Even though influencer marketing has been around for years now, it’s still the wild west in terms of compensation. I’ve been paid in product to $10,000 for one engagement, and I have a friend who made six figures on one deal for a car company. (She earned every dime of that, by the way.) There is no one-size-fits-all, right answer for paying influencers. It gets especially tough when brands use “creator platforms” like Cohley or #Paid that are structured for volume, offering campaigns to a wide range of nano- or micro-influencers.
One of the biggest benefits of influencer marketing is the grassroots, authentic goodwill brands build through the creative content and genuine recommendations from the influencers with whom they partner. Another clear benefit is that using influencers to create content costs less than other traditional avenues. However, I--and many of my cohorts--are sick of brands taking this cost savings to the extreme.
Guess what, influencers gonna influence. When we love a brand, everyone hears about it. We create the content we’re supposed to, we make the posts the brand asks for, and some extra ones, and talk about it at events, and in group chats full of other influencers, and recommend the brand any time the opportunity arises. But the pendulum swings the other way, too. Whenever we come into contact with a brand that is clearly exploiting the position of creatives, the word spreads like wildfire. Most of us are professional enough to keep our opinions off the public airwaves, but ya girl here has had enough.
The other day I was offered a campaign that was only open to photographers. The swimsuit brand wanted 10 professional, edited photos of a model wearing the brand’s swimsuits. The campaign came with a lot of direction as to what the photos must and must not include. The compensation for
hiring a model in the specified size,
finding a suitable outdoor location (required),
setting up and using all your own gear,
creatively directing the shoot (within specific parameters),
editing the photos with the software you pay for, and
delivering them in just over a week timeframe was…
Total. (Reminder: the government will take their cut of this 1099 work as well.)
I am fortunate enough not to be in a position where I felt like I had to take this work. Instead, I shared it almost like a joke with my influencer friends. Brands, here’s the kind of conversations you become a part of when you offer a pittance and demand the moon.
This is a sample of responses I got from one off-handed comment. I honestly don't think brands realize the kind of influencing they inspire when they run their influencer campaigns poorly.
As with any exchange, there is a psychological contract. Creators must feel compensated fairly, and brands must feel as though they receive adequate content and exposure for their investment. The goal of influencer marketing should not be to see how cheap you can squeeze content out of artists trying to eke out a living with their craft.
Blogging my path as a professional photojournalist / social media addict / influencer