At times, it’s easy to forget that social media – having only been around for a couple of decades – is a new industry. Same with social media influencers, which – popularized by the likes of PewDiePie and the Paul brothers – only found its feet in the late 2000s.
Yet both of these industries (and the marketing opportunities they present) are evolving fast. And, if your brand wants to stay relevant, increase its awareness, and expand its target audience, you’ll need to sit up and take note.
Influencer whitelisting is one of the latest trends getting advertisers excited. Blending the realms of influencer and social media marketing, it’s no fad or flash-in-the-pan – it’s the next big thing.
But what is influencer whitelisting, exactly? How does it differ from regular ads, what are the benefits, and what are the seven steps your brand needs to follow to get it right?
Let’s find out.
Influencer whitelisting is the process that allows influencers to grant brands advertising permissions to their account.
With this, brands are able to create new ads using that influencer’s handle. Companies can also repurpose the influencer’s existing content into optimized paid ads – helping to up engagement and conversion rates – and tap straight into the influencer’s audience.
Essentially, whitelisting allows you to turn organic influencer content into paid advertising: letting you not only access their current audience, but strategically target further demographics, too.
So, how do whitelisting ads differ from the ones we’re used to seeing pop up all over our social media feeds?
Well, the key difference is that, while normal social media ads come from the company, influencer whitelisting ads appear as though it’s the influencer themselves that’s posting the ad, directly from their own social accounts. (Hint: it’s not.)
Take a look at this collab between Jessica Alba and popular meal kit brand HelloFresh:
Jessica Alba and HelloFresh (image from Kynship)
Don’t spend too long playing “spot the difference” with this one – for all intents and purposes, it’s the same ad. On the right, it’s from HelloFresh. But on the left, the ad’s displayed as though it’s Jessica herself posting it. All HelloFresh’s marketing team has done is tweak the copy slightly: removing the quotation marks in the original version, and reworking the ad into the first-person.
It’s the same principle on Instagram, too, with the ad appearing under the name of the influencer – not the business.
Some Instagram-based examples of influencer whitelisting (image from Lumanu)
Influencer whitelisting hasn’t been around for long – only appearing recently to solve some of social media marketers’ most common pain points.
Like all innovations and evolutions, influencer marketing was designed to be a “win-win” situation all round: offering benefits for both brands and influencers.
So what are those benefits?
The reach of social media platforms – and their algorithms – is continuing to wane. This, of course, limits the effectiveness of standard influencer posts – where the content is only being displayed to their (finite) number of followers.
With influencer whitelisting, posts behave more like paid ads than posts. Meaning that your reach is, theoretically, limited only by your budget.
Complete Creative Control
Having advertising rights to an influencer’s account means it’s easy to jump in and play around with an ad before it goes out. Be that making small edits to the copy or call to action, or tweaking the spelling and grammar, influencer whitelisting offers a level of control regular influencer sponsored posts simply don’t afford.
Optimize, Iterate, Analyze
Data is the lifeblood of marketing. Without it, you’ll struggle to know if your campaigns are having an impact – and, if so, which ones.
That’s one of the reasons influencer whitelisting is so effective. Because you can target specific demographics and continue to test and iterate upon each ad, you’re constantly honing and fine-tuning your approach.
Plus, when an influencer grants you advertising rights to their account, you don’t just get posting rights – you get full access to all the data you need to optimize your ads for conversion. This helps ensure you’re spending your ad budget to best effect, and observing maximum ROI.
Keeping Creators Happy
Of course, a relationship where anyone grants you permission to use their identity is always going to come with some challenges.
But in addition to being brilliant for advertisers, whitelisting offers plenty of benefits for influencers, too. With you managing ads under their name – and targeting whole new audiences – they’re growing their own brand awareness and following by proxy.
They’re also able to access the same analytics and insights as you, which they can use to know what whitelisting influencer content is working, and what’s not.
Plus – providing it’s done right – influencer whitelisting can strengthen that bond between brand and influencer. And pave the way for a long, lucrative partnership going forward.
So, now you know why influencer whitelisting is worth exploring. But how do you actually do it? What steps do you need to follow to see whitelisting success?
1. Identify the Best Influencers for Your Brand
Before you can start influencer whitelisting you’ll, well…need an influencer.
So put in some research to figure out which type of influencer will be best for your campaign. If you’re a bigger brand with a budget to burn, chances are you’ll be able to secure an influencer with a large following.
If you can’t afford such a splurge, however, there are plenty of micro (and even nano) influencers with less demanding fees. (And, in some cases, even more dedicated followings).
- Business profile
- Creator account
- Verified account
At this stage, it’s worth taking your time and conducting thorough research into each influencer’s audience and reach, too. Ideally, it should match your brand’s own target demographics – so you can tap into a readymade audience of consumers with a proven interest in your industry.
2. Decide What to Offer the Influencer
What you’ll offer the influencer depends on your budget, and how long you plan to hold their usage rights (longer periods = more money). Other variables include the length of the media run – that is, how long the ad is going to be in circulation for.
Make sure to get specific about fees and clauses in the contract – you don’t want to accidentally get burned later.
3. Figure Out Metrics and KPIs
All successful campaigns need a goal with which to measure success. So, before you approach any influencer, you’ll require a clear understanding of what you want your marketing drive to achieve. That could include:
- Traffic back to your site
Remember, the real value of influencer whitelisting is the wealth of analytical data it gives you. That includes:
- Link clicks
- Cost per result
- Amount spent
- Return on ad spend
To be able to use this data to best effect, you’ll need to go in with a strong understanding of what you want to achieve – so make sure to plan, strategize, and set your influencer whitelisting campaign up for success.
4. Approach the Influencer
When you’re ready, make a shortlist of your chosen influencers – then get in touch with them. You can make initial contact directly through Facebook or Instagram, then set up a call to go through the finer details. Good luck!
5. Sign a Contract
Once you’ve successfully enticed the right influencer, it’s time to nail them down to a contract.
Unfortunately – and owing to influencer whitelisting’s newness – this is a bit of a gray area right now, and there aren’t too many “standard” contracts you can base yours off. Without giving legal advice, we’d suggest seeking legal advice – and making sure there’s no room for interpretation in the contract.
Be explicit about what’s expected: namely, the acquisition of the influencer’s advertising rights on social media. You’ll also need to be clear about how long you plan to hold that access, and the intended media run of the ads you’ll produce.
Once you’re both happy, sign on the dotted line – it’s time to get those rights!
6. Receive Advertising Access to the Influencer’s Account
Before you can begin running ads under the influencer’s moniker, you’ll need advertising access to their account.
Again, there’s no “one size fits all” approach to this. How it happens will depend on the type of account the influencer has (whether that’s a business or creator profile) and which platform they’re granting the permissions through (Facebook or Instagram).
Ideally, look to set aside some time with your influencer to walk them through the process. You can also recruit an agency to do the legwork for you, or harness one of the several emerging software solutions for influencer whitelisting to connect with a click.
7. Establish an Approval Process
You didn’t think you’d get away without some admin, did you?
At the start of all fruitful relationships comes a fair share of the grunt work: establishing processes to get things moving, and ensuring all parties are on the same page.
Of course, you’ll want full creative control over the ad copy; the influencer might disagree. So some good questions to address early on include:
- How will new ads be approved?
- Do you have a license to change and delete words?
- Can you test multiple headlines?
- Are you able to add or remove images?
- What deadlines does the approval process need to work to?
Getting all this right requires a lot of initial outlay – but it’s worth it to establish the foundations of a strong, sustainable working relationship.
As the reach of social media algorithms keeps weakening, influencer whitelisting is emerging as a powerful tonic. By turning organic influencer content into paid ads capable of reaching a much wider audience, brands are cashing in as social media marketing evolves and expands.
In 2022, whitelisting influencers should be a part of all brands’ social media strategy. Not only is it a win for both you and your influencer, but it offers far more scope for analysis, customization, and scalability than its “ordinary” counterpart.
To recap, here are the steps:
- Identify the best influencers
- Decide what to offer them
- Settle on main metrics and KPIs
- Approach the influencer
- Draw up and sign a contract
- Receive advertising permissions
- Establish an approval process
Now you know how to whitelist influencers, why not explore more of our influencer- and social media-related content? Get to grips with TikTok micro influencers, or spend some time with our top digital marketing tips.
Have you had a successful brush with influencer whitelisting? Let us know in the comments below!