There’s always a new “in” trend in marketing. Whether it’s Facebook ads, Instagram stories, or something else entirely, when a new method or medium is discovered, marketers are usually some of the first people to jump on board and start experimenting.
Influencer marketing is now on the up and up. So we thought we’d put together a comprehensive guide to help you use IM to its fullest potential and better promote your business.
In this blog we’ll give you a detailed explanation of what influencer marketing is, why it’s become so popular, how your company can capitalize on this growing trend, and a few amazing examples of other businesses crushing it with IM. Sound good?
Influencer Marketing: A Definition
To understand what influencer marketing is, we first have to define what an influencer is in a business sense. An influencer is anyone who has influence over a specific demographic of people. This may sound obvious, but it’s an important fact.
Not every social media expert with a sizeable following is an influencer. They only achieve that status once their followers truly trust and care about what they have to say — and act on their words.
With that in mind, influencer marketing is a partnership between a brand and an influential personality. The influencer will use their sway to promote a brand’s products and/or services (usually via social media) to their audience in exchange for compensation.
Celebrity endorsements could be considered the first iteration of influencer marketing. For years, mega brands like Coca-Cola, Nike, and Apple have paid famous people to rep their wares in commercials, magazine ads, etc.
But thanks to the internet, and social media in particular, a much bigger group of people has the opportunity to build their own following and garner influence over them. And while personalities like Hannah Bronfman and Luka Sabbat might not be household names in the same way that Justin Bieber or Kim Kardashian are, they have large audiences who deeply trust their opinions.
While we’re talking about what an influencer is, we should note that there are different levels. Micro influencers are typically classified as having 10,000 followers or fewer, macro influencers are generally understood to have a following between 10,000 and 1 million, and mega influencers have a follower count in the 1 million plus range.
But as we’ll see in a later section of this post, while an influencer’s following does play a role in your influencer marketing strategy, there are many other important factors to consider too.
The Rise of the Influencer
So how did influencer marketing become such a popular trend? Honestly, because it works. Really well. According to ION:
- 86% of women turn to social media before making a purchase.
- 71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on a social media reference.
- 86% of the most viewed beauty videos on YouTube were made by influencers, while only 14% of them were created by actual beauty brands.
- And on average, businesses generate $6.50 for every $1 invested in influencer marketing. That’s not quite the same ROI as email marketing, but it’s still impressive.
And these stats make a lot of sense when you think about it. As humans, we almost always trust the opinions of other people more than brands. And word of mouth is still one of the holy grails of marketing.
When you need a new vacuum what do you do? You might ask your mom about the one she has or call up a few friends to get their recommendations. Then you’ll probably hop online and read some reviews and blog posts, watch a video or two — it’s all a part of the decision making process.
Why? Because we trust other people. We want to know what their experiences have been like before we drop any of our hard-earned cash on a new product or service.
This is the essence of influencer marketing: people use social media and other channels to build large followings of people who trust what they have to say. Then, that trust is used to promote brands they believe in.
If your company can tap into these followings successfully, well, you just might experience some of the amazing ROI we just talked about.
How to Capitalize on the Influencer Marketing Trend
Knowing that influencer marketing can greatly benefit your company and actually using the tactic to do so are two different things. Fortunately we’ve compiled a guide to help you in your influencer marketing efforts:
Understand Your Market
You’ve read our blogs before, you knew this was coming. Successful marketing ALWAYS starts with a solid understanding of what you, as a company, offer, the audience you’re trying to reach, and the business goals you’ve specified. Let’s dive into each of those a bit more:
What Do You Offer?
More than that, why is what you offer better and/or different than what your competitors are offering? Crafting your company’s USP (unique selling proposition) is an essential marketing practice.
Who Is Your Target Audience?
Who are you trying to reach? If your answer is “everyone,” it’s time to narrow it down and craft clear buyer personas. The more targeted you can be, while still maintaining a viable audience size, the better.
Know Your Goals:
What do you hope to accomplish with influencer marketing? Brand recognition, an increase in sales, or an elevated authority level in your niche? IM can help you achieve all of this. But you’re much more likely to see success if you detail the exact results you want to achieve at the very beginning.
Know Your Channels:
While we’re here, let’s talk channels. Influencers can use any of the tools at their fingertips to build a following. Most of them choose social media, though blogs and email can be terrific avenues as well.
The key for you is to know which channel will best benefit your brand. All the tips listed below should work no matter what platform an influencer has built their following on.
Do you fully understand your market and company goals? Great, now it’s time to research potential influencers for your business to partner with! When researching, look for:
Similar Target Market:
This is crucial! You’ll have much more success with influencer marketing if you partner with influencers who cater to a similar audience, than by just finding the ones with mega followings.
For example, a SaaS company probably wouldn’t want to partner with Selena Gomez — even though she’s the most followed person on all of Instagram. Why? Because, in general, her followers don’t care about business software.
Let’s take the last tip one step further: not only do you need to look for partners who cater to the same audience type, but you should also only partner with the ones who share similar branding and values as your company.
An influencer may have an audience interested in home cooking tips — your exact demographic. But if your values and branding lean more towards southern style recipes and wholesome banter, then a crass, vegan chef with tattoos and body piercings might not be the best fit.
While the reach potential (audience size) definitely isn’t everything, it is an important factor when deciding which influencers to work with. After all, an influencer needs to have influence over a significant number of people to be of use to your business.
The preferred follower count will vary for every company and budget. Generally, the bigger a following, the more expensive a post about your brand will be. So be wise when assessing audience size and find influencers with a reach and cost balance that works for you.
Just as important as reach size is audience engagement level. Who would you rather work with, a micro influencer with 9,000 followers on Instagram and an average of 1,000 likes per post; or a macro-influencer with 100,000 followers, but only sees an average of 300 likes per ‘gram?
Sure, the second option will reach more people, but their following is largely uninterested in what they have to say. The numbers don’t lie. Choose to only work with influencers who see at least 3 – 5% engagement levels.
Use a Platform:
Finally, during the research process, you may find it easier to use a dedicated influencer marketing platform. Especially if you don’t already know of a few potential influencers worth partnering with.
Some of our favorite platforms are: NeoReach, Revfluence, Traackr, and Famebit.
It’s important to note that, when researching influencers, you should avoid those who are already at or near saturation level. Meaning, don’t partner with those whose every post (or close to it) promotes one brand or another.
They’ll likely begin to see far less engagement since their spending so much time promoting products and not tending to their audience. And after a while, their fans will begin to tire of sponsored posts.
Once you’ve found some intriguing partners, it’s time to contact them and talk business. Here are a few tips to help you get more yeses than nos:
Be Prepared and Respectful:
This is obvious — and vastly under-appreciated. Many influencers are being approached by multiple brands on a daily basis. They don’t have time for a company who doesn’t have their stuff together or treats them unprofessionally.
For you to successfully enter into a partnership with an influencer, you need to show them that you understand their business and audience, and how a partnership will be mutually beneficial.
Contact Them Privately:
Don’t just tweet at them and suggest a business arrangement. It’s unprofessional. Instead, send them a private message via social media or email. Oh, and definitely don’t send mass, templated communications!
You’ll greatly increase your partnership chances if you personalize your messages. We know it takes time. But it’s worth it.
Know Your Numbers:
Finally, it’s a good idea to know what you’re willing to pay or offer an influencer before you contact them. Is $200 a post your limit? You might as well say so upfront so nobody’s time is wasted.
Also, money isn’t always the end-all-be-all when it comes to compensation. Some influencers may be more interested in free products, or agree to affiliate commissions rather than initial fees.
Generally though, bigger influencers will require some of that cold, hard cash if you want to do business with them.
Lastly, you can generally get a better deal when you buy influencer posts in bulk. Meaning, you pay for five posts up front rather than just one and receive a percentage discount. This will vary from influencer to influencer, though.
Run an Effective Influencer Campaign
In most cases, purchasing one paid post from an influencer won’t do your brand much good. Instead, you should consider running an influencer marketing campaign. These can range from a serious of brand promoting posts, to more intricate content collaborations.
Either way, here are a few ideas to keep your campaign running smoothly:
Keep It On the Up:
Influencer marketing may seem like the wild west at times, and it is a fairly new marketing medium. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t rules to follow. The FTC demands disclosure for all sponsored social media posts. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Video reviews must include both written and verbal disclosure of the partnership in the video itself (not just the description).
The built-in tools on social media platforms are not enough.
#ad and #sponsored are great hashtags to use for disclosure, but make sure they’re highly visible and not just tacked on to the need of a long string of tags.
The influencers you’re hoping to partner with have cultivated their following for a reason. Demanding they do things a very specific way neglects their skills as content creators and their knowledge of their own audience.
Most influencers won’t even work with brands if they aren’t allowed to keep at least some level of creative control. We definitely recommend you set guidelines in all your agreements, but never micromanage.
Aim for Consistency:
Like we mentioned previously, one sponsored post won’t do much for your business. Instead, try to purchase multiple posts from multiple influencers and have them all go live on the same day of the week, for a few weeks straight.
This is an approach that Single Grain has tried and seen success with. And it allows audience members to consistently see your brand a number of times, increasing the likelihood that they’ll buy your products and/or services.
Don’t just pay an influencer to shout your brand to their audience and sit back. Use their content to its maximum potential and repost it on your profile, too.
Measure Your Influencer Marketing Results
How successful are your influencer marketing efforts? You won’t know until you measure them. Here are a few tips in that regard:
Forget About Vanity Metrics:
Unless your only goal is to increase brand awareness, then likes, comments, and follower count are not useful metrics to measure your influencer marketing efforts.
Why? Because none of these have any actual impact on your bottom line. Instead focus on the numbers that matter like website visits, email list sign ups, and sales.
Remember Your Goals:
The results you achieve through influencer marketing should always be measured against the goals you originally set for each campaign.
Were you hoping to boost sales numbers? Then an increase in web traffic, while still beneficial, doesn’t help you reach your benchmarks unless those visitors also purchased your goods.
Separate Campaigns Internally:
The only way you can really understand your ROI from influencer marketing is to track each campaign individually — which can get tricky without the right approach.
Fortunately, through the use of UTM parameters, marketers can tell exactly how each influencer affects a company’s goals. Then you can use this information to confidently inform any future influencer marketing decisions.
Influencer Marketing at its Finest
Now that you know what influencer marketing is and how to successfully use it to promote your business, how about a few examples? The following businesses really understand how to leverage an influencer’s audience for their own benefit. Watch and learn:
When Choice Hotels wanted to boost awareness for their brand and increase guest stays, they turned to influencer marketing. And given that they’re quite a large company, (6,800 locations worldwide across 11 different entities) they were able to really invest heavily and see some pretty amazing results.
Through partnerships with mom bloggers, business traveler influencers, and others, Choice generated over 250 pieces of content, reaching 40 million potential new customers. Not bad, right?
Sometimes the perfect influencer marketing campaign is accomplished by partnering with just one influencer — as long as that influencer is the right one. That’s what Lagavulin Whiskey did when they partnered with Nick Offerman of Parks and Rec fame.
Together they created a 45 minute video. It’s a really simple video. In fact, it’s just Nick sitting by a warm fire, staring at the camera and occasionally sipping whiskey. Seriously, that’s it! But it went viral, racking up over 2 million views in one week.
What about a B2B example? Yes, influencer marketing works for those in the B2B space too, as proven by Okta. The identity management company does a great job of reaching new potential customers and building trust through customer advocate videos.
They simply make quick recordings of their clients (like Adobe) talking about the ways in which they benefit from Okta’s service. Like case studies or client testimonials, only in video format. They can then share these short films around the web.
Is influencer marketing right for your business? Only you can know that for sure. But IM does provide a lot of benefits to marketers and should at least be considered when assessing your company’s marketing strategy.
While it’s always a bit nerve-wracking to step out and try a new promotion tactic, as long as you have a firm understanding of your company goals and ideal audience, work with the right partners, use our tips to run a smooth influencer marketing campaign, and measure your results, you should be just fine!
Have you dabbled in the world of influencer marketing yet? What went right, what went wrong, and do you plan to use the tactic again any time soon? Let us know in the comments!
Jacob Thomas is a freelance copywriter and content marketer based in Bend, OR. His professional writing approach has helped numerous businesses gain more traffic, leads, and sales. To contact Jacob, visit www.jtcopywriting.com.