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In the early stages of influencer marketing, barter collaborations were a popular way to foster influencer-brand partnerships. As the industry has changed, so has the merit and value of barter marketing.

If you want to know what barter marketing is and whether or not you should be pitching or accepting barter collaborations, then you’ve come to the right place. Below, we’ve created a quick guide to barter collaborations in influencer marketing so that brands and influencers alike can understand how these types of partnerships fit into today’s industry.

What is Barter Marketing?

Barter marketing is an experience-based promotional collaboration where a brand will exchange products for endorsement services from an influencer. Instead of paying an influencer cash for promoting branded products and services, a company gives the product or service itself to the influencer as payment.

Influencers sitting at a table in front of a camera and ring light showing makeup products.

How do Barter-Based Collaborations Work?

A barter-based collaboration can be initiated by the brand or influencer.

The Brand Perspective

Brands can scout prominent influencers within their niche who host a target audience that matches the ideal characteristics of the brand’s consumer base. Once a brand connects with an influencer[PR1] (directly, through management, or through an influencer marketing agency) they can then approach how bartering will factor into the campaign. Typically, a brand will barter the products or services they want the influencer to use and review in the sponsored content.

The Influencer Perspective

Influencers can also initiate barter campaigns by connecting with brands and proposing/offering promotion or endorsement of a product or service the influencer and/or their audience is interested in.

For example, a beauty influencer who does makeup tutorials might find their audience interested in an emerging brand. That influencer could cold pitch a barter collaboration to that brand, offering promotion and new visibility in exchange for the products themselves.

Why Do Brands and Influencers Favor Barter Collaborations?

The Brand Perspective

Foundationally, barter marketing is cheaper for brands. This makes it a viable way for new or small businesses to connect with influencers on a budget. Instead of paying for a promotion or campaign, brands might scout micro-influencers within their niche and offer products in exchange for a post that gives an honest (ideally positive) review.

And, as with all forms of influencer marketing, brands benefit from barter collaborations because the influencer will expand the visibility of their products and services.

The Influencer Perspective

Barter collaborations are a viable entry point for small or new businesses looking to break into the world of social media marketing, and they serve this same function for beginner influencers.

While the influencer doesn’t make cash for their promotional services, they can start building relationships with brands that can grow in terms of scope and value as their account grows. Brands use influencers to increase the visibility and impact of their brand. These partnerships can also increase the visibility and reach of the sponsored influencer, making barter collaborations a great way for beginner influencers to grow their audiences.

Are Barter Collaborations a Good Idea?

You’ll notice that when discussing the pros of barter marketing above, the common theme is small. Barter marketing is cheaper, better for new/small businesses and new/micro influencers (who have smaller followings). While barter collaborations are a legitimate form of influencer-brand partnership, they are not necessarily the best option.

In most barter-based collaboration instances, a brand will send their product to an influencer and ask the influencer to review it in a post (which can be a picture or video). As the world of social media marketing continues to expand, along with the pool of influencers in every industry, brands have had to scale their efforts to remain relevant on social platforms. One post is not enough to capture a user’s attention or sway an entire audience.

Are Barter-Based Collaborations Worth It?

Social media and influencer marketing campaigns consist of detailed plans that involve posting in multiple mediums across various platforms. While the posts can all be about the same product or service, the value of the corresponding campaign will surpass that of the product itself.

Consider what an influencer brings to the table for a marketing campaign:

  • Their dedicated following
  • Time and effort shooting/creating content
  • Time and effort editing content (assembling a video, editing photos, etc.)
  • Content revisions after brand or agency review
  • Continued time and effort following the posting schedule agreed upon between the brand and influencer and ongoing engagement with their following around the sponsored content (answering comments and questions in an effort to sway the audience in favor of the brand)

In most instances, the work and effort for one post will outweigh the value of the product or service featured in that post. To make a difference and positively impact the brand client, the effort put into a full campaign will almost always drastically outweigh the value of the product or service itself.

If the brand and influencer are going to maximize the benefits of partnership (visibility for the brand and compensation for the influencer), then a barter collaboration will not be enough.

Paid Partnerships in Influencer Marketing

The best way for brands and influencers to get the most out of a collaboration is through a paid partnership.

For brands: you will get what you pay for. If you barter products and services in exchange for promotion, you will get limited content and limited rights. Paying for the true value of a social media and/or influencer marketing campaign will afford you the versatility to create and critique an adaptive strategy that will optimize your campaign ROI.

For influencers: brands that are willing to pay for influencer marketing tend to be more involved and invested in their partnership with you. Paid collaborations ensure you are paid fairly for your time and effort. Plus, since paid partnerships involve more content (over the course of a campaign) instead of a one-and-done post (in a limited barter) you – as an influencer – will have a better opportunity to increase your visibility and audience. As you endorse the brand to your audience, the brand will promote your content to theirs!

While barter marketing had its place in the early stages of social media advertising, the industry and the value of the work influencers do has surpassed that form of collaboration. Get the most out of an influencer-brand partnership by investing in an influencer marketing campaign.

Work with Sway Group!

Sway Group is a full-service influencer marketing agency. We’ve been connecting brands with professional influencers for more than ten years and focus on getting genuine, engaging content in front of the right audience at the right time. Between our expansive, vetted network of over 30K influencers and our dedicated team of social media marketing experts, Sway Group is ready to help your brand make an impact.

For more information, contact us today!