In 2016, influencer marketing spending surpassed $570 million on Instagram alone. With so much money flowing in, and with chief marketing officers expected to dedicate larger and larger portions of their marketing budgets to micro-influencers in the coming years, managers and agents who have traditionally represented celebrity brand ambassadors are hoping to cash in on this new influencer marketing gold-rush.
But the role of agents and managers in the influencer world is essentially moot, because the “selfie” is more than just the ability to take a digital self-portrait—it is the symbol of the new, more independent era where being an influencer means getting there first and doing it alone.
Micro-influencers have built loyal and dedicated communities of followers without the help of teams of marketing professionals, and their followers respect them for it. Agents and managers, however, will naturally choose the brand willing to pay the most per post regardless of how a brand’s content requirements fit with a particular influencer, and vice versa.
As a result, influencer content and communities will be impacted. Managers and agents take away from the organic, authentic and independent content that comes naturally with influencers. Young social media influencers need to steer clear of those who would try to bottle their creativity. Here are four reasons why:
The influencer market is unique
Almost all influencer agents come from Hollywood backgrounds where they worked on celebrity endorsements, usually as talent managers—but in some cases, the mail room. None of the above shares much relevance with the nuts and bolts of social media marketing.
I know this because I used to be a Hollywood agent. They are simply following a classic formula: Wait for an inbound offer, ask for a higher fee and then meet somewhere in the middle.
The problem is, as non-marketers, these agents aren’t well-versed in the comparative value that an influencer delivers compared with other types of media (TV, display) or the associated CPMs (cost per thousand impressions) or engagement rates expected for each.
Their goal is to aggregate influencers as they would a roster of celebrities and take a percentage—a model that isn’t well suited to the way digital media is bought and sold.
Show me the (correct amount of) money
Since influencer marketing is new and still taking shape, outside managers (and even inexperienced micro-influencers themselves) tend to rely on guesswork or guidance that might be way off-base when it comes to setting per-post pricing rates.
This information isn’t documented anywhere, and it often seems that no one knows exactly what the rules are, which is another reason why data in the form of digital metrics such as average engagement, likes, cost per engagement and views should be the driving element when it comes to negotiating terms for micro-influencers.
Arbitrary fee quotes and the often wildly unpredictable price tag on influencer posts is a turnoff for potential brand partners, making it harder for the broader influencer marketing business to maintain legitimacy and grow.
The follower community comes first
The classic management negotiating technique is bad for influencers in that it makes no distinction of which brands are worked with—it merely seeks out, or attempts to negotiate, the most lucrative offer.
But this is a risky strategy: Accepting endorsement deals from the highest bidder will compromise the integrity and authenticity that the influencer has worked so hard to build—if not immediately, then certainly after time.
With influencer campaigns, it’s about quality, not quantity. Influencers influenced by managers or agents to accept every promotion offer will quickly see their once-trusted feeds become stale, tarnishing the reputations that made those influencers valuable in the first place.
Influencers are independent
Micro-influencers understand that self-management and self-promotion are essential—that’s how they’ve built their follower bases. Their independent spirit means that they don’t need outside parties, who often just get in their way.
Brands continually say they want direct relationships with influencers and don’t particularly want to work with agents or intermediaries, especially those with little experience in the business of social media.
Influencers are the embodiment of an independent generation—from their trendsetting tastes to their business practices.
In order to simplify the exchanges and level the playing field, however, there should be a go-between: technology. Technology is democratizing the influencer market, acting as a fair and informed “agent” for all sides.
Be it a platform that catalogs influencer pricing trends or platforms like FameBit, which connect brands with influencers, technology can provide transparency, competitive intelligence and access. Arming influencers and brands with technology that informs deal parameters will yield fair and steady profitability for influencers and more reliable and effective investments by brands—both of which are necessary for the entire industry to grow.