How Effective Are Unpaid Influencer Campaigns in Driving Sales?

“Influencer marketing campaigns only involve paid collaboration.” 

And it’s a common misconception among brands. Next misconception that takes over the influencer marketing field is that unpaid campaigns don’t work. Or it’s not possible to run unpaid campaigns and drive the desired results?

Clearing all the doubts and let’s understand unpaid influencer campaigns better. 

Understanding Unpaid Influencer Campaigns 

Influencer campaigns involve paid and unpaid campaigns. Unpaid campaigns have no monetary compensation; the influencer is paid via products or services. 

How the Campaign Works? 

Just as a normal influencer campaign is carried out, unpaid influencer campaigns follow in the same footsteps. 

After the brand-influencer campaign brief session, the brand sends out the product, and the influencer creates content promoting them. 

Content can be stories, static image posts, live sessions, videos, reels, or all combined. Content deliverables are a huge part of influencer campaigns, so the chances are 50-50. 

There can be a discussion between the brand and influencer for the content required, or the influencer solely decides their content deliverables. 

Alternate Monetary Compensation 

And if no Monetary benefits are involved, how do you onboard influencers for the campaign? 

Creating content is a profession; even influencers who do it out of passion expect something in return for their time and effort. 

You can offer influencers,

  • Products 
  • Services 
  • Event Sponsorship 
  • Early access to product launches 
  • Future partnerships 
  • Affiliate marketing opportunities 
  • Exposure to a wider audience (only if the brand has a huge following)

Not all influencers would be up for the partnership when offered any of the above compensation. 

Brands can combine two or three benefits while pitching influencers for the campaign. 

How Unpaid Campaigns Benefit Businesses? 

Facilitates Network 

Unpaid influencer campaigns help brands build a network of influencers who genuinely love the products/services. With your brand’s target audience exposure via each influencer, other influencers from a similar industry would be interested in working with your brand. This creates an opportunity for your brand to perform future unpaid campaigns easily. 

Increase Sales and Revenue 

Unpaid influencer campaigns create brand awareness, build trust, and effectively provide social proof. And the content influencers create sounds more organic, urging their followers to try the product. This genuinity instilled by the influencers via unpaid campaigns goes a long way in increasing sales and revenue for the brand. 

Chances of Tapping into UGC 

Tapping into user-generated content (UGC) is how effective unpaid influencer campaigns are. Following influencers, consumers with decent followings would want to work with your brand and become brand advocates. This can further expand the reach and awareness of the brand. The network of influencers and their consumers would help create a constant flow of user-generated content for brands to promote their products and services. 

Reduced Marketing Budget Compared to Other Methods 

However, in paid influencer campaigns, brands invest in the influencer’s fee and the product’s shipping costs. Comparing the budget that’s involved in paid influencer campaigns or any other traditional marketing campaigns, unpaid influencer campaigns are a better option. 

Business Thrive Even During Difficult Times 

In difficult times meaning economic downturns or pandemics, for that matter, brand conversions take a hit. Given such difficult scenarios, investing a huge amount in a marketing budget is the last thing for a brand to do. Trying unpaid influencer campaigns helps clear the product stock lying around while proceeding with the campaign, building brand awareness. 

How to Start an Unpaid Influencer Campaign? 

Finding the Right Influencers 

Collaborating with influencers who have your target audience in their follower list is the goal of influencer marketing campaigns. However, given that unpaid influencer campaigns do not involve any monetary benefits, brands may have to include “influencers willing to work with non-monetary benefits” as criteria in shortlisting. 

Discuss Content Delivery 

After shortlisting the potential influencers, briefing the campaign and setting the content delivery expectation is mandatory. During the campaign briefing, discuss the brand guidelines and any specific requirements for the content. Also, give room to the influencer to discuss the possibilities of their content delivery. Having the expectations clear would lead to a friction-free influencer campaign. 

Promote Influencer’s Content 

Promoting the influencer content is the only way to increase the campaign’s reach. If your brand has a higher following social media account, then sharing the influencer’s content is the right thing to do. Also, you can share the content on your websites to increase the reach and awareness of the brand. 

Send Influencer’s Product They Appreciate 

Most influencer campaigns carried out are in the likelihood of future collaborations. To create content, the product sent should be of value to the influencer. It’s a win-win situation; influencers would extend their interest in working for further partnerships while your brand gets a brand advocate. 

Factors Determining Your Brand Eligibility for Unpaid Campaigns 

There’s no one shoe fits all approach to unpaid influencer campaigns. However, the following factors help determine whether your brand is ready for unpaid influencer campaigns.

Brand with Valuable Product 

First in the eligibility list, is your product or service.  The value of your product is more than enough in convincing an influencer to work for unpaid campaigns. Value doesn’t necessarily link with product price, the benefit product offers is all that’s required for the campaign. 

Non-Profit Brands 

Many influencers are vocal about supporting non-profit organizations to support the cause. It all comes down to finding influencers who support the cause, like your brand. 

Legendary brand 

If your brand is a household name, then influencers might be willing to work simply because of its exposure. Who knows, your brand might have been their dream brand to work. Being a legendary brand approaching influencers for unpaid influencer campaigns is a win. 

Remember, each influencer may have their own criteria for determining which brands they work with for unpaid influencer campaigns. The key is to create a compelling brand story and offer value to influencers in exchange for their promotion..

Paid vs Non-paid influencer campaigns 

Criteria Paid Influencer CampaignsUnpaid Influencer Campaigns 
Payment Financial and product investment Only product investment and shipping charges
Expectations Clearly defined deliverables, timelines, and KPIsMore flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances
Influencer Selection Criteria-based selection processMore open and inclusive selection process 
ROIHigher potential ROI due to wider reach and better-defined metricsDesired ROI achieved with more authentic and loyal audience engagement
BudgetRequires a budget for influencer compensation and paid promotionRequires investment in product or service
Risk Lower risk of influencer misconduct or low-quality contentNo risk involved when mitigated through careful selection and relationship-building
Quality Higher quality content due to professional standards and better compensationContent quality is more authentic and relatable to audiences
Relationship Transactional, focused on deliverablesMore relational, focused on building long-term partnerships 
DisclosureMandatory disclosure of sponsored contentOptional disclosure of sponsored content 
LegalityStrictly regulated by advertising laws and FTC guidelinesLess regulated, but ethical and transparent influencer-brand partnerships are still necessary
DurationFixed duration and specific campaign timelineFlexible and ongoing campaign duration
Post Reach Wider reach due to boosted content and paid adsHigher engagement rates due to more targeted audiences
Control Higher level of control over content and brand messagingBrand-influencer control fostering more authentic partnering relationships
PerformanceExpected and measurable performance metricsLess defined and more subjective performance metrics 

Case Study 

Brand: Comic Con India

The Indian counterpart of the globally popular event, Comic Con India, is one of the country’s largest gatherings of comic lovers, geeks, nerds, and gamers. 

One of the event’s biggest draws is Cosplay, along with a chance for fans to meet and greet like-minded enthusiasts. 

Comic Con India is a multi-city event hosted in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad.

Objective 

Comic Con India wanted to connect with the real comic fans in India and leverage their fandom to promote the event nationwide. But the brand team had a unique condition – they did not want to pay for the influencer campaign (content creation/ promotion). 

The idea behind this was two-fold – Comic Con wanted only the truest of the true fans to show interest, and they wanted to generate authentic word of mouth.

Challenges 

How to find ‘true comic fans in India’? How do you assess various factors like expertise, popularity, content, and audience in an accurate and data-based manner? 

Secondly, because of the unique non-paid nature of the campaign, it was essential to design influencer campaign management and execution structure.

Execution 

Team Qoruz kicked in! Using an advanced discovery engine, Qoruz scanned through more than 2 lakh Indian influencer profiles to find the people best matching the criteria laid down by the brand. 

This was further enabled through a state-of-the-art search functionality that can help find influencers based on content categories, keyword mentions, and personal identifiers (“Batman fan”, “Comic Hoarder”, “Cartoonist”, etc.). 

Using different combinations of these searches, along with a detailed analysis of social engagement and audience for your influencer campaign, Qoruz could zero in on the best possible influencers.

Qoruz deployed Perks -a unique, wizard-based offering where brands can provide influencers with exclusive event invites, products, or services, and influencers can share their experiences online. 

How Are Influencers Rewarded?

And in this particular scenario, the ultimate reward for these comic fans was a Super Fan VIP pass, fully loaded with free access to the event and loads of goodies and merchandise!

Comic Con India used Qoruz Perks to secure the association of comic book-loving social media Influencers for a non-paid influencer campaign. 

How Qoruz Perks Work?

Qoruz Perks included exclusive experiences, products, and services for the Influencers through the Comic-Con SuperFan pass; a privileged all-expense paid VIP entry to the Comic-Con event with a string of other perks and memorabilia.

Through a streamlined wizard that automates outreach, campaign management, and campaign analytics, Qoruz Perks turned this unique campaign into reality.

Result 

  • Number of influencer participated in the campaign – 57
  • Number of content generated – 225 
  • Content engagement – exceeding 31k
  • Content reach – 175k

With Qoruz Perks, Comic Con reached the right people, through the right people, at virtually no cost!

To know more about Qoruz Perks, visit the website.

Conclusion

Unpaid influencer campaigns actually work and drive increased sales to the brand. Let us know in the comments below your experience in unpaid influencer campaigns or any questions you want us to address in the blog. 

Leave a Comment