Influencer marketing isn’t anything new. People have been using word of mouth advertising to push products for forever and brands have used public figures to push their products for decades. In fact, the first recorded celebrity endorsement happened over a century ago, in 1905, when a slate of celebs, including Fatty Arbuckle, put their names to Murad cigarettes.
People still rely on figures they see as tastemakers to guide them to brands and experiences. What’s changed, then?
Well, the internet happened. And social media happened. Nowadays, influencers, paid or otherwise, operate in pretty much every part of the world, on every social media platform, and in every sector of every market.
Humans love to engage visually and interact with images. It’s therefore no wonder that Instagram has become the second most popular social media platform in the world. This makes it the perfect platform to advertise your business and capture people’s attention with related images of your product and services.
The people we rely on today aren’t necessarily celebrities repping huge brands. Although Kim Kardashian can pull in upwards of $250,000 for a single Instagram post, seen by 105 million followers across the world, brands and businesses can employ so-called “micro-influencers” to speak more directly to a smaller, more targeted audience.
Put simply, influencer marketing works. According to a survey by Burst Media, brands who use it make an ROI of $6.85 for every $1.00 they spend. Visual content also gets seen: across all social media, posts with photos get 94% more engagement than text-only posts. That’s nearly double the number of people seeing, and interacting with posts.
Influencer marketing is cost-effective, and it works like a charm, drawing in customers who don’t even realize they’re being advertised to. You can’t ignore influencer marketing in 2018.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to find influencers and get them involved with your business:
Step one: Get wise about what you want
Influencer marketing works, it’s that simple.
However, it can be a complex strategy and you need to be prepared for this.
As Benjamin Franklin probably didn’t say,
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
The phrase has become a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a good reason. If you try to start an influencer marketing campaign without a plan, then you definitely won’t reach that sky high ROI that Burst Media found influencer marketing can create.
You need to know four things:
- Who you’re targeting
- How you’re targeting them
- What outcome you want
- How much you’re willing to spend
Each of these things will shape how you work with influencers, and how they work. The more specific you are, then the more effective your campaign will be.
So, let’s say you’re a marketing manager for a coffee shop in a pretty Cotswolds village, and although you’re popular among locals, you’re missing out on the tourist trade. You know you want to target young professionals from London and the Home Counties, who come up for weekend and Bank Holiday getaways. You want to advertise the cafe’s cozy charm and picture perfect location, so Instagram’s the ideal platform for you, and you know you’ve got £750 to spend on the campaign, with a view to increasing turnover from eat-in food and drink by 50% on weekends.
This means that you can focus your search on luxury London based lifestyle influencers, who have a pretty even mix of food and drink snapshots and local travel.
If you’ve already got a marketing strategy in place, then it’s a good idea to work out what you can take from your current plan, what you can build on, and where your influencer marketing strategy diverges from what you’ve already got.
When you contact influencers, this level of specificity makes you seem far more credible, and makes you far easier to engage with from a business standpoint, which can only work to your advantage.
Step two: Get to grips with your followers
You’re looking for influencers to boost your business's social media game, so social media is the best place to start. Makes sense, right?
The best place to start isn’t just social media, but your own social accounts. If you’ve been running your accounts for a while, and stay active on them, there’s a chance you might already be being followed by a few influencers in your niche.
Sorting through your followers to find who they are may be time-consuming, but it can pay off. If you reach out to someone who already follows you, you’re way more likely to get a reply.
When you’re looking for influencers, you need to bear in mind who follows them, but more importantly, how many people follow them.
Don’t be put off by a smaller amount of followers. As a rule of thumb, the less followers someone has, the more engaged that audience is.
Because of the way influencer marketing works, if you are a small business owner, you’re more likely to see success with micro-influencers working in quite specialized niches than you are with big influencers with millions of followers worldwide. And as luck would have it, micro-influencers charge less. That’s a win-win.
Step three: Get technical with your search
Your ideal influencer might well be lurking deep down in your mentions, but searching by hand can get pretty tedious pretty quickly.
Luckily, there are a range of ways to speed up your search, ranging from apps that sort through Twitter and Instagram for you to platforms that match up influencers with brands and businesses.
BuzzSumo has an influencer search function, for example, which combs Twitter for people who rank highly for certain keywords, allowing you to drill down into results by authority, number of followers, location, and how many retweets they get on average. It can be useful in finding influencers, but it’s geared towards Twitter users and it doesn’t come cheap. That said, it has a 14-day trial, which can be a good way to get started.
Meanwhile, Tribe is a platform that matches up micro-influencers with brands and companies looking for influencer marketing services. It has a powerful search function, and provides a platform for you to communicate and manage pitches and commissions. Rather than charging a monthly fee, they take a 20% levy on all posts that you’ve approved, meaning you don’t have to pay anything when shopping around.
Takumi does something similar, but it also has tools that help you track analytics and optimise your social media posts for maximum impact. Like Tribe, they work mostly with people who have between 5,000 and 50,000 followers and it is this level of influencer you’ll probably want to engage with. They charge per campaign, based on the scope of your project, so you’ll only put in what you want to get out.
Even though there are costs associated with them, using apps and platforms to help you find and engage with influencers can really send your marketing campaign sky high, so you shouldn’t discount it.
Step four: Get networking
All the technology in the world can’t replace a good handshake. Micro-influencers may do their influencing online, but that doesn’t mean they live there.
Go to an industry event, like a seminar or a trade show or a trendy opening, and chances are you’ll find a few influencers and bloggers there that, like you, will be at the event to network, to increase their following, and to learn more about the industry.
You can also leverage your own contacts. Chances are you’ll find a few micro-influencers and bloggers among your friends’ and colleagues’ contact lists. Influencers tend to have wide social networks, and know a lot of people: it comes with the territory, really. They also tend to know lots of other influencers, whether personally or through their work and through social media, so even if you have influencers in your network who aren’t a great fit for your business and your goals, you shouldn’t discount them. They may well know someone who would be the perfect fit for your business.
Meeting influencers this way can be a good way of creating strong, organic and authentic relationships. You’re likely to have more in common with influencers you meet through events and networking than through platforms.
If you’ve found someone through face-to-face networking, then great, but be sure to exercise the same sort of scrutiny that you would to someone you met online: check out their previous posts, as well as their follower count and what sort of people follow them.
Step five: Get hosting
People love free stuff. That’s a fact. And with influencers, it’s not just a perk of the job, it’s pretty vital.
Hosting events and letting people engage with your products or services, and visit your space is a great way to attract micro-influencers and to get them interested in working with you. The secret to getting the most out of working with influencers, whether they’ve got 5,000 followers or 5,000,000, is to build authentic relationships. Influencers don’t just push a product, they use their status as a trusted voice to help build enthusiasm for you and your business. And authenticity is a key part of this.
Whether it’s through meeting influencers through your personal connections, or hosting an after-hours get-together in your business space, taking the reins and providing the opportunity for influencers to get to know your business is key to building up an authentic relationship that people can really believe in.
Influencers can be a powerful tool in any marketer’s kit. Make sure that you’re making the most of them by knowing what you want out of influencer-led campaigns, leveraging technology to find the right influencers for your needs, and building authentic relationships that audiences can believe in.