Paying influencers, which Forrester defines as independent bloggers, industry analysts, and mainstream journalists, is a bad idea.

Public and analyst relations professionals have been managing influencer programs since long before the first utterance of the words "social media." They know how to strike the right balance of keeping influencers informed while gently motivating them to engage with their brand through 1:1 relationship building. Unfortunately, social media has ignited a population of "influencers" who are in it for the financial rewards more than for developing their personal brands. This has led to many brands jumping on the "pay for play" influencer program bandwagon, which, for some, has led to terrible results. For example, Microsoft learned the hard way back in June when its agency blasted out a paid blogging campaign invite to a large audience of influencers. And other brands that have been caught paying bloggers and influencers to write positive product reviews have also paid the price.  

Paid influencer programs diminish the authenticity of the message you are trying to amplify, have legal implications (if not carefully implemented), and can really irritate influencers who detest pay-for play-programs. Yet over 35% of marketers still use financial incentives. My simple advice: Don't do it!

So how do you incent your key influencers as part of your social reach program? Instead of financial incentives, use intrinsic motivators that help your influencers develop their personal brands, strengthen their professional networks, and establish a credible relationship with you.  

In my latest brief, I provide a few excellent examples of three brands that have adopted organic, nonpaid approaches to their influencer programs. My favorite quote comes from an interview with a luxury apparel brand: "It is important for us to build a 'family' mood so that when they [bloggers] engage with our brand, they know they will spend an amazing time in amazing places with amazing people instead of using [bloggers] as advertising boards."

When it comes to influencer programs, prioritize quality engagements over quantity of brand mentions. Yes, it will take more time to build those 1:1 relationships, but they will pay off in the long run.

What incentives do you use to motivate your key influencers? Please share your best practices!