You’ve probably been following the recent trend in advertising, with big brands picking up celebrity endorsements via Social Media, instead of through tired TV spots.
Smaller brands, on the other hand, desperately turn to influencer marketplaces and Twitter to find bloggers and social media influencers, themselves desperate to review virtually anything they can get their hands on for free.
Neither of these are optimal. As one of the few linkbuilders in the world who’s managed to secure organic (ie without paying) coverage for clients in tough niches like “men’s pharmaceuticals” and “poker and gambling” we’ve had to really optimize pitching to the right people to be one of the only businesses able to get that done.
What we’ve discovered is there’s a ‘neglected middle’ ground of influencers. They are passionate about their niches and products in the niche. However they aren’t collecting big bucks from agencies yet, and aren’t desperate, or particularly bothered about riding ‘the free gift gravy train’ that many ‘mommy bloggers’ build their entire brand around.
That’s where the money can be made for your brand. First let’s fully explore the three types and why the two most people are going after aren’t the best place to start.
Type 1: Big Name Influencers
The natural place for big brands, with big budgets to go is direct to the biggest audiences possible. That might make sense for some of them, as the budget might never get spent going after the middle ground.
However, the prices have become enormously inflated by the layers of agencies that have inserted themselves in as ‘middle men’. Many popular YouTubers join networks that source advertisers and take a cut for negotiating big fees to appear on their shows.
Ephemeral posts on Twitter and Instagram can cost tens of thousands of dollars (millions in the case of the largest influencers). Amounts that seem absolutely outrageous to more cost-conscious brands looking for a way to get their product out there.
The reason we believe money will continue to be spent here is simply because big advertising agencies are set up to excel at producing great creative, then buying space for it. These expensive, big name influencers, combine massive reach, with suitably massive pricing. But it’s a quick way to secure the chunks of coverage the creative needs to be exposed to and is the easiest way to buy huge amounts of space (use up a client’s budget…).
Type 2: Small And “Less Discerning”
At the other end of the scale, we have ‘influencers’ who are set up not because of an overriding passion for their niche, and desire to build an audience but to make some cash and get free stuff.
They can be found on Twitter, busy spamming the #prrequest hashtag with information about what they’d love you to send them.
They can be found on ‘influencer marketplaces’ that have educated them into believing their sites are worth money and they should definitely be charging a tidy sum for access to a paltry audience.
Of course, there are good sites on these marketplaces too, but most often they better sites fall dangerously into ‘type 1’ – they have a good audience and because of the marketplace, and the feeble competition from ‘type 2s’ on there, they charge too much for the value you’ll receive.
Far too many clients have shown me the meagre results of campaigns executed with these ‘bottom rung’ influencers. Sadly, they’re the easiest to access, and often a brand’s first experience with influencer marketing.
Type 3: The Passionate Middle
Usually in marketing we aim to do one thing exceptionally well. Aiming to be the ‘best’ and therefore most premium offering, or the ‘best value’ and therefore unbeatable on price. Being in the ‘middle’ is bad for us as marketers.
However, the best opportunity to connect with influencers, much as it is when connecting with sites for linkbuilding, is right in that middle ground.
That’s because they haven’t become famous and able to charge 100x on price for 10x more influence.
They haven’t decided they’re worth something, even though their site or social profile has a paltry audience of barely engaged followers just because they’ve found a marketplace of inexperienced marketers willing to buy.
They exist purely because they are passionate about their niche, products in their niche, and delivering great value to their audience.
Don’t interpret this to mean that influencers who make money are bad. Absolutely the opposite is true in most cases – some of them have beautifully crafted brands and make good money as a result. The difference is they don’t make all their money purely by selling their audience out or by growing a huge, broad audience for the sake of it.
Instead, these middle ground influencers, have that perfect balance between delighting their audience and taking opportunities to work with brands that tie in with their audience’s core interests.
Because of this, there will be many, many cases – as we found when promoting some dietary supplements/energy drinks brands – where they are happy to even review content for free, and completely impartially just because it’s a perfect fit for their content plan.
This difference allows you to really level up your campaign – getting almost unlimited reach on a mere fraction of the budget the big brands buying massive reach are spending.
And when you just take the ‘relevant to your niche’ parts of the audience into account, you might even actually massively outperform their campaigns.