Big brands like Pantene Pro-V, Hyatt, and Walmart know that leveraging influencer marketing is not only a wise decision but a necessity to gain trust from the modern, ads-sensitive consumer. In a survey conducted by the ad agency Mediakix, 89% of businesses said that influencer marketing performs as well or better than other marketing channels. But for small businesses, the process can seem daunting, and at times fruitless. To leverage this powerful marketing channel, read on for our tips on how to run an influencer campaign.
What is Influencer Marketing?
“We’re living in the Golden Age of the creator.” – Paris Hilton (the original InfluencerInfluencer)
Influencer Marketing is a type of social media marketing in which content creators endorse a brand on their channel. Traditionally, businesses reserved this type of endorsement for celebrities, but Instagram created a new space for creatives to capture massive exposure and influence. Influencer Marketing allows companies to gain “social proof” from an engaged audience in their demographic with backing from a creator that mirrors their brand.
What is “Social Proof” Exactly?
Social Proof is the validation of a product or service through testimonials and mass adoption. In other words, consumers are more likely to purchase a product after they see that many people, or a very trusted few, engage with the brand.
We care because it’s more complicated than ever to gain the trust needed for consumers to convert. Pay-per-click marketing democratized the advertising space, making it less expensive to showcase your brand to prospective buyers. But, unfortunately, the saturation of online ads leads to massive distrust; people tend to think products they see online will be cheap or scam them out of their money. Before you have mass adoption, influencer marketing allows new or small businesses to gain social proof.
Does Influencer Marketing Still Work?
In the early days of Instagram, influencers stood out with perfectly posed images, bright colors, and sharp edits. Brands would flock to these picture-perfect creators. Now, insta-perfect images have practically become the norm, and there’s a pendulum swing towards more natural, authentic posts. Consumers today are less interested in overly polished, curated content. The desire for consumers to connect more with real stories and settings creates the perfect opportunity for businesses to gain consumer trust faster via influencer marketing.
Influencers discover new products or services before the average consumers, making them are early adaptors in a niche. As a result, 49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations. Not only does Influencer Marketing still work, it’s one of the fastest-growing marketing channels.
Ways to Apply It
Businesses should use Influencer Marketing as a campaign rather than an occasional one-off post. Marketers and business owners got spoiled with all of the fantastic data available from media like Pay-Per-Click, but they’re wrong to expect immediate conversion from an Influencer. Instead, Influencer Marketing is most effective when you gather the testimonials of a group of influencers in a given niche.
When businesses feel underwhelmed by Influencer Marketing, it’s often because they either sponsor too few posts or because they try to measure conversions with unique links. From my experience, this channel works best for Brand Awareness, but there are many ways you can leverage its power.
Here are just a few ways you can use Influencer Marketing to grow your business:
- Gain Social Proof when many influencers in your niche post about your product in a short time frame
- Gather UGC (user-generated content) to repurpose on your website or social media—be sure you have permission!
- Have Content Creators create videos and images that you can use for advertisements
- Sponsor an ongoing partnership with an on-brand influencer to regularly post about your product
This exchange could be for a product, but as influencers spend more and more time perfecting their content, the expectation for paid collaborations is becoming the
The Future of Influencer Marketing
Consumers trust influencers, and influencers are finally getting compensated for the massive amount of time and effort it takes to build a following and put out great content.
Shop & Reward Platforms
In response, new platforms like Yeay and Settr exist where people can shop directly in the app, and creators get rewarded. Like many social media platforms, the space is still relatively young and very focused on fashion, but savvy creators of all generations will catch up.
New (or rather, “other”) Channels
Creators on Tik-Tok, YouTube, even LinkedIn have the potential to reach your audience, and often with a more straightforward message than one can create from an Instagram post. Influencers aren’t always cute girls in a sundress. Look for thought leaders in your space, local celebrities, or community leaders. Keep in mind that each platform attracts its specific audience and engagement, so consider looking beyond IG for the perfect fit.
Influencers replace Models
Just as consumers turn towards more authentic content, they often prefer regular people showcasing a product. And this makes sense….it’s hard for most of us to imagine ourselves as the photoshopped perfection that once filled our feed. So brands embrace the power of Influencers, who are micro-celebrities in their own right. Their followers feel like the Influencer is their friend, so it’s easier to connect to a familiar face toting a new fashion line.
How Do I Run an Influencer Marketing Campaign?
To run a successful influencer marketing campaign, you need to follow a few key steps: goal setting, research, outreach, and follow-up. Unfortunately, many people either fail to set an intention (so they aren’t sure what success looks like) or forget to follow up (i.e., wasted products without representation).
What does success look like for you? In some cases, you might see immediate sales, but it’s often not the case. Refer back to earlier in the post when I listed different ways to harness influencer marketing. Are you collecting UGC? Aiming for increased brand awareness? This is also a great time to set a budget. Influencers spend a lot of time creating content and building their following, so it’s better to go in expecting to shell out a fee from $100-1000 depending on their following and engagement rate.
An example of a goal might be: We will have 15 travel influencers showcase our brand over the next six weeks. But, again, I suggest going for a bit of volume unless you’re able to snag a celebrity endorsement.
Once you have your goal in mind, Create a reasonable offer. Be specific here so everyone’s expectations are clear. If you have a tight budget, you can offer more products and be more flexible about their posting schedule.
Consider your offer and your customer list when you are looking for influencers. Keep in mind that it could be outside of the obvious (maybe you’re reaching out to travel influencers to showcase your canned wine and its versatility, rather than going straight for the wine influencer).
Make a list of 20-50 influencers in your market that you’d like to work with on a spreadsheet. Be sure to include: (Real) name, social media handle, website (if they have one), email address, location, number of followers, and columns to keep track of when you reached out to them or any other special notes.
How to Create a List of Influencers
- You can use tools like noxinfluencer.com or influence.co to pull a list
- Hire someone on Fiverr to create a list for you
- Go down a rabbit hole by plugging in a relevant hashtag for your brand on Instagram
- Engage on your social media channels frequently. You’ll organically find influencers in your explore feed or who even reach out to you!
Reach out to your list with your offer. Try to find their emails. Otherwise, send a DM.
Send them an agreement with your talking points and some examples of how you want your product or service displayed. I suggest creating a google doc or even an “influencer kit” with examples of images.
Follow up to make sure they post within their window of delivery (2 weeks is reasonable for paid posts, one month for unpaid)
Track engagement & posts. Get permission to use the content.
Create ongoing relationships when you like their content!
Influencer Marketing is a fantastic way to gain social proof and build awareness among your consumers. By planning your goals, focusing on a niche, and staying organized with your follow-through, you can start to measure the success of your outreach. One last note-remember to thank them for representing your brand!