To properly understand the concept of influencer marketing, we must first discuss the term “influencer” —which is fairly often misunderstood—.
In a marketing sense, an influencer is a person that can influence other people to purchase a product or a service. This is commonly done by recommending the said item on social media, or promoting it directly.
So, this influencer is usually someone with a lot of followers on social media. This can be a celebrity, an expert/thought leader of a certain niche, or even just an entertainer. As we can see, the number of followers here is their asset.
With that being said, how can we define influencer marketing? In a nutshell, influencer marketing is where we work with these influencers so they can promote our product and service. We can pay them to promote our product on their social media accounts, or sometimes we can ask them to do it for free provided we have the relationships.
Why You Need Influencer Marketing
So, why is influencer getting all the buzz in the past half decade or so? A huge reason for this is the fact that people nowadays are so resistant to traditional advertising.
The average click-through rate for online display ads is just 0.35%, and yet the cost is getting more expensive than ever.
So, with most of us spending the majority of our online activities on social media, it would only makes sense for businesses to move to social media marketing.
However, another problem looms: unless we have built a massive social media followers, it’s very difficult to generate enough reach.
This is where influencer marketing comes in: influencers can help you reach their followers, and with their credibility, people are more likely to buy the message.
So, to summarize, here are just some examples of the benefits you can get from influencer marketing:
- You are buying time: building a social media presence both in quantity (number of followers) and quantity (credibility) can take a long time. Influencer marketing can bypass this period.
- Your promotion is met with less resistance: influencers have built their credibility and prestige even before you join the fray, and their followers are more likely to be convinced.
- Increased brand value: working with the right influencer can dramatically improve your perceived brand value.
Arguably, however, the biggest benefit of influencer marketing is its effectiveness, with the average ROI of 1100% more than online banner ads. Every marketing effort is an investment, and with influencer marketing we can get more from every dollar spent.
So, can we start influencer marketing simply by contacting all the social media personalities with a huge number of followers? Below, we will discuss some of the most important considerations when implementing influencer marketing.
Influencer Marketing Best Practices
What are the most important factors determining influencer marketing’s success? Or rather, what is the job of an influencer marketer?
To answer these, let us discuss the best practices of influencer marketing:
1.Choosing The Right Influencer
A huge aspect of influencer marketing is about choosing the right influencer, which is often more complicated than on the surface.
There are three important considerations here:
- The influencer must fit your niche or belongs to your industry. Even better if their audience is similar to your ideal audience.
- They are affordable according to your marketing budget (or if you can get them for free).
- They are willing to work with you. Just because an influencer is a good fit and is within your price range, doesn’t automatically mean they are willing to promote your brand.
It is important to understand that influencers with the most followers (celebrities and mega influencers) aren’t always the best option. Sometimes working with less well-known influencers is a better fit (more on this further below)/
The key in achieving these three factors? Building relationships.
2. Influencer Outreach: Building Relationships in Your Favor
The more famous the influencer is, the harder (and more expensive) it will be to work with them. This is especially true if you are ‘just’ a small business that is relatively unknown.
The key here is relationship building by ‘outreaching’ to the influencers. There are various approaches we can use here, but in general, here are a few considerations:
- Sometimes all it takes is just a simple email or phone call. Don’t be afraid to try
- Join the conversations on their social media profiles. Contribute by giving interesting answers or even asking the right questions.
- The most effective way, however, is arguably to build your own credibility as a brand. If you are a well-known brand, it’s easier to work with more influencers.
3. The Right Campaign
Even after you get the right influencers, you will still need a proper campaign to promote your product or service.
The main consideration here is that the campaign should align with your brand, as well as the influencer’s.
If your influencer is a blogger that often reviews products and/or services, it would only make sense that the campaign will come in the form of a (preferably positive) review. If your influencer is an instagram personality, then a well-taken photo or well-designed image will do the job.
Developing an Influencer Marketing Plan
The right influencer, the right approach, and the right campaign. The three keys to influencer marketing success, as discussed above.
So, how can we use this knowledge to have a proper influencer marketing strategy? Here, we will breakdown it step by step:
1. Define Your Goal and Purpose
As with any other marketing efforts, your influencer marketing campaign should begin with a purpose.
Define a clear, and yet realistic and measurable goal(s). Is it simply to get more sales? Is it to get more prospects to know your product/service? Make sure these goals are aligned with your marketing goals and you overall business goals.
Also, set up KPIs for these goals so you can measure your performance.
Specific to influencer marketing, in this stage you should also think about which influencer(s) in your niche that can help you in achieving these goals. You should also figure out how the influencer can benefit from this campaign (besides monetary benefits).
Some influencers might avoid financial benefits due to regulations. Some others will simply ask for additional benefits (especially true for big influencers). Can you offer them an access to your audience which they didn’t already have? Or can you offer some promotional perks (early access to your new products, for example).
2. Finding Your Ideal Influencer(s)
Depending on your niche/industry, this can be a very simple or very complicated. If your industry is popular, obviously there will be many influencers to choose from. However, if your niche is less well-known, finding the right thought leaders might be difficult.
Thankfully, nowadays there are a lot of tools that can help us in this stage, for example:
- BuzzSumo: a very popular and effective tool to research find influencers based on terms or phrases.
- Klout: Klout rates people on social media based on their influence, so you can use it to find influencers based on topics
- BuzzStream: a dedicated influencer outreach dashboard where you can also keep track of conversations and relationship milestones.
There are still many more tools available, so choose one according to your budget and needs.
It is also important not to be too fixated on celebrities and mega-influencers. First, they are expensive. Second, people might be more resistant to their sponsored posts because they regularly promote products and services (that people know they didn’t actually use). Micro-influencers, on the other hand, might be more effective in delivering natural promotions.
This is probably the most important step, so pay extra care. Create a list to include all your ideal influencers to use on this next step.
3. Build a Relationship Building Strategy
Every influencer is unique, and it is important to have the right mindset in building a proper plan to connect with influencers: a tactic that worked well with one might not work for the other, and vice versa.
Remember that the relationship itself might worth more than a social media post or even the traffic generated from the campaign. A relationship with the right customer can bring long-term benefits and source of revenue.
To start, don’t solely focus on your brand, but on how you can provide benefits for this influencer. Your goal here is to help the influencer, and so they are more likely to help you in return.
And no, these benefits aren’t always about money: some might want to exchange content (or social media coverage), some might desire product sponsorships, some might want to connect with your audience. if you can figure out their needs and desires, you have a better chance at his relationship.
Timing is also a very important factor, and generally here are the common principles:
- Contacts during breakfast and lunch hours when they tend to check their emails
- Avoid contacts on weekends as they might miss it, and generally you should also avoid the busy Mondays. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are often the best window
- Plan and schedule initial messages, as well as replies and follow-up emails (if necessary).
There are also different approaches you can try. You can, for example, engage in their social media conversations and aim to make contributions (answering questions, giving opinions, asking the right questions, etc.). You can also send a direct email.
Also, influencer outreach might require some trial and error. So, monitor your performance, determine KPIs, and adjust your strategy as you go.
4. Planning a Campaign
Once an influencer agreed to work with your brand, it’s time to actually plan a campaign.
Again, there are two main considerations here:
- How the campaign can be effective for your brand
- How the campaign can be effective with the specific influencer delivering it
Different influencers might have different expertises and styles, and we should adjust our campaign to fit these.
In general, here are the common approaches of an influencer marketing campaign:
- Product endorsements: in a nutshell, you send your product to an influencer for free, in exchange for a (usually an Instagram) post. This might be combined with the second approach below.
- Review: the influencer reviews your product (preferably with a positive feedback)
- Giveaway: provide products for the influencer so they can give it away to their followers.
- Guest posts: writing a post (on your brand’s behalf) on the influencer’s site/platform
There are obviously many more approaches you can use, only limited by you imagination. If you have already developed a relationship with the influencer, you can discuss this step with them to find the best possible approach for both of you.
5. Monitoring Your Progress
Influencer marketing is not a one-off, short term effort, but should be built with a long-term mindset.
There are two different areas to monitor here: the level of engagement with the influencer (before you have a campaign with them), and the ROI of the actual campaign.
In general, there are 6 KPIs you should monitor to measure the success of your campaign:
- Site traffic: fairly self-explanatory, whether there’s any increase of traffic after the influencer campaign. You should especially measure the number of new users visiting the site. If you have several influencer campaigns at once, you can use referral codes.
- Social media growth: any increase in the number of followers and engagements after the campaign.
- Sales: the number of sales made after the campaign (useful to measure actual ROI)
- Lead generation: a number of visitors who successfully converted into prospects
Track the performance of your campaign, and adjust your strategy when necessary. This might include creating another campaign with the same influencer or deciding that working with a specific influencer simply didn’t work for your brand.
In this age where influencers have more influence than media, there’s no question to the effectiveness of influencer marketing—provided you work with the right influencers—.
However, it is also important to understand that influencer marketing is not a get-rich-quick scheme, and will often require a significant time investment before you can get a campaign on the run.
Thus, it’s important to always measure your progress, and make adjustments (including switching to other influencers) when necessary.