When it comes to influencer marketing strategies, there are two main options for every brand and campaign; paid and gifting. In order to decide which strategy is best for your brand, you must establish your own goals or KPIs for each individual campaign and your brand as a whole. 

When choosing which strategy is best for your next campaign, there is one major factor to consider: budget. If you are prepared to spend, a paid campaign is the right campaign for you. If you are a newer company with little to no budget, a paid campaign may be better for you. There’s also a third option and is the one we advocate for the most in our own campaigns with clients – the culmination of both a paid and gifted campaign. 

A paid and gifted campaign can complement one another wonderfully, depending on the goals of the campaign. To see the main differences between the different campaign strategies, check out our cheat sheet below. 

Gifted Campaigns:

  • Allows you to build a relationship with smaller, micro-level creators. 
  • Gets your product in the hands of smaller creators for honest reviews that can have a big impact. 
  • You can get more organic reach while introducing your brand to new audiences. 
  • Potential for enormous brand awareness.
  • Potential for mass UGC.

Paid Campaigns:

  • Allows for significantly more creative control.
  • Can align to very specific KPIs. 
  • You get to hand-pick the creators that you want to work with. 
  • Guaranteed mass audience reach.
  • Guaranteed high-quality content. 

However, there are of course downsides to both campaign strategies. With gifted campaigns, there is no guarantee of organic posting or content that fits your quality standards. You also have no way of knowing if or when someone will post your product. This can make it hard to keep track of the success of your gifted campaigns, so we recommend establishing very clear KPIs before you gift. For example, are you gifting the exact same, specific product to 100+ micro-creators? Then, you should keep track of the sales of that product on your website for a specific duration of time. Are you just sending a fun PR Box filled with some of your top-selling products with the goal of brand awareness? Keep track of your own social media accounts to see if your audience is growing! You can also provide your gifted creators with a unique, trackable link to monitor activity through their efforts, but of course, it isn’t a guarantee that the creator will post the link, or post at all! 

For paid campaigns, the downsides that could be associated with this strategy are that you’re of course spending more money, and potentially receiving less content for your budgeted ad spend in comparison to a gifted campaign. However, a paid campaign allows for more creative control and a hand-selected group of creators that at some level, has guaranteed ROI. You can also align very specific KPIs to the campaign and thus the creators that are going to be part of the campaign. 

When utilizing a gifting campaign, there are a few nuances to be aware of to ensure you’re building out the most authentic, organic campaign. For starters, you should always talk to your chosen creators before sending any product – make sure that they are actually open to receiving and trying out your product! You should send it with the expectation of them loving your product and building a relationship with them, not with the goal of producing content. That’s just a major plus! Remember that if you treat your influencers or audience as a data point, they will also treat you like one – and there is no loyalty there. The goal is to build out a community through gifting with the goal of eventually being able to conduct a paid campaign with those very same creators. If a creator does choose to post in a gifted capacity, it shows that they’re interested in your brand. Pay attention to the points they organically mention about your product! 

So – what strategy will you use for your next campaign? As we said earlier, a gifting program is a great parallel campaign to a paid campaign; you can get more organic reach and content while building out relationships with smaller creators as a way to introduce your brand to them. All the while, you can be facilitating a more controlled paid strategy that allows you to see content before it’s live and ensure the quality of it.