Influencer marketing is an inevitable byproduct of social media. Why? Because it’s basically a super-charged testimonial. It’s word-of-mouth advertising on a large scale, delivered by social media users with huge followings and high engagement. Instead of one person at a time finding your reviews, thousands or even millions of people can learn about your business from an influencer they already know, like, and trust.
When done well, influencer marketing works. One study found that 71% of companies that have used it say the quality of customers and traffic that influencer marketing brings in exceeds what’s provided by other channels.
Will influencer marketing work for your business? Read on to learn more and decide.
What is an influencer?
Influencers have more than just devoted followings — they have the tools, authority, and credibility to persuade large numbers of people to take actions favorable to your business. Some of them might be well-known celebrities, but remember: If a famous person doesn’t use their platform to influence behavior, they aren’t an influencer.
An influencer might not be a household name. They could be a blogger, an entrepreneur, or a person with authority or expertise within a niche — they might know a lot about a particular topic or field. What matters is that they’re a celebrity to their audience. Even if most people in the world don’t know who they are, to their followers, they’re on par with famous athletes and actors. An influencer could be a journalist, an industry expert, or even an academic.
They may wield influence on one media channel, or on a handful of them. They might use a blog, a podcast, YouTube, or social media outlets like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, or Pinterest to reach their audience. In terms of volume, Instagram is the most popular channel for social media influencers, but influencer marketing must be filtered through the particulars of your business. Your approach if you sell high-end beauty products might be very different from that of someone who offers, say, business tools.
How to engage with an influencer
You can only benefit from influencer marketing if you have a relationship with an influencer. To build one, you should first look for the ideal people who align with your business interests, products, goals, and values. Here are four helpful steps that will help get your influencer marketing started on the right foot:
1. Narrow your search to influencers with the right reach
Begin by considering types of influencers. Macro-influencers tend to have 100,000 to several million followers. These might be pop culture celebrities, but they can also be industry authorities. For example, an influencer could be an expert who is seen as the “go-to” source for trusted information about a particular hobby or interest — like Bob Vila for home improvement.
Micro-influencers have smaller audiences but often ones with greater devotion and engagement, measured by how often someone likes, comments, saves, or otherwise interacts with a post. One study found that influencers with fewer than 1,000 followers averaged 15% engagement rates, whereas influencers with over 100,000 averaged only 2.4%. It’s always important to check an influencer’s engagement: If they have 100,000 followers, but their posts only have a few comments, that’s probably a sign they’re not a good fit for your marketing needs.
If your business operates within a smaller niche, you may not need to go after “big fish,” or macro-influencers who might charge tens of thousands of dollars to post about your business. Instead, you might identify 5-10 micro-influencers who likely have more sway with your target audience. What’s not to like about good results for less cost, and within easier reach?
2. Find the best influencers to represent your business
Once you understand the type of influencers you’re looking for based on reach and engagement, here are some things to consider to make sure the ones you contact have natural alignment with your business: Do they post about things related to what you offer/sell? Are they experts or authorities in your business’s niche? Do their values match yours to a degree you’re comfortable with? Does anything about their influence make you uncomfortable? This is critical, because you’re asking someone to speak on your behalf!
One way to identify influencers who would be a good fit for your business is to ask your current audience for recommendations. Who do they listen to and follow on social media? What podcasts do they subscribe to? You could do a survey through email or social media to learn more about the voices catching your audience’s attention.
Next, look to your competitors. Which influencers are they using? Do you like the effect it has on their marketing? Can you do something comparable — or better?
You can also use various online tools to maximize influencer marketing, like the ones listed in this article.
3. Choose a platform
Begin by choosing just one network to start with. You can always expand later! Ideally, pick a platform where your business already has a presence and following. Consider the demographics of various platforms and how they align with your business. Here’s some great advice on how to choose the right platform to kick things off.
4. Reach out to influencers
Usually, you can initiate conversation via private messaging or through contact information an influencer lists on their profile. A lot of businesses first make contact by sending free stuff — they share the products they’re hoping influencers will like and promote. While this can be important for products that absolutely need to be experienced first-hand, it might also put undue pressure on the influencer. And emails sent cold asking for their help might get overlooked, especially if they get tons of solicitations.
You want to be respectful and stand out. You can start by offering to help the people you’re contacting in some way. Here are some ways you can do that:
- Like or comment on their posts
- Make your comments helpful and informative for their audience
- Share their posts
- Review their products
- Offer to interview them and be sure to share it with them when it’s published — on your social media accounts or elsewhere — so that they can promote it, too
Be authentic and follow up. Earn trust. Don’t treat the relationship like a transaction. Keep nurturing it!
How to create an influencer marketing campaign
Once you’ve won an influencer’s trust, you can work out an agreement. It’s always best to have a lawyer advise you on formal agreements, but you might also seek assistance from an influencer agency or other third-party service. Then, work together to create the marketing campaign you want them to implement. To get your creative juices flowing, this article has some great examples of large-scale campaigns.
Here are some key points to remember:
- A campaign will be more successful if you can get an influencer to post multiple times rather than just once. Social media moves too fast for just one post to have much impact. So buy or arrange for several posts from each influencer you engage with.
- Be sure to track your results. If you’re making specific sales offers, include coupon codes, tracking links, or affiliate codes so that you can monitor traffic and purchases resulting from your campaign. You can also create a unique hashtag to track engagement.
Learn from experience! After a campaign, assess what worked and what didn’t. Implement lessons in the next campaign. The more campaigns you do, the better you’ll get at them, and the more you’ll grow your business’s influence and revenue.