Influencer Content Whitelisting – Everything You Need to Know

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Influencer marketing is a relatively young approach, and yet influencer content whitelisting is an even newer, more potent technique, further enhancing digital marketing ROI. But what is it exactly? 

Bar graph of "On What Channels Do US Marketers Want to Use Influencer Content in 2021?"
Image via eMarketer 

Transcript: A bar graph showing which channels U.S. marketers want to use influencer content in 2021. 

  • Paid social: 93% 
  • Brand’s organic social: 73%
  • Website: 53%
  • Programmatic: 38%
  • Email: 36% 
  • Product landing page: 24%

Influencer content whitelisting is a new intersection between the two worlds of organic and paid media. While creators posting organically on their social profiles gains momentum with consumers, paid social efforts 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 a brand advertising permissions to their social media account. 

Typically, influencer whitelisting is 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, ecommerce brands increase their overall ROI on both influencer and digital ad campaigns. Additionally, influencers get more engaged followers. Results thus far are overwhelmingly positive. 

What is the difference between influencer whitelisting and influencer allowlisting? 

Influencer whitelisting and allowlisting are just different names for the same thing. In fact, there are several terms for this technique, including: 

  • Creator licensing 
  • Creator promotion 
  • Influencer white labeling 
  • Paid media amplification 
  • Creator advertising access

As an industry, we’re shifting away from the term “whitelisting” as it’s not an inclusive term. Instead, GRIN and several other leaders in the creator economy are embracing “creator licensing.” 

See also: Goodbye, Influencer Whitelisting: Hello, Creator Licensing!

How does influencer whitelisting work?

On Facebook and Instagram, creator licensing (influencer whitelisting) allows a brand to assume paid ad control of a creator’s Facebook Ads Manager account. Because Facebook Ads Manager oversees paid ads on Facebook and Instagram, creator posts become sponsored posts on either channel.

TikTok is also stepping up with creator licensing capabilities of their own. However, their process is a bit different than Meta’s, but we’ll get to that a bit later. 

And while it’s not nearly as user-friendly, brands can still manually replicate the process on YouTube.

Since creator licensing is still quite new, it can be a bit complicated. It’s a good idea for both brands and influencers to understand some basic licensing concepts, terms, and definitions. 

Why trust is essential in creator licensing 

At present, licensing is nerve-racking for a lot of creators. Without trust, licensing relationships do not work. Both brands and creators need to feel safe enough to enter into this kind of partnership.

As brands become more skilled in creator relationship management, their ability to build trust with high-performing creators grows too. Similarly, as influencers gain more experience partnering with brands, they will feel more confident participating in a licensing campaign.

Someone recording three happy influencers dancing
Trust is an important part of influencer content whitelisting

Key influencer whitelisting terms and definitions

Influencer social posting 

Social media creators post on their preferred channels—usually Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitch, or TikTok—and connect with audiences with similar interests, lifestyles, and values. These posts do not involve any ad spend and aren’t pay-per-click (PPC). Digital marketers refer to these posts as “organic” versus “paid” reach.

Branded social ads/paid social media

Paid social media includes any PPC advertising on social media channels. Most social channels and search engines allow brands to sponsor posts and target ads toward specific audiences. 

Instagram Branded Content Tool

When a creator partners with a brand on Instagram, the Branded Content Tool allows both parties to manage social posting. Typically, the creator manages their content on Instagram and adheres to the brand’s campaign guidelines.

If the creator agrees to licensing, 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 a creator partners with a brand for licensing, they grant the brand advertising permissions on Facebook Ads Manager to handle all paid (sponsored) posts.

TikTok ad authorization 

When a TikTok creator partners with a brand for licensing, they have to enable “ad authorization” within their ad settings and generate a unique code for whichever video they and the brand agree upon. The brand can then use this code to set up and run its ad.

Advertising/whitelisting permissions

Brands must receive advertising, whitelisting, or licensing permissions from a creator before they can create and launch paid ads.

Snapshot of Meta permissions adding feature for influencer content whitelisting
How to add permissions on Meta

For the integrity of the brand-creator relationship, both parties should fully understand what granting permissions entails and consult an attorney on contractual details. 

Dark posting 

In social media, dark posts are pieces of promoted content that are not also shared organically. Whereas 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 licensing a creator is to use their audience data to target similar audiences. These new—yet identical—audiences are called LALs.

Engagement

Both creator social posting and paid social ads can produce engagement from the audience. These may be comments, shares, or likes. Often, the volume and quality of engagement is a measure of a creator’s authenticity.

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 the paid social campaign ends. 

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 or licensing partnerships lend credibility to this hybrid of influencer and paid ad marketing. As key players work out the kinks in this new advertising approach, more and more brands and influencers will feel comfortable trying this technique and reap the benefits.

Brand benefits 

An ongoing pain point for digital ad 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 and production budget while simultaneously increasing paid results. Additional licensing benefits for brands include (but are not limited to):

  • Better ad copy/content selection
  • More audience segmentation data
  • Deeper relationships with top-performing creators
  • Increased authentic engagement from consumers
  • Greater potential for positive user-generated content across multiple social channels

Influencer benefits 

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 grow their follower counts after a successful licensing campaign. Additionally, influencers enjoy:

  • More creative freedom on future social posts (since brands are mostly recycling old posts).
  • Higher compensation per campaign, especially if they’re also earning affiliate commission.
  • 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 creators must pay careful attention to even the smallest details when collaborating on licensing campaigns. 

Brand challenges 

Without an exhaustive contract with a creator, brands risk violating copyright laws when running whitelisting campaigns. Other leading challenges for brands when running creator licensing campaigns include: 

  • Recruiting creators willing to agree to licensing. 
  • Obtaining permissions for creators’ ad accounts.
  • Establishing clear rules of engagement within the influencer content whitelisting agreement.
  • Maintaining a sustainable licensing relationship with the creator.

Influencer challenges 

Often, influencers struggle to grant brands this level of control in a whitelisting arrangement. That’s not to say that most creators are against licensing. Rather, social posting is personal property, and a licensing contract relinquishes some of those ownership rights.

As such, among the more common challenges of licensing for creators 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 licensing agreement does not negatively impact their 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 ensure creator licensing success:

  • Build trust: Brands and creators 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 Creator Management platform allows you to automate repetitive tasks, customize email templates, and track creator results. Many IRM tasks required for creator licensing are even more complicated without a platform. GRIN helps brands repurpose content for paid campaigns, including creator licensing. 
  • Put it in writing: Content rights legalities and creator contracts are essential for sustainable collaboration. Using an IRM tool like GRIN offers you a wide range of contract templates with options to customize. 
  • 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 capabilities since PPC platforms automatically calculate ROAS for you. With GRIN’s Creator Management platform, you can also track engagement metrics and resulting UGC.

Key takeaway: Whitelisting done right is a powerful influencer marketing strategy. 

Influencer content whitelisting (creator licensing) unlocks new marketing opportunities 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, creator licensing 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 creator licensing could enhance your efforts. One of your top-performing influencers might respond positively to a licensing proposition. Done well, the results are mutually beneficial.

Frequently Asked Questions

Influencer whitelisting, also known as creator licensing, is the process of a brand putting ad spend behind a creator’s post. When a social media user sees the ad, it will look like it came from the creator, not the brand, so it can seem much more trustworthy. 

If you’re looking to whitelist on Facebook or Instagram, you need to have your influencer grant you advertising permissions through Facebook Business Manager by adding you as a partner. 

On TikTok, the creator needs to enable ad authorization and provide you with a specific video code, which you can use within your brand’s ad account.

There is no set rate when it comes to influencer whitelisting. Each influencer will have their own pricing based on various factors, including: 

  • How long the brand will have run the ad for 
  • Whether the brand wants to use an existing piece of content or for the creator to develop a new post for licensing

On top of this, creators may charge a percentage of the ad spend, typically between 1-5%.

Whitelisting on Instagram is the process of a brand paying to run an influencer’s post as an ad from the influencer’s account. This approach offers influencers a way to earn money and build their following and brands a chance to increase their ROI and reach new audiences.

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