Digital marketing isn’t what it used to be. Today people pay attention to reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations. They don’t care about ads and branded content.
Influencer marketing has quickly become the best solution for businesses hoping to reach and engage audiences on the web.
Here’s everything you need to know to start:
What is Influencer Marketing?
“Influencers” are not a new thing in the marketing world. Businesses have been working with powerful, famous and influential people for a long time. Hiring celebrities to narrate a car insurance commercial is an example of this.
But in recent years influencer marketing has changed a lot. People no longer pay as much attention to traditional advertisements, even if they feature Shaq or Jennifer Aniston. People value the opinions and recommendations of their peers on social media, the blogosphere, and offline.
In today’s digital world, the best way to deliver a marketing message people will actually listen to is by enlisting the help of influencers. They aren’t celebrities, just regular people with a presence online and a captive niche audience.
If you look closely at the different platforms around the web, here’s what you’ll see:
- Game companies asking Twitch streamers to test their products
- Consultants collaborating with niche bloggers to promote their service
- Clothing brands working with Instagrammers to promote their style
- And more
Influencer marketing is a relevant strategy for just about every kind of business.
5 Popular Types of Influencer Campaigns
There are lots of ways to work with influencers to promote your business. The best approach depends on your business type, where your audience spends time online, and what your marketing goals are. So keep those three things in mind when considering the different types of influencer campaigns:
1. Sponsored content
The simplest and most common type of influencer campaign you can run is creating sponsored content. This can be a blog post, social media post, video content, etc. But you’re not paying your influencer to deliver your marketing message verbatim. Instead you collaborate with them to create unique, targeted content that speaks to their audience.
Here’s a great example from popular YouTube channel “What’s Inside?” The channel is run by a father and son team that like to cut things open to see what’s inside. Brands often partner up with them to create sponsored content, like this what’s inside an engine video in partnership with ExxonMobil :
2. Contests and giveaways
Social media contests are a great way to generate buzz about your brand. If you enlist the help of influencers to promote them, they become even more impactful. Pick a grand prize your target audience would love, then ask your audience to complete certain actions to enter to win. This can be offering up their email address, liking or commenting on a post, or answering a question. Then enlist the help of influencers to promote the contest to their audience. This will help you get wider reach and more engagement than you would just promoting it from your social accounts alone.
3. Affiliate marketing
Affiliate marketing is a strategy that’s been around much longer than influencer marketing. But it fits in well with the concept. With affiliate marketing, influencers help sell your products with trackable links to promote to their audience. You then offer a small commission every time their audience clicks through and buy from you.
You can also use coupon codes to promote your products instead of trackable links. This is a popular strategy for affiliate marketers on social media:
4. Influencer takeovers
Instead of having influencers promote your brand from their social account, you can also ask them to take over your profile for a while. Then they can create their own unique content, adding their own voice, opinion and style to your promotional messages on social media.
TJ Maxx, for example, regularly invites regular Instagrammers to take over their account and create unique posts:
When an influencer posts from your account, you get more credibility. Regular promotional messages just don’t have that.
5. Brand ambassador programs
Brand ambassador programs are one of the best, most authentic ways to work with influencers to promote your brand. With this kind of campaign, you discover and reach out to people who already love your brand and its products. You can then encourage them to share their love with their audience using free gifts as incentives. Some brands create a VIP program for brand ambassadors also. This gives them exclusive benefits and deals to keep them raving about the business.
Finding your target influencers
There are a lot of ways to search for influencers on the web, some simple and some complex. Before you start, you’ll first want to define what kind of influencers you’re looking for.
First, who are you looking for?
Defining your perfect influencer is a lot like defining your buyer personas. You should use your own market research and understanding of your target audience to create a profile. Ideally, your perfect influencer would be the same as your target customer with an attentive social audience they can promote to.
You also want to decide if you’re looking for micro or macro influencers. Micro influencers usually have only a few thousand followers, but their audience is highly engaged. Macro influencers have 10,000 followers or more, reaching a larger audience but usually with lower engagement rates.
Do you want to promote coupon codes, giveaways, or find brand ambassadors? Then it’s better to build a team of micro influencers to reach a smaller, more engaged audience. If you’re investing a lot in your influencer content (e.g. creating a branded video with a YouTube star), it’s better to seek out a marco-influencer with wider reach and impact.
The Easy Way: Influencer Platforms
By far the easiest way to find the right influencers to work with is by using influencer platforms. These are services specifically designed to help businesses partner up with influencers. Here are a few popular choices:
- Famebit — Find YouTube influencers
- Klear — Find social media and blogging influencers
- HYPR — Find social media influencers
- Mustr — Find blogging influencers
- Shoutcart — Find social media influencers
In most cases, you’ll collaborate with influencers and pay them right on the platform. There’s likely a platform fee. But influencer platforms have a lot of great benefits also. Some offer very detailed insights into the audience makeup, engagement rates, and sentiment of influencer profiles:
You can use this information to make an informed decision about the best influencers to work with.
The Free Way: Scour the Web
The other way to find influencers is with an old-fashioned web search. This strategy also has its benefits: you’re not bound by the rules of an influencer platform. You’re free to build any kind of relationship you and the influencer are both happy with. If the influencer also runs their own niche business, you can simply exchange promotions with each others’ audiences. It’s all up to you.
If you’re looking for social media influencers, you can start with a simple hashtag search. This works for Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms:
Then you can follow the recent posts back to the influencer’s profile and go from there:
If you’re looking for blogging influencers, you can try a Google search to get broad results. Or you can use a tool like Buzzsumo. Just type in a relevant keyword related to your niche and they’ll return a list of the most shared content related to it:
You can then check out the domains of the popular content in your search for potential influencers. Some might be big platforms like Vox or CNN, but relevant niche bloggers are also bound to show up.
Social media is also a great way to find blogging influencers anyway. Many people with popular Instagram profiles or Twitter handles also blog. Just check out their profiles and go from there.
Reaching Out and Collaboration
Now you’ve found an influencer or influencers you want to work with. The next step is to reach out, start a relationship and hopefully a collaboration.
If you used an influencer platform to find them, this step is also easy. You can contact them right through the platform and agree on payment terms using their system. They create your branded content, you approve it, then they share it. After everything is said and done, you release payment. Simple.
If you’ve discovered influencers organically, it’s a little more complicated. You need to reach out and see if they actually want to be an influencer for your business or not. It’s best not to do this like a cold pitch. Instead spend some time engaging with them to establish a relationship beforehand.
You can build a relationship with potential influencers by:
- Liking, commenting on, and sharing their social content
- @Mention them in your posts to start a conversation
- Comment on their blog
- Share their blog content with your audience
Once you’re sure your potential influencer knows who you are, you’re ready to reach out and propose a collaboration. The best strategy is to be upfront about what you have in mind:
- Do you want to pay them to promote your brand/products on their social profile?
- Do you want to collaborate on content to benefit mutually?
- Do you want to offer them free gifts in exchange for reviews and social praise?
- Do you want them to become an affiliate?
Once you and your influencer(s) agree to work together, the next step is to collaborate on content. Don’t make the common mistake of simply feeding them a marketing message you want them to promote. The key to creating effective influencer content is allowing them to create something authentic that resonates with their target audience. So collaborate, but give them creative freedom.
Maximizing Your ROI
If you want to get the most out of your influencer marketing investment, there’s a lot you can do to maximize impact. Once your influencer(s) create and start promoting content to their audience, do your part. Share the content with your social audience and feature it on your website. Make extra efforts to promote this content with your audience because it includes valuable social proof from your influencer.
You should also have a way to track the impact of your influencer marketing efforts. Here are some different key performance indicators (KPIs) to track, depending on your campaign type:
- Conversions — Use trackable links or your promo codes to track traffic and conversions.
- Traffic — Again use your links. You can also track the volume and demographics of your influencer audience traffic in Google Analytics.
- Engagement — Track the likes, shares, comments and reach of your influencer content.
- Reach — Your influencers can see the reach and impressions of their posts from their social media analytics. You can collect this information from them.
- Social media growth — See how influencer campaigns affect your follower growth on social media.
Again, if you use an influencer marketing platform, they make this step easy for you. Most have detailed analytics dashboards. Use these to track important metrics like mentions, engagement, and ROI:
No matter your business size, influencer marketing can be a valuable investment. Work with one key influencer or hundreds to help reach your audience. Just find relevant influencers with an engaged audience. Then give them creative freedom, track results, and make adjustments. Soon you’ll see the flexibility and power of influencer marketing to drive your marketing goals.