These days it seems like everyone is an influencer, or at least wants to be one. It’s easy to see the appeal. Getting paid to talk on social media about brands that you already love seems like a pretty sweet way to earn a living.
Take this sponsored post, for example:
Or maybe this one:
But what actually goes into a sponsored campaign? How do influencers determine what to charge for sponsored posts? What is a standard rate for an Instagram post, and for that matter, is there a standard rate? Some bloggers accept gifted campaigns where they receive products in exchange for social media posts. Others work on paid campaigns where the brand and the influencer agree on a rate and specifications for what the post should be.
As the industry grows, there are more factors to consider when influencers partner with brands. More brands are cracking down on influencers who capitalize on misleading engagement, such as comment pods and fake followers, to focus on working with influencers who have an authentic and engaged audience and therefore will have a larger return on investment (ROI) for the brands.
Kayley Reed, an influencer marketing consultant based in Calgary, Alberta, told HuffPost that she primarily works with micro-influencers who have an Instagram following of 50,000 or less. Reed works with brands in the fashion, beauty and lifestyle spaces and serves as the middleman connecting influencers with brands who are looking to hire bloggers to promote their products or services.
“I’ve paid influencers with as few as 1,000 followers if they fit the campaign criteria and I thought they could knock it out of the park,” Reed told HuffPost. “I’m also more likely to pay any creator, of any size, that I already have a relationship with because I know and trust them to follow through on deliverables. You’d be surprised how many influencers ghost, don’t follow guidelines, post and delete, etc. It’s a risk for a brand to invest in a new influencer. We’d rather work with people we know and trust.”
Emma Grace Moon, who is based in New York City and coordinates with influencers for brands, told HuffPost she’s had some of her top-performing paid campaigns with freelance writers, photographers and other creatives, as opposed to more traditional influencers. Moon told HuffPost, “Follower demographic is key, as I want to ensure that the influencer’s follower demo is either aligned with the business’s demo or is one we want to tap into. Aside from numbers, there can be a lot of responsibility that comes with having a platform, big or small. So I always look to see if the influencer is using their platform to evoke change and/or spark a discussion.”
Moon also echoed Reed and agreed that micro- and nano-influencers (generally influencers with a following of between 1,000 and 10,000 Instagram followers) often provide the best ROI to brands because of their hyperengaged audiences. “I value and acknowledge the hard work that influencers do,” Moon said. “Many of the influencers I work with contribute to the increase of revenue, brand awareness and social media traffic, and in such an authentic and organic way.”
Since the influencer industry is still relatively new, there isn’t a lot of information out there about what influencers should charge for certain posts and what kind of factors might increase the price. Neither Moon nor Reed has worked for brands that have required influencers to sign nondisclosure agreements that would prevent them from talking about how much they’ve been paid, although Reed guesses that could be the case for some larger influencers. Moon said, “I believe influencers should have the power to talk about their pay, as that gives them more information and strength to negotiate for fair rates and sustain their work.”
So what exactly does it cost these days to hire an influencer to promote a product? We reached out to five influencers across the country to provide some insight into their rates for recent brand collaborations, taking into account factors like exclusivity, usage rights and campaign deliverables.
The influencers below didn’t name the brands that paid them for their work.
Tomi Obebe (@goodtomicha)
Obebe is a fashion and lifestyle influencer based in Charlotte, North Carolina, with an Instagram following of 19.2k. She has been blogging and creating content for four years and got her first paid collaboration after one year of blogging.
Brand category: Lifestyle/women’s health
Deliverables: One Instagram carousel feed post with two images, shot with a photographer Obebe hired. She was gifted two boxes of tampons, and the photo that was posted was a lifestyle shot incorporating the product into a photo of Obebe.
What she was paid: $1,000 (she set the rate when the brand reached out)
Exclusivity: No work for competitors for three months
Usage: One year of image rights for use in social media, email newsletters and on the brand’s website
How long the image needed to stay live: Through the end of the calendar year
Her two cents: “The rule of $100 per 10,000 followers is long gone. Brands have realized that a large following doesn’t automatically equal engagement, and it certainly doesn’t guarantee any kind of ROI for them. If you’re a blogger who develops quality content for brands and have an authentic approach to storytelling, you’re already more valuable than the average influencer. My audience loves when I share more than just a cute outfit on sale — for example, I regularly share about the need for diversity in blogging and race as it intersects with fashion. Being an influencer means that you have the ability to do some good while sharing your passions and that’s why I love what I do!”
Audree Kate Lopez (@simplyaudreekate)
Lopez is a fashion, beauty, career and lifestyle influencer and stylist based in New York City with an Instagram following of 31.1k. She has been blogging and creating content for seven years and got her first paid collaboration after three years.
Brand category: Beauty
Deliverables: One blog post or YouTube video, two Instagram feed posts showing Lopez using a new product the brand had released, one Instagram story with the swipe-up feature (she was asked for three frames and posted seven during the campaign), and one Facebook post with a still photo that linked to the blog post. She hired a photographer/videographer to work with her on the project.
What she was paid: $3,500 (she set the rate and has worked with the brand before)
Exclusivity: Three days before and after the sponsored content went live
Usage: Paid advertisements and organic use of the images on the brand’s social media
How long the image needed to stay live: Did not state in the contract, but said the term was 60 days for the project
Her two cents: “Influencer marketing has helped new brands boom over the past few years and become major players in the fashion and beauty industries. Glossier, Fab Fit Fun and Pretty Little Thing are examples. By using influencers to create sponsored content for their products, brands can expand their customer base, create an authentic relationship with new and current customers, and stay relevant and relatable. I have been very lucky to now work with brands that I have organically used and shopped for years and create fun sponsored content for my audience. I’ve really refined the brands that I work with over the years.”
Emmalynn (Emma) Cortes (@emmasedition)
Cortes is a fashion, travel and lifestyle influencer based in Seattle with an Instagram following of 29.4k. She has been blogging for six years and got her first paid collaboration after about three years.
Brand category: Fashion
Deliverables: One Instagram carousel with three images, one Instagram story (five frames and the last story link needed to have a link to the brand’s website) and eight images released to the brand for use on the brand’s website
What she was paid: $1,500 and a $100 gift card (originally offered $800 and negotiated)
Usage: All content rights released to the brand for one year
How long the image needed to stay live: Not specified
Her two cents: “Asking to be paid for the content I create was one of my biggest learning curves in blogging. For the first two years, I struggled to see the value in my brand and in the content I produced and I wish there had been more pay transparency when I was getting started. I always try to be open with other women about how to ask to be paid or what factors you can charge more for in brand campaigns because I know how hard it was to get started. I truly believe that the influencer industry will continue to grow and mature and that bloggers/influencers should not be afraid to ask to be paid.”
Sarah Chiwaya (@curvily)
Chiwaya is a plus-size fashion influencer based in New York City with an Instagram following of 48.8k. She has been blogging and creating content for seven years and she got her first paid collaboration after three years.
Brand category: Fashion
Deliverables: Two static Instagram feed posts (no carousel required) and a minimum of five Instagram stories including at least one swipe-up link
What she was paid: $1,800 and a $750 shopping credit for personal use
Usage: Organic social use on brand’s account
How long the image needed to stay live: Not specified
Her two cents: “I think that for readers, there is often a misconception that #paid = selling out, but for my fellow bloggers who I respect in the industry and for myself, that’s not the case. For fashion, I will only post clothing I actually like and wear and will re-wear well after I post about it. If it’s a new brand I’m not familiar with, I make sure to take time to test out the product first and if I honestly can’t recommend it, I won’t proceed with the partnerships. I’m not independently wealthy, so saying no to money can be stressful but it’s definitely worth it in the long run to preserve my integrity and keep the trust of my readers.”
Caitlin Patton (@caitpatton)
Patton is a fashion, beauty and lifestyle influencer based in Chicago with an Instagram following of 24.9k. She’s been blogging for four years and got her first paid brand collaboration after one year.
Deliverables: One Instagram feed post, eight Instagram story frames
What she was paid: $2,000 (originally offered $800 and negotiated)
Exclusivity: Two months
Usage: Six months of digital usage
How long the image needed to stay live: One year
Her two cents: “I‘ve started leaving all sponsored content live on my Instagram feed, regardless of what contracts stipulate. Removing the content off my blog or social media accounts would indicate that I was not proud of the work I did or that I did not want to be associated with the brand partner. Both are deal breakers for me when it comes to taking on partnerships. If today you’re an influencer raving about your new favorite shampoo, but a month later, it’s been removed from your feed and replaced with a similar ad for a direct competitor, audiences will see right through it.”