By Matthew Stanton

The Value of Top-Tier Digital Influencers

By Sybil Grieb, U.S. Head of Influencer, Edelman


Influencers allow brands to cut through the noise of online advertising and incorporate their key messages directly into the content people are seeking out. Edelman’s 2018 Trust Barometer showed the most trusted sources of information to be “Experts” and peers, or “a person like myself”. Digital Influencers are often seen both as an expert in their vertical as well as a relatable individual and are viewed as more trustworthy than the brands themselves, thus cultivating a deeper relationship with consumers.

Top-Tier Digital Influencers are typically defined as those with 1MM+ followers across their social channels. However, reach is only one part of the equation. To truly define a Top-Tier Influencer the following should all be considered:

Audience Reach (Approx. 1MM+ total followers across social media)

Engagement (Ideally 5% or more on primary channels *Note: algorithm changes across platforms often affect this metric)

Content Quality (May be a combination of production value, creativity, authenticity, etc.)

Name Cachet (Well known as an expert or leader in their vertical, someone with influence)

The Value of Top-Tier Influencers

Top-Tier Influencers are often the best way to integrate a brand’s key messaging directly into the content target audiences are consuming. The Edelman methodology identifies influencers aligned with your brand, that are already having the right conversation with your target audience. Once identified and vetted, we co-create with the influencer to incorporate your brand’s messages in an authentic and engaging way that is both on brand for your brand and for your influencer partner.

Top-Tier Influencers sometimes have a higher rate (often $50K+ depending on the influencer, the deliverables, level of integration and terms); however, they deliver many things for brands:

Talent with name cachet

Premium quality production studio

The multi-platform distribution to a large, targeted, and engaged community

If you are engaging Top-Tier Influencers to create very custom video content, the final costs are often significantly less than if you were to create all pieces separately: hiring teams to write a script, hire actors, film, edit, and purchase video spots online.

While Top-Tier Influencers do receive many brand offers, they often turn down more deals than they accept. Top-Tier Influencers have to protect their own brand image and typically work to partner with the brands they are passionate about, and partners they know they can develop long-term relationships with.

Best Practices for Partnering with Top-Tier Influencers

Knowing best practices for partnering with Top-Tier Influencers will help you streamline processes and build long term relationships across all tiers of influencers.

Vetting – Vetting influencers is extremely important. At Edelman, we leverage our proprietary tech platform (Starview) to extensively vet influencers for each campaign. In addition to utilizing custom filters for each campaign’s required targets (ex: mother, age 25-34, healthy lifestyle) as well as nice to haves (ex: women’s empowerment angle), we also analyze:

Brand safety

Target audience reach


Content quality

Posting cadence

Past brand relationships

Health of audience (vetting against fake followers)

Custom brand specific filters

Know their Value – Rates can range dramatically with Top-Tier Influencers. We have extensive experience across all tiers of influencer marketing, strong relationships in the space and understand both the art and the science behind pricing potential influencer rates. The Edelman influencer team is comprised of experienced negotiators who bring the combined weight of all our Edelman brand relationships to the table as we negotiate the best deal for our clients.

Include all Asks in Initial Offers – Firm offers are binding (even without contracts). Top-Tier Influencers often have agents, managers and attorneys so it is extremely important to ensure that the initial offer includes ALL deliverables your brand may need. (Example: If an offer is for one video and two social posts, but the contract asks for one video, five social posts and ability to license content and boost across paid media, the agent will see this as a bait and switch.)

Co-CreateDo not dictate. Digital Influencers are typically not actors. It is important to identify the right influencer having the right conversation with your target audience and co-create with them. We create custom Playbooks and have detailed briefing calls to give influencers all the information they need to create authentic content that is on brand for both parties, communicates key messages, and is engaging to the audience.

Amplify and Optimize Assets – To maximize ROI we always suggest amplifying and optimizing all assets created by any tier of influencers!

Edelman’s POV

Spending time to identify the right influencer is worth the investment. Top-Tier Digital Influencers have engaged, targeted audiences and are trusted sources of information as they are often seen as both “Experts” in their vertical, as well as peers or “People Like Me”*. Partnering with key Top-Tier Influencers is a great way to incorporate your messages directly into the content people are seeking out. When working with Top-Tier Influencers, be sure to observe best practices for influencer relations to ensure the best deal, strongest relationship, top quality content integration and a smooth, long term partnership!

*Edelman Trust Barometer 2018: The most trusted sources of information are “Experts” and “People Like Me”.

About Edelman Digital

Edelman Digital is the digital advisory and integrated marketing arm of the world’s largest communications marketing firm. Our global staff, in over 65 offices worldwide, is built to manage the complexity of modern marketing and online reputation, using a data-driven social-first storytelling approach designed to deliver real-time business results. We believe in exploring future-forward technology to advance the stories we tell. The output of our work delivers experiences that transform culture, reputation and relationships to inspire real-world action between brands and consumers.

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