Influencer Marketing Doesn’t Have to Mean Paying Influencers

After the recent Fyre Festival debacle, I’ve seen countless marketing pundits weighing in on LinkedIn and other places with their thoughts on influencer marketing. Hot takes ranging from ‘Fyre killed influencer marketing’ to ‘Fyre shows influencer marketing is the most effective marketing tactic’ have popped across my feed.

While reading all these opinions, one thing really stuck out to me - the definition that many in the industry have developed of influencer marketing. Every single perspective I’ve read or heard has commented on influencer marketing under the notion that it’s a pay for play, often expensive, transactional tactic. A brand pays an influencer money to post positively about it on social media.

That can be what influencer marketing is, and often is how large brands market through influencers, but it’s not the only way to look at the tactic.

In many instances, I don’t view influencer marketing as a paid tactic at all. I see it as an organic tactic. That’s right, you don’t actually have to pay influencers. But in lieu of money, you need to understand what it is influencers might be looking for. It could be product, but sometimes it’s something as simple as access or information.

To know what they’re looking for and really understand how a relationship with influencers could work, you need to know the influencers and have a good understanding of what they do.

If you’re a consumer packaged goods company that has an extremely broad target audience, you probably have an influencer set that’s just as broad. In that case it makes sense to use an influencer marketing tech company to help with your campaigns. But if you don’t have a super broad target audience, you should know who your influencers are. If you don’t, you need to research them. You’re looking for people who work in your industry or very frequently buy from the companies in it - experts, super fans.

Once you know who influences your industry, study those influencers as people. What motivates them? What inspires them? Why do they do what they do, whether it’s instagramming, blogging, tweeting? Determine how you can form a mutually beneficial relationship. There are ways that you can help them, and sometimes those things are of more value to them than money.

Influencer marketing doesn’t have to be a paid tactic targeting D-list celebrities and wannabe stars. In fact, in most cases, it shouldn’t be. It’s very possible to run an influencer marketing program that doesn’t require you to pay the influencers. But first you need to get to know those influencers and understand how you could help them.