Influencer marketing is when a business collaborates with an influential person on social media to promote a product, service, or campaign. These people, know as “social media influencers,” have dedicated and engaged followings.
Celebrity endorsements were the original form of influencer marketing. But in today’s digital world, regular content creators with niche audiences can often offer more value to brands.
As reported by eMarketer, a survey from WhoSay found that 70 percent of U.S. agency and brand marketers agreed that influencer marketing budgets would increase in 2018. And 89 percent said influencer marketing can positively impact how people feel about a brand.
Not convinced influencer marketing can lead to real business results? A survey by Dana Rebecca Designs found that 72 percent of respondents had made a fashion, beauty, or style purchase after seeing something on Instagram.
Instagram is overwhelmingly the platform of choice for social influencers. 78 percent identify the photo-sharing site as their top platform for collaborating with brands. Sponsored Instagram posts generated a billion likes in 2017.
Bonus: Download our free guide that shows you how to 10X your social media performance and beat your competitors. Includes the tools, tricks, and daily routines used by three world-class social media experts.
What is a social media influencer?
Quite simply, an influencer is someone who carries influence over others. A social media influencer is someone who wields that influence through social media. The form of influence can vary and no two influencers are the same.
The right influencer is someone who can reach your target audience, build trust, and drive engagement. They will create original, engaging content that is in line with their own brand (rather than following a template advertising style provided by a brand).
For this reason, it’s critical to work only with social media influencers whose creative vision aligns with your own.
How to find the right social media influencer for your brand
Before reaching out to a potential social media influencer, you’ll need to consider the three Rs of influence:
- Relevance: The influencer is sharing content and has an audience relevant to your business and industry.
- Reach: The number of people you could potentially reach through the influencer’s follower base will bring value to your business.
- Resonance: The potential level of engagement the influencer can create with an audience that’s relevant to your brand.Bigger isn’t always better. A huge follower count is meaningless if those followers aren’t interested in your business’ offerings. And a smaller follower count can be very powerful if it’s a niche area and the potential influencer has a dedicated and engaged following.Tapinfluence found that engagement rates are often higher for “micro-influencers”—those with 5,000 to 25,000 followers.
Know who you’re trying to influence
Your influencer campaign can’t be all things to all people. An effective strategy requires you to speak to the right people using the right tools (and, in this case, the right influencers).
The first step is to define who your audience will be for this specific campaign.
Developing audience personas is a great way to make sure you understand who you’re trying to reach. Once you’ve done that, create a matching set of influencer personas. This will help you understand the qualities you’re looking for in your influencer partners.
Look for engagement and trust with the right audience
For marketers, the key is trust. Your audience must trust and respect the opinion of the influencers you partner with. Without the trust component, any results will be superficial and you’ll struggle to see a tangible business impact from your efforts.
How do you tell if your potential influencer is trusted? Engagement. That means plenty of views, likes, comments, and shares—all from the precise follower segments you’re trying to reach.
A good engagement rate also means a loyal following, rather than an inflated follower count bolstered by bots and fraud accounts.
Go for a consistent look, feel, tone, and values
Besides finding a fit for your own niche, you need to find someone who’s producing content with a look and feel that complements your own. And the tone must also be appropriate for the way you want to present your brand to potential customers. This will ensure things don’t feel disjointed in either party’s social media posts.
It’s also important to check for shared values. The Body Shop’s Integrated International Brand Communications Director told traackr.com that they don’t work with influencers who wear fur because it’s inconsistent with their mission to end animal testing. Instead, they like to work with vegan influencers as they command the right audience.
View this post on Instagram
I'm here with @pennold today.. Watch my stories to see our tutorial using @thebodyshop ????cruelty free ????mask on my skin whilst she slays my eyes ????. I used the Himalayan Charcoal purifying glow mask to get rid of impurities and toxins so my skin looks nice and glowy. I used the British Rose mask to quench my skin and give it that dewy look. ☁️ To win a full set of The Body Shop Face Masks follow these steps: 1. Follow @thebodyshop 2. Share a Face Mask Selfie by yourself or with a friend 3. Hashtag your selfie with #DaretoMask and #CountryofResidence Competition ends on the 16th April 6pm GMT. For T&C’s head over to @TheBodyShop #ad
Keep an eye out for sponsorship saturation
Take a look at what your potential influencers are posting. How often are they sharing sponsored content? If they’re already hitting their followers with a barrage of paid posts, their engagement rate may not hold up over time. Look for plenty of organic, non-paid content to keep followers interested, enthusiastic, and engaged. YouTube influencer Laura Reid recommends only having one in every five or 10 posts sponsored.
Keep this in mind when thinking about what you’ll ask the influencer to post, as well. Asking for too many posts in a short timeframe will make your offer hard for the influencer to accept, even if it comes with a large paycheck.
How to approach a potential influencer
Once you’ve identified the influencers you’d like to work with, it’s time to reach out. Here are some key ways to increase your chances of bringing your most coveted influencers on board.
Show you’ve done your research
In-demand influencers get lots of offers. When you first approach an influencer, show that you understand what their channels are about, who their audience is, and how the partnership could benefit both parties.
Reach out privately, and personally
A direct message is a great place to start. If you can find an email address, try that too. But don’t send a mass email or generic DM. It may take a little longer to write a personal message to each influencer, but it will show you’re serious about a potential partnership and increase your chances of striking a deal.
Have a compensation plan (and budget) in mind
Influencers with extensive reach rightly expect to be paid for their work. Free product might get you some reviews from those who are just starting out, but a serious influencer campaign requires a budget.
Think about what kind of payment structure makes the most sense for your goals, but be willing to consider the influencer’s needs, too. For example, an affiliate or commission structure might be an option instead of a flat fee, or to reduce the flat fee. Remember that micro-influencers will have more flexible payment terms.
Influencer marketing tips
Follow the rules
Before you dive into influencer marketing, it’s important to understand the rules set out by the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC takes disclosure very seriously. Make sure you build disclosure guidelines into your agreements with influencers. Even though influencers are required to identify sponsored posts, a survey from Zine found that 41 percent only label content with tags like #ad or #sponsored. And that’s only when they are asked to do so.
Here are some key points from the FTC:
- Video reviews must include both written and verbal disclosure of the partnership in the video itself (not just the description).
- The built-in tools on social media platforms are not enough.
- #ad and #sponsored are great hashtags to use for disclosure, but make sure they’re highly visible and not just tacked on to the need of a long string of tags.
That last point is an important one, since some influencers may be wary about putting the #ad or #sponsored hashtag right up front. But it didn’t limit engagement on this sponsored post for 1850 Coffee by Daniella Monet, which garnered more than 28,000 likes in the first 12 hours after it was posted.
View this post on Instagram
#ad You guys know how I feel about my ☕️ – obsessed. Well, today I decided to really enjoy the new @1850coffee, it’s my first time trying it and I’m in love. 1850 coffee gives me the perfect boost to get my hustle on. If you’re a coffee (and chocolate ???? ) lover, the Black Gold Dark Roast is for you. I even made a little extra so I can throw it over ice later ????
Be willing to give up some creative control
A social media influencer who has worked hard to build a following will not accept a deal that makes their own personal brand seem inconsistent. And, after all, influencers are content creation experts—you’ll get the best value from their work by allowing them to showcase those skills.
Busabout launched a search for four influencers to be the “ultimate travel squad,” touring around Europe and posting on social. While all worked on the same campaign, the content was varied and showed each person’s unique style.
View this post on Instagram
I’ve been waiting a long time to play in an “abandoned” cargo yard. (Don’t ask me why, I’m just weird).⠀ Anyways! NDSM in Amsterdam has allowed me to live my childhood dream, and even though it wasn’t abandon… actually, it was quite full of work spaces, bars, and people… it was a pretty dope playground. ⠀ ⠀ Thanks Amsterdam – with love, PLT⠀ :::::: ::::⠀⠀ #busabouteurope #ultimatetravelsquad #goexplore #whererofindme #igersoffical #exploretheworld #girlsaroundtheworld #girlsdiscoverers #prettyliltraveler #travelinfluencer #travelgram #instastyle #instatravel #digitalinfluencer #ladiesgoneglobal #gltLOVE #dreamingnature #thediscoverermagazine #girlsaroundtheworld ⠀ #amsterdam #amsterdamworld #amsterdamshots #amsterdamgram #amsterdamart #streetartdaily #streetphotography #amsterdamvibe
It’s a good idea to provide some guidelines about what you’re looking for, of course, but don’t expect to stage-manage the entire campaign.
Boost credibility with influencer messaging on your own channels
You can also recruit share or cross-post content from influencers on your own channels. This helps highlight the collaboration and provides benefits to both the brand and the influencer.
When the travel company Want to Travel partnered with Jonathan Kubben Quiñonez of
Mom I’m Fine fame, they shared his posts on their own social channels.
Kubben Quiñonez has more than 300,000 Instagram followers and got tens of thousands of likes for the posts on his channels. Want to Travel, on the other hand, is just getting started on Instagram, and at the time of the campaign had only a few hundred followers themselves. But when they shared a @momimfine post, they got an impressive 23 percent engagement rate.
View this post on Instagram
Last year I invited my mother to Indonesia to show her what it was to backpack so this week I invited my father and my stepmother to Tanzania. ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? It will clearly be one of the best memories that I have with my dad. The safari, the camps and the amazing organization are leaving us speechless. Thank you @___wantotravel___ for making this happen. Shot with????: @canonbelgium #momimfine #safari #lion #africa #liveforthestory #ad
You should also request that the influencer to send you detailed reports on the reach and engagement levels of their posts.
Bonus: Download our free guide that shows you how to 10X your social media performance and beat your competitors. Includes the tools, tricks, and daily routines used by three world-class social media experts.Get the free guide right now!
Measure your results
When you launch your influencer campaign, it can be tempting to focus on vanity metrics like likes and comments. If your influencer has a much larger following than your own, you might feel a little dazzled by the sheer number of likes that can rack up.
To measure the effectiveness of a campaign, you have to understand its value in terms of return on investment. According to a survey by Linqia, 76 percent of marketers said measuring influencer campaign ROI was their top challenge for 2018.
UTM parameters are one way to track the visitors an influencer sends to your website, as well as how much engagement the campaign receives.
When you assign each influencer their own unique links with UTM codes, you’ll get a clear picture of the results. And that allows you to calculate the impact on your bottom line.
For example, when Instagrammer Christopher Chung worked with Ted Baker Menswear, he directed followers to the Ted Baker link in his bio.
The link contained UTM source and content parameters, which showed Ted Baker Menswear how much traffic came from Chung’s posts.
You should also request that the influencer to send you detailed reports on the reach and engagement levels of their posts. This is especially important for channels like Snapchat and Instagram Stories, where engagement happens out of the public view.
Influencer marketing tools
Clarify your goals and determine what types of influencers you should reach out to based on those objectives.
This tool from Moz allows you to search for relevant influencers on Twitter based on keywords and location. It’s a great first tool to use when building your list of potential influencers to engage and partner with.
Hootsuite search streams can also help you discover influencers by monitoring conversations relevant to your industry across multiple channels: Twitter, Facebook Pages, Google Plus, and Instagram.
Once you have an initial set of influencers in mind, add them to a stream to track what they share and who they engage with. This will help you understand their relevance to your audience while also highlight other potential influencers to work with.
Once you’ve built your list of potential influencers, use the data from Demographics Pro to check for a demographic match with your brand.
The app shows you the demographics of any Twitter user’s followers, including gender, average age and income level. You can even find out which cities most of those followers live in. This allows you to make sure the influencers you choose speak to the exact audience you’re trying to reach.
This app helps you find trending photos, videos, and influencers on Instagram using relevant hashtags and topics . Then, you can research the creators of that top content to find out whether they’re a good fit for your brand and your particular campaign goals.
It also integrates with Hootsuite.
This app can search out top content shared by influencers based on topic and location. Use to identify thought leaders and discover potential influencer partnerships based on the quality of the content they share.
This Google-owned platform connects brands with YouTube influencers. Tell it what kind of content you’re looking for, the kind of sponsorship you’ll provide, and your budget, and content creators will send you proposals to review.
Make your influencer marketing activities easier with Hootsuite. Schedule posts, engage with influencers, and measure the success of your efforts. Try it free today.