Earlier this month, ISBA, the body representing UK advertisers, launched a contract template for brands wishing to formalise their relationships with vloggers and social influencers.
The contract, which was drafted by law firm Lewis Silkin with input from Zoella's talent agency Gleam Futures, should help brands avoid paying huge sums for an often unquantifiable partnership and finally lets both sides know what is expected of them.
Previously, if a brand wanted to align itself to the likes of a Zoella, PewDiePie or Alfie Deyes for example, it may have needed to stump up £143,000 for a YouTube video, £75,000 for an Insta-gram post or £30,000 for just one tweet.
In late 2013, the going rate for a branded Vine that got three million loops was a mere $400. Nowadays, a branded Vine with that kind of exposure goes for between $10,000 to $15,000, and prices continue to rise.
ISBA's contract will not only help advertisers pay a fairer price for influencer content by setting parameters for what constitutes success, it will also instruct social media stars on how to label their paid-for content properly and help them avoid falling foul of the Advertising Standards Au-thority.
For any brand that has yet to be seduced by the marketing power of followers, viewers and likes, this world of bloggers and vloggers may still appear an expensive and alien way to reach millennials and centennials, even with contractual assistance.
After all, last year, we found that vlogs were the least popular way to discover brands, even among people who watch them regularly. Only 19% of people surveyed by GlobalWebIndex in 2015 said they discovered brands through blogs, versus 59% through ads seen online and 58% through TV and radio ads.
So why is it that brands such as L'Oréal are so keen to strike deals with online influencers across YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and other social sites?
As with all things digital, the sands of social influence shift rapidly and today, 44% of internet users watch vloggers each month, which is a pretty impressive reach for a medium still relatively new to the digital scene. Unsurprisingly, the youngest internet users are the most enthused, with as many as 53% of 16-24 year-olds watching vlogs each month.
But this isn't just a millennial trend. With equally strong figures for the 25-34 age bracket and even 35-44-year olds, more and more brands are betting on branded content, delivered by a social media star, in order to achieve targeted reach with earned media that people actually want to view, rather than block.
When Zoella did a spontaneous and unpaid review of the latest offering from The Body Shop for example, sales of the product doubled during the following four weeks.
L'Oréal is currently working with five YouTube vloggers in the Middle East with a combined subscriber base exceeding 22 million people. Whereas French make-up reviewer, EnjoyPhoenix now appears weekly on L'Oréal's Maybelline YouTube channel and boasts 2.5 million subscribers of her own.
But what if you can't afford this new breed of celebrity with eye-watering social reach?
The simple answer is to trust in the continued growth of this marketing format and find the next wave of influencers that are building online followers relevant to your brand, as they can be re-cruited from social sites still in their infancy.
On Snapchat, Periscope and Instagram for example, there's still a massive supply of influencers with huge followings. With few marketers running influencer campaigns, the cost of buying an influencer promotion is still below its real value (in terms of reach and ROI) if you shop around.
Snapchat meanwhile is reportedly considering a revenue sharing scenario for the future, in which brands would pay users for their content.
For example, a user's image may be added to a gallery sponsored by Coca Cola and in return for contributing to Coca Cola's gallery, that user may receive compensation on a flat-fee, per view or revenue share basis.
Social networks will need initiatives like this to keep users engaged and grow their user base, so the landscape will continue to change. This will certainly help brands on small budgets tap into the power of influencer marketing but they have to keep track of developments and the opportunities as they arise.
In the meantime however, it's up to brands themselves to discover influencer talent, invest and build relationships with that talent in order to help them grow their following.
This investment may take the form of offering influencers use of your in-house design or video production facilities to enhance the quality of their posts, in return for talking about your products. Or incentivise them with content opportunities such as experiences, free review products, over-night hotel stays or trips abroad.
However you decide to work with an up-and-coming influencer, both parties need a clear under-standing of what is expected from the other and the ISBA contract will help.
At the end of the day, native content is still advertising so it has to be both appealing, authentic and engaging in order to gain acceptance from its audience. But the right content, delivered by the right influencer for your brand is definitely the new power tool in the marketer's arsenal.
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