Influencer marketing, also known as influence marketing, is a form of social media marketing involving endorsements and product placement from people or organizations with knowledge or influence in their field. Influencer content is similar to advertising; you’re paying an influencer to promote your business.
In just a few short years, the concept of using an influencer to market your business has exploded. Working with high-profile social media users to promote your products or services may seem intimidating for a small business owner. But the right strategy and execution can increase brand exposure, build authority, and connect you with a wider audience.
According to a recent study, 56% of consumers are more likely to purchase a product after they see a positive image of it. Additionally, the study showed that 49% of people said they were more likely to purchase a product if it is endorsed by a real person they like or respect.
The value of influencer marketing
Influencer marketing strategies place your product or service in front of an audience that’s already paying attention. Influencer marketing might also come off less aggressive than other digital marketing routes. In some cases, a trusted figure speaking highly and genuinely about your offerings might not even feel like an ad. Effective influencer marketing feels more like meaningful advice than pushy promotion.
Types of influencers
Your influencer marketing strategy will depend strongly on the type of influencer with whom you work. There are four types of influencers you should know:
- Mega-influencers are basically celebrities -- whether from the acting world, sporting world, the internet, or something else -- and are rarely attainable for small business influencer campaigns. That said, if you miraculously obtain these influencers, who have millions of followers, an exponential increase in brand awareness is highly likely.
- Macro-influencers have between 100,000 and 1 million followers and may be somewhat more attainable. Their obvious advantage is their sizable but not overly huge audience. At this audience size, a substantial percentage of the influencer’s audience is likely engaging with them instead of just passively following them. However, you can’t harness the power of niche marketing with a macro-influencer campaign.
- Micro-influencers have between 10,000 and 100,000 followers. Their somewhat smaller audience size often correlates with a following that actually pays attention to them. The result is often higher, though not necessarily exorbitant, engagement. Additionally, niche marketing approaches work quite well with micro-influencers, though this tactic truly excels with the final category of influencers.
- Nano-influencers with between 1,000 and 10,000 followers are becoming increasingly important to influencer marketing strategies. For someone to be considered an influencer and have this small of an audience, it’s safe to assume their influence on their followers is substantial. This level of engagement often translates to high ROIs. Of course, nano-influencers’ obvious crutch is their small audience size.
SmartBiz customers Shari Bisquera and Carey Klein own Off-Road Vixens, a popular female clothing brand for women who embrace the outdoor lifestyle. They successfully use an influencer strategy to elevate their brand and offer free products to active women influencers.
From the Off-Road Vixens website:
“We are looking for respectable, influential bad ass chicks to represent our company. Weekend warriors that are out there doing what they love, whether you backcountry snowmobile, snowbike, surf, dirt bike, UTV, hunt, fish, archery, barrel race or anything in between; we want chicks like you. Our Brand Ambassadors are very important to us because you are the ones out there in everyday life doing what our company represents. Our brand gives you the opportunity to define who you are in whatever industry you enjoy!”
Check out the Off-Road Vixens Instagram to see how they use influencers. This marketing strategy has worked well for them and their brand is sought after online and at events across the U.S.
Here are steps you can take to shape this unique marketing approach.
10 steps to create an influencer marketing strategy
1. Outline clear goals
Don’t jump into any marketing program without having your goals nailed down. Once you have your goals defined, you can move forward with finding influencers and putting tracking in place to determine the success of your campaigns. Your goals might include:
Increasing brand awareness
Whether you’re in a highly competitive industry or a small niche, you need consumers to be aware of your brand and what you offer. Establish a personality for your social media channels using copy and images to encourage engagement.
Are your fans and follower numbers increasing? An influencer strategy can help up your numbers, exposing your brand to those outside of your core followers.
Social media engagement measures the public shares, likes, and comments for an online business' social media efforts. Engagement has historically been a common metric for evaluating social media performance. Note that engagement doesn't necessarily translate to sales but does keep your brand top of mind when consumers are ready to shop.
In marketing, lead generation is sparking consumer interest in your products or services. Leads can be created for purposes such as list building or for sales leads.
In the end, it’s all about sales and increasing revenue. The right influencer campaign can successfully encourage consumers to spend their hard-earned money on your products or services. Influencers can introduce sale-boosting strategies like discounts, product bundles, or buy-one-get-one deals. An influencer can grab attention better than a standard ad can.
Find an influencer with a loyal base of followers to promote your business. Loyal customers will consistently buy your products regardless if they are on sale or not and recommend you to friends and family. Keeping this audience large enough to keep you afloat is vital to the overall success of your business. There are several other benefits associated with having loyal customers, including positive online reviews and free word-of-mouth advertising.
Link building results in value building, brand building, and increased brand awareness. Websites in the online world are always competing with each other over increasing their rankings. This is because a higher ranking in search engines increases the chances of the number of visits to the website as well as the chances of conversion.
2. Determine type of influencer campaign
There are several ways to get the most out of an influencer relationship. Options include:
An influencer receives a commission on sales generated as a result of their actions. Affiliate marketing is a great way to track ROI, and also encourages the influencer to actively support the product as they receive a benefit every time a sale is made and attributed to them.
Competitions or giveaways
Be creative, especially with the entry requirements, and get your target audience engaged with your brand. Competitions and giveaways can increase followers, growing your email marketing list and capturing consumer data.
Long term partnerships
Long-term partnerships are like an Ambassador Role, where the influencer becomes the face of the brand for a period of time, or indefinitely. Ambassador roles are much like traditional celebrity endorsements, where a brand attaches their name and image to a well-known personality.
Sponsored blog posts
Influencer blogs and websites can provide serious SEO juice. Blog posts are indexed on search engines, so they have a longer lifespan than a single social media post, which only has traction for about 12-hours.
Social media mention
A mention is when a brand is referenced, or "mentioned" on the web. When a business is tagged on Facebook, tweeted at, or linked to, it is factored into the brand's organic search value. Positive SEO leads to increased visibility, which can then prompt more mentions and additional increased SEO value.
Form relationships with loyal brand fans. They’ll get exclusive offers, free products, or being featured online in exchange for using and promoting your brand. It can be a win-win for an influencer eager to build their audience.
3. Outline your spending and management plan
With your goals and influencer content finalized, you should determine how to budget for and supervise your campaign. Look at what your money can get you, then consider your time budget as well. Ask yourself how much time you can commit to guiding the influencer, checking in with them for deliverables, and analyzing data. With this question answered before you search for influencers, you’ll find promotional partners who are realistic for your bandwidth.
4. Identify your audience
Before you research influencers who can help you move the needle, you need to know who your target audience is. Create a buyer persona for each type of customer you want to reach and include ages, genders, locations, etc. Once you’ve identified your audience, you’ll have a much easier time finding influencers for that demographic.
5. Search for the right influencers
There are a lot of different types of influencers, including bloggers, social media stand-outs, celebrities, industry experts, and more. Once you determine the influencer type, start researching that space to find your perfect fit. Protip: Think about where you most often see influencers, then ask yourself if this approach fits your product or service model. If yes, find influencers in that space. If not, look at other options.
6. Qualify the audience
Don’t look at influencers based solely on their audience size. It’s better to work with an influencer with a smaller audience that matches your ideal customer than to go with one who has a very large audience that doesn’t include your target. In other words, marketing a product with a relatively narrow customer base to a huge audience makes sense in neither traditional nor influencer marketing. Take a niche marketing approach instead.
7. Understand how content affects your audience
Before launching an influencer marketing campaign, figure out how your target audience reacts to certain types of content. Then, figure out how content that your audience likes overlaps with your desired influencers’ general interests. At this intersection lie the content options you should prioritize when working with influencers.
8. Create a content plan
Creating content is the crux of an effective influencer marketing strategy, and so too is figuring out how much content your campaign will comprise. Will the influencer you’ve hired post about your offerings just once, or will they roll out several posts over a given period? What kinds of images, copy, and other creative will you need to provide? Sketch this all out before you create your content.
9. Create great content
It’s easy to think of influencer marketing as just an influencer creating content, but no one person can properly represent your brand without major input from you. That’s why you should work on your copy and images to appeal to both your target audience and influencers. Creative and clever copy along with high quality photos can increase shareability.
10. Monitor performance
Promo codes can be a great way to track influencer campaign performance. All you do is have the influencers distribute their own unique promo codes to their followers. You can then track how many sales are influencer-generated and which influencer brought in the sale.
Tips when using influencer marketing
- Stick to your own strategy instead of imitating your competitors . Yes, it’s important to reference your competitors as you form your content plan, but you shouldn’t straight-up copy them. If a top influencer shares your content after posting something similar for a competitor, the “it doesn’t feel like marketing” veneer that makes influencer marketing special could crack. Your brand will reap the consequences.
- Take a niche approach . As mentioned earlier, niche marketing and influencer campaigns go hand in hand. That’s because social media influencers likely have audiences highly interested in their field of expertise. Take this approach smaller-scale with your product: If you sell upcycled shoes, find influencers in not just the fashion realm, but the sustainable fashion realm.
- Prioritize engagement, not follower counts . Engagement and followers aren’t synonymous. If you’ve seen just a dozen or so likes on a post from an influencer with orders of magnitude more followers, you know this principle to be true. Less-followed accounts with higher engagement are better for influencer marketing than highly-followed accounts with poor engagement.
How to find and contact influencers
- Use backlinks . Content creators often link back to the products they endorse using special tracking links. By examining the links leading to the website of one of your competitors, you can gain some insight into which influencers may be interested in promoting your product.
- Visit influencer hiring platforms . You can drastically cut down the time and effort involved in finding influencers by visiting an influencer listing website. On these influencer marketing platforms, you can often filter your searches based on exactly what you need. Once you find a potential influencer, you can typically reach out directly through the platform.
- Just reach out . Since influencer marketing typically takes place on platforms that make contacting the influencer easy, you can always just reach out via direct message. When you reach an influencer through the very platforms they use most, it shows that you’re paying attention to their content. As a result, you might have better chances of securing the partnership – and getting your offerings in front of a highly engaged audience.