Whether you’re marketing savvy or not, you’ve likely heard the term “influencer” — referring to bloggers, YouTube stars, and social media celebrities who have built massive followings on their respective digital platforms.
As more people began to achieve Internet fame, brands and retailers are tapping into the potential to reach new audiences by leveraging partnerships with these influencers.
And there’s good reason that more brands are jumping on the influencer bandwagon: 55% of people trust online bloggers, compared to 47% people who trust traditional advertising messages.
So, how does influencer marketing work? Don’t worry — we’ve got your back. Here, we’ll examine the ins and outs of influencer marketing, how to find influencers, and how to build a high-impact influencer strategy.
What Is Influencer Marketing?
Essentially, influencer marketing is when brands pay or incentivize their chosen influencers to spread their message, whether it’s promoting a specific product, building buzz for a campaign, or almost any capacity imaginable.
Influencer marketing is an amplified form of word-of-mouth marketing, which is one of the oldest and most effect forms of marketing around.
Influencer marketing can take many different forms, including:
- Sponsored blog posts: This is when you pay an influencer to write an article on his/her blog about your product, service, or brand.
- Social posts: Similar to sponsored blog posts, influencers will post about your products or service on their social media channels — Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Banner ads: Some influencers offer retailers the opportunity to pay for banner ads on the influencer’s website.
- Guest posts: This is when you hire an influencer to write a guest post for your own blog.
- Meetups/speaker series/launch events: Drive foot traffic with an in-store meetup, speaker series, or special event launching your new collection or product. Invite industry influencers to be your special guests. There are plenty of your customers who would jump at the chance to hobnob with their favorite style blogger or YouTube persona — and do a little shopping at the same time. An example is Polyvore, which hosted a series of influencer meetups at stores around NYC.
Types of Influencers
Influencers aren’t just people with hundreds of thousands of followers. In fact, all your customers are influencers, to a certain degree.
Macro-influencers are influencers who have hundreds of thousands of followers, though this often means engagement rates are lower. There’s also usually a greater likelihood that macro-influencers have worked with brands in the past, which might not be ideal (more on that later).
Micro-influencers are smaller-scale influencers. They might only have tens of thousands of followers (or less), but engagement is often higher. They usually have a more loyal following and regularly engage with the followers they do have. There’s also less of a chance that they’ve worked with brands in the past, which poses its own challenges. For more information on micro-influencers, read our guide.
Then you have everyone else online.
Though your customers might not have large audiences, there’s no arguing the power of word-of-mouth marketing. You wouldn’t create an entire influencer marketing campaign around these individuals, but it shouldn’t be neglected. If you encourage your customers to post online about your brand, this is its own form of influencer marketing. And it’s free.
How to Vet Influencers
Just because someone has a large, engaged audience doesn’t mean they’re the right influencer for your brand. They must mesh with your objectives, your audience, and your brand.
Look at their visual aesthetic. Does it match yours? Does it match that of your audience’s? If the answer is no, this disconnect could mean that your campaign won’t resonate with your audience or that of your influencer’s. It’s important for your influencer to align with your brand’s goals.
Clothing retailer Wet Seal did this particularly well when they leveraged a Snapchat influencer to revive their social media marketing efforts. The 16-year-old influencer perfectly matched the brand identity and their target audience.
Image Source: AdAge
When looking at their numbers and influence, go beyond simply looking at the total number of followers. What’s their engagement rate like? If you want an easy calculation, take the total number of likes and comments on a post, then divide that by their total number of followers. Multiply by 100 to get your engagement rate. The higher that number, the better.
And while the numbers are insightful, understanding the people who make up those numbers is even more important. They need to match the target you’re trying to reach, otherwise you’ll put the right message in front of the wrong potential customers.
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Get to know your influencer. Check out their other social media profiles, website, and older posts. Do a thorough Google search to make sure there’s nothing scandalous or potentially damaging to your brand hidden somewhere in their digital footprint. There’s also a chance they’ve worked with your competitors in the past, in which case you might want to explore a different route.
Where to Find Influencers
Finding influencers to work with can be a time-consuming process. If you’re going the DIY route, search for related hashtags to your industry. If you’re a retailer in the wedding industry, for example, try some hashtags around weddings, like #weddings or #bride. You’ll see related hashtags. You could also try adding the word “blogger” to the end, such as #weddingblogger.
When you find popular posts, explore those hashtags as well. This will unearth a ton of influencers, and social media channels typically serve the more popular posts at the top of their search results.
Because influencer research can be super time-consuming and tedious, there are many tools and that can do all or some of this legwork for you. Keep in mind that these resources can be pricy, and the more robust their offering, the higher the price tag typically is.
- Traackr: A relationship-building approach to influencer marketing, Traacker will not only find influencers but also manage contact with them.
- Ifluenz: You can access Ifluenz’s existing network of influencers they’ve already built relationships with.
- BuzzSumo: BuzzSumo has an influencer component to their list of diverse products. They’ll help you through the identification through the outreach process of influencer marketing.
- Agencies: There are many agencies that specialize specifically in influencer marketing. They’re usually the most expensive option, but they also have the most expertise. Some to check out include MediaKix, Socialyte, and Evolve.
Know Exactly What You’re Getting
When working with influencers, it’s important to clearly define expectations. Outline a contract that clearly lists who is delivering what and when, and how much that will cost your brand. Agree on these things before you start working together, otherwise things could get messy before you see any real ROI.
If they’ve worked with brands in the past, ask to see examples of those. Inquire about more than just the creative — find out what the results were to better understand what kind of results you can expect in your own campaign.
Every influencer has a different level of experience working with brands and different ways in which they like to do so. It’s important to make sure you have a contract that protects both parties.
Social influencer firm MediaKix recommends that influencer contracts include the following elements or address these points:
- Who retains creative control? Does the influencer or brand maintain control of all the assets that are created during the collaboration. Also clearly outline ownership of content, copyrights, licenses, and clearances for third-party use of content.
- Image specifications: Image sourcing information, photo specifications and ratios, etc.
- Copy points: How will copy be incorporated? What kind of language and tone should be used, etc. Brands can provide speaking points for influencers to translate into their own language for such campaigns.
- Will tracking links/codes be provided? Brands will provide tracking links and coupons/promo codes for the influencer to incorporate into sponsored content
- Previews/drafts: Set expectations for any drafts. Will the influencer give the brand a preview of sponsored content ahead of publication? If so, outline deadlines and schedules to review/approve posts.
- Cross-promotion: Will the influencer promote sponsored content across other social media networks?
- Campaign length: How long and when will the campaign take place? Agree on a campaign schedule before getting started.
- Payment details: All parties should agree on payment details and timelines.
Do Some Trial-and-Error
Before you go all-in on influencer marketing, dip your toes in it. Perhaps you create a round-up article for your blog that has quotes from different influencers. (Here’s an example from Four Seasons Magazine.)
When you share the link to the published article with your contributors, add tracking codes so you can see exactly how many people are coming from which influencer.
How to Use Influencers
You could ship of some free products to influencers and call it a day, but if you want to be effective, you need to come up with a strategic approach.
The way you use influencers depends on what you want to accomplish. Are you trying to build your email list? Then you need to find a way to capture the emails of your influencers’ followers. Maybe this is through a giveaway, where users can provide their email in exchange for an entry.
If your goal is to drive sales, then maybe you’ll want to provide an exclusive discount code for your influencer, or pay them to write a sponsored post about your product(s).
For retailers with brick-and-mortar locations, an InstaMeet is a great way to localize your influencer marketing. Invite influencers to your events, either as speakers or as guests, and leverage their reach to get the word out — and drive foot traffic.
San Diego’s Blenders Eyewear used InstaMeets to meet influential photographers. He then gave them glasses, and they became evangelists (or megaphones) for his brand.
Influencer Marketing: Follow the Rules
There are legal guidelines when it comes to influencer marketing. The Federal Trade Commission has set forth specific rules and regulations for brands and influencers. It’s important to understand these and make sure your influencers do, too.
Retailers who learn how to harness the potential of influencer marketing can reach new audience and grow their customer base, leveraging the trust and social proof of online leaders.
How do you plan to use influencer marketing for your brand? Let us know in the comments below.