Should you pay social media “influencers” to plug your brand?


Recently, I’ve received PR marketing material urging publicity for a social media referral service. The concept: The service provides a roster of “influencers” who, for a fee, will promote your brand on social media channels. You can select your influencers based on their profile, market interests, and demographics.

In parallel, at the backend, I continue to receive upwards of five to 10 (or more) “invitations to collaborate”, or accept guest posts, or otherwise grant my identity as a resource to provide publicity for other organizations’ products or services.

These inquiries generally land in the e-trash bin or, when I feel a bit more charitable, I send a standardized email response saying something to the effect: “Sure, I’ll collaborate, but the fee is $1,500 not $75.”

And that is true because when we get beyond the free service and community support reflected by this blog, my business earns most of its revenue from advertising. Outside of fill-in Google AdSense ads, generally our rates start at (lowest) $400 for a very simple campaign. I’m not going to give that kind of value away for $75.

(There is one exception to the rule: Entries in the annual Best Construction Blog competition are free, and result in substantial free publicity for anyone who qualifies. The deadline for the 2018 competition is imminent and you can nominate your blog or one(s) you like here.)

These points aside, the question is: Should you go ahead and use one of these services for “influencer marketing” for your own business, or, if you wish, plan a do-it-yourself campaign where you seek out and build out the influencer relationships?

Here, I’ll provide a more nuanced answer. I think these strategies can have value, but they will be most useful in more mass-market consumer purchases than very high ticket or business-to-business markets. And these, of course, reflect the markets where most of you work.

The reason for my concern about playing the paid influencer game in the low volume/higher cost markets our industry serves relates to density and credibility.  “Density” means there are simply a lower number of suitable “influencers” and actual purchasers — meaning they will either be hit on more frequently or simply are much harder to find. “Credibility” correlates with density. While some people/organizations make very large purchases on a whim, most will conduct multiple levels of scrutiny and evaluation before deciding — and a real experiential reputation (that is, actual user experience/references) will count a whole lot more than some paid “influencer”s pitch on Facebook or Twitter.

My sense is that in our industry, our influencers arise more from our client experience and relationships, backed up by association and community connections. Third-party mass market services and pitches to bloggers like me really don’t do the job.