Some marketers believe an influencer marketing program should be built on intrinsic motivation alone—that "paid love" is bad. I say, “Hogwash!” You heard me correctly. That philosophy is bunk.
We live in a transactional economy that reaches as deep as our personal relationships. Take marriage for example. Ideally, your spouse should be one of your most extreme advocates. Let’s say that your spouse’s mere presence in your life is the equivalent of the content a brand provides an influencer.
In the course of a year, if that spouse doesn’t show his or her appreciation in some way (e.g., compliments, flowers, gifts, etc.) for all of the love and support you give, what do you think would likely happen? I’ll just say that I wouldn’t want to be that man or woman. The same is true for brands and their relationships with their advocates and ambassadors. Simply inviting influencers to a VIP community is one form of appreciation.
Even the most extreme brand advocates—the ones spewing organic love and engaging loudly across a whole host of social networks on your behalf—will look for some quid pro quo from the brand. A great example is Cynthia Beaumont, ambassador extraordinaire for the Skinny Cow brand (which by the way is not a client of ours).
Cynthia wasn’t a blogger, but rather a highly influential Skinny Cow Facebook fan who produced videos almost weekly about her love of the brand. She is a case study in enthusiastic organic love for a brand.
But even so, she overtly queried about invitations to Skinny Cow events, early shipments of new products, and complimentary branded gear. She desired paid love. She needed to know she was appreciated by the brand. And she received it through the ambassador program. Invitations to exclusive events. Taste tests of new products. Limited-edition products and gear. And this provided Skinny Cow with even more influential Cynthia Beaumont content—much more than intrinsic motivation would have produced.
Influencers generally give more when they receive paid love. At least I can say with much certainty that they are not turned off by it. So what is a marketer to do? I say don’t hide the fact that influencer marketing is a transactional relationship. We are realists, not idealists. And yes, organic brand love is a vital element of successful influencer marketing, but I know from experience that the long-term viability of influencer programs are equally dependent on paid love.