In the age of social media, traditional advertising methods are becoming rapidly outclassed by influencer marketing. After all, why would you spend far more money filming targeted ads and commercials that people are mostly going to ignore anyway? Tons of companies and top brands have realized that social media influencer marketing is the future of consumer outreach, and they plan to increase their budget for growing relationships with influencers. Don’t be left behind.
Finding the right influencer for your product can be a challenge, though. There are a lot of influencers out there right now, and deciding which one is the right person for your product is key. Even then, once you have the right influencer in mind, knowing the best way to start building a partnership is just another layer of complexity. The last thing you want to do is lose the ideal person to promote you because you weren’t familiar with the intricacies of the process.
Of course, one of the best ways to save yourself all the trouble of tracking down the perfect influencer and making connections with them is to use a social media influencer marketing agency. These serve as a middle-man and take care of all the hard work for you. If you already know you are in the market for an influencer to partner with, get in touch with us, and we’d be happy to get you set up with the right person to promote your product.
If you still need convincing how important and beneficial influencer marketing is, or if you prefer to do the work yourself, the rest of this article will be a guide for what to look for, who to look for, and how to navigate setting up an influencer marketing partnership.
What Are Influencers and Influencer Marketing?
“Influencer” is one of those words that most people have come to understand from context, but might not be sure exactly what it means. The name does a good job of explaining itself — it is, by definition, someone who influences other people. In the context of marketing, an influencer is someone with a strong enough reputation that they can influence the decisions of the people that follow them. The relationship between these content creators and their followers is a more formalized version of word-of-mouth advertising, which is highly effective on the occasions it happens. Now, with an influencer marketing campaign, you can make it happen.
As you can then likely deduce, influencer marketing is using these people to advertise and promote your brand. It’s a bit like old-school celebrity endorsements and sponsorships, but much more precise. It can take a wide variety of forms, such as getting mentioned in someone’s Instagram story, getting new products reviewed by a YouTuber, or having a blogger write a featured piece about your company.
The great thing about using influencers to promote your brand is that they often have pre-determined and easily identifiable niches. Marketers can look at an influencer’s social media profiles and can tell within a few minutes what kind of people would be interested in following them. This makes it incredibly easy to determine who you need to partner with to reach your brand’s target audience. For example, Ana Cheri would be the perfect influencer to promote at-home exercise gear or fitness-focused food service.
Thus, why influencer marketing works so well. Consumer outreach has already been taken care of, and you won’t have to worry about whether or not you are advertising in the right space. The quality of the content tends to be better since influencers develop relationships with their audiences and know how to best engage them. Influencer promotion fees tend to be less than the cost of most other forms of advertising, helping the return on investment go way up.
Understanding The Types of Influencers
As is the case with everything, there are always subcategories. As mentioned above, an “influencer” can just be anyone capable of influencing the opinions of others. That means people do not have to have a massive following and a universally recognized name to be considered an influencer. Though, the type of influencer someone is considered relates directly to their follower count.
Mark Schaefer outlined the five basic categories of influencers in his most recent book, Marketing Rebellion:
Celebrity: A widely recognized star with a following of one million or more people
Macro Influencer: Large but trusted content creators with 100k to one million followers
Professional: Typically experts in a subject with between 20k and 100K followers
Micro-Influencers: Super niche relevant voices with a thousand to 20K followers
Nano Influencers: Small but highly vocal advocates with a thousand or fewer followers
You might be thinking that celebrity level influencers are the target for every social media marketer, due to their much larger number of followers. In reality, they tend to be less successful than smaller influencers. Part of this has to do with their increased expenses — that large follower count doesn’t come cheap. It’s also hard for them to come across as genuine when promoting anything besides somewhat generic products like sodas or clothing. People tend to follow celebrities more because of who they are, less so for their opinions on products.
Following the same logic down the list, nano influencers are much more useful than you might suspect at a first glance. They might have smaller followings, but the people that do consume their content tend to be more loyal and valuing of their opinions. Nano influencers also tend to be more vocal and active in their communities, giving them a bonus word-of-mouth appeal. Since they tend to be more localized voices, they are ideal for small businesses. It doesn’t make much sense to have an Instagram influencer with a nation-scale reach like Tana Mongeau to promote your local bakery, for example.
What Makes Someone a Promising Influencer?
While it’s important to find an influencer with a decent follower count and with the same sort of target audience as you, those are far from the only factors that should be considered. Sure, you can find someone who will do a decent job, but taking the little extra effort to find the right influencer makes all the difference. Here are some of the telltale signs that an influencer is right for you:
High Level of Engagement
There is so much content out on the internet, it’s easy for people to just consume it and move onto the next offering. It doesn’t matter how many people follow a certain influencer if the majority of their followers never interact with the content. It’s an issue of quality mattering more than just quantity. For a more in-depth look at this topic, check out our discussion of Reach vs Impression.
Ideally, you want an influencer that can get their followers to engage with their content as much as possible. Micro-influencers and professionals seem to be the top influencers in terms of overall engagement rates. These are the people that are going to have the followers that are willing to click the affiliate link, check out your brand’s website, or potentially get you some publicity you didn’t have to pay for. One of the common metrics for engagement is the rate at which followers share/retweet an influencer’s posts or use their affiliate hashtags.
Ensure Relevant Influencer Collaboration
It’s no secret that the internet is a hostile place. Trolls, diehard fans, and critics lurk everywhere, ready to strike at any moment something upsets them. That’s why it is essential to make sure if you are partnering with an influencer, ensure that the partnership makes sense.
As discussed earlier, it can be pretty easy to determine whether or not an influencer will reach your target audience. But a close miss is still a miss. For example, Sara Jean Underwood looks like a great candidate for an outdoor recreation influencer campaign, due to her clear love of the outdoors. On closer inspection, she is an outspoken vegan and prefers to harmonize with nature, so asking her to promote hunting gear would be a bit weird.
Usually, an influencer will let you know if what you are asking them to market isn’t a good fit, but it’s always better to check yourself. The relationship between influencers and fans — especially influencers with more tightly knit — is much more personal than you might expect. Everyone fears being marked as a sellout, and a bad collaboration might be worse than no collaboration at all.
The Influencer’s Networks
Not every influencer is on the same social media platform, and not every platform does the same amount of work to promote certain brands. Demographics are one of the main concerns here. For example, if your target audience is older populations, then you’ll want someone with a meaningful presence on Facebook. If you’re looking to advertise to younger people, and Instagram influencers would probably net you better results. If you want to appeal more to a group with a niche interest, find a blogger that covers topics in that niche.
The differences in the many influencer marketing strategies are easily overlooked. A mention in someone’s Instagram story is relevant for, at most, 24 hours. A mention in someone’s Instagram bio is relevant for as long as the bio stays up. A trending Twitter hashtag would be lucky to be prominent for an afternoon, a Youtube video with a promotion in it can still generate traffic weeks after its release.
Pay especially close attention to influencers who know how to make content that is SEO. People that know how to use the right keywords and keep their content from being readily dated can help to prolong its relevance past competitors. Using appropriate links to direct and boost website traffic can help your company appear higher when being searched for online. Bloggers tend to be especially savvy when it comes to making SEO content.
Also, consider the influencer’s personal social networks. Some influencers will be able to put you in contact with other influencers, or even other brands.
Do They Seem Like Someone You Want to Work With?
This seems like an obvious point of consideration, but it so often goes overlooked. Even if they are the best influencer possible in terms of promotion potential, it’s not worth it to partner up if you aren’t going to enjoy working with them.
The most successful partnerships are the ones that go on for a long time. When you start looking for content creators to begin an influencer marketing campaign, keep in mind that you’ll be searching for a potential long-term partner. It’s important to evaluate what you want in someone promoting your content.
What’s their style? How do they act? Are they pleasant to interact with? Do they contribute any ideas to the campaign? Do they seem reliable? Seriously, think about what you want to have in a business partner.
Now that you know what to look for, you can finally start looking. Luckily, finding influencers is pretty easy, so long as you know how to go about searching. There are four main ways to go about it:
1. Search Hashtags
Most of the major social media networks use hashtags as a way to keep track of the things people are talking about and help make specific topics easier to look for. Since influencers are so prone to having niches, you can just search for hashtags related to your brand and likely find some influencers that fit your needs.
2. Advanced Search Tools
A few social media networks give the ability to search for more specific things within their clients. One you might not suspect to be so helpful here is LinkedIn. Most professional influencers — really most professionals — should have a LinkedIn profile. You can filter by industry, job title, or even location, making it especially useful to find local micro or nano influencers if you’re looking to promote a small business.
3. Social Media Marketing Tools
These are third-party pieces of software that take the advanced search tools from certain social media networks, take them to the next level, and apply them to every platform. There are free ones available such as FollowerWonk and paid services like BuzzSumo. Both types of software are fine, but as you can imagine, the paid services are usually a bit more elegant and have more options. These are ideal for when you want to filter by something specific like follower/subscriber count.
4. Search Engines
These can be as general as using Google or as specialized as an industry tool like Nimble, a social CMR. These are literally wells of information at your fingertips. You don’t get extra points for not taking the easy route, so be sure to use every resource at your disposal.
Reaching Out and Making Deals
Once you’ve compiled your shortlist of potential influencers, it’s time to start seeing if they are right for you. As a general rule, it’s best to be slow about how you approach. For one, you don’t want to come off as too aggressive, and you don’t want to jump into an offer only to find out that they aren’t as good of a potential partner as you had hoped they’d be. Follow their accounts, leave a like, make some comments, start up a dialogue.
If you feel like you’ve built a good rapport, you want to make your intentions clear and forward. Most of the time, your first contact will be in an influencer’s DMs. Feel free to open with a hello and a joke or compliment, but don’t beat around the bush.
You’ll get some takers and some leavers, that’s just how it goes. An important thing to keep in mind is that some influencers will say they like your offer, it just didn’t come at a good time. This can mean a lot of things. Maybe they don’t feel they know your brand well enough yet, maybe they are busy, maybe they have a non-competitor clause with a brand already and are worried you could be viewed as a competitor.
Whatever the reason may be, don’t get discouraged. Leave the conversation open and keep up to date with them. More often than not, they are being genuine and would like to work with you when their circumstances are better suited for it.
No matter what, don’t be rude. It can be disappointing if an influencer turns you down, but you don’t gain anything by burning bridges with them. Maybe they didn’t want to work with you, but they might have suggested your brand to another influencer they associate with. Word travels fast in the world of social media, and marketing is no different. Make friends whenever possible, and stay off of people’s bad sides.