You’ve got to be very strategic and plan well when it comes to influencer marketing, so all moving parts, as well as objectives, will work. Drafting a well-written and updated influencer contract or SMI* contract) is a great tool to achieve exactly that.
Why Should You Sign an Influencer Contract?
The prime reason for signing a Brand-Influencer Contract is not to eliminate suspicion between potential partners. Rather, the goal is to make everything (or at least as much as possible) CLEAR between the brand and the SMI.
The contract will also help you with influencer campaign planning and execution. Most steps and moves for the campaign should be included. Using a contract template, all you need to do is to associate people and dates to the various action items and goals.
Brands: know that the worst thing for SMI is to have to do a re-shoot of your post because there was not sufficient information included in the contract…
SMI: know that the worse thing for the brand is for you to publish a post on their behalf that is … not what the brand wanted at all.
1. Content Ownership
When a brand hires the right SMI, the expectation should be that the SMI will create original, native, not-intrusive, intriguing, and impactful content with a great point-of-view and attention to detail! That’s why they call them “creators“…
Nevertheless, the content is owned by the SMI, and brands should know – if you are not the owner of the content – and if you do not have the creator’s consent to re-use the content you hired them to create for you. That means that you cannot legally use that content on your social, websites, posters, TV, and where not for your other marketing initiatives. That’s a huge value. So make a decision — if you want to be the owner of the content after the campaign goes live, make sure the contract says so. And then negotiate ownership and payment accordingly.
2. Competition and Exclusivity
We all have competitors… Therefore, when a brand is signing a contract, it may like to add a clause that covers the amount of time where SMI will not post for competitors (add a list of competitors to such a clause).
For example, SMI will not publish other brands’ posts for red summer shoes between July 7th and August 6th:
Make sure you negotiate that term well, but just know that this request – almost for sure – will be reflected in the price.
At a minimum, the contract should be exclusive during your campaign with the SMI. And make it clear that they are not allowed to promote the competitors during that period.
Sometimes there are cases where a brand requires exclusivity in their category. In this case, it is the SMI’s job to ask for as much clarification as possible as to what that category is. And then the influencer should move it from a “super category” (e.g. “Toys”) to a sub sub sub sub-category (e.g. “magnetic toys for Hannukah”). This way the SMI won’t be blocked from making a living. It’s important for the SMI to clarify the exact duration, and start and end dates, for the restriction.
3. Social Channels
Another area that is important to cover in the contract is which social channels are included. Yes, you know the SMI you picked is dominant on Instagram. But most SMI still have a lot of followers on TikTok, Facebook, maybe YouTube, Twitch, etc. Usually for the SMI it’s not a big deal to cross post on other platforms, and yet this will amplify the campaign, so why not?
4. Locations, Format, Quantities, Dates, Frequencies, and Language
Besides where/which platform, the contract should help clarify all kinds of deliveries and their forms. And here are some to pay more attention to:
Quantities. The contract should state the number of posts. For example, 4 posts, 1 on Instagram in-feed and 3 on insta stories or both. Or 3 posts on Instagram in-feed, 2 on Twitter, 10 on Tiktok, 1 on Blog, total 16.
Frequencies. What’s the frequency? Every 35 days? Once a month on a Monday?
Format. Video, audio or still photos?
Length. What’s the length of the content? 1 paragraph? 30 words? 2,200 words?
Language. Is cursing, or a certain religious reference, ok? How about talking about politics? Laughing at those of a certain hair color? Gender identity? Brands should write down what language is not acceptable for the SMI to use, and this includes lists of topics to avoid, without having a conflict with the SMI’s personality and leadership as a community-leader for their followers.
Dates and Deadlines. The contract should clarify the deadlines and specific dates for the SMI to share the sponsored content, engagement, deletions, etc. so that both sides can prepare their calendars accordingly (include timezone as sometimes the partners are not in same timezone)
Engagement is important. Therefore, it is recommended to find a way to make the contract clarify that both SMI and brand teams will be on standby at the moment the post goes live, and for the next XX hours, to answer followers’ questions, and to engage, and to show you care.
PS/Ask yourself – would you like to add add penalties for late posting?
Date of Deletion. How long will the post stay up? Some SMI expire sponsored posts shortly after posting them. You want the contract to clearly set expectations:
Like a billboard service, SMI have the legal right to delete the endorsement after a limited time. How long the content remains up should be clarified in the agreement between you and the SMI, so there are no surprises.
5. Hashtags & FCC
Brands should tell SMI which hashtags they want to be included on the sponsored posts and this is why:
As we say — ”Chase the Hashtags”: hashtags are important – its the way the social platforms index all their content, and they bring searchability, linkability and traffic.
Some say that when someone who is highly ranked on a topic associates YOU with that topic, via a hashtag, social media platform algorithms will register that and favor you. If so, that’s another good reason to ask the SMI to include your preferred hashtags in the posts they write for you.
The hashtag is also related to the FCC endorsement disclosure guidelines which require disclosure of relationships (even based on receiving a free sample). Although it is the SMI’s responsibility to disclose a relationship with a brand on their content creation, the contract should make it clear that the SMI must include #Ad or #sponsored on their posts, as required by law.
Yes, the brand can ask to review the campaign and its scheduled deadline. This can be an item that is included in the contract.
Why would brands like to preview the post? Not because they want to micro-mage and interfere with the SMI’s creative freedom. On the contrary, let the SMI have the freedom to write what they know can move the opinions of their followers. Otherwise, if they copy & paste content you provide, the post will look just like another ad, so what’s the point?
But brands should still review a post before it goes out: you want to see if the language is acceptable and sensitive to your audience, you’ll want to check for misspellings (e.g. of the brand or its product), and confirm that the right hashtags are used, that the product in the picture is what you meant the SMI to do a campaign for, and you want to make sure that the SMI understands and is reflecting your brand well.
7. Payment Details
This might be obvious, but all parties should agree on the payment terms, including what that payment is based on (fix specified amount is most common but there are also free products, commissions, invitations for VIP events, cash on clicks, etc.), amount, bonuses, due date(s), how much of it up front, and form of payment (PayPal? Bank transfer? Check in the snailmail?).
How much should I pay a microinfluencer?
I also recommend that you consider adding a bonus for achieving special performance milestones, as long as the measurement is clear. Here are my practical suggestions for KPIs:
When Side A hires Side B for a job, it is a good practice for Side B to report to Side A before, during, as well as after the campaign. Some contracts even add a reporting column that is attached to payment, that clarifies what and when exactly should be reported, such as: email and DM with a screenshot of the post draft, and the minute it is done, and impressions, click throughs, Likes and number of comments on the posts, screenshots of engagements, etc.
There’s a lot to remember when it comes to writing an influencer-brand contract. Rather than hire a lawyer to adapt your standard contract, you can save time and money by purchasing my Influencer-Brand Agreement Template (that’s the one I use daily):
Email me: what are some other things YOU would want to include in YOUR agreement …?
SMI* = Social Media Influencers