Social media marketing has a lot of power in particular through organic recommendations. It doesn’t necessarily matter that your account only has 5,000 followers if someone with 5 million recommends your product. That kind of endorsement goes a long way towards referring traffic, getting new subscribers, and selling products.
Influencer marketing is the broad term for this kind of recommendation marketing. You work through various channels to gain the attention of popular influencers in your niche, and get those influencers to recommend you. It’s tricky and it’s a long process, something you need to keep doing pretty much as long as you have a social profile.
One sub-set of influencer marketing is the equivalent of PPM or other forms of paid marketing. Why bother trying to finagle a relationship with an influencer, when you can simply pay them to give you a shoutout?
Benefits and Drawbacks to Paid Shoutouts
There are some benefits to getting a paid shoutout. Obviously, the first and foremost among them is a mention from a high profile influencer. Most good influencers understand their power and know how to make a recommendation sound genuine and organic. Their followers will, for the most part, believe that the shoutout is a legitimate recommendation and not a sponsored post. Some followers will be cynical and believe every recommendation, even legitimately organic recommendations, are paid for, but that doesn’t really impact the value of those recommendations.
There are, however, a handful of downsides.
First of all, when you’re paying for a shoutout, you’re not building a relationship with the influencer. Organic influencer marketing helps you build up that dialogue with the influencer in question, which opens up other avenues of value. Maybe they have a website you can guest post on. Maybe they’ll be willing to work with you to promote products more officially. Maybe they’ll show up at an event you host. Who knows! When you’re paying for a shoutout, all you’re getting is a business contract and a shoutout as a commodity.
Secondly, while most influencers understand how to make a shoutout look natural, some don’t. You have to scan through the posts made by the influencer before you agree to have them recommend you. If your content is not a good fit for their channel, their recommendation won’t be worth the money.
Third, it costs money. In fact, it can cost a lot of money. Some of the most popular influencers who sell space might be asking tens of thousands of dollars for a shoutout. Many are cheaper, and most are more affordable, but your ideal influencer might not be as affordable as you would like.
Some influencers will always include a #sponsored hashtag on any post they shoutout someone and are paid to do it. They believe this will protect them from the rules of a social network, and to some extent it does, but not always.
See, a lot of social networks actually have rules explicitly against buying shoutouts. It’s sort of a black market, really. Unless you’re going through a third party site, there’s always a risk that your chosen influencer will not accept payment for shoutouts, and you might even hurt your reputation with them if they choose to call you out on it. Or you might introduce them to a new income stream and they’ll be more than happy to work with you! You never know.
So how do you go about buying shoutouts on social media? There are two ways: manually and through a broker. I’ll discuss them both, but let’s start with the manual method.
Manually Purchasing Shoutouts on Social Media
First of all, you need to choose your social network. This is pretty simple; you just need to pick a social network you use, so the influencer has the chance to link to your profile directly. Instagram is usually the target for paid shoutouts, but I’ve seen them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other networks as well.
As a side note, when you purchase your shoutout, you should make sure the recent content on your channel of choice is rather heavily focused on preemptively converting incoming traffic to subscribers, followers, or customers. Put your best foot forward.
Second, you need to identify your influencers of choice. Every network will have dozens of influencers in your niche, so you need to do your research. You can’t rely on one influencer to be present on every network you use. An Instagram model might not have a YouTube channel, for example.
When you identify an influencer, you want to scan through their posts and see if they ever recommend other brands or products. Even if they don’t, they might still be open to the idea of selling a shoutout, but they might not. The ones who recommend other products frequently are almost definitely open to the idea, but they might want you to go through a specific network, or they might have fixed prices that are outside of your price range.
Speaking of price ranges, think carefully about how much you’re willing to pay. Until you do it, you have no way to tell how effective a shoutout will be at bringing in new subscribers or customers. It could be excellent, or it could be sub-par. A lot depends on the skill of the influencer and the engagement of their audience, but it’s impossible to say “well if they get X% engagement they’ll get me Y sales.”
Once you have identified an influencer, figure out how to contact them. Some will have a specific email address for business inquiries. Others have no alternative contact methods listed. In those cases, a direct message on the platform of choice should suffice.
Send the influencer a message asking about paid shoutouts. If you figure they frequently sell shoutouts, cut to the chase and ask them how much they charge for them. If you think they’re new to the idea, ask them if they’ve ever heard of doing it and if they’re open to the idea. From there, simply correspond with them until a deal is reached. Try to make the deal favorable to them, at leas the first time you do it, so they’re more likely to do it again in the future if it turns out to work well for you.
There are a lot of pitfalls to the manual method. Primarily, it’s hit or miss whether or not the influencers you want to choose will be up for selling advertising space in their organic channel. These influencers run the risk of jeopardizing the trust of their audience, or even their social presence as a whole if the site decides to penalize them for being advertorial.
On the other hand, you have a lot of control over the process and know exactly what you’re getting. For more on why that’s a benefit, check out the next section.
Buying Shoutouts from Networks
There are a whole lot of different sites and networks that influencers use to sell shoutouts. For the most part, these sites keep the identity of the influencer under wraps. Take AppSally for example. On this site, you can buy an Instagram shoutout for a meager $35. The site claims you get real user exposure and that it’s a fitness/fashion user, but that’s about it. You have no idea who the influencer is, how many followers they have, what percentage of those followers are bots, or anything else.
Fiverr, of course, is Fiverr. You can get cheap shoutouts from the network, but you have no idea who is giving you the shoutout unless they tell you up front. Most of the time they won’t, specifically to hide their identities so they aren’t banned from their networks of choice. As with everything on Fiverr, it’s cheap but it’s not likely to get you much of value.
PlugHype is a bit better, in that they show you the identity of the influencer, the number of posts they’ve made, their follower and following numbers, their niches, and their pricing all up front.
This is the more traditional marketplace style: you get to pick and choose from known accounts to find one that works for you. This particular network is pretty small, with only a few dozen influencers available, mostly in fitness and photography niches. Unfortunately, some of them are either fake or have been removed, so always double-check the profile you’re looking at before you buy.
JumpFame is similar to PlugHype, though with a better database. They too show you the username of the influencer, their primary niches, their posts and follower/following numbers. They too have a few that aren’t available anymore, so again, always look into the user before attempting a purchase.
BuySellShoutouts is yet another option. Through this site, you can get a wide range of social marketing gray- and black-hat services, up to and including buying entire accounts, so I wouldn’t be too trusting of the quality of the shoutouts they provide.
That said, you can dig in and research on your own.
ShoutCart has one of the largest libraries of influencers working with the platform, but they also show you a limited amount of information prior to registering or agreeing to buy. You can’t even see pricing for individual accounts up front. They do show you the usernames so you can research first, though.
This is just a sampling of the variety of different networks you can find offering shoutouts for sale.
There are, of course, drawbacks to using a third party broker for shoutouts. For one thing, you aren’t able to make a deal directly with the influencer, you need to go through the broker. You can always try to approach the influencer directly, but they might want you to go through the broker to ensure they get paid. Fair, but a hassle. You also often end up paying more than you would directly, because the site takes their own cut, or you need to pay for a membership.
Most importantly, a lot of the influencers you might want to reach are not going to be using a broker, so you won’t find them through such an easy to use platform. You’ll need to approach them manually if you so desire.
There’s also the risk that a good chunk of the influencers on these brokers aren’t really real accounts. Many of them could be fake and just funnel money into the coffers of the broker, or they could be accounts that have since been taken down. You don’t know how well they’ll send traffic to you unless you buy, and then it could be a waste of money.
On top of all of that, with some networks like Fiverr and AppSally, you have no idea who is even doing the shoutout. It could be a fake account, or there might not even be a real shoutout, just a swarm of bot traffic funneled your way to make it look like one. Unless you use a specific tracking link and look for referral data – assuming they don’t strip it first – you won’t know where it all comes from.
Also, most of these networks focus entirely on Instagram. If you want a shoutout on Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter, you’ll likely need to approach those influencers directly instead. At the end of the day, everything kind of comes back to having to do it manually. Shoutout brokers are a nice idea, but they aren’t populated or mainstream enough to be worthwhile in most cases.