What do bloggers and influencers get paid? Since I started working in this industry, I get asked this question several times a day. What should I be charging to feature brands on my blog? How much should I be getting from my affiliate links? The blogging industry has no pricing or fee standardisation, people tend to keep their earnings close to their chests and there has been more than several occasions I can think of where an Influencer has implied they got paid for something that they didn’t. There’s also a bunch of examples of influencers pretending they didn’t get paid, but that’s a completely different post.
As head of the Influencer department at a major agency, I have had to pick my way through this minefield with very little information to go on. How much should we be charging? How much is everyone else charging? Should we do affiliate schemes or just upfront payments? I feel very strongly that Affiliate marketing, while having it’s place when it comes to paying bloggers a percentage for organic links in their blog, shouldn’t form a major part of your Instagram collaboration strategy.
Affiliate marketing is a way of crediting you financially for sales that your influence has generated. This could be a percentage, or a flat rate per sale, download or sign-up. You know the ones – “We’ll pay you 10% of the sales that you generate” or, “You’ll get 40% of the profits from the link in your bio” Bear in mind that 40% of profits isn’t usually a huge amount, the fee you should get is from the total sale and not the brands profit, unless they are willing to disclose their profit margin, which I doubt they will be. Profit margins tend to be around 25% if the business is running well. This means 40% of the profits if you contributed to £100 worth of sales would be £10, 10% of the full amount. Make sure you know these stats before you agree to anything.
Follower Acquisition: Any brand that a true influencer features, reviews or mentions gains followers to their own account. This is incredibly valuable, because whenever the brand posts an image, offer or product, they are pitching to more people, if you have chosen an Influencer with a similar demographic to your target audience, this is even more valuable, as they were obviously interested in your product. This could generate an immediate sale, or they might spot something months down the line on your feed and make an impulse purchase then. This sale won’t be attributed to the Influencer you worked with.
Brand Awareness: You need to see something in a positive light three times before you are driven to make a purchase, if you are susceptible to marketing tricks or just an impulse purchaser in general. You might see your favourite blogger promoting a new face mask. You are vaguely interested and it looks good, their caption seems positive. You give it post a like. You then see the mask in a magazine the next day. The following day, a second Influencer is offering a discount code of the mask through a site such as Beauty Bay. It’s payday, so you make a purchase. This purchase hasn’t been attributed to the beauty blogger although they piqued your initial interest, they never benefit from that influence.
Direct Sales: Here’s the big one, sadly still the thing most brands measure the success of their Instagram collaborations against – I’m still certain that Follower Acquisitions is the more profitable benefit in the longer term, but the industry doesn’t agree with me. Even if you have been the sole driver of an impulse purchase, someone has seen your picture of some new heels from an upcoming online shoe brand and rushed straight to the site to make a purchase, quite a number of these people are very likely to google the best discount code they can find and will often not use your link – especially since Instagram still isn’t allowing clickable links in their captions.
In short, I don’t know. I believe that Affiliate marketing works in one place only – in posts on your blog that feature products from online retailers. In these cases, people may love how you look in that amazing pair of sunglasses that you featured organically, without being contacted by the brand or sent the item for free, in a blog post and want to buy some – there is no harm in providing a link to the sunglasses, and if that link pays you a percentage, there’s no harm done, no extra energy on your part. You aren’t working for the brand, you are working for yourself and that deserves rewarding.
However, if a brand contacts you via email or DM and says something like “Hi, we LOVE your work, you are seriously amazing! We’d love to send you some of our new make-up range, in exchange for 2 x Instagram posts and 1x Instagram Story – we’ll also give you a link to put in your bio, which we will pay you 10% of the profits on!! Let me know your address and which pieces you would like from our site and I’ll send over a contract!” – this isn’t acceptable. You get paid for less than a third of the work you have done and the brand gets away again with not paying influencers properly. The only fair way to work with an influencer is to pay an upfront fee. This fee covers not only the use of the influencers platform to promote a product, but also the time, energy and dedication that has gone into building and developing their following to the point where a brand want to collaborate with them as they think they will be able to drive sales – the definition of a genuine Influencer (in the commerce sense of the word anyway)