For a relatively young marketing approach – influencer marketing – influencer content whitelisting is an even newer, more potent technique, further enhancing digital marketing ROI. As often occurs in any marketing program, consumer conversion alternates slightly in response to organic and paid advertising over time.
Instagram whitelisting is a new intersection between these two worlds – organic and paid media. While influencer social posting gains momentum with consumers, paid social platforms can gather more data. Conversely, when paid ads seamlessly pinpoint the best consumers with relevant messaging and CTAs, influencers gain more creative margin to try new things.
What is Influencer Content Whitelisting?
Influencer content whitelisting occurs when an influencer grants the brand advertising permissions to an influencer’s social media account.
Typically, influencer whitelisting has a mutually beneficial relationship for both the brand and influencer. With social ad targeting, brands can reach audiences that they know are responsive to branded content. Similarly, a brand’s social ad targeting exposes the influencer to a wider audience.
As a result, e-commerce brands increase their overall ROI on both influencer and digital ad campaigns. Additionally, influencers get more engaged followers. Results thus far are overwhelmingly positive.
How Does Influencer Whitelisting Work?
Increasingly popular on Instagram, influencer whitelisting allows a brand to assume paid ad control of their Facebook Ads Manager account. Because Facebook Ads Manager oversees paid ads on Facebook and Instagram, influencer posts become sponsored posts on either channel.
And even though Facebook Ads Manager provides the best whitelisting experience, influencer content whitelisting is still a new and complicated approach. It’s a good idea for both brands and influencers to understand some basic whitelisting concepts, terms, and definitions.
At present, influencer whitelisting is nerve-racking for a lot of influencers. Without trust, whitelisting relationships do not work. Both brands and influencers need to feel safe enough to enter into this kind of partnership.
As brands become more skilled in influencer relationship management, their ability to build trust with high-performing influencers is higher than ever. Similarly, as influencers gain more experience partnering with brands, they will feel more confident participating in an Instagram takeover or whitelisting campaign.
Key Influencer Whitelisting Terms and Definitions
Influencer Social Posting
Social media influencers post on their preferred channels – usually Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, or TikTok – and connect with audiences that share similar interests, lifestyles, and values. These posts do not involve any paid-per-click (PPC) or ad spend. Digital marketers refer to these posts as “organic” versus “paid” reach.
Brand Social Ads/Paid Social Media
Paid social media is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on social media channels. Most social channels and search engines allow brands to sponsor posts and ads to target specific audiences.
Instagram Branded Content Tool
When an influencer partners with a brand on Instagram, the Branded Content Tool allows both parties to manage influencer social posting. Typically, the influencer manages their content on Instagram and adheres to the brand’s campaign guidelines.
If the influencer agrees to whitelisting, then a portion of the influencer marketing campaign transitions to Facebook Ads Manager to run paid ads.
Facebook Ads Manager
Facebook Ads Manager is a business service for brands running ads on either Facebook or Instagram. When an influencer agrees to whitelisting, they grant the brand advertising permissions on Facebook Ads Manager to manage all paid (sponsored) posts.
Advertising or whitelisting permissions refer to the individual or organization responsible for creating, targeting, and posting paid ads. In an influencer whitelisting agreement, the influencer typically gives the brand permissions.
For the integrity of the brand-influencer relationship, both parties should fully understand what granting permissions entails and consult an attorney on contractual details.
In social media, dark posts are sponsored posts published on targeted user newsfeeds. Even though influencer content whitelisting involves repurposing pre-existing influencer content for paid reach, these dark posts do not show up on the influencer’s personal page.
LAL (Lookalike Audience)
The brand’s goal when whitelisting an influencer is to use the influencer’s audience data to target similar or identical audiences. These new – yet identical – audiences are called LALs.
UGC (User Generated Content)
Both influencer social posting and paid social ads can produce UGC, or audience engagement taking the form of comments, shares, hashtagged posts, reviews, etc. Often, the volume and quality of UGC is a measure of a brand’s authenticity.
Technically, influencer social posts are UGC, even if a brand hired them for an influencer marketing campaign. Ongoing audience engagement (minus vanity metrics) also qualifies as UGC.
ROAS (Return on Ad Spend)
ROAS is a term referring to ROI from paid digital advertising. Return on ad spend measures revenue earned per $1 paid toward digital ads. Digital marketers frequently refer to ROAS when whitelisting influencer content on a brand’s behalf.
Rights to Use Content in Perpetuity
The legal phrase “in perpetuity” usually means “indefinitely.” In an influencer whitelisting agreement, brands may insist upon “rights to use content in perpetuity,” meaning that they wish to own the rights to some of the influencer’s content even after paid social/influencer campaigns conclude.
Even though the “in perpetuity” phrase is common and generally accepted in influencer content whitelisting agreements, the influencer’s attorney or business manager should ensure as much specificity as possible. For example, the influencer may relinquish rights to specific images or posts included within a campaign period.
Benefits of Influencer Whitelisting
Increased whitelisting partnerships lend credibility to this hybrid of influencer and paid ad marketing. As key players work out the kinks to this new advertising approach, brands and influencers reap the benefits.
An ongoing pain point for digital ads managers is composing compelling content. Brands often spend big dollars on messaging, images, videos, etc. that may (or may not) appeal to targeted audiences.
However, influencer content offers enticing engagement metrics for aligned audiences. By entering into influencer content whitelisting agreements, brands can lower their overall ad spend while simultaneously increasing paid results. Additional whitelisting benefits for brands include (but are not limited to):
- Better ad copy/content selection
- More audience segmentation data
- Deeper relationships with top-performing influencers
- Increased authentic engagement from consumers
- Greater potential for positive UGC across multiple social channels
To date, most publicized benefits regarding influencer whitelisting appear to give advertisers the advantage. However, that assumption is far from accurate.
Influencers stand to gain a substantial boost in engagement and follower counts after a successful whitelisting campaign. Additionally, influencers enjoy:
- More creative freedom on future social posts (since brands are mostly recycling old posts)
- Higher compensation per campaign
- Deeper relationships with their favorite brands
- Greater insight into their audience (thanks to LALs)
Challenges of Influencer Whitelisting
Influencer whitelisting isn’t all “rainbows and butterflies.” Brands and influencers must pay careful attention to detail when collaborating on whitelisting campaigns.
Without an exhaustive contract with an influencer, brands risk violating copyright laws when running whitelisting campaigns. As such, among the leading challenges for brands when whitelisting influencers are:
- Recruiting influencers willing to agree to whitelisting
- Obtaining permissions to influencer ad accounts
- Establishing clear rules of engagement within the influencer content whitelisting agreement
- Maintaining a sustainable whitelisting relationship with the influencer
Often, influencers struggle to grant brands this level of control in a whitelisting arrangement. That’s not to say that most influencers are against whitelisting. Rather, influencer social posting is personal property, and a whitelisting contract relinquishes some of those ownership rights.
As such, among the more common influencers challenges to whitelisting are:
- Refining contractual guidelines with specificity to which posts brands have advertising rights
- Establishing autonomy as an influencer while maintaining a whitelisting relationship
- Transitioning paid ad permissions to the brand or agency
- Making sure that a whitelisting agreement does not negatively impact relationships with other brands
Influencer Whitelisting Best Practices for Success
When it comes to influencer whitelisting best practices, sustainability should be a chief concern. Neither party should attempt to take advantage of the other. As such, here are a few pointers to ensuring influencer whitelisting success:
- Build Trust: Brands and influencers should earn and insist on trust from one another. This does not mean that each party should trust blindly. Rather, earning trust often looks like each party remaining dependable and offering clear guidelines/suggestions for more effective partnerships.
- Communicate: Neither party should take the other by surprise. By avoiding vague language and insisting on specificity, both brands and influencers can understand what is going on at all times.
- Use IRM Tools: Influencer relationship management can be tedious if you complete all tasks manually. Thankfully, GRIN’s influencer marketing platform allows you to automate repetitive tasks, customize templates, and track influencer results. Many IRM tasks required in influencer whitelisting are even more complicated without influencer marketing software. GRIN gives brands the ability to repurpose content for paid campaigns, including influencer content whitelisting.
- Put It in Writing: Content rights legalities and influencer contracts are essential for sustainable collaboration. Using an IRM tool like GRIN offers you a wide range of contract templates with options to customize. These agreements are easy to share with influencers, as well as refer to those guidelines during campaigns.
- Track Results: When investing resources into any marketing approach, your team must establish goals and measure results. In many ways, influencer whitelisting allows you more revenue tracking, since PPC platforms automatically calculate ROAS for you. On GRIN’s influencer platform, you can also track engagement metrics and resulting UGC.
Conclusion: Whitelisting Done Right is a Powerful Influencer Marketing Strategy
Influencer content whitelisting unlocks new marketing ROI for paid advertisers. As an offspring of the already lucrative influencer marketing space, brands can enhance impactful content with paid reach to larger, targeted audiences. Additionally, influencer whitelisting lowers ad spend, since repurposed content decreases the cost of ad creation.
As you look for ways to scale your influencer marketing strategy, consider whether a whitelisting strategy could enhance your brand. One of your top-performing influencers might respond positively to a whitelisting proposition. Done well, the results are mutually beneficial.
This article originally appeared in the Grin.co blog and has been published here with permission.