Interview with German Influencer Marketing expert, Jenny Song Schmidt
This interview is extracted from our 2024 Budget report.
Which trends are impacting influencer pricing and fee structures?
There are two things happening right now: CPMs and prices are fluctuating, and the other thing is the diversification of platforms. That’s correlated. Instagram has been the number one platform for influencer marketers for so long but since 2022 it’s experienced hardships in terms of ROI, especially for D2C companies. They’ve had to look elsewhere at other marketing channels. Marketers have been proactively testing other channels, going back to the roots, to YouTube. They’re also testing platforms that go more into performance than TikTok; TikTok was a trend that influencer marketers have tested over the past couple of years but something I’ve seen over and over again is that TikTok is still not on par with Instagram when it comes to performance. It’s not a performance platform. TikTok wants you to stay in TikTok, so it’s something that you cannot track. Marketers use it for hype, for brand awareness, but it’s very unpredictable so they’re diverting to other platforms like YouTube, or testing new formats like podcasts.
That suggests that marketers are distributing the same budget across more channels and platforms, which in turn is impacting influencer prices…
That’s exactly what I’ve noticed in the market. The diversification of platforms means the budget goes elsewhere. It goes across multiple channels for different kinds of platforms. It’s still being used for influencer marketing, but it’s not all in Instagram anymore. That also means that often the budget is not being raised, it’s either staying the same or even going down. I’ve noticed budget cuts or allocations to different platforms and channels because the ROI just hasn’t been as strong as it was in the past three years or so.
Is the growing competitive environment amongst influencers – the fact that there are more of them now – also a factor?
That’s not something that I’ve noticed. The influencers that get the deals are generally the ones who have been around for a while, or who cater to a very niche topic and have a good community. I don’t think competition is a key factor in driving stability in CPMs. I think it has to do more with the budget cuts in the post pandemic world. In the last two or three years we were in this crazy e-commerce bubble and that drove prices up like crazy because influencer marketing was one of the most sought after marketing channels. Now that trend is going in the other direction.
How is this impacting negotiations for influencer brand partnerships? Is there a trend towards doing more package deals instead of one-shot pay-per-post deals?
Recently, for the first time, I received an influencer media kit with the pricing based on CPMs rather than a fixed pricing. That’s interesting because it shows that that person really understands the way that brands and agencies work. This influencer used to work at an agency, so they knew exactly what they needed to cater to, to make negotiation easier and more professional. They were upfront about the fact they worked on the bases of €38 CPM for an Instagram story. That’s the fairest way for everyone. I wish more influencers would do that.
Do you see that more influencers are hesitant to do deals with the bigger brands because they’re concerned about how their audience will react?
I see that more and more with the Shining Star influencers. I call them the blue chips; the ones that have been around for ages, the ones that know how the industry works. It’s hard to generalize because every influencer goes through their own learning curves and chooses partners that fit. For example, if an influencer is pregnant, they’re obviously going to choose partners that fit that stage of their life. It is always contextual.
Of course some managements are known to be much more picky than others, especially in Germany. I’m hoping and assuming this is also going to change, just due to supply and demand. That’s also the reason why CPMs are becoming a bit more flexible; it’s because influencers and management alike have noticed that rather than getting 100 requests per day, they’re getting 20. There’s much less to choose from, meaning they have to be more flexible in order to get the deals that they want.
Have new creator monetization opportunities offered by the platforms impacted prices?
I haven’t really seen an impact. The monetary benefits of brand partnerships still outweigh those of the creator revenue programs, especially on TikTok and Instagram, which are still in a testing phase. Instagram especially, is coming out with new products like community channels, which I see being used a lot, but which are not directly monetized right now.
YouTube’s AdSense pays a reasonable CPM to creators, making it much more lucrative to jump on YouTube than on TikTok or IG for the creator programs. But even then, compare €15 CMP on YouTube AdSense to a €75 CPM brand partnership deal. Most influencers still go both ways or even focus solely on brand partnerships.
How is the relationship between influencers and their audiences evolving? Are influencers having to work harder to keep them engaged?
It is harder to get good engagement compared to two years ago. There is more competition for followers. Just like influencers, the audience also goes through their own learning curve. The last couple of years have shown that the community gets pickier with who they want to actively follow.
Audiences are becoming more picky. That is also related to there being much more awareness on social media about its impact on mental health. It’s become clear through various studies, but also we all know intrinsically the impact of social media on our mental health. It can fuel escapism, it can fuel feelings of addiction – people want to get that dopamine hit – and also of anxiety and depression. People start to be more aware of it and act accordingly by unfollowing certain accounts because they don’t bring value anymore. The key is value. Influencers have to be more selective in their content and offer more value to their followers, whether that is in terms of taking a positive content direction or catering to a certain niche.
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