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  • Emma Danly

Let’s discuss influencer giftings vs. paid collaborations


Many brands use social media influencers as a form of marketing for their products. On YouTube, Instagram and now TikTok, influencers enjoy sharing their reviews of products. Some influencers are primarily dedicated to finding the best products to share with their followers.


A paid collaboration involves an influencer posting in exchange for the product and payment. Companies have transitioned to funneling some of their advertising budgets into paid partnerships with influencers, as they have been deemed just as, if not more effective than ads. Other companies choose to gift influencers products with no written agreement. From a PR standpoint, your brand has to consider which method would help expand your reach and attract loyal customers.


Often, brands participate in influencer giftings hoping that the influencers will share the products with their followers. Influencer gifting is easier on a company’s budget and can allow the company to work with more influencers. On both ends, there is less commitment with giftings. A PR gifting review will likely be more genuine from the start, and the influencer may continue to use the products and investigate the brand. Influencers should disclose giftings like they disclose sponsorships when giving their opinion on a product. Influencers are not obligated to share the products with their audiences, but of course, that is the hope from brands.


I have seen macro-influencers who receive copious amounts of product giftings. I have to say that I trust their opinion of a product more than micro-influencers who may not receive as many packages. I say this because I know these macro-influencers may not feel obligated to like a product. After all, if a brand is offended by a bad review, the influencer has plenty of other brands still sending them products. I have seen YouTube videos where macro-influencers will unbox over 20 packages and will not be afraid to say they immediately dislike a product they were gifted. Giftings can also be a door to paid collaborations. Like dating, product gifting can give the brand and influencers a chance to see if they’re a good fit before jumping into a relationship… I mean collaboration.


An influencer may try harder to convince their audience to purchase a product when they are being paid, and the content may be of higher quality than a casual review. According to the FTC, “If you endorse a product through social media, your endorsement message should make it obvious when you have a relationship ‘material connection’ with the brand.” Since disclosing a brand deal is required, an influencer’s audience can quickly identify a sponsorship from a gifting or personal purchase. As a brand, you must know influencers’ audiences may be skeptical when they see #ad or #sponsored, so you must find influencers who accurately reflect your brand’s values.


Brands have a chance to create authentic sponsorships. Your brand must find a middle ground with how much control they have of the sponsored content. Giving an influencer some creative freedom can help the influencer’s opinion feel more authentic. Authentic marketing is about being original and sincere. After an influencer completes their sponsored duties, they may have no reason to continue talking about the brand if they do not genuinely like it.


Brands have to be methodical with who they pick to endorse their products. Paid collaborations have their benefits and, if done thoughtfully, can be successful. Your brand can request certain aspects of your products to be touched upon, and you can ask for post analytics from the influencers. As a brand, you are more likely to guarantee quality content will be posted, and you can be more involved overall.


There is no right or wrong answer as to which is better, giftings or sponsorships. Ultimately, both giftings and paid collaborations can be successful if planned out thoughtfully while always keeping authenticity in mind. Influencers are trusted by their followers and can encourage them to become your brand’s customers.


The first step in successful influencer marketing is finding the right influencers. If you feel confident an influencer matches your brand’s values, then a paid collaboration can make a positive, lasting impression. Gifting can be a great strategy, but influencers are not obligated to promote you. The influencer’s response will probably be positive and biased, but you always risk receiving a negative review. That is the risk you take when choosing a cheaper, less involved route for influencer marketing.


Whether you decide on giftings or paid collaborations, choose influencers who resonate with your brand so that they are more likely to enjoy the product genuinely, and their audience will recognize the honesty.


By Emma Danly


Emma is from Orange County, but spent some of her childhood living in London. She is in her last year at San Diego State University, pursuing a degree in Public Relations. Her professional experience includes social media marketing and working on brand campaigns. Down the line, Emma sees herself managing PR for a cosmetics company or opening her own PR agency.

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