Instagram has quickly become the go-to platform for store owners who are looking to connect with new audiences, and influencer marketing on Instagram has become a top way to do it. When you work with the right people, it can be a huge boost to your brand and your sales.
But how do you know which influencers will be the best fit for you and your business? That’s what we’re tackling today on Ask Shopify.
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I’m interested in trying out influencer marketing on Instagram for my store. I’ve never done it before, and the one thing that’s been on my mind is making sure I’m working with the right people for my brand who have real, engaged audiences. Is there anything I should be doing ahead of time to make sure I’m working with the right influencers?
To help you figure out whether you’re working with the right influencers for your store, we spoke with Neil Waller, co-founder of Shore Projects, a 2015 Build-a-Business winner, and co-founder and CEO of Whalar, a tool to help you streamline and manage your influencer marketing.
“First, take a step back and say, "Why do you want to work with influencers?" Because the output that you can get from working with influencers is a few different things, so the lens through which you'll choose to vet them could be different based on your business goals.”
Neil outlined three main benefits of working with influencers, each of which is a great standalone objective.
- Tap into their knowledge of a platform and what works, to create content for that platform
- Access their audience
- Work with them as consumers, to get their feedback and perspective on your product
But even though choosing a priority is important, Neil also points out that it’s not to the exclusion of the other outcomes.
“You can achieve all three, but you've got to know what your primary goals are before you can start the vetting process.”
As for that vetting process, it really boils down to two key questions. Does this person fit with your brand, and do they have a solid engagement rate?
Are they a brand fit?
Before you start to look at anything quantitative, like follower counts or engagement levels, it’s important to build a list of influencers you think would be a genuinely good fit for your products and your brand. This might be an intuitive process if you have a good sense of what your brand represents, or you might need to define what makes someone a good fit, but this is the best first step you can take.
“In terms of vetting, when we did influencer marketing with Shore Projects, the first thing we said was, "Does the influencer we're going to work with seem like someone we would want to be a customer, and would they actually use or wear our stuff?”” says Neil. “Because if they don't, frankly what the point in going about it?”
The intersection of your brand and an influencer’s content is going to be different for every business, but Neil offered an easy mental model to help you think through the selection process.
“At their best, influencers are like magazine publishers. If you picked up a magazine, you'd have a sense of voice and tone, what the magazine stands for, and what the magazine writes about. And with magazine publishing, that's how you would choose whether to associate your brand with that magazine. Apply the same process to influencers.”
Based on their Instagram feed and their stories, you should get a clear and consistent sense of who the influencer is, what topics they create content about, and their general style. If those factors match up well with your brand and your products, you can then check out their engagement rates.
Do they have good engagement rates?
Once you’ve found someone who seems to be a good fit for your brand, it’s time to sniff out whether they’ve got the community that they’re promising.
It all boils down to engagement rates. While tools like Whalar can help you determine if an influencer has the engagement you’d expect on their posts, you can also figure it out based on the public information on their Instagram profiles.
“You can work this stuff out by taking a quick glance. Look at the post, look at the average amount of likes on each post. Take the last 4 to 10 posts, add up all the likes, divide them by the number of posts to get the average, and then divide that by the total followers.
That will give you what we call the engagement rate,” advises Neil. “As long as the engagement rate is anywhere from 2-3% or up, that’s a good mark of engagement. People with smaller audiences might have 8, 9, 10% engagement rates, which are really strong.”
Since Instagram isn’t just about the likes, you can also take a peek at the comments on each influencer’s posts to see what kind of conversations they’re having with the community. If the comments seem real, and not just a stream of single-word sentences, that’s a good sign they’re for real.
Keep your goals in mind
As you’re working through the process of vetting influencers, it’s important to keep the three key outcomes you can get from these collaborations in mind: content that works on a specific platform, access to new audiences, and feedback from a well-aligned customer.
Whichever one is your key priority, it’s important not to lose sight of the eventual outcome you hope to gain from the collaboration, and to remember that at the end of the day, your marketing efforts should lead to work you’re proud of.
“All roads lead to the work,” shares Neil. “If the end outcome of any collaboration, any terms of marketing and communication isn't great work that is representative of your brand, your brand values, and what you're wanting to communicate to people, then what was the point in doing it in the first place?”
Ensuring that you’re working with people who align with your brand, and have solid engagement on their platform, are just two ways to make sure that happens.