Over the past few years influencer marketing has become an essential part of the marketing landscape and a consistent part of major brands’ marketing strategies. It’s an undeniably powerful approach to introducing your products or services to the masses allowing you to connect with your audience in a unique way.
Influencers are pretty much as the name suggests, influential people specifically, on social media, with highly targeted and engaged audiences. Influencers can act as a mutual friend linking your brand with your target audience. Collaboration with such creators has the power to raise brand awareness, drive traffic to your website, amplify messaging across social media platforms, and directly sell your product through their recommendation.
Influencer marketing approaches and strategies are getting more and more difficult to navigate than ever, that’s why we’ve created a comprehensive guide taking you through everything you need to know to create a successful influencer marketing campaign.
Let’s get started!
Influencer Marketing Basics
Consumers have always turned to fellow consumers when trying to make informed purchasing decisions, as 92% of people trust recommendations from other customers, even if they don’t know them personally—over promotional content advertised by brands. And with the rise of social media, there are increasingly more opportunities to use word-of-mouth marketing strategies to amplify brand reputation and popularity. It’s becoming easier for brands to discover and partner up with social media influencers to open the conversation with their target customers.
But First, What’s an Influencer?
The term “influencer” is short for social media influencer - a person who has gained credibility and substantial following in a certain niche. Basically an influencer is someone who has the power to affect the purchasing decisions of their followers because of his or her authority, knowledge, trustworthiness, or relationship with their audience. Influencers have very devoted followings consisting of people who value their opinions and enjoy watching their lifestyle. Influencers usually have large, engaged audiences that businesses tap into to build brand credibility, build reputation and drive sales.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is a marketing strategy where brands use influencers to promote their products and services by partnering with them on social media. It’s a form of collaboration where the influencer partners up with the brand to promote some products or services to their audience.
Influencer marketing as a strategy itself is quite old, the way we do it today has changed significantly though. Originally celebrity endorsements were what influencer marketing was all about, but the landscape has completely changed and influencers are certainly not movie stars nowadays.
Since influencer marketing very much tied to social media, it’s often called social influencer marketing or social media influencer marketing.
Why is Influencer Marketing Important?
Partnering with social media influencers is a number one digital strategy for many brands nowadays. The few simple reasons why influencer marketing works for so many industries and brands are:
The ultimate benefit of influencer marketing is its ability to drive crazy sales.
In general businesses earn about $18 for every $1 they spend on influencer marketing. And this is just an average estimate, many brands see much higher ROI, therefore investing more resources in influencers than any other marketing strategy.
No matter what industry you are in you NEED to gain social proof.
As human beings, we have an undeniable need to fit in with the crowd, be accepted and when we see something that others are interested in, especially people whom we deem authoritative and trustworthy, we’re instantly interested in the item as well. That’s what social proof is all about - affirmation from others, especially from influencers.
Direct Connection to Your Audience
If you want to sell your product you need to get your message in front of your target audience, but as many of us know it, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Influencer marketing conveniently solves this by offering you a nice place to show your massage, right in front of your target people on the platforms that they interact with every day.
Many influencers are not famous, they are not mega celebrities, unreachable and untouchable. They are regular people with relatable lives who happen to have large online followings who truly care about their opinions and views
As the industry progresses a unique phenomenon arises. People sometimes view influencers as their close friends and feel like they understand them better than anyone. Especially when you top this off with the one-on-one interaction many influencers have with their audience in the comments or otherwise, a positive, long-term bond forms between influencers and their followers. As a result, followers trust their favorite influencers inexplicably.
The bottom line: Influencers create a bridge between celebrities and everyday people. That’s why it is so appealing for both regular people and brands.
Types of Social Media Influencers
The term influencer is very broad and it can be broken down into several categories. There are 4 main levels to influencers according to their audience and reach:
The most popular kind of social media influencer - the mega influencers with 1m+ following. They are celebrities, singers, TV stars, or most notably internet personalities that have risen to prominence and fame in recent years.
If the goal of your influencer campaign is to increase brand awareness about your products (and there are no budget limitations), go with a mega influencer.
A macro influencer’s reach usually spans a broad audience of 100,000-1 million followers. For many brands, macro influencers offer the best of both worlds: a large and engaged audience that fits a certain niche. So, if the goal is to reach the masses but still have a target, choose a macro-influencer.
A micro influencer has about 10,000-100,000 followers. Micro influencers have more specific and centered audiences. They are respected experts in their field of expertise. If you are looking to increase conversions, generate leads among a specific audience, go with a micro influencer.
Nano influencers have the smallest following of the bunch. Nano influencers usually have less than 1,000 followers who are hyper-targeted, super niche-relevant and highly engaged. For local brands that have a somewhat smaller budget but want to open up engaging conversations around their brand, choose a nano influencer.
Types of Influencer Campaigns
There are numerous ways to approach influencer marketing, still at the core of each campaign is one goal: sharing your products or service with your target audience in order to drive sales.
Probably the most widespread type of influencer partnership is sponsored posts, which is simply a social media post containing a brand’s ad for a certain product or service.
Usually, influencers will post a picture, video, article, tweet, etc. using said product or service, developing credibility and trust between the creator and their audience, as they are clearly showing how they’ve been using and loving this brand’s offering.
Another popular way of doing sponsored content is the ‘shoutout’, whether it be on Instagram, YouTube or TikTok. This can draw a lot of attention to your brand, without obviously advertising your product and it’s way easier to arrange than other methods.
Discount Codes and Affiliate Marketing
Everyone loves a good discount, especially if it comes from your favorite influencer. They can be limited-time offers, first-purchase only, influencer-specific discounts that are personalized for the creator’s audience to draw as many conversions as possible. Discount codes, or coupon purchases are usually tracked by referral or affiliate links to track and analyze the campaign.
Competitions and Giveaways
Except for discounts, what do people love more? Free stuff! And guess why this strategy works like magic? Because these people are hyper-interested in what the influencer is giving away. This type of partnership can draw massive attention and engagement, putting the spotlight on your brand and making people curious about the products you are offering.
Social Media Takeover
Social media takeover is a type of partnership used to increase brand exposure and provide interesting content to the audience. Social media takeover is basically like letting the influencer completely take over your social media channels and navigate your brand promotion.
Promoting events with the help of the influencer takeover is a great idea. They incorporate interactive features, contests, Q/A sessions, BTS snaps etc. to engage followers and drive incredible traffic to your event.
If you’ve found your perfect influencer that ticks every single box and drives fantastic ROI, don’t let them go. Most brands that invest in influencer marketing have brand ambassadorship programs.
What’s a brand ambassador?
A brand ambassador is an influencer that is bound by contract to work with you over an extended period of time. In this type of campaign, the brand ambassador shares images, posts, videos, articles relating to your product on an ongoing basis and promotes them across all of their socials. This is a type of long-term partnership that creates a strong bond between your brand, the influencer and the audience, showing over time your brand from a whole another perspective, making it more approachable, humane and trustworthy.
Influencer Marketing Strategy
Like any digital marketing tactic, an influencer campaign takes meticulous targeting and planning. You won’t come to success simply by sending out free products to everyone hoping they talk about you. So how do you use influencer marketing successfully for your business?
We’ve broken it down into easy-to-follow steps, let’s go!
Choose the Right Social Media Platforms
Before you go on looking for the right influencers to work with your brand, you need to choose the right social media platforms. Different social platforms have their own unique features and user demographics. Running your campaign blindly on every platform could waste a lot of your valuable resources.
A good place to start is by looking at the channels other marketers are using this year. According to an Influencer Marketing Survey, the top five most strategically dominant social media platforms for influencer marketing are:
Best for sharing photos or bite-sized video content that’s meant to catch instant attention. If you’re an e-commerce brand, you most certainly want to reap Instagram’s potential and reach. Most Instagram users are ages 18-34.
Obviously best for video content, but unlike Instagram you can have videos of any length on YouTube, giving you more options to talk about your brand. YouTube’s demographic is surprisingly varied. Although it’s most popular with 18-24 year olds, it has 51% penetration among people 75 and older.
Best for all sorts of content - a mix of text, photo, and video. It’s also loved by marketers for its popular Facebook Live option that allows you to livestream anytime, interactive with your audience in real time. Facebook’s users range between 25 and 34.
Blogs are great for long-form storytelling content. Blogs are an effective way to inform, educate, and persuade your audience. It might be surprising but over 70% of internet users read blogs! Blog readers’ average age is 41 years old which makes blogs a good appeal to the older audiences, compared to the social channels.
Compared to other social media channels Twitter has a significantly smaller but more engaged audience. But unlike other channels, you can’t give much context about your brand as it’s more a social platform for real-time information such as news, making it a great place to promote events. Millennials are the biggest user group on Twitter.
Find the Right Social Media Influencers
There are more than 500,000 active influencers on Instagram alone. That means you have many potential opportunities for influencer collaboration. It also means you have to put in the work to find the right influencer.
At first it seems the bigger the influencer the bigger the impact. That’s not always the truth.
Mega and micro influencers do have a very large reach and a huge amount of followers, but is their audience engaged? Such influencers usually don’t have an intimate relationship with their audience, so they are sometimes considered less trustworthy than social media influencers with smaller, but very engaged followings.
In fact, micro-influencer marketing campaigns drive 60% higher engagement rates than celebrity endorsement campaigns. Moreover, brands are starting to work with nano-influencers, who are the most reliable of them all. Because of their small following when they do advocate some products, their audience never feels sold to.
Ideally, it’s better to create an influencer marketing strategy including all tiers of influencer as they all bring something unique to the table the other can’t. Of course with all things considered, your strategy largely depends on your niche and the platforms you’ve chosen, but creating a strategy that uses a mix of influencers is the best way to go.
Set a Budget
Now that we’ve looked at the potential influencer and their reach, it’s important to calculate potential ROI from the partnership and the costs that come with it.
Each type of influencer, considering their audience, engagement rate, niche, and such charges differently for the same sort of sponsored post. There are some general guidelines and estimated cost-per-post that you can check out here.
Now that we have an idea of what to pay influencers, the next step is to create your budget. Make sure to factor in time for planning, implementing and reviewing your influencer campaigns. Running a successful influencer campaign is not a set-it-and-go type of strategy. It’ll involve careful monitoring and follow up.
For brands that need a larger amount of influencers, hiring an influencer marketing agency who can monitor and set up the research and coordination for you is a safe bet.
Decide on Goals and Message
The two most prominent drivers for using influencer marketing is brand awareness and increase of sales. However, instead of focusing on these goals, which by default will be achieved, it’s better to focus on brand-specific goals that will satisfy your business needs. It might be widening your reach with the younger demographic, or getting in front of your competitor’s customer’s eyes. It might even be intending to tap into a specific group of people that are hyper-interested in your product. Whatever your goal is, influencers have the ability to reach very specific audiences, and it’s highly likely that if your campaign is set up correctly, your target audience will be very interested in what you’re offering.
Your unique brand message is not any less important as your goals. While you don’t want to smother the influencer’s creativity and own unique style, you also don’t want them to create something that is far away from your brand values and company beliefs. Determine beforehand how you want to structure your influencer marketing campaign, set on a massage and tone in order to stick to it later on.
Influencer Outreach: How to Contact Influencers
Next, it’s time to determine how to reach out to them. A great place to start would be to send them a direct message or find an email. For micro and nano influencers, you can send out a DM on the same platform. For more established influencers, roam around their profile and find contact info for business inquiries in their bio. Top-tier influencers usually have management companies that represent them so a personal massage might get lost in the plethora of DMs they get on the daily.
Still whichever the case, do NOT send out a mass email or generic DM.
Take the time and personalize your massage to each influencer, no matter how small or big.
It will show you’re serious about a potential partnership and in turn will increase your chances of making a nice deal. Also make sure to include as much information about your brands as possible, what you’re trying to accomplish and how this partnership can be beneficial for both of you, beyond the paycheck.
And remember, influencers are regular people who have worked hard to build up their following. They care about their audience and want to work with brands that truly reflect their values and offer products or services their audience is truly interested in. So, take you time and make them feel special.
How to Track Influencer Marketing Campaigns
When you launch your influencer campaign, especially if it’s the first one, it can be tempting to focus on vanity metrics such as likes and comments. But they are not a clear indicator of how successful your campaign is. In order to measure the effectiveness of your influencer campaign you have to track how it affects your bottom line and what ROI it brings.
UTM parameters are a simple way to track the visitors an influencer directs to your website. All you need to do is to add UTM parameters to their custom URLs using the GA Campaign URL Builder. This data can also let you measure how much engagement the campaign gets.
When each influencer is assigned their own unique links, it gives a clear picture of the results that are coming in. That allows to calculate the impact on your bottom line.
Another easy way to track the success of your campaign is to create a specific hashtag that influencers will use in their posts so that you can track mentions, shares and such.
Influencer Marketing Tools
To streamline your efforts and create a more successful campaign there are numerous tools out there that can assist you every step of the way, from finding influencers to measuring campaign results and effectiveness. Admittedly there is a huge amount of tools for influencer campaign tracking and research, but I’ve mentioned a select few not to bore you.
Although BuzzSumo is more popular as a content research platform it’s also a great place to find relevant influencers. It offers an “influencer search” feature allowing you to search for the top influencers in any niche, social media platform, or location.
HypeAuditor is a website with a massive Instagram, YouTube and now TikTok influencer database of more than 10 million creators. If you want to get stats on certain influencers it gives you a closer look at a follower’s profile. Their search filters include location, language, category, age, and gender.
Looking for an all-in-one solution to accommodate your influencer marketing needs? Upfluence does it all from helping you find relevant influencers to managing your campaigns and monitoring performance. The tool provides complete access to each influencer’s contact details and also helps you manage your campaigns easily. You can even outreach them straight from your account.
One of the top tools out there specifically made for influencer marketing to help you build and track your campaigns. Traackr was originally built for helping brands manage their relationships with influencers, but it also comes with additional features that help you monitor the results. This tool automates influencer discovery, research, and reporting, letting you to focus more on building meaningful relationships and creating awesome content.
The Dealspotr Marketplace is a free influencer marketing tool. It combines the benefits of a promo code website with a management system to track your influencer campaigns. You can add exclusive codes, browse the massive database of micro-influencers, choose a list of influencers to promote these codes and your product, and track everything from one easy-to-navigate dashboard.
Sprout Social is a widely used and quite popular tool for monitoring your influencer marketing campaigns. It tracks hashtags, mentions, tags and allows your team to collaborate without any issues.
Influencer Marketing Tips
Understand Your Brand First
To find relevant influencers that truly fit your business, you need to have an in-depth understanding of your own brand, what you want to achieve and how you want to be perceived.
If an influencer manages themselves and all of their partnership enquiries, you need to be agreeable and make them feel valued and unique. Although influencers are their own business, the majority of them aren’t businesspeople and don’t have a proper education. Too much talk about numbers, stats and such can scare them away. It’s best to interact with them face to face or, in this case, over a video call, (with the pandemic and all) and plainly explain your company objectives and expectations.
Follow The Rules
Everything seems easy until the legal agreements come to play. Before you start any relationship with an influencer, make sure to know and follow the rules. Influencers must identify sponsored posts with great hashtags like #ad or #sponsored. While video reviews should include both verbal and written disclosure about the partnership.
Let Them be Creative
An influencer who has worked hard to build a following will not agree to a deal that makes them seem inconsistent. You need to be willing to let go of the control we are all so used to and let them create what they do best. That’s the reason you’ve reached out to them in the first place, right? You’ll get the best value from the collaboration by allowing them to showcase their skills and by letting their imagination fly.
Over to You
It’s now obvious that influencer marketing is not just a trend. It’s a new era of marketing that transformed how brands interact with their audience.
However small or big you simply cannot overlook the importance of influencer marketing in today’s landscape, where there are even more opportunities for businesses to grow and connect with their customers on a deeper level.
Don’t hesitate, give it a try, and see for yourself what it can do for your business. If you follow this step-by-step guide, you’ll start getting an inflow of new customers and sales, so be ready for change.