Digiday has one of their typical overviews on a specific topic, this time looking at how media companies are beginning, to various degrees, to begin tapping into influencers to provide on-site content. It’s an attempt to bring their cache and audience to the brand’s site, with the benefit to the contributor that they get exposure to a new audience as well. For publishers it also provides a hook with which to attract branded content.
It’s not just established or startup media companies getting on this train. I’ve seen plenty of brand publishing programs turn to influencers to supplement – or come close to completely taking over – the editorial on their sites. That’s a tactic that brings with it plenty of risk.
First let’s look at the perceived upside, which is that the influencer in question is going to bring at least a healthy portion of their audience over with them, likely because they promote it to that audience on their own established channels where they could have followings in the millions. That may or may not be a faulty assumption and is something that should be noted and included during contract negotiations because if there’s one thing the last few years have taught us, it’s that many of these self-made stars don’t make a move without being paid for it. So make sure this is covered.
There are also potential pitfalls, of course. Not only could they fail to generate any appreciable audience bump but, as with any influencer program, they’re loyal only for as long as the checks keep coming. That’s not necessarily a deal-killer, but it also doesn’t lend itself well to a long-term sustainable strategy. They will parachute in, happy to say whatever you need them to say, and then leave as soon as the contract expires because they’ve leveraged whatever they did for you into a better deal, likely with your competitor.
I don’t want to discount the value of any and all influencer programs. They can be good tactics here and there as a way to achieve something very specific. And bringing in a big name (or at least a name that will carry power with your target audience) for an op-ed or guest slot here and there can make a lot of sense. But turning any significant portion of your editorial over to them on a regular basis means you’re not shoring up your core content workflow, which can mean you’re setting up a big problem down the road.