Using influencer marketing to grow your online business
Influencer marketing is one of the most powerful ways to market a product. By targeting influencers to help you promote your market, you can greatly expand your reach and build trust with whole new networks of potential customers.
Let's take a moment to consider the case of my uncle. He likes to tell the story of how he jumped off the shed and broke his leg. Why did he jump off the shed? Because my grandma was coming, and my mom told him he needed to get off the roof. Jumping was the quickest way. He trusted her, and he did as she said. My mom (and his fear of being caught) influenced my uncle’s decision to jump.
We trust people for all kinds of reasons, and that trust allows them to influence us and the decisions we make. We buy books, we try escargot, we go on 20-kilometre hikes and even jump off roofs if someone we trust tells us to.
What is influencer marketing and what makes someone an influencer?
Influencer marketing is a form of digital marketing based on the idea that it’s easier to sell your products and services to someone who is already being influenced by someone else—an influencer. With this form of marketing, you build a relationship of trust with someone who already has the trust of a demographic that you want to sell to.
Stanley Milgram, a Yale psychologist, says, “The marketplace will blindly believe the words of an expert.” This idea can help us better understand how influencer marketing works. Influencers are seen as experts and trusted by their followers. The benefit for you as a business owner lies in the influencer’s expertise and the fact that people believe and trust them.
Today, many influencers are online superstars who use their personal brand to create, share, and promote content to their followers. Influencers are all over the internet—from YouTube to Instagram. Anywhere people interact online, you’re bound to find influencers.
With influencer marketing, businesses target influencers rather than the entire market. By appealing to an influential person, a business can turn that person into an influencer or brand ambassador and win exposure to a meaningful demographic.
Let’s say a sneaker company wants to advertise a new sneaker that’s perfect for running in the rain. If they purchased a billboard on the highway, they would have to hope that runners, specifically dedicated runners who don’t mind the rain, drive by and take notice of the billboard. If, instead, that sneaker company finds an influencer who loves running and who posts about running all of the time, their product will be shared with people who love to run or at least trust the opinion of someone who loves to run.
Influencer marketing can happen in two ways. You can solicit someone whose influence you covet to promote your products. Or, an influencer might just review or promote your product because they genuinely like it. Because of new regulations, influencers are required to be transparent with content that they are being paid to create.
What is influencer content?
Influencer content can take multiple forms. According to one source, there are seven categories of influencer campaigns or collaborations. Within each of these categories are subsections.
This is the most popular form of influencer content. They're super-popular on Instagram or any sort of clickbait-y article (Hello, Buzzfeed). Here, the influencer is given creative control and asked to include your product in some form of content. This might be a simple outfit styling or including your product in a listicle.
2. Paid shoutouts
There are two types of influencers: people and influential pages. Paid shoutouts usually take place on influential pages and often use content that you provide.
3. Guest content
Guest content can take many forms, from guest blog posts to guest podcast hosts. A popular form of guest content is a social media takeover. This is where an influencer runs your social media account for a day or event. This is popular on platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.
Collaborations are fun because they let you work creatively with an influencer to create a new product or service, or even host an event. Think Yeezy Season 1. Below is a blog post from blogger and photographer ParisInFourMonths about her collaboration with Ladurée.
5. Contests and giveaways
Everyone loves free stuff! Contests and giveaways make people feel good about your business, and they make the influencer look good in the process.
6. Product reviews
According to HubSpot, 81% of online shoppers look at reviews before buying. Having an influencer review your products can be a great way to lead people to your store and hopefully make a purchase.
7. Event invitations
Inviting influencers to an event is a great way to get coverage. Fashion weeks across the globe include influencers as a way to promote designers' shows and collections. If your product needs to be experienced, or if you're showcasing it in a specific atmosphere, consider inviting influencers from your industry.
Why do influencers matter?
As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to stay on top of what’s happening in your industry. And right now, in ecommerce, influencer marketing is happening. In 2017, the value of influencer marketing on Instagram alone was $1.07 billion and is projected to reach $2.38 billion by 2019. According to Scrunch, influencer marketing can improve your SEO, increase product sales, increase online engagement, and improve general brand awareness.
Can influencer marketing work for me?
Influencer marketing is used across a multitude of industries, from fashion to entertainment to fitness, and even for teeth-whitening gadgets. If there’s a social following that shares values with your brand, odds are you can find an influencer to help you market to that niche. But of course, you’ll need to do your own research on influencers in your specific industry.
This report from Forbes provides a list of major influencers along with insights into the most popular influencer platform in terms of reach for each industry. For example, fashion and beauty influencers have greater reach on Instagram than any other platform. Gaming and food influencers find their highest reach on YouTube.
Get to know your industry. Do your research, and go from there.
How to work with influencers
There are two routes you can take if you want to work with an influencer. You can go through an influencer agency or platform who will find an influencer for you to work with. Or, you can find an influencer on your own by scoping out social media and reaching out to that person.
According to Shane Barker, 75% of marketers say that finding the right influencer is the hardest part of influencer marketing—so if you’re struggling with your search, know that you’re not alone.
For every industry and region, there are different influencer platforms and agencies. You’ll have to do your homework. But here’s a list from Influencer Marketing Hub that might be a good place to start.
If you’re going the DIY route and finding an influencer for yourself, you’ll want to first determine which platform you want your content shared on. If it’s Twitter, look for influencers there. YouTube? Look there. You get the idea.
In addition to determining which platform you want to be promoted on, you’ll also need to figure out what your goal is. Setting a goal for your influencer campaign not only helps convey your objective to your potential influencer so they can create appropriate content, but it allows you to track your ROI. Do you want more people to follow you on social media? Do you want to create excitement over an upcoming product? Promote a sale?
Once you’ve determined the platform and goal for your influencer campaign, it’s time to find an influencer. Take the time to find someone who aligns with your values. Pay attention to how many followers they have, but more importantly, take note of their engagement rate. Anywhere from 1.6-3.5% is considered good, and anything higher is great.
Pay attention to engagement—that’s what is going to make your campaign a worthwhile investment. It doesn’t matter if an influencer has 300,000 followers if their posts are only getting 200 likes or interactions.
Also, take a peek at who is interacting with an influencer’s content. Are these accounts real? If there are a lot of spam accounts, you may want to reconsider partnering with them. You want interactions that are meaningful and beneficial to your business. That means they need to be shared with potential customers, not spam accounts.
Once you’ve found an influencer you want to work with, you’ll need to reach out. Some businesses send products to influencers without first making any sort of arrangement, but that doesn’t guarantee you’ll get a review or any content. So, it’s a bit of a gamble.
If the influencer has an email connected to their social media page, send an email. Let them know about you and your brand, what you’re looking for in a campaign, and why you’d like to work with them.
If they don’t have an email address on their page, there’s no shame in sliding into their DM’s. Remember that if they aren’t following you, there’s a chance your message will be filed into a message request folder. So, make the first few words of your message stand out, as the message preview will determine whether they open or ignore your message.
Once you’ve started a conversation with an influencer, it’s time to get down to business. If you’re paying them, find out their rate or offer one of your own. Do research to find out what the going rate is in your industry or for an influencer of their size. Make it clear what your goals are for the campaign. It’s important to start off on a good foot and on the same page. Are you going to be re-posting their content? Where are they going to share their content? It’s important to know these things to avoid miscommunications that lead to a failed campaign.
Once the influencer has the information and products that they need, let them get to work. It’s their job to create quality content. So, give them the time and space to do that. Don’t give them a script or overly-structured guidelines. Their followers will be able to see through the façade, and the campaign won’t feel as authentic or be as effective. Be supportive as needed, but not bossy. No one likes to be micromanaged.
When done well, influencer marketing can be highly effective and a lot of fun for you, your influencer, and their following. The goal of influencer marketing is to expose and reinforce your brand to a niche of people who have similar interests and ideologies as you and your brand. Influencer marketing is sneakier than obvious advertisements such as billboards or newspaper ads. It exists almost seamlessly in social feeds and YouTube suggestions. People look for influencers because they trust and value an influencer’s thoughts and expertise.
Have you worked with influencers before? What has your experience been like? Comment below!