Brands, Agencies, and Influencers are a perfect match in the social media ecosystem of building brands, facilitating conversations and generating tangible returns from marketing efforts. Unfortunately, this symbiotic relationship is also subjected to bumpy terrains and unforeseen turns owing to a mismatch of expectations, payment timelines, and arguments in the heat of the moment.
A blogger with a fair amount of clout addressed her concerns on payment delays by writing a negative review about the agency which facilitated the outreach program. The review opened up a long thread of heated exchanges between the blogger and the agency founder, both the parties involved had fair points to raise but the conversation drifted into a dicey turf wherein the blogger accused the agency of threatening and deceit while the agency stood by stated industry norms and refuted public shaming.
Result – The volley of exchange on the review page resulted in immediate clearance of dues.
The founder of a well-known agency in Delhi NCR region took the aerial route on Twitter by presenting an account of payments due with a leading entertainment property and the follow-up ordeal for approximately 2 years. The tweet went viral with support from industry folks and networks
Result – Within hours, the brand contacted the agency and pacified the process for clearance.
The founder at one of the most popular rotational curation networks and a social media professional shared his trail of conversations with a leading media planning agency. Social Samosa covered the viral post and the influencers fraternity also supported the professional’s case.
Result – The Agency took the blow and started clearing payments immediately for all the vendor transaction that had passed on the stipulated time frame.
The cases entailed above have innate similarities in terms of the approach the aggrieved influencers/agencies took to ensure payment clearances. Calling names and public shaming is not the best way to tackle such an issue but if the duration pans out to 6+ months or even 2 years one is not left with much choice on the plate.
In my professional capacity, I have interacted with quite a lot of agency heads who struggle and hustle through the delays in payment clearance from the client’s end ranging from a delay of 6 months to a year or even non-payment leading to a legal battle.
At the same time, we have received requests from influencers who are at the receiving end of this vicious cycle. As a third party to these transactions when we look at the endless mail chains and follow ups which end up into a war of words, we empathise with both the sides of the coin be it agencies or influencers since both of them are a part of a chain which is controlled by the clients/brands or a bigger media network.
The Payments Problem Conundrum
To get to the root cause of this inherent problem, Social Samosa also got in touch with the stakeholders of the ecosystem to understand their perspective on this burning issue. While job switches come across as one of the reasons why the payment is delayed, the complexity of vendor empanelment documentation adds on to the plight of individual / independent consultants and the biggest/most common factor to this problem is the release of payment from the client/brand side which then drips down to the intermediary agency and the influencer/independent consultant.
The Industry Professionals suggest the approach of advance/upfront payments, to avoid a catch 22 situation which is a great solution indeed, but for the short term, cause in this cut throat competition clients and brand will always find new agencies and vendors to work with and hence burning bridges, closing funnels for business.
If we look at the bigger picture, brands, agencies, and influencers are all on the same side facing the menace of finance team who are oblivious to the nature of the relationship, efforts and the urgency at the receiving end. Frankly, the conversations on payment follow-ups start getting nasty and prickly over a period of time and thus the aggrieved parties find solace and quick resolve in a social media outburst.
These instances of conflict that blow out of proportion point out towards the lacuna in the industry, Our endeavor at Social Samosa is to fill in this vacuum and facilitate best practice benchmarking across spheres in the industry. I firmly believe that the larger solution lies in the union of brands, agencies, and influencers, a mechanism which clearly defines the code of conduct and ethics for any engagement between all the parties involved.
We can knock ourselves out and work on a framework for this, but we would love to collaborate with brands, agencies, influencers and industry analysts to build this. Share your thoughts with us at firstname.lastname@example.org , in the mean time we will work on the basics