William ComcowichWilliam Comcowich

The cost of influencer marketing has risen dramatically over recent years, as brands have become enamored with the strategy and influencers have hiked their fees.

Consider these statistics from Izea, a company that connects brands with influencers:

  • The average cost for a sponsored Instagram photo jumped 44 percent from 2018 to 2019.
  • The average cost of sponsored blog posts increased from $7.39 in 2006 to $1,442.27 in 2019, an increase of 195x.
  • A Facebook status update has risen 49.4x from $8 to $395 since 2014 on average.
  • Sponsored content on YouTube leads the price list. In 2019, YouTube videos are four times more expensive than the next highest-priced form of sponsored content.

More affordable than agencies

“Marketers continue to place more value on the content and distribution provided by influencers,” said Ted Murphy, Izea founder and CEO. “We believe content produced by influencers is competing with and in many cases replacing creative that was traditionally produced by agencies.”

Despite the recent dramatic price increases, influencers can generally produce content more cost effectively than agencies, Murphy argued. Plus, they can distribute that content to their followers. The hourly price to concept a shoot, hire a model, hire a photographer, find a location and retouch an image is still far more expensive in the traditional agency world. The average price for a sponsored content has room to grow, and it will increase again next year, he predicted.

However, more PR and marketing professionals, perhaps suffering sticker shock, question if influencers are worth their costs. They recommend pursuing organic influencer marketing rather than paying high fees for sponsored content.

“Unless I worked in cosmetics or fashion, I wouldn’t spend a nickel on influencers, opting instead for organic influencer posts,” said Shel Holtz, director of Internal Communication at Webcor, in his email newsletter.

A loss of authenticity and trust

Influencer marketing has become over-saturated as smartphone-toting hordes attempt to become “insta-famous” and cash in. Influencers are supposedly more authentic than corporate messages, but they’re losing trust and authentic connections with audiences.

As the gold rush continues, influencer marketing has become scandalized by reports of fake followers and other forms of fraud.

“We’ve seen everything from reality TV stars accidentally posting brand instructions into their promotional posts, to a beloved social influencer admitting she’s actually a CGI robot, to brands like Payless fooling influencers into paying $640 for $20 shoes and not one but two documentaries on the absolute dumpster fire that was (or wasn’t) the Fyre Festival,” wrote Megan Dgruttola, head of content marketing at Stackla, a user-generated content platform, in Social Media Today.

More marketers wonder how much influencers actually influence followers to purchase products. A recent Stackla study found that people are 9.8x more likely to make a purchase after seeing a peer’s social post than post from a traditional social media influencer.

Another potential problem: Brands don’t own content they pay their influencer partners to create, unless a contract explicitly states otherwise, Dgruttola added. That’s not helpful when communications teams are under pressure to create large amounts of content for multiple channels.

The power of organic influencer marketing

Organic influencer marketing is an earned media strategy. Instead of paying sometimes large sums for sponsored posts, PR and marking pros find people who share their content because they genuinely like the brand and its products. They’re natural brand advocates and are excited to work with their favorite brand.

They’re typically micro-influencers or even nano-influencers who may have only several thousand followers. Despite fewer followers—or maybe because of it—they enjoy higher engagement levels and inspire greater trust.

Identifying those brand advocates poses a significant challenge, but a social media monitoring and measurement service can identify the appropriate influencers for brands, the demographics of their audiences, what content they share, the reach of that content, and other important factors.

An organic approach to influencer marketing may require creative approaches to compensation. Ponder how your organization can help influencers. Some ideas include: Help them reach more followers. Offer information and insights and content they can share with their followers. As with public relations in general, the goal is to develop a mutually beneficial relationship.

Measure influencer marketing results

It’s essential track your results to determine what tactics work and don’t work, which influencers positively respond to your engagement, what posts their followers notice the most, and ultimately what ROI the campaigns produced.

A customized media measurement dashboard will allow you to monitor the metrics that are most important to you, such as engagement rate, follower growth and web traffic, and then to use that data as a benchmark each time for new campaigns.

“You don’t need pockets full of cash to reap the rewards of influencer marketing. What you need is to be genuine, authentic and persistent to get the most out of organic influencer engagement,” said Bridget Cato at SSPR Public Relations Agency.

Bottom Line: As influencers charge more for running sponsored content, more PR and marketing experts recommend organic influencer marketing. A social media monitoring and measurement tool can locate authentic influencers willing to share a brand’s message without demanding large fees.


William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.