The world of influencer marketing can sometimes feel like the wild wild west, but landing on a fair pricing model should not be complex.
In our 15+ years in the space, we have run thousands of influencer marketing campaigns with over 300 national brands and have access to years worth of data on influencer pricing.
And that’s why we decided to dig into how pricing varies across verticals in the YouTube influencer space, and how industry benchmarks have shifted over time.
To help tame the wild west, we pulled together this data to help brands like yours get an idea of how much influencers are typically being paid by brands for their brand advocacy work.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
WHAT IS THE STANDARD PRICING METRIC FOR INFLUENCERS (AND WHY)?
Now before we get into the data, we thought it would be helpful to define our terms. It’s important to begin by defining CPM, the core metric behind influencer pricing data.
The baseline metric that has become industry standard for measuring eyeballs on content is cost per mille or CPM. For those of us who don’t regularly speak in latin, that really just means cost per 1,000 views.
And while pricing varies quite a bit between creators, the baseline metric for evaluating an influencer’s price point is typically CPM, which normalizes prices across channels.
CPM is a particularly important factor because there is value based on reach, and CPM makes pricing comparable across all marketing initiatives & channels.
That said -- a higher CPM does *not* reflect a “worse” price -- it just means that there’s more value in the market on a per view basis than for a channel with a lower CPM.
Average CPMs will differ by vertical within the influencer space, meaning that on average beauty channels command a much higher price from a CPM perspective than do fishing channels.
Finally, it’s important to note one more thing. When discussing CPMs, there are generally two different CPMs—one used before a campaign starts and one used after a campaign has run. Before a campaign runs, campaign CPMs are forecasted based on creators' average historical view counts. After a campaign runs, actual CPMs are based on -- you guessed it -- actual views of the content.
Given that we are conservative with our forecasted CPM estimates, our evidence finds that actual campaign CPMs are typically 30-60% lower across the board than forecasted CPMs. The data that we’re sharing here represents actual CPMs from historic campaigns. Make sure you take this into account when you are reviewing the data.
WHAT DO YOUTUBE CREATOR RATES LOOK LIKE RIGHT NOW?
The last few years have been very interesting for influencer marketing. The pandemic drove a surge of activity online and oftentimes that meant brands pivoting from in-house creative production to influencer-produced creative.
As you can see in the chart below, 2021 saw a universal increase in demand for creators across every vertical.
Additionally, you can see that when we pulled the CPM data across verticals from January to May of 2022, we continued to see significant increases across almost every vertical.
Time will tell whether this trend will continue, but given increased attention to influencer marketing due to the pandemic as well as increased interest in it after iOS 14’s privacy changes, we wouldn’t be surprised to see it continue an upward climb.
WHAT CORE FACTORS AFFECT PRICING?
Now, you may be wondering, should I take these numbers and use them as benchmarks for my own influencer marketing efforts?
Well, the answer is it depends.
When it comes to determining the cost of influencer content, there are a number of factors that impact price. A common misconception brands have is that influencer marketing pricing should be rigid and comparable to pricing of other, often more programmatic, marketing channels.
And while there are some parallels across marketing channels, pricing for influencer campaigns has a lot more variability from creator to creator than most brands expect, especially based on the consistent pricing associated with paid search or paid social.
The reality is that influencer pricing will vary depending on both the value of each particular creator and how the brand engages with creators.
That’s right -- pricing for creators is in part based on how easy brands are to work with.
Let’s unpack a few areas that can impact influencer pricing.
How deep is the influencer's relationship with the audience?
Without a meaningful connection between creators and audience, influencer marketing falls apart.
And while average video views, engagement rates, and comment sentiment matter, there’s nothing better than looking at how creator content translates into traffic & sales for the brand
How much current demand is there for their channel?
Another important pricing factor is the market demand for creators’ content and the available inventory.
For example, we tend to see rates rise in late Q3 and Q4 in time for the Holiday season -- simply because creators only have so much inventory and want to be sure they are partnering with brands who are paying market rate.
All too often overlooked by brands, the “ease of partnership” from a creator’s perspective plays a vital role in determining pricing.
This “ease” includes deliverables, contract terms, depth of talking points, time to review previews, creative freedom granted to creators, guidelines on the posting process, exclusivity, usage, view guarantees, or requiring additional requests (such as pinned comments or tags). The more you stack on these deliverables, the more often you can expect to see higher price points.
HOW WILL THESE RATES CHANGE OVER TIME?
So, how will these rates change over time? Well, if other more established mediums are any indicator, there is a good chance we will eventually see rates find an equilibrium where they will remain relatively stable.
Over the last decade or more, mature channels like podcasts have seen rates rise and fall regularly but today they tend to be far less volatile.
Realistically though, many of today’s social platforms, YouTube included, haven’t reached that point of stability.
In short, we will likely continue to see rates fluctuate for a while before leveling off. What drives this? Well, a couple of things:
PRICES CONTINUE TO CLIMB ANNUALLY
Creators have proven themselves to be effective marketing channels and are here to stay. Early adopters of influencer marketing have scaled their efforts and new entrants in the space continue to file in.
We expect to continue to see prices increase at an annualized rate similar to inflation in the coming years as supply and demand continue to balance out.
AN EVOLVING INDUSTRY
As influencer marketing grows and scales into an essential form of marketing for brands, supply and demand levels shift, causing fluctuations in pricing models.
IT’S NOT ONE SIZE FITS ALL
So, what should brands expect to pay creators? As you’ve seen, the simplest answer is “market rate based on their requirements”. But as we’ve also highlighted here, there will always be a number of nuances to the ‘benchmarks’ that anyone in our industry publishes.
Influencer pricing is not one size fits all, but we do hope that what we’ve published here it at least directionally helpful in your decision-making.
If you’d like to learn more about specific pricing for influencers in your vertical, book a strategy call.
YouTube Integration Pricing Analysis by Vertical:
This study consists of 12,454 unique YouTube integration activations over the course of January 2018 through May 2022. The 12,454 sample size is made up of 2,896 unique YouTube channels across 237 unique brands.
Each of the 2,896 unique channels is bucketed into one of 16 verticals (Art/Photography, Auto, Beauty/Fashion, Business/Entrepreneurship, Cooking/Food, DIY/Makers, Education, Entertainment, Family/Couple, Gaming, Health/Fitness, Military, Outdoors, Sports, Technology, & Travel).
The analysis then takes the Median CPM [cost of each YouTube integration divided by lifetime views of the video in thousands] across each of the 16 verticals for each year [2018 through YTD-2022] in order to track year-over-year trends.
It is important to note that given this study tracks lifetime views, the older a video is the more time it will have been able to accrue views compared to a video published at a more recent date.