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Influencer Marketing on a Tight Budget: Incentives to Offer Beyond a Big Payout

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Many organizations want to work with influencers to gain attention and drive results, but few have the budget to make it happen.

When working with a non-existent or limited budget, you need to identify what your company can uniquely offer to influencers instead of always paying for their support. The goal here isn’t to take advantage of influencers, as I’m a big proponent of reasonably paying them for the value they’re able to provide. Instead, my advice is to find a mix of approaches for incentivizing influencers so that these partnerships don’t require a budget, or are less costly.

Recently, for example, the Clorox Company set up an advisory board comprised of influencers to help the brand learn what kinds of content people want to see and to guide them on co-producing more impactful campaigns.

A takeaway here is that Clorox identified a way to work with influencers on an ongoing basis where both sides benefit, beyond just exchanging payment for promotion – and that’s what you should do as well, whether you work at a non-profit, small mom-and-pop business, a mid-sized organization, or even a large brand.

To start, think critically about what your business uniquely offers that would directly benefit an influencer enough to collaborate with you. What you’ll offer to influencers depends on the products and services you provide, who your customer base is, the organization’s size, the industry you’re a part of, how long the influencer has been active, how engaged their audience is, and more.

In most cases, these non-monetary benefits to offer influencers fall under three categories: Exposure, Access, and Association.

1. Exposure – A key motivation for many influencers is to continue to grow an audience interested in the content they create about their passions and expertise. If you can provide them with exposure to more of the right people, then it’s a benefit worth offering. This requires that your organization has an audience on its website, social media, email list, or elsewhere that aligns with the influencer. Here are ways to provide exposure as a benefit of an influencer partnership:

  • Interviewing them on a relevant topic based on their expertise and including the discussion within a social media series, article, or video.
  • Retweeting, sharing, or commenting on social media posts they create about your organization or relevant topics worth discussing.
  • Allow them to contribute an article, video, image, or another type of media on one of your organization’s most popular channels.

2. Access – The ability to access products, people, events, and experiences that aren’t widely available is another distinct benefit that can be offered to an influencer. Like most people, influencers like receiving free things, particularly relevant items and experiences that help them continue to create and curate interesting content for their audience. Here are a few ways your organization can offer access to an influencer as an incentive:

  • Send them free products to test, review, and create content about to inform them of your company’s offerings.
  • Invite them as guests or participants in your organization’s events, which can be anything from having them contribute to an in-store demo or be a panelist at a conference you’re hosting or attending.
  • Introduce them to relevant people in your network, whether that’s other business owners, marketers, or event planners that they might be able to partner with in the future.

3. Association – One partnership often leads to another for an influencer, which is why being aware of this, and helping them land their next project, can be beneficial. Whether your organization is known locally, within an industry, or due to its philanthropic work, create opportunities for influencers to benefit based on your reputation or brand equity. Here’s how to help influencers associate themselves with your organization to better position them for future collaborations:

  • Involve them in the production of an upcoming campaign by allowing them to provide creative input that they can showcase to other advertisers.
  • Create a program that allows influencers to be advisors or ambassadors for your organization, similar to the idea behind Clorox’s advisory board. The goal is for them to provide useful support to your organization in the form of advice, take part in company activities or offer promotional support. In return, they can list this role as part of their bio on social media, add this collaboration to their resume, meet other influencers in the industry, and reference this work to land new campaigns.
  • Facilitate volunteer opportunities that directly impact philanthropic causes, relate to your organization’s focus, and would benefit from the exposure participating influencers could offer. This provides influencers with an opportunity to see what it’s like to collaborate with an organization before committing to a paid campaign and its a volunteer experience organized for them to seamlessly participate in.

This isn’t an exhaustive list as there are many ways to drive results with influencers without spending the big bucks. Apply this advice by finding distinct ways of working with influencers on a regular basis which provide value, but don’t always require a budget. 

Maybe that’s offering a free meal to a mukbang star from YouTube or inviting a group of local influencers to be ambassadors for your non-profit. Recognize that earning results from influencers is a viable option for a wider range of organizations than it may appear at first glance.

A version of this post was first published on the Honigman Media blog.

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Instagram Tests Out New Ad Options, Including Explore Placement and Interactive AR Displays

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Instagram Tests Out New Ad Options, Including Explore Placement and Interactive AR Displays

As we head into the holiday shopping push, Instagram has announced that it’s testing out some new ad options, in the hopes of maximizing its revenue intake, while also providing new opportunities for brands.

Though I can’t imagine that these will be entirely popular additions with users.

First off, Instagram’s adding new ads into Explore, with the first page of Explore now set to feature a new ad unit in the content feed.

As you can see in this example, that’s a pretty big ad. Instagram hasn’t clarified if all of these new Explore ads will be featured as prominently as this, but the option will provide another means to reach IG users ‘in the earliest stages of discovering new content they care about’.

It could be a good consideration, with a chance to get your products featured in the main discovery feed in the app.

Instagram’s also testing ads in profile feed – ‘which is the feed experience that people can scroll through after visiting another account’s profile and tapping on a post’.

So now, if you check out someone’s profile, and tap on a post, you’ll also be eligible to be served ads in that dedicated stream of their content, essentially inserting ads into another surface in the app.

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Instagram’s also looking into whether this option could also be used as a monetization opportunity for creators, as that activity will be tied back to an individual profile and content.

Instagram’s also testing what it’s calling ‘Multi-Advertiser Ads’, which will display more promotions from similar businesses to users after they’ve engaged with an ad.

Instagram ad updates

As per Instagram:

“When a person expresses commercial intent by engaging with an ad, we deliver more ads from other businesses that may be of interest, powered by machine learning.”

So Instagram’s looking to push even more related businesses at you, stacking ads upon ads. I don’t know how effective that will be, but in theory, it could get your brand in front of interested users based on previous ad engagement.

Finally, Instagram’s also launched an open beta of its AR Ads, which will be available in both feed and Stories in the app.

Instagram ads update

As you can see here, Instagram’s AR ads, built in its Spark AR platform, will invite users to interact with their ad content, which could also include positioning virtual furniture in their home, or test driving a car in the app.

Which Meta also says will help brands align with future engagement shifts:

“By giving businesses tools to create more personalized and immersive experiences today we’ll help them drive performance and prepare for the metaverse.”

I mean, AR and the metaverse, which is largely VR-based (going on the examples we’ve seen thus far) are not the same thing, but the creation of 3D objects will play a part in that next stage, and could help to advance your thinking on ad approaches.

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These are some interesting ad considerations, but they’ll also see a lot more promotions being squeezed into your Instagram feeds, which, as noted, likely won’t be welcomed by users.

But with parent company Meta under rising pressure, Instagram has to do its part. And while leaning into further Reels, and forcing in more ads, may not be a great play, long-term, the usage and engagement data will ultimately tell the tale.



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