Many ecommerce businesses start out with little to spend on marketing. That’s why they’re increasingly turning to an influencer marketing strategy. Brand partnerships for influencers is an affordable, effective, and precise way for ecommerce businesses to grow their brand.
Many business owners assume these types of brand partnerships require companies to shell out big bucks for a celebrity endorsement. Although that is one possibility, it isn’t the whole story in the modern influencer marketplace. Influencer marketing includes a range of tactics that can help companies of all sizes raise brand awareness, build credibility, and increase sales.
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Benefits of partnering with influencers
Influencer marketing is the process of collaborating with an individual who has the potential to influence audience opinions—typically due to a large personal following, an established brand, or perceived authority. Partnering with influencers can help businesses boost sales and elevate their brand profiles. Here’s an overview of some of the main benefits for ecommerce brands.
- Increased brand awareness. Influencers have large online and media followings—that’s what makes them influencers. Examples include actor-turned-wellness-provocateur Gwyneth Paltrow and kaftan-obsessed food writer Helen Rosner. Partnering with one can give you access to the influencer’s audiences and raise awareness of your brand.
- Increased credibility. Influencers can endorse your brand implicitly (e.g., by tagging you in a social media post) or explicitly (e.g., by writing a positive review of a product or service). Both increase your brand’s credibility with their audiences.
- Audience-specific market traction. Brand partnerships can help businesses target highly specific audience segments. If you want to target young women with ankle injuries (say, to sell anti-inflammatory collagen supplements or a line of stylish ankle braces), you might partner with a female-identified skateboarder or soccer player with a strong social media presence.
- Strong return on investment. Studies show that the average return on investment (ROI) for influencer marketing campaigns is close to $6 for every dollar spent, and some companies report earning as much as $18 per dollar spent.
- Increased sales. Influencer endorsement can motivate a purchase—one recent survey found that 56% of millennials and 58% of Gen Z purchased a product based on a social media influencer’s or a content creator’s recommendation.
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5 ways to partner with influencers
Brand partnerships can be as limited as one social media mention or as extensive as paying a celebrity to act as the face and voice of your company for years. Here are five typical ways that brands collaborate with influencers.
1. Sponsored social media posts
Sponsored social media posts are dedicated posts about your products or services. Typically, you pay a social media influencer to create content about your company and post it to their social media channels.
2. Sponsored blog posts
Blog posts are another popular type of sponsored content: You pay an influencer to create and publish a blog post featuring your products or services. You might purchase an entire post about your company or pay to be featured in a product or service roundup, such as a professional baker’s list of the 10 best kitchen gadgets or a travel influencer’s guide to red-eye-friendly apparel.
3. Guest appearances
Guest blogging is one common type of guest appearance: A business contacts an influencer to ask if their blog or website accepts guest content and pitch a few ideas for posts. If the influencer accepts, the company drafts a blog post and includes a backlink to its own site. This can put you in front of an influencer’s audience and let you retain control of your branded content.
You also can consider offering subject matter expertise as a guest on an influencer’s podcast, webinar, or panel.
4. Brand ambassadorships
Brand ambassadorships establish a long-term relationship between an influencer and a brand. Brand ambassadors will promote your company as outlined in your contract—for example, they might attend events hosted by your company or on behalf of your company, include your products in a particular number of social media posts per month, or mention you in a certain number of articles.
Many businesses send free products to influencers or offer complimentary services, event tickets, or comped travel in hopes of earning a favorable review or mention on the influencer’s outlets of choice. For example, you might send a free batch of naturally sweetened gluten-free cookies to a wellness blogger or your handmade stick-on body jewels to an Instagram influencer in the beauty and fitness space.
This strategy doesn’t guarantee that an influencer will cover your product (or cover it favorably), so many businesses strategically target influencers who seem likely to respond positively to the gift.
5 tips for building influencer partnerships
Successful influencer collaborations fit your budget and goals, align brand values and target audiences with an influencer’s personal brand and reach, and result in measurable outcomes. Here are five tips for engaging in effective brand partnerships for influencers and ecommerce companies.
- Identify your goals and budget
- Identify metrics
- Align on audience and values
- Consider follower count
- Align on the details
1. Identify your goals and budget
Start by identifying your goals for the influencer collaboration. Do you hope to raise brand awareness with a certain audience, increase sales, or improve your reputation? This will affect who you pick as a partner and the terms of the partnership.
2. Identify metrics
Identify key performance indicators (KPIs) and decide how you’ll define success. For example, you might track engagements with influencer marketing content, new traffic to your site, and attributable conversions. You might monitor indirect metrics, such as overall sales, social media mentions, and brand awareness metrics. Set goals and plan to track metrics and calculate ROI on your campaign.
3. Align on audience and values
Influencers are everywhere. To choose the right partnership for your business, start by identifying influencers popular with your target audience. You can manually scroll through follower information on social media platforms or use an influencer marketing platform such as Shopify Collabs to automate the process. Influencer platforms can provide information about audience demographics, and, in some cases, recommend similar influencers, rate audience quality, or generate a list of influencers for a specific keyword.
Once you’ve generated a list, spend some time researching the influencer’s personal brand, making sure that their brand values and voice are a good fit for your company.
4. Consider follower counts
Follower count is a key metric in the influencer marketplace. Frequently, the more followers an influencer has, the more they will charge for their services. In many cases, however, follower count is less important than follower engagement and trust.
Micro-influencers may have anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 followers. These influencers are likely to be less expensive than larger influencers and receive fewer queries, which can make them a value for paid partnerships. In some cases, smaller influencers also have more engaged audiences.
5. Align on the details
Once you’ve identified a partner, it’s time to hash out deliverables (such as social media posts, reviews, mentions of your company on social channels, event appearances, etc.), compensation, and process. Some influencers will have established brand collaboration service menus or media kits and can provide quotes for specific partnership activities. If your partner doesn’t, you can negotiate a mutually agreeable solution that spells out expectations and compensation.
Once you’ve reached an agreement, specify deliverables, payment, content creation process, campaign management responsibilities, and timelines in a written contract. Be sure to also ask about your partner’s disclosure policies and make sure that disclosure language doesn’t invalidate the credibility of the content. For example, “I’m paid to review products, but opinions are my own'' will establish more trust than “This review is sponsored content.”
Examples of successful brand partnerships with influencers
Many ecommerce brands embrace influencer marketing strategies. Check out these three success stories of Shopify clients.
“The first thing we realized in Vancouver is that no one had ever heard of us or our products,” Fable founder Joe Parenteau says. “It was going to be really hard for people to trust our brand online. We ended up trying to find as many different influencers or influential people on Instagram or on Facebook that we could gift our product to.”
Initially, this approach was born of limited resources. “We really were in a position where it was like, ‘We can't pay you for anything,’” Parenteau says. “‘If you like it, we’d appreciate it if you share it. But there's no obligation.’”
Parenteau’s team contacted hundreds of content creators and shipped all gifts at once, resulting in as many as 60 content creators in the Vancouver area posting about the products within the span of a few days, generating a lot of interest. “That really kickstarted us,” Parenteau said. “We still use that strategy.”
Like Fable, Healthish started with influencer gifting. “We have such a low-cost item to produce, where we can afford to send to hundreds of influencers per month,” Chong said. As the business matured, Healthish expanded its strategies to include sponsored posts.
Chong and Chan also discussed the importance of identifying influencer fit. “At the beginning, you can pick people in the different niches and see what actually works for you and then decide to go down that path,” Chong said.
“We sent out to fitness influencers,” Chan added. “We sent out to vloggers, we sent out to people that were in all sorts of different niches and markets. And then we could see when somebody posted what that result would be and we refined it. So it's a little bit of trial and error.”
“People believe that you need to go big or go home and reach out to influencers with a million-plus subscribers or a million-plus followers on Instagram,” Lana says. Twinkled T initially partnered with 10 social media influencers with 30,000 to one million followers, and the Mushamel sisters were surprised to get better results from influencers with smaller followings.
“If I’m following an account that only has a thousand followers, it’s because I care about what they have to say or what they’re trying to sell me,” Liza says. “I personally am more likely to purchase from someone with a smaller account, cause I feel like they’re being more genuine in what they’re showing and what they’re selling.”
Brand partnerships for influencers FAQ
How much do brand partnerships typically pay influencers?
The cost of influencer collaborations varies depending on project type and scope and on the size of the influencer’s following. Some influencers will post information on their social media channels in return for a free product; major celebrities, meanwhile, can demand millions of dollars for a single ad appearance.
How can I measure the success of a brand partnership with an influencer?
Identify key performance indicators upfront to measure the success of a brand partnership. Consider the following metrics:
- Social media statistics, including engagements, mentions, reach, and traffic to your social media accounts
- Traffic to your site
- Attributable conversions
Do I need to provide influencers with specific guidelines or content requirements for partnerships?
Ask your influencer partner about their approach to content creation, including whether they’ll grant you an editorial review and if you can provide information or other help to support the process. In some cases, influencers will set parameters about sponsored content or let you provide guidelines.
What are some mistakes to avoid when working with influencers as a brand?
Common influencer marketing partnership mistakes include:
- Prioritizing audience size over audience quality
- Lack of clarity on deliverables and timeline
- Not aligning your brand values and voice with your partner’s
Should brands disclose sponsored content in influencer partnerships?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires influencers to disclose advertising relationships in sponsored content.