Jul 23, 2021 - COVID

Colorado is paying social media influencers to tout COVID-19 vaccines

Illustration of a combination word balloon and covid particle, with the covid prongs retracting.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Colorado is paying more than 120 influencers on Instagram, TikTok and other social media platforms up to $1,000 a month to tell people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The influencers are a key part of the state's strategy to encourage hesitant populations to get the vaccine, such as people of color, rural residents, faith communities and young adults.

  • But the cost of the effort β€” and the identities of the influencers β€” remained undisclosed until now.

Details: The Polis administration hired Denver-based Idea Marketing to manage the vaccine information campaign. An $8.8 million contract with the firm runs through Sept. 30, according to documents obtained by Axios in a series of requests dating back to May.

  • The administration is using federal CARES Act money to pay for it.

The campaign advertising (some of which features Gov. Jared Polis) on TV and websites is more visible, but the paid influencers are a lesser-known element.

  • The marketing firm's initial plan set aside $286,500 to pay people for posting positively about the need to get vaccinated on social media.
  • Influencers make anywhere from $400 to $1,000 a month depending on their reach.
  • It's necessary to pay social media users "because we know that all too often diverse communities are asked to reach out to their communities for free β€” and to be equitable, we know we must compensate people for their work," Jessica Bralish, the state public health agency's spokesperson, told Axios.

What they're saying: Colorado vaccine campaign manager Tara Trujillo told reporters Wednesday that "peer-to-peer communication is an important way to reach Coloradans."

How it works: The marketing firm selected 126 influencers, who fit certain archetypes as caregivers, Hispanics, social butterflies and busy bees. Colorado officials approved the list.

  • The state provided pre-approved messages the influencers could share, such as publicizing the vaccine sweepstakes and why it's important to get vaccinated.

Of note: The marketing firm, which did not return a message seeking comment, will get $1.25 million of the total, or 14% of the contract amount.

The bottom line: The campaign has exceeded its targets for impressions and engagements, but the broader effectiveness remains uncertain because minority populations remain underrepresented in vaccine doses to date.


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