Influencer marketing has become the hot topic on many marketer’s lips, and when you think about the potential, it’s not hard to understand why.
With its community of over 600 million active users, including many incredible content creators, Instagram has become a top visual marketing platform for all kinds of businesses—start-ups and huge global brands alike.
The latest algorithm update by Instagram (posts are now shown based on engagement rather than in chronological order) means that paid advertising and influencer marketing have just become more important than ever before.
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What is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is not a new phenomenon. It's built on the foundation of word-of-mouth recommendations. Social media has simply revitalized the power of this marketing technique.
Brands can use influencer marketing to collaborate with a relevant online influencer, tapping into both their creativity and engaged audience to build brand awareness in an authentic and organic way.
It's not much different from when a friend recommends a holiday destination. You appreciate their recommendation because you trust their judgment. Influencer marketing works the same way, allowing you to target an audience of like-minded people that follow an influencer they trust.
Who are these influencers?
One of the most exciting aspects of influencer marketing on Instagram is the incredible mixture of people represented, covering all kinds of niches, from all over the world.
Personal trainers are using Instagram to share their workouts, fashion bloggers to show off their style, interior designers to display their portfolio, travel photographers to catalogue their adventures, and even chefs to publish their recipes.
While some of these influencers have follower counts exceeding those of traditional celebrities, they are viewed quite differently. An influencers life will often feel more relatable. If they decide to collaborate with a brand, the majority of the time, their opinion is not only genuine but will also be taken more seriously by their followers.
Influencer marketing in 5 steps
Finding an influencer and agreeing on a collaboration with them can be a time-consuming exercise that’s difficult to scale. For best results, use this five step process to stay on track.
1. Do your homework.
There is so much that you can learn from other brands. 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.
An obvious place to start your research is by looking at what your competitors are doing. We use our tool, Whalar Labs, which allows you to see metrics on your Instagram account and then compare it with up to three others.
It’s also a good idea to research other brands, which are not your competitors, but perhaps share a similar demographic. At Shore Projects, we keep an eye on what Herschel does as we feel that a Herschel customer is quite likely to be a Shore Projects customer too.
If your brand has a story behind it, research that too. Our roots are drawn from the British seaside, so we spend a lot of time keeping an eye on seaside and nautical based accounts.
Lastly, a good reference point is the Instagram for Business blog. They regularly post case studies and announce new features and tools. It’s a great place to read content specific to how brands can get the most out of Instagram.
Learn more: How to Use Instagram Stories for Marketing (And Why You Should)
2. Set a clear brief.
Your campaign will be more successful if you allow the influencer the creative freedom to produce content that they know their audience will love. While it's equally important to mock up a brief with the goals you want to achieve, allowing for creative freedom is one of the key ways to make influencer marketing successful on Instagram. It's better to trust them to create an authentic and engaging campaign for you, rather than assigning the exact image, caption, and every last hashtag they must use.
One document you could supply with a brief is a mood board. Below are examples of mood boards we share for Shore Projects. They help give influencers an idea of the general aesthetic we like to have.
3. Choose relevant influencers.
Once you’ve got a clear idea of what you want to achieve, the next vital step is to find 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 basically every market. Whether it's fashion, lifestyle, travel, fitness, you'll likely find more than a few good options. One of the main ways to find people is by learning how to do an Instagram hashtag search to find the top hashtags in your market and look for the posts with high engagement (lots of likes and comments). You can also quite often find influencers on the accounts of other brands. Look for posts where they tag someone else as the content creator.
It can be quite hard to find relevant influencers without spending a long time trawling through hundreds of Instagram accounts, which is where tools such as Whalar come into play. You can search a database of influencers by topic, location, engagement, rates, etc.—all of whom are keen to collaborate with relevant brands.
4. 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:
Timeframe – 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. The influencer will always retain the ownership as the creator, but we typically ask for a two-year full content usage right.
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; however, you should expect to make some payment to them. 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. I suggest erring on the side caution and always using #spon or #ad. We’ve found it makes absolutely no difference to the performance or response to the post.
Campaign Goal – Have a clear focus on the goal you're trying to achieve when working with the influencer. That could be as simple as increasing followers on your account or driving clicks through their Instagram bio to your website or product page to increase sales. Knowing what you're working towards as the campaign goal keeps you both aligned from the get-go.
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5. Maximise the content value.
Get additional value out of sponsored Instagram content by repurposing it for other channels. Here are a three examples of ways we maximize the content value for Shore Projects:
1. Publish it on product page
We use the Shopify App called TagTray to publish the influencer content on our product pages. Not only does this make our product pages look great, it adds positive social proof, and has even lead to real customers now submitting their content as well.
Since embedding Instagram content, we've seen a 23% increase in page conversion, and an impressive 40% increase in time spent on page.
2. Publish it as a Facebook Ad
At a Facebook marketing event, we learned that it's important to keep your ad units refreshed with new content. Initially, we were using our product and lifestyle photography and found it very challenging to keep creating new graphics all the time.
By using influencer content, we are now able to refresh our ad units on a regular basis. On top of that, using influencer content has improved our conversion rate by 19%.
3. Publish it on social media
We also share content created by influencers on our social media accounts. Around 80% of the creative we post on the Shore Projects social media accounts comes from influencers and genuine customers.
Note: Always make sure sure you have permission to use other people's images.
Learn more: How to Increase Website Traffic
Get started with Instagram influencer marketing
Influencer marketing can be a cost-effective way for your brand to source highly creative content, develop brand advocacy, and tap into other people's engaged audiences.
Have you experimented with influencer marketing? Let me know in the comments below.
About the author: Neil Waller is the co-founder of the Shore Projects, a Build A Business 2015 winner, and the co-founder of Whalar, an influencer marketing marketplace.