Influencer Seeding is Dead

April 10, 2023

By Jason Molina, Executive Director, Digital & Social

Well, maybe on life-support. Sometimes called gifting, influencer seeding is the process by which a brand and/or agency identifies influencers to contact and send product to, free of charge. This is a routine form of influencer engagement that was among the earliest ways brands interacted with tastemakers.   

Unfortunately, it has slowly lost effectiveness as expectations for payment have grown across every class of influencer, from nano to macro. Influencers are now far more averse to any hint of non-payment, reciprocity encouraged, outreach and/or are too inundated with free product and thus, harder to pique their interest. The competition for their consideration is fierce, so brands need to be strategic about when it makes sense (rarely IMHO) to leverage seeding and when to partner up. 

Increasingly, we’re observing significant front end brand investment in staffing for seeding outreach. This includes ensuring an over-sourced influencer seeding list, to account for low response rates, and shipping & handling of product. Outcomes you ask? Nominal backend return, anywhere from a 10%-20% response & post rate. That’s not even counting the actual performance of the post in question, which can be even more challenging to predict or track. 

There are of course, other factors which must be considered when seeding. Perhaps the most important is the FTC disclosure requirement, which many brands do not realize is still in effect when seeding or gifting. Per the FTC, “If a brand gives you free or discounted products or other perks and then you mention one of its products, make a disclosure even if you weren’t asked to mention that product”. Unfortunately, this can be easily overlooked and leaves a brand open to liability if the wrong person sees the post. Another important factor to consider is the potential for your outreach to be received poorly by an influencer. The worst-case scenario would be for the influencer to then publicize the perceived slight to their audience. This can lead to a cycle of negative publicity for the brand in question. 

What brands need to know prior to potentially seeding: 

  • Would the average person consider your product a valuable or unique product? It’s far easier to garner the attention and action of an influencer target by sending them the latest limited edition XYZ fill in the blank product, than something they could buy off the shelf at the local grocery store.  
  • Is the influencer target already a fan of your brand or product? If they are, your success rate will be much higher. 
  • Are you a well-known brand name? Some influencers will be more likely to consider a well-known brand name that gives their audience, and other brands, the perception of accomplishment and legitimacy. 

If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, then strongly consider partnering with influencers. Notice, I’ve said partnering instead of paying. The most successful paid influencer marketing is predicated upon true partnership between brand and influencer. It starts with equitable compensation and ends with authentic collaboration, driving towards an aligned set brand objectives. 

Need assistance understanding how best to partner with influencers? Fear not, Golin can help guide the way through: 

  • Influencer mapping – Leveraging proprietary tools to effectively map influencers directly to brand and audience traits. 
  • Influencer negotiation, contracting, and partnership – From celebrity influencers, down to nano-influencers, we are adept at negotiating equitable and effective contracts to align with brand goals. Once the ink is dry, we don’t manage influencers, we partner and build with them. 
  • Influencer measurement – How are your influencers driving towards your brand metrics along the consumer journey? Whether it be awareness, consideration, or purchase, we build measurement strategy to fit a brand’s objectives to ensure our partners are receiving the highest return on their investment.