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What is an influencer?

Influencers are people who have a significant following on social media (eg Instagram, YouTube and TikTok) and other online platforms. Influencers can be found in various fields (eg beauty, lifestyle, fitness, travel, gaming and food) and could be bloggers, vloggers, content creators, models or celebrities with a strong social media presence. Influencers generally make and share content (eg photos, videos, blog posts or live streams) that resonate with their audience. Influencers have the ability to impact the opinions, behaviours and purchasing decisions of their followers due to their perceived authority, expertise or relatability within a particular niche or industry.

Types of influencers

Influencers are typically categorised by the way they reach their audience (ie their platform, for example, Instagram influencers are those who have a large Instagram platform) and their number of followers. Influencers may be categorised as:

  • mega-influencers (or ‘celebrity-influencers’) if they have more than 1 million followers (these are often celebrities who have found fame in another way before becoming an influencer, eg the Kardashians)

  • macro-influencers if they have between 500,000 and 1 million followers

  • mid-tier influencers if they have between 50,000 and 500,000 followers

  • micro-influencers if they have between 10,000 and 50,000 followers

  • nano-influencers if they have between 1,000 and 10,000 followers

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is a type of digital marketing where a business collaborates with an influencer. The influencer promotes the business’ product, service or brand to their followers. Influencer marketing generally involves leveraging the influencer's reach, credibility and influence to create authentic and persuasive content that resonates with their followers. This type of marketing provides a celebrity endorsement with the influencer driving conversations with their followers about the product, services or brands they are promoting.

How do I find the right influencers for my business?

To find the right influencer for your business needs, you will need to determine your target audience and research what type of influencer is right for you. Look for influencers who align with your target audience, industry, and brand values. You should also consider factors such as the influencer’s audience, reach, engagement and content quality. Finding a specific influencer to collaborate with can be hard, so consider researching different influencers to see if you want to approach them or creating a campaign to encourage potential influencers to come to you.

When working out whether a specific influencer may be a good fit for your brand, consider:

  • reviewing different social media platforms and how they may help your campaign (eg if your target audience enjoys imagery, an Instagram influencer may be a good fit. If your target audience prefers video content, a YouTube influencer may be a better fit)

  • looking for influencers that are highly engaged with their audiences and understand their social media platforms well (eg Instagram influencers should know how to use hashtags well)

  • checking how much and how often the influencer posts. This includes how engaged they are with their followers (eg by responding to comments)

  • reviewing all social media platforms used by influencers and reviewing their previous marketing campaigns to get a sense of their style and persona

  • checking what engagement the influencer gets (eg by reading some of the comments and responses to their content to make sure that the engagement aligns with your business’ needs)

  • ensuring the influencer aligns with your business goals and values and their audience includes your business’ target demographic

  • asking the influencer to provide relevant metrics for their social media profiles

What metrics should I consider before collaborating with an influencer?

Before collaborating with an influencer, you should ask them to provide certain details to help you assess whether they are a good fit for your business and the marketing campaign you have in mind. Some of these metrics include:

Follower count

While a larger follower count may lead to more people seeing your marketing campaign, follower count isn’t everything. Generally speaking, ​​influencers with a large following charge more for their campaigns, have busier schedules and are harder to get hold of. On the other hand, influencers with a smaller follower count tend to be easier to find and reach out to, more affordable and tend to have higher engagement rates. Smaller influencers may also be able to reach more niche audiences.

Make sure to consider fake followers when assessing an influencer’s follower count. Fake followers are social media accounts that don’t belong to real people that are used to bolster follower numbers. To determine whether an influencer has fake followers you can:

  • keep an eye on any discrepancies in engagement rates (generally, very low engagement rates indicate the presence of fake follower accounts, while very high engagement rates suggest the presence of automated engagement bots)

  • look out for spammy and irrelevant comments (these are more likely to be from fake followers)

  • check an influencer’s follower-to-following ratio (ie the number of accounts they follow compared to the number of accounts that follow them). Generally, authentic influences will have more people following them than they follow

  • consider using tools to help you determine whether an influencer has fake followers (eg Upfluence or Social Blade)

Estimated reach and impressions

An influencer’s reach is the number of unique people who see their content. Impressions are the number of times that an influencer’s content is displayed (ie the number of times a piece of content is seen but not necessarily engaged with). Often, estimated impressions are higher than estimated reach. This is because a person may see a piece of content more than once. 

Estimated reach and impressions are useful metrics as they provide a simple snapshot of an influencer’s general impact

Engagement rate

Engagement rate is used to measure the level of interaction and engagement that an audience has with a particular piece of content. The formula for calculating engagement rate is (total engagements / total followers or impressions) x 100. Total engagements include things like likes, comments and shares.

An influencer’s engagement rate helps determine the true impact their content is having on their audience. As a business, you want to make sure that your product/service/brand is shown to a real and active audience. An influencer’s engagement rate shows who is actually liking, commenting and showing interest in the influencer’s content and, therefore, has the potential to become a real customer. In other words, engagement rate helps predict how well your influencer marketing campaign may perform.

Frequency of branded content

Check an influencer’s content to see how much of it is branded content and compare the amount of branded content to the amount of organic content (ie non-branded content that speaks to the influencer’s authenticity).

People exposed to too much branded content on an influencer’s feed may experience ‘influencer fatigue’ and grow tired of that influencer’s content. Posting too much sponsored content can result in an influencer’s content becoming oversaturated with brand collaborations while lacking organic content to engage their audience. 

A high frequency of brand content (also known as a high ‘saturation rate’) is unideal for influencer marketing campaigns. This is because followers may not trust an influencer if they are constantly promoting brands. Further, your brand may go unnoticed if promoted by an influencer involved in lots of brand promotions.

What are the laws on influencer marketing?

The governing authority for influencer posts depends on: 

  • whether the influencer receives payment (eg money, gifts, access to events or a promise of future payment) for their content, and 

  • the degree of control a business has over that piece of content

If the business has control over a piece of content, it is regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). If a business does not have control over the piece of content, it is enforced by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Any content that is an endorsement or advertisement must be clearly and prominently labelled as an ad. Both the influencer and the business must ensure that this is the case. 

If an influencer receives payment (including gifts or freebies) for a piece of content, but the business has no control over that content, it has to be clearly identified as ‘paid-for’ content. This could apply if, for example, your business provides an influencer with free copies of your product for them to use to publish their honest review. 

In practice, there is no real difference between labelling something as an ad and labelling something as paid-for content. For more information, read Social media advertising and endorsements.

What are business considerations for working with influencers?

Influencers as well as businesses collaborating with influencers need to comply with influencer marketing rules and regulations. Whenever content is published on your business’ behalf (eg if an influencer posts about your product), you must ensure that the content is not misleading. This means that when you’re working with an influencer, you should always check all sponsored content to ensure that it is properly identified as advertising.

It is a good idea to clearly outline the requirement for influencers to disclose advertisements in your Influencer contract. By doing this, you help ensure that the influencer understands their legal obligations. Similarly, if you provide influencers with free products, consider inducing clear instructions that their content should be labelled as an advertisement. For more information, read Social media advertising and endorsements. and see the CMA’s guidance on business responsibility and social media endorsements.

How are influencers paid?

Influencers may be paid a flat fee per post to feature your business’ product, service or brand. This is often referred to as a ‘brand deal’, ‘brand sponsorship’ or simply ‘sponsored posts’. Other ways to pay influencers include:

  • affiliate commission - affiliate marketing involves someone (eg an influencer) referring their audience to a product or service via their platform. Each time someone makes a purchase through the affiliate’s unique link (ie their affiliate link) or using their promo code, the affiliate earns a commission

  • affiliate marketing - similar to affiliate commissions, however, influencers are paid based on the number of conversions they bring in through their affiliate link

  • ad views -  influencers may be paid a fee based on the advertising views they get on their channel or piece of sponsored content (around £15 per 1,000 views). This is particularly relevant for video-based platforms like YouTube

  • brand ambassador contracts - an influencer can become an ambassador for your business, making content and promoting your products or services on a regular basis. In most cases, the influencer would provide their services as an independent contractor 

  • free products - small influencers (especially nano-influencers) may be willing to post reviews in exchange for free products. However, most influencers generally prefer to be paid

How much are influencers paid?

How much an influencer collaboration will cost depends on a variety of factors, including the influencer’s follower count, the type of social media post involved and the platform (or platforms) for the post. 

Generally speaking, an influencer with more followers will be more expensive. The type of content being created by the influencer will also affect the price. While an Instagram influencer may take hours to take a perfect picture, a YouTube influencer may take days to prepare, shoot and edit a video. Influencers may also charge different rates for different social media platforms. This is because different social media platforms have different algorithms, which contribute to the difference in visibility and reach for content. For example, an Instagram story might generate higher engagement compared to a tweet, leading to potentially higher costs being associated with it.

How do I hire an influencer?

When hiring an influencer to promote your business and its products and/or services, it is important that you enter into a written contract with the influencer. This helps ensure that you have a written record of the business-influencer relationship and the agreed terms of the engagement. Use an Influencer contract to create such a written agreement.

Bear in mind that any influencer you hire may come across your business' confidential information or trade secrets. To keep this information confidential, consider entering into a Confidentiality agreement with the influencer. For more information, read Non-disclosure agreements.

If you’re planning on using the influencer’s image (ie an image of the individual themselves) for promotional purposes, you should ask them to sign a Model release form. For more information, read Image rights and Model release letters. Note that, depending on your needs, you may need a bespoke model release form.

If you have any questions or concerns about influencer marketing or engaging an influencer, Ask a lawyer. For more information on marketing in general, read Marketing and the law, Co-marketing and co-branding and Considerations for email marketing. You should also review the CMA’s guidance on business responsibility and social media endorsements.

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