Are influencer partnerships the inevitable future of business?

That’s why the rise of “micro” influencers, with follower counts between 10,000 and 100,000 and “mid-tier” influencers, with followings up to a half-million, have become valuable levers for driving revenue. Not only are these content creators more financially accessible to hire, but smaller personalities can often connect with passionate, niche communities.

“I’ve worked personally on campaigns up to £150,000 ($182,000) over a period of up to six months, or ambassadorships with a list of macro talents,” says Gorbould. “But then you have your one-off collaborations with micro influencers, where they could be doing something for £300 ($365).”

If brands decide to take the influencer partnerships offline to traditional channels, like advertising or event appearances, or if they choose to include exclusivity and usage rights that prevent influencers from promoting competitive products, it can get expensive. Still, the diversity of marketing opportunities remains appealing. “Everything can be monetized,” says Gorbould.

“In a world where consumer attention is fragmented and fleeting, influencers are emerging as a beacon of authenticity and relatability, offering a human touch that conventional corporate communications often lack,” says Karen Freberg, a professor of strategic communication at the University of Louisville , US. “Consumers, accustomed to the predictability of corporate messaging, are increasingly seeking genuine interactions and connections. When they see an ad or receive an email, it’s like, ‘OK, I’ve seen this before’, and their attention has shifted.”

She adds, “the human aspect of an influencer is what takes them over the edge”, which can make them exceptionally effective marketing conduits.

A profitable strategy

The point of these partnerships, of course, is to come out the other side with a measurable profit.

One common metric of influencer marketing is sales conversion. “Brands can indeed track an influencer’s impact through links or discount codes,” says Samuel Burgess, a UK-based consultant, who previously managed Gymshark’s athlete- and influencer-marketing program.

What’s considered ‘good’ for a brand varies among partnerships and strategies, but Burgess has sometimes seen numbers like “4% through to upwards of 15%”, and knows “certain brands see around 20% to 25% of their sales through influencers” .

For Trigwell Cosmetics, an online makeup brand founded during the pandemic, influencer marketing is their “bread and butter”, says CEO Zoe Trigwell, based in the UK. Data shared with BBC shows the marketing strategy brought in around 25% of their £2.9m annual turnover in 2022. For their most successful influencer and social campaign in December, they sent free products to influencers who then featured those products on their TikTok shops, and earned a commission every time a sale was made. As a result, Trigwell sold out 2,500 limited edition powder puffs in five-and-a-half hours.