Five Things Every Organization Should Remember When Working with Social Media Influencers
I recently had to cut ties with a brand I’d been working with since 2020. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do since becoming an influencer. In 2020 I wasn’t an influencer. I was a guy trying to get through the pandemic running social media for different organizations, doing freelance work as a video producer, doing freelance work as a video editor, and posting my outdoor adventures on Instagram. The organization reached out to me and we both grew together. In the time I was with them I went from 3,000 Instagram followers to 190,000. I went from zero TikTok followers to 30,000 with tens of millions of views between all platforms.
I started out with a product only deal for an occasional social media post to being paid a modest sum after going viral in January of 2022. This was a fine arrangement at the time. I had a special place in my heart for this organization, its products, and was excited to see them grow as my social media grew. But there came a point where I wasn’t being compensated as I should be.
So I had to make the very tough call to walk away.
Why you ask?
Well, during negotiations for my new contract, I was blindsided by sudden concerns regarding the quality of my content, the engagement, ROI, AFTER I had asked for an increased rate (which was still significantly lower than my starting rate with other organizations). I understand metrics are important. Other organizations spell them out very clearly to me and I know the expectations, UPFRONT. But after being told for a few years how much they loved my content, how much they value me and my creativity, and how much they love what I do, when it came time to put their money where their mouth was, they did a complete about face.
But I don’t take these things personally, it’s business, I get it. But, with that said, if you or your organization are going to hire influencers for marketing, engage in "Influencer Marketing" here are a few things I suggest you do to have the best possible relationship with your influencers.
Clearly spell out your expectations - If you’re looking to have an ongoing relationship with an influencer let them know what you’re looking for… CLEARLY and UPFRONT ….certain metrics, a certain quality of content? Spell those things out and let them know where there is flexibility. Things said over several emails, phone conversations, or even in person or via text messages can easily be misconstrued. As an influencer, trying to piece together a patchwork of communications about expectations regarding content is a nightmare. Spell everything out in one contract, so there is no misunderstandings. Each project (post or campaign) should have a complete creative brief and every effort should be made not to deviate from it. If changes need to be made, have an addendum to the contract, don’t just communicate over email or text message and expect to be good. Yes, this is time-consuming. Yes it’s easier just to send an email. But this way there’s no misunderstandings.
Find influencers who share your organizations values and whose content is within your niche — This is where a lot of companies get in trouble. They just find someone with a big reach and a lot of views. But when it comes down to it, are they going to well represent your brand? Are they using your product or services already? Are they passionate about your organization or brand?
One thing I’ve always required of organizations and products I work with is authenticity.
Do I use this product already? If it’s a new product, have I had the opportunity to try it and would I use it and buy it even if I wasn’t working for them?
Too many influencers and content creators take deals for products or services that they would never use in real life. You would never hire a plumber to do the job of an electrician, so why would you hire an outdoor influencer to do the job of a of a food influencer.
I know there’s always exceptions. I myself am an outdoor influencer, who’s also highly involved in the plus size community and plus size fashion, who also is very much involved in the entertainment industry. There is some overlap there and that’s OK. I’ve built that into my personal brand and that is part of my appeal. Just make sure you’re not hiring someone JUST because they have a lot of followers. Don’t bring on influencers who are taking the job for a JUST A PAYDAY and have no interest in your product or organization, who would never use it in real life. As an organization, these are not the kind of influencers you want on your ambassador team. Steer clear. There is a level of integrity, authenticity, and trust that is built with brands, influencers, and the influencers following when they have a passion for your product. brand, or organization.
Give genuine feedback — Content creators and influencers love hearing that people love their work. We do, what we do, because we love what we do. But if there are concerns about an influencers work in an ongoing ambassador or influencer relationship… that should be addressed… immediately!
If there are things you’d like an influencer to improve on, you should let them know. Build in a feedback loop. Many in the business community are worried about offending or hurting creatives. I can understand that because I am a very sensitive person, especially when it comes to my creative work. I also understand that the feedback makes me a better influencer and hiring the kind of creatives who are willing to take on the feedback, even if it hurts their pride a little bit, are the ones you want on your team and representing your brand. Just make sure you give the feedback with kindness and compassion, making clear you want to make them and your business relationship better.
Understand your influencers are going to grow — If you’re picking the right influencers, their reach will grow. In followers. In engagement. In ROI.
The influencer you hired through a conversation in the DM’s of Instagram may go viral. They end up signing with a talent agency and now you’re no longer dealing directly with that influencer. That’s OK.
Those are the kind of influencers you want. Because they have influence. They may outgrow your organization or brand and you may not be able to compensate them within your budget. You may have to part ways and that’s OK. But I myself have certain organizations I know can’t pay my base rate anymore because I’ve grown so much. But I love those organization so much, that I take a pay cut, because I’m passionate about who they are as a brand and the products and services they provide. Our values and niche align so much so that I’m willing to take less money to continue working with them. If you have an influencer like that on your team, do everything you can to hold onto them, and when you’re able to compensate them accordingly, do it. These influencers are worth their weight in gold.
Pay influencers and creatives accordingly and fairly — Free product doesn’t count. Free product does not pay the mortgage or rent. While free product is nice, don’t get me wrong, I have cupboards and cabinets and shelves of free product that I haven’t had a chance to get to yet. Influencers need money. Pay them fairly even if they’re a small creator. As they grow, renegotiate the contract and pay them fairly. Remember, if you’re hiring the right kind of influencers, the ones that are growing, you’re going to have to expect to pay them more overtime as their influence grows. You will see your return on investment. If you don’t, you’re not hiring the right influencer.
It’s a whole new world when it comes to marketing. Influencer marketing is still relatively new and we’re still trying to figure it all out both as influencers and as the organizations and brands hiring them.
These are just some of the things I’ve learned over the last two years. Let me know what you think .
I would love to hear your feedback.
Andy Neal is a Plus Size, Fashion, Pop Culture & Outdoor Influencer, Podcaster, Model, Actor, & Filmmaker. Known for his viral Instagram Reels and TikTok videos advocating for outdoor inclusion, & mental health, Andy is a plus size men’s outdoor and fashion model, actor, and social media influencer. Andy has worked with national brands REI, Zappos, Eddie Bauer, Every Man Jack, US Foods, Sawyer Products, Gregory Packs, Merrell, Columbia Sportswear and many more. Andy has a strong social media following with over 185k followers on Instagram and 35k followers on TikTok with millions of views between
the platforms, having “gone viral” numerous times. Andy a strong media and communication professional with a Bachelors of Science focused in Digital Cinema from Southern Oregon University and a Bachelors of Leadership from Multnomah University. Andy is also the host of a new post cast coming in September 2023 titled “The Adventure is Out There” Podcast which has in the conversations with people who live life’s of adventure. You can follow and yon Instagram, TikTok and YouTube at @andyfilmsandhikes.