Influencer marketing is booming. The industry’s expansive reach, projected at $16.4 billion this year, means innovative ways for you to tap into new audiences, increase engagement, and ramp up marketing return on investment (ROI). One way brands can optimize partnerships with influencers is through whitelisting. By amplifying paid social media content across different platforms, whitelisting lets both brands and influencers expand their digital reach.
If you’re a brand interested in new ways to promote yourself on social media, or an influencer curious if whitelisting is a good fit for you, our guide has you covered.
Related: How to be an influencer on Instagram
- What does “whitelist” mean?
- What is influencer whitelisting?
- What are the types of whitelist influencer content?
- How is whitelisting different from branded ads?
- Why should I choose whitelisting over other advertising methods?
- What factors impact the cost of a whitelisting campaign?
- What results can brands and influencers expect from a whitelisting campaign?
- How to whitelist influencers on Facebook and Instagram
- What type of influencers and creators should you whitelist?
- What type of content works well as whitelisted ads?
A whitelist is a list of people who are allowed to access advertising permissions on a particular social media platform. The whitelist definition is the same as an allowlist: a cybersecurity strategy that allows certain users and domains access to profiles and databases.
Whitelisting on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and other social media platforms means that an influencer gives a brand access to their accounts in order to have more control over ad placements.
Once whitelisted, a brand can use the influencer account to publish new content or boost content the influencer has already posted. On Facebook and Instagram, whitelisting allows brands to create new posts or edit and boost existing posts. On TikTok, the influencer must approve each new video and provide the brand with a unique code for each boosted video.
Whitelisting allows brands to:
- Access influencer profiles, content, audiences, and analytics
- Create influencer ads
- Drive traffic through calls to action (CTAs)
- Boost or extend the longevity of influencer posts
- Target specific audiences and lookalike audiences that may otherwise be unreachable
- Increase conversions on partnered content
- Adjust campaign specifications based on real-time performance
Several platforms allow influencers to give brands these permissions, but each one handles whitelisting in a different way. For example, Facebook and Instagram require that the influencer is onboarded into the brand’s Business Manager dashboard, while TikTok uses an account setting and access code to grant advertiser access to influencer accounts.
For many brands, influencer whitelisting is the face of the future of marketing. “Ninety percent of our clients are taking advantage of whitelisting in their campaigns based on our agency’s recommendation,” says Dan Coughlin, growth director at Get Hyped Media. “And that percentage is the same across the industry, including brands who run influencer marketing programs in-house. Whitelisting has become a popular strategy because it amplifies influencer-generated content (IGC) to a highly targeted audience with easily trackable results.” Along with regular influencer marketing, “the results from whitelisting outperform social ad campaigns that use traditional content produced by an in-house team or agency,” he adds.
Brands, take note: Depending on the settings chosen for ad accounts, influencers may be able to change content posted on your behalf. Whitelisting can also result in unexpected advertising costs, since influencer pricing varies based on audience size, experience, length of campaign, and media category.
Whitelisting allows influencers to:
- Extend their reach to the brand’s audience, driving new traffic to their account(s) and increasing engagement
- Spend less time creating branded posts
- Charge additional fees for increased access to their accounts and content licensing
- Build long-term partnerships with reputable brands
However, the process of onboarding with a brand can be time-consuming for influencers. Whitelisting also cedes sole control of their accounts.
Creators need to trust the brands that will be boosting their content since they have the ability to completely change the meaning of a post. For an optimum whitelisting campaign, make sure to have a clear contract illustrating what is expected of each side, such as the approvals needed to make changes and how long an influencer has to review them.
Once granted whitelist access, brands can manage two different types of influencer content, depending on the platform: in-feed content and dark posts.
In-feed content: This content appears with the rest of an influencer’s posts, alongside their organic content, and is visible to all followers and viewers. Brands can edit and boost posts that the influencer has already published. For example, if the influencer organically promoted a brand’s product before their partnership, the brand can edit a typo and then pay to boost that post to reach more viewers beyond the influencer’s audience. Alternatively, it can publish new content specifically for the influencer account. For example:
- Quip advertised its electric toothbrushes using whitelisting in-feed content. The company posted as lifestyle influencer Alexandra Carreno Haines to promote its product as an ideal holiday gift. This kind of organic advertising creates a seamless user experience.
- Beauty company Kiss found that whitelisted video content brought abnormally high engagement rates. Kiss hit 30% engagement on its GLUEliner campaign.
- Dinnerware company Lenox used influencer whitelisting to achieve a 69.2% engagement rate on its year-long rebranding campaign. The brand featured influencers from a variety of verticals in an effort to target new age groups and potential customers in new locations.
Dark posts: Instead of appearing on an influencer’s main feed, these targeted ads appear only to users who fit the criteria the brand has set for the campaign. (For example, brands may target Gen Z women in New York City, or men between 25 and 50 years old who have previously purchased from a competitor.) Dark posts are not exclusive to whitelisting. If a brand creates a dark post on its own, advertisements will be linked directly to the brand account. With whitelisting, dark posts allow ads to appear as a promotion from a trusted community member instead. For example:
- Luxury clothing rental platform Rent the Runway accessed its whitelist influencer data to target customers who had abandoned their shopping carts.
- Artisanal jewelry company Pura Vida used non-whitelisted dark posting on Facebook to boost its sales over Memorial Day weekend, earning a 20% increase on its ROI for the campaign’s ad spend.
- The Canadian arm of beer company Corona personalized its dark posts based on the viewers’ locations. Corona lifted its ad recall by 9.2 points and increased viewers’ intent to purchase the beer by 4.2 points.
Brands can also run split testing using different calls to action, captions, and visuals without spamming an influencer’s followers.
No matter which platform or method you choose, whitelisted advertisements allow brands to create more effective campaigns by amplifying them beyond an influencer’s organic reach.
Whitelist content isn’t necessarily different from branded ads, but a whitelisting strategy provides far more access to influencer content. Rather than relying on the influencer to publish the content or relay the metrics of the campaign’s success, brands have total control over what’s published when. They have direct access to the performance reports (including clicks, impressions, and conversions), allowing them to make quick and easy adjustments based on the success or failure of a post.
Additional benefits of whitelisting for brands include:
- Making edits to organic posts that the influencer has already created: If the influencer has made a minor error on content they’ve created on your behalf, or if you’d like to use a post in a targeted ad with different captions, you’ll have the ability to make those changes without having to wait on the influencer or create a whole new post.
- Adding CTAs to influencer ads: Easily drive clicks to your website, product page, or your own social channels by adding a button with a call to action on whitelisted content.
- Boosting existing posts or turning them into targeted ads: Target organic content that has already performed well and push it to more followers’ feeds or re-target it to new audiences.
- Full access to campaign metrics. If an influencer is publishing branded content on your behalf, without being whitelisted, you don’t have access to the performance reports and must rely on the influencer to accurately share successes and failures.
- Reaching greater numbers of users. The more eyes you can get on your advertisements, the wider your potential new customer pool. Whitelisting allows you to combine audiences and access lookalike audiences (which are determined by social algorithms to be similar to your existing audiences) who are likely to be interested in your brand, too.
Whitelisting allows brands to have control over their advertisements. They can:
- Post and boost influencer content according to their marketing strategy and schedule, without having to wait for an influencer to complete their post
- Tweak copy to ensure it’s error-free and in line with brand guidelines (though to maintain trust with the influencer, brands should always confirm with them before making edits)
- Run A/B testing on ad copy, imagery, and CTAs
- Customize target audiences
- Get more shares on branded content due to the increased number of eyes on the messaging
Whitelisting ad campaigns that feature influencers who are brand-aligned almost guarantees higher engagement for both parties. By taking advantage of pre-existing audiences with similar interests, brands can target potential customers who are likely to interact with them, and influencers can reach potential followers who enjoy the topics they post about.
Whitelisting may be an ideal option for brands because an influencer can present products or services in seemingly organic ways.
For influencers looking to save time, they won’t always have to physically create their ads. They can then take on more paid opportunities with brands using dark posts, since they won’t inundate their audiences with in-feed advertisements.
At the end of the ad period, if the whitelisting campaign is successful, it also sets the brand and influencer up for a positive long-term partnership.
Whitelisting campaign costs vary. Some influencers don’t charge additional fees for licensing their content or extending campaigns. Other influencers will charge more based on campaign details. No matter what, every influencer sets their fees based on their own prioritized variables, such as:
- Follower count: Influencers with more followers will usually charge a higher fee. Lumanu found that 51% of influencers polled charge additional fees for whitelisting. Accounts with over 50,000 followers were more likely to do so than accounts with fewer than 50,000 followers.
- Time period: The longer you have access to an influencer account, the more they will charge. If you don’t want to commit to a longer timeframe initially, you can try adding an extension option to your contract.
- Media run: Bigger influencers may charge for a percentage of the total money spent on the ad campaign.
Brands can reference an influencer’s media kit or request a full breakdown of their price inclusions when you ask them for a quote.
Some look at it like a basic versus a pro subscription to a service or software. You may get the basic version, and whitelisting is an optional add-on; or you may get the pro, where whitelisting is already included.
Whitelisting results depend on the influencer’s audience, the post’s timing, and the content itself. For example, this Kidz Bop campaign had a Facebook video go viral, garnering 370,000 views. One influencer working with Famous Footwear got 150,000 views, while another fell just shy of 20,000.
Brands can generally expect a decrease in cost per acquisition (CPA), and an increase in add to cart (ATC), return on ad spend (ROAS), and click-through rate (CTR). Marketing agency MuteSix ran several whitelisting campaigns to test the metrics. Its results were:
- A 31% decrease in CPA, 50% increase in ATC, and 35% increase in return on ROAS for Beekeeper’s Naturals, a holistic health product company
- An 11% increase in CTR, 13% increase in ATC, and 6% increase in ROAS for Nunbelievable, a cookie company
“Influencer whitelisting is so effective because it allows a brand to get their IGC in front of a much larger portion of their target audience,” Coughlin says. “Brands can select their top-performing creator content from their influencer marketing campaign, and then use whitelisting to turn that scroll-stopping user-generated content into a high-performing social ad. An influencer’s reach is limited and mixed with various audience demographics. With whitelisting, brands have the ability to ensure that their target audience is seeing the boosted content—allowing campaign goals to easily be scaled and achieved more efficiently. It also allows full transparency into important campaign KPIs like impressions, engagements, link clicks, and conversions. Influencer marketing campaigns with whitelisting provide marketers with options for campaign goals as well as the data they need to prove results to internal decision-makers.”
Brands can expect a well-run whitelisting campaign to beat traditional content ad campaigns, according to Coughlin. “Whitelisting also simplifies a brand’s influencer marketing campaign,” he notes. “Brands used to have to either work with more or larger influencers if they wanted to scale their campaigns, and both of those options come with added complexity. Now, whitelisting allows brands to scale their influencer campaigns without the added effort of managing more influencers.”
Influencers can expect to reach a larger audience and to achieve higher engagement rates. According to InfluencerDB, sponsored posts on Instagram have a higher engagement rate (measured as like-to-follow ratio), meaning that influencers can expect higher rates of engagement when they whitelist.
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Once a brand has chosen the best influencers for its campaign and each party has agreed on the terms, it’s time for the influencer to grant the brand account access to theirs.
Facebook and Instagram: To whitelist on Facebook or Instagram, both the brand and the influencer need to have their Facebook page/Instagram account linked to a Facebook Business Manager account. A representative of the brand can take care of the process via Facebook Business Manager, or a brand can source the project out to a whitelisting provider like Leadsie. Once the influencer is set up in Business Manager:
- Go to Business Settings > Users > Partners.
- Click “Add” and then “Give a partner access to your assets” and type in the brand’s Business Manager ID.
- Choose which assets that brand will have access to (Instagram account(s) and Facebook page(s)) and what permissions they’ll have on each.
- Set the permissions for each to be “Create ads.”
When those settings are saved, the brand will have access to create and boost content and target custom audiences using the influencer’s accounts.
You can also use Facebook’s branded content tool to simplify the process, but this method offers the brand less access to the posts since they cannot make edits or add CTAs.
TikTok: Influencers should navigate to their profile by tapping the icon in the bottom right corner, then open the menu by tapping the three lines in the top right corner. Once there:
- Open “Creator Tools.”
- At the bottom of the menu, turn “Ad settings” on. This gives the option to allow third parties permission to use your TikTok posts in ads.
- Personalize settings for each post by navigating to the ad settings on individual videos (found within the sharing menu), choosing to show a post only as an ad (meaning it won’t be searchable or show up on your profile), or permit an advertising client to use it in their ads.
- Agree to the terms.
- Hit the “Generate Code” button.
- Choose the period the video will be authorized to use in ads.
- Click “Authorize” to get the code you need to send to your brand partner.
An influencer who is a good fit for one brand may not be the right fit for another. Brands may be inclined to reach out to a creator because of a successful campaign with another company, but before doing so, consider these questions:
- Does the influencer’s content look like advertisements, or do they seamlessly integrate the products they’re promoting? “Focus on influencers that are very strong content creators. They should also have a history of creating content in a niche that is aligned with your brand,” Coughlin advises. Look for creators who can create ads that don’t look like ads, like these photos from recent campaigns from Smile Generation or The Honest Company. Sponsored content that blends in with the rest of an influencer’s feed is almost guaranteed to perform above traditional ad styles.
- Does the influencer have the right type of account to partner with? In order to whitelist, the influencer must have a business profile to access Facebook Business Manager.
- Does the influencer’s audience match the demographics of your targeted consumer base? “It’s important to consider that the whitelisted content will be coming from the creator’s account, not the brand’s account, so you’ll want to ensure the creator is a strong representation of your brand,” Coughlin says. You’ll be wasting time, money, and resources on both sides if you commission an influencer whose audience is primarily teenagers interested in fashion to promote a food delivery service, no matter how beautiful the content is.
To find influencers who partner with brands, search for content tagged with #ad or #sponsored. If you like the look of a creator’s content but are unsure if their audience is in the right age, gender, or geographic demo, see if they’ve linked their media kit on their profile. If not, try reaching out and asking them to send it to you. Established influencers should have their audience metrics documented in their media kit, which will tell you whether or not their audience is in line with your brand’s.
To figure out the best ads for your brand, experiment with elements including:
- Post aesthetics: Do bright colors or black and whites perform better with your audience? Staged shots or candids? If filtered images perform poorly, try posting something unedited.
- Length and tone of your CTA: One audience may respond well to the urgency of “Don’t delay, buy today!” But another may not like feeling pressured. Try enticing them with “Shop now and get 15% off your first purchase.”
- Type of posts (videos, carousels, stories): On Instagram, you can use whitelisting to post IG Stories or in-feed posts. In feed, you can post videos, static images, or carousels. Adapt the content you want to promote for each post style and see which performs best for you.
- Length and tone of captions, headlines, and tags: Experiment with the text that accompanies the image or video post. Try being straightforward versus teasing, or quick to the point instead of long-winded.
- Buzz words: Try swapping out one descriptor or CTA for another to see if certain terms perform better than others. For example, you might switch out “fall” for “autumn,” or “browse” for “buy.”
Narrow down what works best for your brand, your partners, and the platform you’re advertising on, and work your strategy from there.