The ultimate guide to using influencers in paid media

The ultimate guide to using influencers in paid media
Courtney Hall


Courtney Hall

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Social media marketing, influencer marketing, pay-per-click ads...There’s no shortage of digital marketing strategies that companies can use to build their business online. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the options.

The good news is that the most effective marketing efforts are often super strategic about combining and overlapping different methods. One of the most advantageous combinations is between influencer marketing and paid media. When working in tandem, these two strategies can be extremely effective. In this guide, we will take a look at how companies can use the power of influencers in their paid media for maximum results. 

But first, let’s make sure we have a clear understanding of what exactly paid media is--and what it isn’t. 

There are three types of media--paid, earned, and owned

In digital marketing, you can think of paid, earned, and owned media as a three-legged stool. A balanced marketing program needs each type of media as a part of their strategy. Let’s take a look at each of these marketing categories.

Earned Media--In a nutshell, earned media, also known as organic media, is public attention that a business did not pay for and does not control. In the past, this type of media was commonly called “publicity.” Anything that would get others talking and publishing about your brand--like shares, links, shoutouts, or news coverage--constitutes earned media. 

Owned Media--Owned media is media created by your brand to be used on platforms and in content that you control. Common examples include your website, social media accounts, marketing emails, marketing materials, or company blog. 

Paid Media--Paid media is any type of promotion you have to pay for. This is what we think of as good old-fashioned advertising. In the past print ads and broadcast commercials were the backbone of paid media. But in the digital landscape, paid media includes more subtle and creative approaches. Sponsored social media posts, online display ads, and pay-per-click search engine ads are all typical examples of paid digital media. 

Why paid media matters

Even though there are other types of media that may seem more cost-effective, paid media still has its place in any comprehensive marketing plan. By paying for exposure and content promotion, your brand reaches audiences that it might not have through different methods. Paid media remains one of the fastest ways to drive traffic to your brand. And when combined with powerful strategies like influencer marketing, the potential for driving growth for your business is tremendous. 

Different types of paid media

There are a variety of types of paid media out there that brands may leverage. Some popular methods include:

  • Website display ads
  • Retargeting ads
  • Boosted/Promoted Posts
  • Paid search/PPC--Google/Bing Ads
  • Video ads

Today, each major social media channel offers paid media options like Facebook ads, promoted Tweets or Instagram promoted posts.  But when you are intentional about using influencer-created content as the basis for your paid media, you get even more bang for your buck. 

Why Should I Use Influencers in my Paid Media Strategy

The first question many businesses ask is why they should use influencers in their paid media strategy. Isn’t the point of influencer marketing supposed to be its low investment and impressive ROI? 

It’s true that influencer marketing is extremely cost-effective. A 2019 study found that influencer marketing yielded up to $18 in earned media value for every dollar they spend on influencer marketing. Those figures are impressive. But when you pair the impact of influencer marketing with paid ads, the value of your paid media will be even higher than it would have otherwise. Here are a few of the reasons adding influencers to your paid media can yield big dividends:  

You get tested content

In marketing, testing is everything. If an influencer post performs well on social media, it’s already a proven winner. The content resonated with that influencer’s audience and they reacted valuable with likes, shares, and comments. High performing influencer content can easily be repurposed and optimized for use in paid ads and on other social platforms.

Influencers provide instant credibility and social proof

Today’s audience is more skeptical than ever, so if something smells like an ad they will probably scroll on by. But when the content contains an influencer who is already well-known and liked by your paid media audience, they are more likely to stop and engage with the ad. One study found that a whopping 92% of people trust people more than brands. And influencers are just that--people! The presence of the influencer in a paid ad brings a trust factor that’s absolutely vital. 

How influencers can complement your brand efforts 

Use influencers and paid media to dip your toes into new social platforms

Paid media can take time to figure out. If you want to make the most of your budget while you test out a new platform, using an influencer may help. Many influencers are active on more than one channel. Even if a platform is new to you, you might find an influencer who already has an audience. Use that! This way you can ensure that your foray into a new paid media platform is as cost-effective as possible. 

Use paid ads to promote and extend the shelf life of your influencer posts

Paid ads amplify influencer content by extending their reach. An influencer’s audience is narrowly tailored, so their posts will appear before a specific group of people. But if you repurpose the influencer’s post with a paid post, the content can both reach new audiences. 

Social media posts also have a shelf life. Influencers post a lot of content. Once an Instagram post gets its initial flurry of engagement, it will quickly move to the bottom of the feed and become stale. Out of sight, out of mind. But a sponsored post using that same influencer content can be run indefinitely. Your influencer content becomes evergreen. 

For marketers, one of the most attractive aspects of amplifying influencer assets in ads is extending the reach of the content. Influencer marketing reach is generally limited to the people that already follow that influencer, but paid media gives you the luxury of expanded targeting, boosting your efforts.

Target influencer lookalike audiences

One of the best things about social media ads is the ability to fine-tune your audience. When considering influencers, it’s easy to get a read on their audience demographics. If you use an influencer’s audience as a basis for your paid media or retargeting, it can enhance your paid efforts with this information, it could be extremely valuable. 

Another perk of influencer lookalike audiences is that you can create custom demographics that blend the audiences of two or more influencers. A good whitelisting tool can help with this strategy by giving you special access to find prospects that often engage with the influencer. Recommended reading: Maximize Influencer Ads with Influencer Audience Targeting

The Importance of Scaling

Once your influencer marketing program is thriving, it’s important to scale. Influencer programs thrive on momentum, so once you’re on a roll you shouldn’t wait to prioritize growth. 

Here are a few things that you can do to make scaling your influencer program easy. 

Centralize your workflow 

One of the quickest ways that influencer marketing can become overwhelming is if there are no systems in place. Having a prescribed workflow for outreach, follow up, sending out product and storing content will make it much easier to scale your program. 

Be sure to have a method for influencer agreements

Influencer marketing can feel informal, but it’s crucial to have an agreement in place laying out clear expectations for both parties is critical. Make sure that your content expectations are clear. Some brands don’t want to stifle influencer creativity with too many restrictions—and that’s ok! But it’s still important for your influencers to understand what they can do to ensure a successful partnership.

Leverage whitelisting 

Influencer whitelisting is when an influencer allows a brand to produce paid media under their persona by creating dark posts. For example, a paid ad would go out under the influencer’s profile, but is paid for and managed by the brand. 

It’s crucial to make sure that influencers understand what whitelisting is and how to give the right permissions. Automated whitelisting solutions like Lumanu make whitelisting permissions clear and easy for both the influencer and the brand.

Schedule relationship-building tasks

It’s easy to let emails fall to the bottom of your inbox. Keep a calendar that has reminders for conversation follow-ups and  friendly check-ins. Maybe even keep track of birthdays to give a shout out on your brand page or send an extra gift. These little things make your influencers feel valued, making them less likely to move on. It’s easier to retain an  influencer than constantly onboard new ones.

Tips/Things to remember

Get the right permissions

When you start working with your influencers, be sure to get the proper permissions to use their content in your other marketing endeavors. If you don’t have explicit  permission to use their posts in your paid media you could run into a sticky situation down the road. 

Account for paid media when budgeting and planning for influencers

Make sure that no one portion of your marketing budget exists in a vacuum. It’s a good idea to add paid media costs to your budget when you’re developing your influencer marketing budget. This way the decisions you make about repurposing hot influencer content won’t be limited. 

Determine your KPIs for influencer and paid

While you should budget for the paid media aspect of your influencer marketing plan, be sure to determine the proper independent KPIs for influencer content performance versus paid media. The two campaigns might have different goals (e.g. brand awareness versus lead generation).

Follow paid media best practices 

Paid media is its own temperamental animal. You should always use a paid media expert to execute the paid aspects of the campaign. That way you can be sure to properly tweak your ad spend and optimize your ad copy for the platform. Also, be sure to optimize your content for each platform. 


As we move into the future, paid media use of influencers will continue to become even more popular and lucrative than it is today. Hopefully, this ultimate guide has given you the knowledge you need to take advantage of the power of using influencers in your paid media.

Courtney Hall

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