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Is an influencer promoting your business? Sign an agreement – or risk getting burned

By May 23, 2019No Comments

(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)

These days many a small business may be thinking about hiring a social media influencer to help create buzz about their business. It may be worthwhile. But for one owner of a small cafe in Melbourne, it turned into a disaster.

Con Katsiogiannis, in an effort to draw a cool crowd to his business, last year hired Chloe Roberts, a self-described “gym ambassador”, fellow Aussie and social media influencer. Roberts is no Kim Kardashian (who reportedly charges anywhere between $300,000 and $500,000 an Instagram post, if you believe that) but she’s no Instagram slouch either. As of this writing, she has about 128,000 followers who like to keep up on what she’s doing, where she’s eating and what her tan looks like.

Unfortunately, it was Katsiogiannis who got burned. That’s because of a dispute he had with Roberts, which had to be resolved by the Victorian civil and administrative tribunal.

In a handshake deal (first mistake) Katsiogiannis agreed to pay Roberts about A$200 (it later increased to $300) each time she posted a photo of herself enjoying a meal at his cafe. She did that. But then a debate arose around her policy of “archiving”. Small business owners: take note.

In the world of Instagram, every photo you take shows up on your follower’s stream and then disappears in the online ether unless you, the Instagrammer, keeps the photo in your history, rather than “archive” it where the public can’t see it.

But not Roberts. Like many influencers, each post has a financial value and different influencers have different points of view for keeping paid posts around. Roberts told her client that 90% of the views of her images occurred within a week of posting, so that’s what he paid for. She also felt that not archiving her photos clutters up her history and provides an inferior experience for her followers. Katsiogiannis was miffed that the photos of his cafe disappeared so quickly and demanded she keep them un-archived and available for those who want to see them.

All of this could have been easily resolved if there was just a written agreement. But there wasn’t one. So in the end the tribunal had to do their version of Judge Judy and, based only on the conflicting testimonies of the two parties, Katsiogiannis had to cough up an additional $1,676 in unpaid fees because, the tribunal found, “it would be very difficult for the client of an Instagram influencer to establish that it suffered damages if a post was archived prematurely”.

The lessons for a small business owner are obvious: treat an influencer just like any outside, arms-length party and have a written agreement. Also, address the issue of “archiving” because those posts go away quickly and if you want them to stick around in the influencer’s history you better bring up that issue during your negotiations.

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