want to compare this to influencer marketing. $17,375 plus $1,500 is $18,875, and you don’t even know if a dog, a baby, or an adult within your targeted age demographic will see your one, 60 second commercial.
How much do influencers charge per post?
A quick Google search just two years years ago would never give you a direct answer, but now, here’s a good rule of thumb to start, according to thesesources;
$100 per $10k followers. If an influencer as 10,000 followers, that baseline range would be anywhere from $80-$120 depending on engagement, demographics, etc.
For an influencer with an audience of 100,000, their rates would likely start from anywhere between $600-$1,300.
For an influencer like myself with around 480k, my rates are anywhere from $4,200-$5,000 depending on the brand, scope of the work, audience target, packages, etc.
Should people be getting angry when they see #ads on the social media accounts they follow?
This deserves a little backstory, if you’re interested in the bottom line though, scroll down. It became clear to me that much of my audience really hated when promoted things on my Instagram at first, so I stopped for awhile, and turned down quite a few opportunities that would have really helped me pay the bills, and pay back investors from the Expedition (that inevitably, brought them to my profile in the first place). I cared about my audience a lot, and I still do, but back then, when I had literally gone from an audience of 5,000 to 400,000 overnight (or a week, to be literal), I deeply cared about each and every one of them. Actually, I can relate to someone like Billie Eilish in a way, who quickly hit fame and whom you can tell, deeply cares about her audience. But enough hate mail, groping, and negativity from many of them, will lead anyone to create some distance and rather, focus on themselves and their mental wellbeing. The same sort of thing happened to me (of course, on a much smaller scale). I had received massive amounts of hate messages, death threats, wrongful assumptions, horrible comments, etc., and I couldn’t bear to think that I was putting all of my energy into my audience, doing whatever they wanted me to do, and in the process, I was losing my mind. I never met any of these people, but they felt so close to me. Shortly after my Expedition, it was clear to me that I wasn’t going to be able to make ends meet, unless I worked with brands, not only on my social media accounts, but in other ways as well. I was signed with ICM for roughly 6 months, and every potential opportunity that I passed on to them, I never heard back from. That summer, I was in a deficit, and it really worried me that after having worked for 4 years, saving money from my babysitting job, secure sponsorships and investors for Expedition 196 which was a $110,000 dollar venture, I’m now seriously considering going back to a job that never served me, mentally or physically.
That summer I had experienced some deep, dark thoughts before deciding to part from ICM and continue to procure branding opportunities on my own. I felt completely alone, even despite having the virtual support of hundreds of thousands of people, and that of my friends and family (also virtual, since I live 3,000 miles away). I made the decision, that if I were to stay afloat and support myself, I had to make sacrifices, and one of those sacrifices was posting #ads to my social media accounts.
No one should have to go through the pain I did when it came to tossing a coin between financially supporting oneself through social media advertising, or listening to what my audience wanted. At the end of the day, I made the right decision, because to this day, I am inundated with questions about what products and services I use throughout my trips, training and racing. In sum, my #ads are helping them as much as they’re helping me. And yes, I did have to reiterate many times before, that I only choose to partner with companies who I use, love, can relate to, and believe they will benefit from, too. I also don’t post them often, maybe once a month if that, which helps.
If you’re someone who hates on sponsored posts, put yourself in the shoes of the person promoting them. If you had the opportunity to pay your bills, put food on the table, support your family, and give back to our world through a sponsored post, you’d do it. Most influencers (unless they’re flat out celebrities) in fact are not “rolling in the dough”. When you consider taxes, and the amount of money they put back into their business to create their own, curated, epic ads, they oftentimes don’t walk away with much. Sponsored ads keep many channels alive. Without them, now knowing what goes on behind a beautifully curated post, the person providing loads of free content to you would likely not be able to continue to do so, or their deliverables would be limited do to the infrastructure needed to create their art.
What prompted certain companies to shift from TV advertising to social media advertising?
While I could write an entire case study on this, I will blatantly say that I don’t have the time at the moment nor resources to do so. With that said, given the basic research that I’ve done for this particular question asked, and without wanting to degrade the TV advertisement space, I want to sum up why many companies have indeed shifted to social media advertising as opposed to TV advertisement.
Each brand wants to make sure that they are putting their money directly into the consumers to benefit 10-fold from sales and visibility to their product/service. In the TV advertising space, there are individuals who’s sole job responsibilities for that specific brand is to research the exact network and exact time frame that will reach X number of people within the X area who are between the ages of X and X, of which X percentage will be out of the room during the times of X and X, which results in a final number of X people who will see that particular commercial that the brand is paying to be on screen.
The major difference between TV advertising and social media advertising, through my research, is the exact number of people who see that advertisement.
When it comes to a TV ad, the people who make the decision and provide the analytics to the brand of when their commercial will be seen and by who, might have a general number should that target audience be out of the room grabbing a drink, or going to the bathroom, or playing a game and not paying attention, or having a conversation with someone next to them, etc. Those numbers are hard to justify.
With Instagram advertisements, for example, the brand will reach out to the same sort of middle man (though obviously very different), the influencer agency, to find the right influencer with the number of followers and engagement to match that brands budget, and reach out to them. Now, the difference between that brands product/service being seen on a TV ad as opposed to an Instagram ad, is that with Instagram, the metrics of who exactly has seen that photo is point blank in the form of metrics and analytics. That brand can see exactly how many people saw the photo/video/story, clicked on the link/swipe up, saved the photo/video, shared the photo/video, so on and so fourth. They have the numbers visibly in front of them, and those numbers don’t lie.
The same TV ad reaching 500,000 people costing 1 million, could reach 500,000 causing the brand $5,000. Brands would not turn to influencers if there wasn’t a cost effective method to get their product/service out there. Since it’s such a new form of marketing and advertising, who knows if influencers are even getting paid what they’re worth given the time and creative they put into these ads. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Have a look at a few popular companies with over a million followers who’s brands grown exponentially through social media marketing/advertising:
Goop: A company I absolutely love, and was started by Gwyneth Paltrow who is the face of the company and promotes their products on her feed.
SugarBearHair: These little blue vitamin chewables have seen exponential growth on securing everyone from micro-influencers to celebrities to promote their brand. Over the years I’ve seen their product on hundreds of influencers feeds, which has only added to their massive audience and success as a brand with over 2 million followers.
Daniel Wellington: With 4.6 million followers, this watch company must be doing something right. I have a handful of fashion influencer friends who are hired by the company to promote their watches on their feed. This is another one who I’ve seen grow substantially over the years, just from utilizing influencer advertising.
Companies can promote their product/service on a TV commercial, however, at the end of the day, how will they hold on to their audience? With influencer advertising, companies have the opportunity to develop a stronghold of followers on their page, that will grow over time, and that they can market their products/services to knowing that their audience is there to stay.
If you, as a content creator, care about your brand, your image, your audience, then you will ensure that you do everything in your power to create awe-worthy content that everyone (you, the brand, your audience) will love, and this takes immense time and effort.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article. Please let me know in the comments below your thoughts, and otherwise, what you’d like to see in the next article!