How Paid Media and Influencer Marketing Work Together

Modern marketing is two-fold. Organic and paid media are both necessary to a successful – and they share one common asset.

Metrics like clicks to site and conversions are indicators of a successful paid media strategy. Organic media, on the other hand, is looking to drive engagement and impressions, followers and other activity around a brand on social media that build exposure. Organic media, in essence, helps prime a consumer to purchase. It catches the eye in the infinite scroll, draws in new fans of the brand and builds affinity without the more direct sell. But when they are ready to make a purchase, the brand is high in consideration thanks to that organic media. It makes paid media more compelling, and more effective – it needs to work less hard to get someone to spend. Paid media then comes in to amplify an already primed customer. 

What both have in common is that strong, compelling content drives performance. And what works well for both? Influencer content. 

The difference between paid media and influencer marketing

Influencers have followers baked in, and can help brands prime that audience for purchase. What works best is word-of-mouth, friend-to-a-friend content on social media based around relationships that can be trusted. With that trust, brands can skip ahead further down the funnel because customers want what they have. Then paid media swoops in and drives them over the line of conversion. Think of it like a basketball layup.

Brands using influencer marketing and drawn to paid media, because paid media is very trackable. It offers clearer data and a firmer understanding of ROAS than organic media. Organic media has holes in the customer journey, paid media fills those in and can amplify the messaging and performance. Influencer marketing is a natural fit here, as it’s more authentic and engaging.

The power of allowlisting

Allowlisting is where influencer marketing and paid social intersect. Part influencer content, part sponsored post, allowlisting means influencers have given a brand or client the ability to run paid ads on their accounts on platforms like TikTok, Instagram and other third-party sites. Think of it like leapfrogging the effort of building a custom audience: if you’ve worked with an influencer before and noticed good results, allowlisting gets you in front of the group you want to target because the influencer’s followers are the target audience.

The user sees a sponsored post from the influencer’s handle (meaning it’s not competing with your own brand accounts’ content) just like they would typically in an influencer’s feed, but on the back side, brands get access to a treasure trove of data and insights. This means that brands can use this tool to their advantage to target a specific audience, while complementing other paid media that’s being run across social channels.

A halo effect then kicks in – when multiple paid social campaigns are working in tandem that also reflect and amplify the organic strategy, CPA comes down because everything is more efficient and effective. As soon as clients start seeing how this is working, budgets start increasing on the paid media side because it’s pay to play to get the exact results you want. 

Preparing for the best outcome

This all sounds like a marketer’s dream, right? Organic and paid media working hand in hand, thriving influencer partnerships and lowered costs. To pull it off, you have to plan ahead so that the levers are in place to pull when the opportunity arises. 

Influencer contracts are key here to allow for flexibility when the paid media team comes knocking. Allowlisting is not automatically baked into terms – it comes at an additional cost, so that budget needs to be factored in. Ensure you can go back to the influencer you’re working with to extend the terms for additional usage to allow for it. Just make sure you’re not paying up front for what you don’t use. More integrated clients will also have the foresight to work with programmatic, social and paid teams to plan influencer content pushes and communicate those with the influencer team so that messaging aligns. 

One Acadia client saw that allowlisting was super effective for its social media efforts by minimizing costs at the top of the funnel. Thanks to this type of flexible contract, and the data that allowlisting gives brands insight into, the client was able to extend its terms with the influencers it was working with for another three to six months to keep momentum going. That takes a lot of coordination and integration to make work, but it pays off: we saw that influencer content used in traditional paid social channels drove 150% higher return on ad spend than non-influencer content. 

Content as a gateway drug

It’s easy to get caught up in the results that paid media drives, and want to put more money behind more ads. Don’t lose sight of the authentic, organic feel inherent to making influencer content work. Paid amplification needs restraint, in order to let the actual talent hired shine through. Influencer fans are invested in the humanity behind the person they follow. Allowlisting and paid media with influencers only work when the clout and the authenticity work together.

Alan Carroll and Rebecca Yi lead paid media and influencer marketing at Acadia 

Alan Carroll and Rebecca Yi