As an influencer, it’s understandable to be concerned at the moment, as marketing dollars appear to be drying up as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid economic uncertainty, some brands are delaying campaigns, suspending affiliate programs, and even canceling influencer spend.
As concerning as these actions may be, they don’t signal the end of all influencer programs across the board. Many brands know that they need to invest in influencer programs for them to be successful, so there are still plenty of opportunities for influencers in this environment. The key is to maintain the flexibility to work with brands in different ways in this new era.
Growing accountability for influencers
Most influencers work with their brand partners on a flat-fee basis. But as marketing budgets get tighter, the first cuts are often to un-attributable campaign models. As a result, partnership teams are being asked to make their dollars more accountable, necessitating a strategic shift of the influencer channel from branding to customer acquisition.
Attributable influence — the importance of measurement
This will result in many brands requesting changes of their influencers. Some may uphold pay-per-post and fixed-fee agreements, but with the addition of direct-response measurement tools, such as unique links, QR or promo codes, and unique landing pages.
For example, brands will increasingly need to know which influencers were responsible for driving traffic (via the links and landing pages), and which were ultimately successful for driving sales and conversions (via the codes). These attribution models help the brands account for return on ad spend and mitigate risk in a financially uncertain time.
There’s a long-term benefit for influencers who are willing to work this way as well. When brands better understand ROI, the internal partnership teams have a much better chance of winning organizational buy-in and growing the investment in the program. Influencers that play an integral role in proving the value of the influencer program only stand to be rewarded when brands increase their level of investment in the future.
A shift to performance models — brands, influencers, and accountability
The other option brands may take when injecting accountability into their influencer programs is requesting that partners shift their terms to performance-based models. This model would have the brand issue the same links and codes described above, but partners would only be paid when they triggered a sale or conversion, rather than on a per-post basis.
Once again, this shift could be beneficial to influencers. Those that have successfully built up an audience with a deep level of trust and authority have an opportunity to better demonstrate their value by switching to this model. Influencers that drive high numbers of attributable sales would profit in a performance model, while further cementing their importance to the partner brand and the program.
Adapting for the present — and future
Overall, influencers should not see smaller budgets or requests to transition to ROI-centric models as the end of their partnerships. A willingness to adapt and maintain flexibility can ensure that relationships with brands stay strong amid these uncertain times, and they may even deepen the relationships in the long run.
This is important, because this emphasis on ROI is very likely to last beyond this moment. Mature partnership programs were already headed in this direction, and the pandemic has simply accelerated their need to make every dollar accountable. Understanding ROI is critical to the survival of all influencer marketing programs, and influencers who are willing to evolve only stand to benefit.