Influencer marketing is a proven tactic to help companies reach new audiences, build brand awareness, and increase trust. If done right, an influencer marketing strategy can be one of the best ways to grow your business.
If you run a business and know your audience, you can explore influencer marketing for your brand and products—no matter your size. For new brands on low budgets, emerging influencers often offer competitive rates in exchange for promoting your message.
Ahead, learn how influencer marketing can help you meet brand goals, with step-by-step instructions to set up an influencer campaign. Explore real examples from top online brands and get advice from the pros.
Learn about influencer marketing 🎯
- What is influencer marketing
- Benefits of investing in influencer marketing
- Influencer marketing examples
- Types of influencers
- 6 steps to an effective influencer marketing strategy
- Influencer campaign payment structures
- Influencer marketing platforms
- Improving your social media marketing with influencer marketing
- Influencer marketing FAQ
What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is the practice of brands working with influencers to promote a company, product, service, or message to their audience. These are often paid arrangements that involve the influencer creating digital content in partnership with the brand. Sometimes compensation is also delivered in-kind, often in the form of free products, cash, or discounts on expensive products.
Influencers are internet creators and celebrities who have built reputations around a specific niche or have built sizable audiences around their personal brands. Influencers create content across a number of platforms, including:
As of 2022, Instagram still led the charge as the top platform for influencer marketing campaigns and is expected to hold the top spot through 2025.
Influencer marketing is increasingly a popular and effective way for brands to reach potential customers authentically—through endorsements from trusted public figures. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the influencer marketing industry grew by more than $15 billion between 2017 and 2022.
Benefits of investing in influencer marketing
According to one study, 87% of participants said, when choosing a product, they pick one recommended by an influencer. Influencer campaigns can help brands meet business goals like increasing sales, growing brand awareness, and building audiences. Here are a few other ways brands can benefit from influencer marketing.
Form deeper relationships
Influencers use authentic presentation and engagement to foster deeper customer relationships through their association with a brand. In recent years, this dynamic of brand ➡️ influencer ➡️ audience has become a solid staple of media consumption.
Of course, for deeper relationships to form, it’s a given that the influencer’s personal brand and your own need to match (values, industry, audience, etc.)—but your business should also provide value to their audience for maximum impact.
Another obvious benefit to influencer marketing is the potential of increased reach from tapping into a wider audience. While the number of social media users across platforms continues to rise, TikTok is one that has seen massive growth. It’s expected that more than 955 billion people will use the app by 2025.
Despite this potential, algorithm changes, ad fatigue, and privacy concerns all contribute to lower return on investment (ROI) on some forms of advertising. Influencer marketing allows brands to reach audiences through creators that already have organic reach.
Depending on your goals, influencers can help you broadly reach more people (think large audiences) or reach very specific people (those with small, niche audiences). Naturally, higher reach also typically leads to increased social engagement.
Increase social engagement
Greater social engagement often also leads to higher brand awareness, since social platforms show posts your network engages with. Also, if your brand is seen to be well communicative, using the language of the audience, you’ll often garner more brand advocates through influencer marketing.
If engagement is one of your goals, choose your partnerships and channels carefully. One report showed the engagement rates differ across various platforms and influencer audience sizes. In particular, micro-influencers typically have higher engagement rates than their mega-influencer counterparts.
Gain higher earned media value
The last major benefit of influencer marketing is the potential for higher earned media value (EMV). EMV refers to the ROI gained from third-party responses to marketing activities.
A higher EMV generally means you’re getting more social mentions and you have more meaningful social connections (which can lead to increased sales). When you involve an influencer in your marketing activities, you stand a better chance of increasing your EMV. One survey found businesses are making $6.50 to every $1 spent on influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing examples
Explore some of the companies that successfully work with social media influencers to reach potential customers and meet business goals. Get inspired by their tried and true tactics and apply their learnings to your own influencer marketing efforts.
Health product brand Healthish actively uses influencers to promote its products. To launch the brand’s signature water bottle, co-founders Emily Chong and Nathan Chan worked with Instagram influencers to promote the product.
“We’re in a fortunate position where the product is relatively low cost,” Nathan explains. “We just send out [products] to many subsections of the market.”
Healthish’s influencer marketing strategy involves sending free products to relevant influencers like fitness vloggers, fashion influencers, and other groups related to its target market. These creators then share images and videos of its products online—but only if they love the product. “We don’t even ask people to post if they don’t want to,” Nathan says. “We just say, ‘If you love the products, we’d love for you to share it with your community or fans or audience.’”
🎧 Listen: To learn more about the influencer marketing approach that turned Healthish into a million-dollar brand, check out the founders on the Shopify Masters podcast.
Nominal is a jewelry brand that blends culture and fashion to create meaningful accessories. Founded by business and life partners Lena Sarsour and Akram Abdallah, Nominal grew from idea to seven-figure business in a short period of time, thanks to influencer marketing.
“Influencer marketing has been huge to us,” Akram explains. “From the very beginning, we, of course, had no budget at all. We couldn’t afford anybody.” So what did Akram and Lena do? They gifted influencers free jewelry. If the influencers enjoyed the products and found them sharable, they would post about the brand on social media.
@idilmilyuun @Nominalx.com #nominalx ♬ original sound - Idil
Nominal would even ask influencers if they could repost their content on the brand’s feed. “Although we didn’t pay them, now we have [branded] content that a lot of people follow and see. We build that credibility through a famous person wearing our product.”
🎧 Listen: Learn more about Nominal’s marketing strategy by catching the founders on the Shopify Masters podcast.
Explore more influencer marketing examples from Shopify store owners:
- 3x Sales in One Year: Lounge Underwear’s Story of Building a Multimillion-Dollar Industry Disruptor
- How This Dinnerware Brand Grew Through Influencer Gifting
- The Case for Partnering with Influencers While They’re Still Small
Types of influencers
Everyone uses slightly different definitions for influencer types, but they typically fall into five tiers of social media influencers: nano, micro, mid, macro, and mega. When developing an influencer marketing strategy, be sure to find the right influencer at the right level for your project.
Nano influencers (1,000–10,000)
Nano-influencers are everyday people with emerging personal brands. They often have between 1,000 and 10,000 followers on social media. Their feeds aren’t glamorous or polished, and photos are typically not edited. Being an influencer is not their full-time job.
However, nano-influencers are excellent to work with for growing ecommerce brands for two reasons:
- They’ve built a lot of trust with their followers, which results in high engagement rates.
- They’re more affordable.
Data shows that nano-influencers have noticeably higher engagement rates than bigger accounts, averaging 5% per post compared to the average rate of 2.2%.
Micro influencers (10,000–100,000)
Micro-influencers are social media accounts with between 10,000 and 100,000 followers. This group makes up 47% of all Instagram creators
Micro-influencers often have more compact and targeted audiences than larger accounts. They have a loyal following they engage with regularly.
Micro-influencers may be more expensive than nano-influencers, but they still provide the same one-to-one feel when it comes to promoting your business.
Mid-tier influencers (100,000–500,000)
Mid-tier influencers are those who have a community of between 100,000 and 500,000 followers across their platforms. Despite having hundreds of thousands of followers, mid-tier influencers have a well-segmented audience. For example, if you are a fitness brand, you’d likely collaborate with a mid-tier influencer for maximum exposure.
This group is also more affordable and is easy to contact than bigger influencers. Sometimes when you work with maco- or mega-influencers, you have to contact them through representatives or agents.
Macro-influencers (500,000–1 million)
Macro-influencers are individuals with between 500,000 and one million followers. These influencers make great brand collaborators because they have a lot of experience in the space. They know their target audience and what they like, and they won’t jeopardize their followers’ trust by partnering with the wrong brands.
Working with macro-influencers brings a handful of benefits:
- Their audience is highly relevant to your brand and its offerings.
- They have a massive reach.
- They have a streamlined process for working with brands.
With all this experience comes a price tag that, depending on the platform, one source estimates to be between $1,000 and $10,000.
Mega influencers (1 million+)
You’re probably already familiar with mega-influencers. These are the social media celebrities with audiences of more than one million followers.
Mega-influencers like Ryan Trahan, Mr.Beast, and Unnecessary Inventions can provide massive reach for your brand. These superstars also lend a level of credibility to your products because of their reputation. The cost to work with a member of this group on a single collab can run from $10,000 to six figures, depending on the influencer.
6 steps to an effective influencer marketing strategy
Finding a social media influencer and agreeing on a collaboration with them can be a time-consuming exercise that’s difficult to scale. For best results, use this process to stay on track:
- Do your homework
- Set a clear brief
- Choose relevant influencers
- Learn how to reach out
- Agree on a collaboration structure
- Maximize the content value
1. Do your homework
There is so much you can learn from other brands’ influencer marketing approaches. Discover what works for them, get inspiration from the different types of content they post, and look at what types of content get the most engagement. Use a tool like Hootsuite, which lets you see metrics on your Instagram account and then compare it with others.
It’s also a good idea to research other brands that are not your competitors but perhaps share a similar demographic. Say you run a watch brand like Shore Projects. You may keep an eye on backpack and accessory brand Herschel Supply Co. While the two brands sell different products, their customer base is similar. You can watch and see which influencer campaigns are working for the brand and pull inspiration for yours.
2. Create a clear brief
Your campaign will be more successful if you give the influencer creative freedom to produce content they know their audience will love.
It’s better to trust them—the experts of their own audience—to create an authentic and engaging campaign for you rather than assigning the exact image, caption, and hashtag list you want them to use.
However, it’s also important that your brand is still represented in the right way. Supply the influencer with an outline of your expectations, a primer of your brand, or even a mood board to inspire the campaign.
3. Choose relevant influencers
Once you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve, the next step is finding relevant influencers. Getting this wrong can be expensive, so it’s worth investing a bit more time to make the right decision.
There are influencers within every market. Whether it’s fashion, lifestyle, travel, or fitness, you'll likely find more than a few good options. One of the main ways to identify influencers that fit is doing an Instagram hashtag search to find the top hashtags in your market and look for the posts with high engagement.
A tool like Shopify Collabs is a great place to start your influencer marketing journey. You can find influencers who are open to collaborations with brands and search them by industry and other categories.
“A lot of people will make the mistake where they’ll spend money or send products to just about any influencer, anybody that has a lot of followers,” says Akram. “It’s not the best strategy, and also a waste of time and money.”
To get a sense of the fit between your brand and an influencer, ask yourself these questions:
- What is this influencer interested in or passionate about?
- Does my brand share their interests or passions?
- If not, does my brand relate to the influencer’s interests or passions?
- How would my brand’s message sound coming from this influencer?
The better the fit, the more authentic their endorsement will feel. And the more authentic the endorsement feels to the influencer’s audience, the more likely they are to follow that recommendation.
That’s the power of a good fit between a brand and an influencer, like this example of a creative partnership between Tosh Snacks and popular nutritionist Amanda Holtzer.
It’s not just about audience size. The influencer’s audience needs to be engaged. Genuine positive comments are a more valuable signal of a strong social following than likes alone.
4. Learn how to reach out
The biggest mistake a lot of brands make at this stage is not knowing how to reach out to the influencer or, if they do know how to reach out, not positioning their brand correctly in their pitch.
For larger influencers
To properly set up an influencer marketing deal with a macro-influencer, you need to work with their representatives, most likely their agent and their manager:
- Agents: An agent’s job is to find work for their clients and to negotiate contracts.
- Managers: A manager’s job is mainly to provide their clients with career guidance, which means they can either make or break a potential deal with an influencer. Think of managers as the CEOs of their clients’ businesses: you’ll need their buy-in on any potential partnership with the influencer you’re targeting.
If you’re not sure who to contact, there are celebrity contact info databases you can use to find out contact information for the agents, managers, and publicists of the influencers they’re targeting.
For smaller influencers
One of the benefits of targeting micro-influencers is that you can just reach out to them directly without going through their representatives. In fact, this direct access is one of the reasons why some brands prefer to work with micro-influencers.
Of course, because micro-influencers aren’t as well known as macro-influencers, the challenge usually isn’t knowing who to contact but finding relevant micro-influencers in the first place.
To do that, try BuzzSumo, Shopify Collabs, or another influencer marketplace.
These influencer marketplaces let you search for influencers based on keywords in their social media bios, and they’re a great way to identify micro-influencers and narrow down potential matches based on interest, industry, and audience size.
How to structure your outreach message
The best way to reach out to larger influencers is through agents or managers with a brief and concise email. If you’re reaching out to micro-influencers, you can usually do so directly or via a social media DM. Your goal is to answer all questions in one message so they can decide whether or not to discuss the opportunity further. Limit your first email to the key details:
- Who are you interested in? (For macro-influencer agents only.)
- What do you want them to do—and on which channels?
- When do you need a response?
- Why do you think your brand is a good match for their client?
You need to show them that there’s a good fit between your brand and the influencer. Remember, managers are focused on their client’s long-term career, so be prepared to sell them on why a partnership with your brand is a good career move for the influencer.
Following up and following through
Both influencers and their representatives are busy, so if you don’t hear back right away, don’t get discouraged or assume they’re not interested. It’s perfectly OK to send a follow-up email to jog their memory.
Just make sure you time it correctly—if you send it too soon, you’ll risk seeming pushy, and if you send it too late, it’ll seem like you’re not all that interested in working with that influencer.
A good rule of thumb for following up is five to seven business days after your first email; if another week goes by and you still haven’t heard back, move on to the next influencers on your list.
If you’re partnering with a macro-influencer, their agent will handle the contract. With micro-influencers, you’ll usually work with them directly. In either case, assuming you’ve clearly communicated what you expect the influencer to do and what they’ll get in return, the paperwork should be straightforward.
5. Agree on a collaboration structure
Once you’ve found the influencers you want to work with you’ll need to reach out to them and agree on a collaboration structure. There are typically six key aspects you’ll want to negotiate around:
- Time frame. Be upfront about the deadline and highlight that it’s imperative they meet it.
- Output. Be clear with what you want them to produce. For example, two pieces of content, one to be published on the influencer’s account with a mention of your brand and one that you’ll use at your discretion.
- Content usage. Let them know what content usage rights you want.
- Payment. Almost all of the best influencers will require a fee for their services. Occasionally, they may be willing to negotiate or take a free product/service/experience as part of that fee. When you’re negotiating a price, keep in mind that you’re paying for multiple services: content creation, usage rights, and access to their audience.
- Sponsored hashtag. Regulations on sponsored content are varied around the world and changing all the time. Err on the side of caution and use #spon or #ad.
- Campaign goal. Communicate a clear goal you’re trying to achieve with the influencer campaign. That could be as simple as increasing followers on your account or driving clicks from their Instagram bio to your website to increase sales.
6. Maximize the content value
Get additional value out of sponsored Instagram content by repurposing it for other channels. Here are three ways you can maximize influencer content value:
- Publish it on a product page. Not only does this make product pages look great, it adds social proof and can even lead to real customers submitting their content as well.
- Publish it as a Facebook ad. Add influencer content to your ads to mix it up and test results. “By using influencer content, we are now able to refresh our ad units on a regular basis,” says Shore Projects co-founder Neil Waller. “On top of that, using influencer content has improved our conversion rate by 19%.”
- Publish it on social media.User-generated content is often more relatable, engaging, and shareable. It also reduces the amount of time it takes to produce original content for your Instagram account.
Protect your brand: tips for instagram marketing campaigns
These best practices ensure you don’t get burned when working with influencers:
- Withhold the influencer’s full fee until the work has been delivered and meets your expectations. You can pay influencers an upfront deposit (usually 50%), with the balance paid once the work is completed. This payment structure lets the influencer know you’re able to pay the bill for their services, while also giving you an additional layer of protection.
- Work with influencers who are active on a marketplace or work with an influencer marketing agency—they’ll be more likely to deliver as promised, since bad feedback can make it harder for them to get work in the future.
- Before you sign a contract with an influencer, make sure there aren’t any red flags about their work on influencer marketing campaigns with former clients.
Influencer campaign payment structures
Let’s look at the most common payment structures and considerations for influencer endorsements on social media.
Licensing and rights to content
The standard format for an influencer marketing campaign is for the influencer to post about a brand or product on their own social media account. You might think that you own the rights to that post, since your brand or product is featured in it. However, it’s actually the content creator who owns it.
If an influencer made a post on their account promoting your brand, you may have to pay a licensing fee to reuse their content on your own social media account. It may be possible to work out a deal that gives your brand ownership or unlimited use of the content.
Pay per post
The most typical payment arrangement is known as “pay per post.” With these deals, you pay the influencer a certain amount of money for a set number of posts. The pricing for these deals can fluctuate based on a few factors, with the biggest one being the size of the influencer’s audience.
The cost per post can also vary depending on what kind of post the influencer is creating. For example, a travel blogger with more than 100,000 followers charges $1,000 per “static” (no video, no slideshow) post on Instagram, but only charges $200 for an Instagram Story post.
If you’re not sure whether you can afford a traditional pay-per-post deal, a temporary post can be a cost-effective option. But you get what you pay for—since Instagram Stories last for only 24 hours, odds are your campaign will have less visibility with your influencer’s audience.
Link in bio (add-on)
With link-in-bio deals, the influencer includes a link to your brand’s site in their social media bio, which stays pinned to the top of their account page, or on their profile, and can drive direct traffic to your site. You can set up your own custom link page to display in your social bio using Shopify’s Linkpop.
The pricing for these can be difficult to predict, but since a link in an influencer’s bio increases the visibility of your campaign even further, most influencers charge up to 40% more for that add-on.
Multi-platform influencer campaign
If you’re targeting an influencer with a large following on multiple social media platforms, you should also consider a multi-platform campaign, where the influencer shares one post on all their social media accounts. This can increase your visibility, and many influencers offer bundled pricing for a multi-platform campaign.
Free product as payment
This arrangement typically takes more effort to set up because not only do you have to find an influencer who you think is a good fit for your brand, you also have to find one who genuinely likes your products. Most larger influencers expect payment and will not accept in-kind-only offers.
Another option is to pay the influencer a commission, which usually comes in the form of pay per sale, pay per lead, or pay per engagement. So instead of paying a flat fee for access to their entire audience, you only pay if their endorsement leads directly to a sale, a new referral, or engagement—whatever metric you’ve decided to use to measure success.
The commission structure helps ensure that you’re only paying for results, but most influencers prefer not to be paid on a commission basis. The way they see it, why put in the effort to endorse a brand without a guarantee they’ll be compensated for their work?
Influencer marketing platforms
Finding the right creator partners remains one of the biggest challenges for brands that run influencer marketing campaigns. As influencer marketing became more popular, companies and apps to help simplify the process continue to pop up.
Many offer additional features like affiliate program management, marketplaces, analytics, and relationship management software to run campaigns better.
Here are a few of the best platforms for finding influencers that are a good fit with your brand:
Shopify Collabs is an influencer marketing platform that offers ecommerce brands access to creators across social media.
The platform offers a range of tools to help you build authentic relationships with creators. You can send them products and discounts right from your Shopify store and create unique discount codes and referral links to track sales driven by creators.
Shopify Collabs allows you to find creators who align with your brand and invite them to apply to your affiliate program. Creators can also apply directly from your application page. With easy-to-understand analytics, you can track the performance of your affiliate program and keep tabs on the creators and products that are driving sales.
Grin is rated among one of the best influencer marketing software for ecommerce brands. It offers 37 million influencers across social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitch.
Grin offers relationship management tools to nurture authentic relationships with influencers, as well as everything from reporting and analytics to content management and payments. It also integrates with Shopify to handle shipping logistics for sales made through influencers.
Upfluence is a self-serve platform for finding influencers, used by brands like Amazon, Verizon, Universal, and Zappos. You can set your own prices and find influencers to fit your criteria, with more than 20 advanced search filters. The platform gives you access to influencers’ performance stats by analyzing audience size, engagement rates, posting habits, and more.
Upfluence also helps you identify influential customers and fans. It collects data when a visitor is shopping on your site, analyzes their social data, then adds them as affiliates for your campaigns. Whether you’re a large or small business, Upfluence will help you run campaigns more efficiently and maximize your influencer marketing ROI.
Creator.co is a newer influencer marketplace with more than 500 million influencers to choose from. It’s known as an automation software for young brands to connect with the right influencers online.
Creator.co offers a self-service option where you can find influencers manually. It also offers a “hands-free” option where you define your ideal influencer and campaign, then its automated system finds the best fit.
Improving your social media marketing with an influencer strategy
There’s no doubt that influencer marketing can benefit your business. It can help find potential customers and influence purchasing decisions to drive sales for your business. Influencers can also build your brand image and make your products desirable to a target market.
With this guide in hand, you’ll be well on your way to growing your follower count across social networks, building traction for your brand, and growing your business online.
Influencer marketing FAQ
What is an influencer marketing campaign?
An influencer marketing campaign involves working with social influencers in your relevant niche and negotiating a contract for them to endorse your product or service for a set goal. These social media marketing campaigns often involve paying for a predetermined number of posts or actions. Influencer campaigns can be one-off collaborations or long term partnerships. They range from celebrity endorsements to collabs with influential individuals with small engaged followings. Due to the varying size and costs of working with influencers, any brand can create an influencer marketing campaign.
How successful is influencer marketing?
Sixty percent of marketers agree that influencer content performed better on their brands’ social channels than branded content. Influencer marketing can help build deeper relationships, as well as increase reach, social engagement, and earned media value. Because of these results, 93% of marketers report that they use an influencer marketing strategy.
How do I become an influencer in marketing?
There are a few basic steps you need to follow to become an influencer before you can participate in paid influencer marketing campaigns with brands.
- Pick your niche and platform.
- Create compelling content.
- Engage with and listen to your audience.
- Be consistent with your posting schedule.
- Once you have an engaged social media audience, sign up with an influencer marketing agency or an influencer marketplace to connect with brands.
What is an example of influencer marketing?
An example of influencer marketing is a series of paid Instagram posts by a popular social influencer that promotes the launch of a brand’s product. This could also include a link in bio option that directs an influencer’s audience to the brand’s website. Another example of influencer marketing is YouTube influencers who receive a free product from a brand in exchange for online reviews.