Is it wrong to offer micro-influencers discounted products instead of free products?

This question really made me doubt about what kind of influencer marketing I would like to enroll. Let me quickly explain the situation. We would like to use influencer marketing, but we unfortunately don’t have the budget to spend it on influencers.

I’m also a bit sceptic on using micro influencers. In the 1st month of our launch we selected 20+ models (0.8k - 3K followers) , spending a 200€ in total. Result: 3 out of 20 managed to send me pictures of them wearing our products. And only 1 of them had pictures that were good enough to share. It also took a lot of time and effort to keep following up in order to get them started promoting.

Are they the one’s to blame? Yes and no. I probably should’ve spend more time in building relationships and ask how they promoted other brands before. Should I have worked with a contract? Don’t know, the amount is too small to start fighting about.

Anyway, this made me a little bit sceptic about using micro influencers and sending free stuff. I saw some other brands that give a 50% discount code to micro influencers. That way they are sure that their money doesn’t get wasted. (they probably also make some profit on it. Problem is that I saw people complaining about this, saying that it’s a scam.

What are your thought on this? Feel free to share your experience of using micro influencers.

Here’s my two cents as a content creator: when brands ask me to pay for their products so I can create content and promote them for free, I immediately block them. What they did was no favor to me, it only shows that they do not respect my time or the efforts I put in to styling/taking/editing my photos and writing engaging captions. I know many other creators feel the same way because it’s topic that frequently appears in our stories. Put it this way, any content creator worth working with will not pay to promote your products.

On the other hand, I know that not every content creator takes pride in their work, some are in it just for the freebies. It’s the brand’s job to do their homework and select accounts that align with their style and requirements. Look at these influencer’s content, check their engagement, see what other brands they’ve worked with, and make sure you set the expectations clear in the email. Unfortunately you might still run into a few influencers that will agree but then never deliver because there are awful people out there, but the chances are much lower if you vet them beforehand. Good luck.


First, pick a range of influencer based on your niche, 3k seems too low for every niche. Second make a contract, let say if until certain point of time your product not reviewed/advertised they should return it

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Would love to see any of the emails that you’ve received that have stood out to you as well written and enticing

While it isn’t necessarily wrong to offer discounted products, as an influencer I would tell you I would never accept a discounted offer on a product unless it was something I was already interested in.

I wouldn’t consider it a scam but if I truly want to promote a product with no monetary exchange…I’m not going to pay YOU to be able to promote your product. There could be exceptions to this but it’d need to be fairly valuable. Like if I wanted to buy a new car and a dealership offered me 50% off on a new vehicle for a promotional campaign I’d consider it. But for an item worth 10euro …I’d decline in a heartbeat

Influencers come in all shapes and sizes and many of them are not very trustworthy. Some just want free stuff, others have the intention to do something but then change their mind once they get the products, others forget, etc. This is why using an influencer agency helps because you can then hold someone accountable if your campaign isn’t properly handled. But there’s a larger cost attached to that.

In my opinion. 3/20 is low but it’s a start. If you were happy with what those 3 did then make sure they get preferred new products or items for giveaways to help further your brand. Ask them directly for referrals of other models they know who might be interested in doing this too and build a database of reliable influencers.

Expect a significant amount of new influencers (micro and larger) to not fulfill their end of an agreement when it comes to free product unless going through an agency. Be prepared to write it off as a promotional expense and take notice of the people who do contribute and focus on cultivating them to promote your brand.


Your business mechanic is not updated to the current SMM market which is something you can read by what you say. Do micro influencers still work? Yes to an extent but not how you imagine it to work. What are you trying to achieve here? Getting premium content from people that have no incentive at all? Gaining followers? Gaining social proof?

What’s the incentive after all since we’re not talking about it? How big is your account? Big enough for your influencers to actually care? How much effort do they have to do make good content in return for what they got? People need incentive wether or not you give a discount, free or what not. Incentive or nothing. The micro influencer market has changed a lot in a short period of time with IG updating all kinds of sides of IG. For example, hiding likes, not being able to buy followers and likes, to being able to automate without having to check every minute and so on…

Instead of spending 200 dollars on 20 microinfluencers with only 1 so so okay photo you could have for example spent it on a content creator (and model) and got some good shots which would have brought you way further than where you’re at now. Or learn content creation yourself and you’ll have full control but it takes time. Dont expect to get followers (or at least not even an amount worth mentioning) from this approach. So from this perspective i think it’s safe to say that it was an investment spent wrong. But that’s okay, you’ve seen the result and you’ll learn from it.

Put yourself in the shoes of the microinfluencer. Would you? Is it worth the effort? With any business, if no MONEY (or BIG incentive) is involved you’ll forever be chasing your micro influencers. Prove me wrong. You get what you pay for. Pay peanuts, you get monkeys. It has always been like that.

You have to spend some to get some.

In my opinion you’ll have to rethink your whole approach if you’d even want to gain anything with it apart from selling something. I assume you’re either dropshipping or doing private label. If dropshopping, you’re approach in my opinion was dead from the start. Nothing looks as hidious as a dropshipped product from Aliexpress. People know about aliexpress these days. It’s not like years ago where dropshipping and aliexpress were unknown to the public. If private label you better start working on something people want to be part of. This is the cool kids club era.

Nothing is meant in a rude way btw. Just try to think this through and you’ll find a way that suits you. Remember it’s a marathon especially today.


I immediately block any brand I see doing this and occasionally call them out in story on my 150k account. Most of the time a 50% “discount” is on top of a purposely inflated price, which I do see as a scam particularly if it’s some shitty dropshipped product. For some companies offering this sort of “discount” to “models” is their entire business model. No. Just no.

You need to choose your influencers more carefully and consider this as the cost of doing business.

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Well there is also an ethical part of it but then again a lot of give aways are fake anyways but I dont think that’s the biggest concern although it could be if you dont have at least a good amount of social proof. As long as he’s not actually scamming I think we could leave that aspect for what it is now wether or not discounted deals are okay.

The OP has to be willing to invest in content and SMM since the cheap route is over with for the most part since June. Mass actions, mass micro influencers and what not dont exist anymore on IG without spending a ton but even then. In his situation i believe his content is the first key stone of his/her business. Skipping that one with unreliable micro influencers and still spending money on it is the worst start.


I think you started your post with the right realization, while I’m happy that you still gave it a real try.


The old saying goes, you get what you pay for. You want a EUR10 Hooker? The doctor visit alone, will cost you 10 times as much.

I’m an influencer, and I work for a digital agency, and with other influencers. As it’s been said here before, 99.999% of all good influencers will not even reply to your offer.

You need to rethink your marketing. Charging others to promote you, will get you nowhere.

What you can do is provide free items to those influencers that you have vetted. Do their photos look good enough for posting? If not, why are you contacting them?

Remember, you must spend money to advertise. Unless you have a hot item that everyone wants, and if so, you wouldn’t be contacting others, they’d be contacting you.


I would half ass the review and only do it if I really want it and can’t find it for free somewhere else.

Only time that happend was when I was offered a nice dry herb vape that was like 200$ or so. Unless your product is very nice and not just decent your not going get anyone worth your time.

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You"re right. I really learned a lot from wasting that money. Probably considering to pay (or at least give a free product to) micro influencers after really checking their profile.

Couldn’t find a better metaphore haha. Better research on finding good influencers is key I guess

Doesn’t sound rude at all. No worries man. It’s indeed dropshipping (clothes). I’m a photograher so all content looks original. I should indeed put more effort and time in finding good influencers, be more selective, and build good relations with that. Or at least give them a proper incentive.

Yes, i’m aiming for 8K-20K influencers now in exchange for a free product. I’m afraid a contract will not have any influence on them returning the product if they don’t meet the conditions.

Indeed, noticed that a lot of the smaller influencers (nano) don’t know what influencing is. They think that they just can get free products. I guess I should just be more selective. How consistent are they? ER? how does their feed look like?

That’s exactly the influencer game, getting sponsored or paid, you shouldn’t be hating on the player.

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My 2 cents as a brand- everyday around 20-50 influencers approach me to “collaborate” and I used to send them free products after doing small research on their work; in exchange for pictures during travelling etc. (They offered that)

They usually receive the products, tell me how great the pictures will be and poof, they are gone. What ratio? More than 3/4…

When asking after 6 months if I can expect the pictures they come up with the stupidest excuses ever like dog ate my phone, and they are adults, often parents and look like responsible ones at first.

Now I tell them to cover the price of shipping, manufacturing plus taxes and guess what? Pictures are coming!

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ratio of 3/4 is insane, especially if you did some research on them before!

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If you’re a brand reaching out, don’t ask for people to buy.
If you’re an influencer reaching out, don’t ask for free products.

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