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The problem with the ‘microinfluencer’
We’ve all heard the term ‘microinfluencer’ being tossed around and numerous articles popping up about how they could be more advantageous for brands. If you qualify as one (you have around 10k to 50k), it’s likely that this Christmas season, you’ll have to carefully curate your Instagram to avoid looking like every picture is a sponsored post. It’s a period of an overactive inbox, early Xmas gifts from brands and prime time for monetisation. Yet amidst all the fun and freebies, one issue that becomes more apparent than ever is the lack of transparency of rates in the blogging industry.
It’s important to realise that it’s not ‘fair’ to compare the rates that bloggers are being paid across different countries even though the internet means a global audience, blah blah blah. This is because the US practises the standard of paying any blogger that they engage and at a higher rate than anything I’ve seen in the UK or in Asia. Furthermore, it seems that State-side, they focus a little more on Instagram than the blog, at a microinfluencer level anyway.
How the industry is changing
There are steps being taken to add some kind of transparency to the blogging industry. Firstly there are bloggers out there who are open to answering questions honestly, and one of the reasons that I do this is because I cannot stand the concept that the acquisition of knowledge is part of a zero sum game. Just because someone else knows the same things as you doesn’t mean that anything has been snatched from your pool of hypothetical opportunities!
Secondly, there are apps out there that show more or less a flat rate to bloggers for our services, such as The Cirqle and Takumi, and it is our choice whether or not we want to participate. These companies are democratising the market by issuing a capped payment that is available to any Instagrammer that is accepted onto the campaign, regardless of whether you have over 20k or just 2k followers.
Thirdly, there has been a rise of the ‘engagement group’, a tactic inspired by the wave of panic that came after the algorithm change. Its purpose is to encourage members of the group to engage with each other’s posts, as Instagram now measures how worthy a post is of visibility by the amount of likes and comments received in the first few minutes of its upload, critical for microinfluencers. I have my own thoughts on these groups that is probably worth a whole other blog post but let’s stay on the topic of sharing information. As these groups encourage conversation outside of the typical flattering comment, more personal interactions take place. These are interactions that can give a little more clarity to the best practices when monetising your feed (like which brands have a budget etc.)
So, how much can I charge?
This is the point in the post where I’d ideally tell you the statistics of how much to charge according to your follower count. Going back to the main point of this article, which is a lack of transparency in our industry, it is extremely difficult to provide accurate figures. Even still, I’ll do my best and there is one online article that does provide a breakdown of what we’re looking for. Scroll down and you’ll find a chart that clearly outlines the kind of rates that influencers in Singapore are charging. Switch the dollar sign to GBP, and from comparing these figures to the ones I’ve gathered from my friends, I’d say this was more or less accurate. Until the 60k follower mark that is, but by then, let’s hope you’re established enough that receiving your quoted rate is less of an issue than before!
Equally valuable are a couple points of consensus that I’ve gathered from brands and bloggers that may be as close as we can get to achieving a clear idea of what is going on in the market. The message from brands is that unless you’re at 20k followers on Instagram and upwards, it is very unlikely that they will pay for pictures or a blog post. From around the 10k mark, you can expect an onslaught of gifts and sponsorships but any money you make will be trickling in from affiliate links (apparently around £5-15 a month, depending on your blog’s traffic and audience) or the odd campaign that you’re involved in. In the UK, most companies will want a blog post along with a social media tag and from my experience, they usually expect this to come as a package. Basically, even as a microinfluencer, your expectations will vary wildly from each 10k to the next.
Not too long ago, I attended a talk with the blogger talent agent, Sadie Brown from Nuffnang. She mentioned that she didn’t see a point in bloggers accepting a job (typically a blog post) that paid less than £200, and most of the bloggers that she represents can be defined as a microinfluencer. To some extent, I do agree – or rather I wish I could agree. Without representation, the issue of whether or not you’re receiving proper renumeration for your work is quite a personal battle. I have to admit that as a writer, my rate would not fly with brands if I asked for the same amount when wearing my blogger hat. The two roles are different and rightly so, primarily because my blog and social media doesn’t draw in the numbers that a household-name publication would (duh).
Why bloggers aren’t making money
As with most things, experience is key and contrary to some beliefs, social media is certainly not a short cut. Just like you know you wouldn’t be able to apply for that dream job without certain ticks on your CV checklist, I feel that bloggers can’t demand a certain rate until they’ve earned their stripes. Let me phrase it this way, if I were to ask you what the difference between a ‘professional’ blogger and a ‘hobby’ one was (subtract the assumption that ‘professional’ immediately means you’ve been paid), what criteria would set the two apart? Think about the terms of that answer, because perhaps that is what influencers need to take care of before prioritising their rates above their work.
From a personal point of view, just yesterday I was reminded of a conversation I had a few years ago with a friend. She recalled that I had said my blog is not about making money, it’s something I do because I love it. If I get paid for it then that’s great but it’s not something I’d pursue. Was that naive of me?
I suspect that a main reason as to why people get so pent up about not making enough from their blog or Instagram is because they aren’t ready to make it a full time endeavour that they can depend on. Sometimes microinfluencers just cannot justify charging much or at all for a gifted post because of the lack of depth and quantity of content on their platform. Sadly, I see that this aspect of blogging is frequently left on the sideline in favour of growing one’s ‘gram because there, people can immediately see what your level of popularity is. However, for those bloggers that maintain an excellent quality where their pictures and writing are to a standard that a journalist wouldn’t cringe at and they have a healthy audience, they should be properly paid. Now here’s another question, how many microinfluencers do you know that fit that description and would fall into the category of a ‘professional’ Instagram or blog, rather than a ‘hobby’ one?
The rise of the microinfluencer has in some ways cannibalised our industry. The connotations of the term provides false optimism, unrealistic expectations of paid posts and increasing competition between bloggers that turn not-so-friendly. Its growth could turn this relatively young niche of the digital world into one that prioritises figures over expression and creation, and transparency may be something that’s increasingly harder to reach.
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