Every now and then, something comes along that changes the landscape in its field. Around 2010, social media began to play a more professional role in marketing and changed how people interact with each other.
The same can be said for influencer marketing, which is an evolution of social media and has etched itself into the world of communications. Today, influencers are the new celebrity, and their output is set to be worth a staggering $15 billion in revenue by the end of 2022.
In 2015, there were 190 influencer marketing agencies. The last 12 months alone saw 320 new companies enter the field, and 92% of marketers believe that influencer marketing should form a vital part of the strategy.
That’s because influencer marketing can:
- Build trust with your audience
- Foster important partnerships
- Improve brand awareness
- Add a new dimension to your content strategy
- Provide value to your audience
- Offer an alternative to traditional marketing
- Provide niche marketing to specific audience personas
- Boost your SEO
- Generate leads
- Drive conversions
- Increase ROI (return on investment)
Influencer marketing has the power to bridge the gap between audiences and brands, with YouTube and Instagram acting as two of the most vital platforms for getting messages across. Today, almost half of consumers depend on influencer marketing to inform their purchasing decisions.
The medium is particularly popular with younger audiences like Millennials and Generation Z – two of the key buying demographics.
If you're not already thinking of influencer marketing as a viable way to engage with your audiences and boost sales for your store, now is the time to jump on the bandwagon. And if you're looking for some tips on how to get started, you've come to the right place.
We've put together this guide to influencer marketing so you can gain insights into all things influencer marketing and take your online store to the next level, so it becomes a top-performing company.
How do you find influencers?
First of all, you don't need to stick to one influencer. How many you work with depends on the campaign's requirements plus the needs of your business. Sixty-three per cent of marketers collaborate with 10 or more influencers per campaign. If you're new to the world of influence, however, it’s good to test the waters with just one.
Before hiring an influencer, you should:
- Note relevance
- Think about engagement and reach
- Look at content
- Search in the right places
Finding the right influencer without the relevant research will be a tough task, which goes beyond simply seeing who is available. Firstly, you need to know which platform to focus on so that you can grab your audience's attention.
There's no point working with an influencer who has a large following on YouTube if Instagram is the target. Identify your audience's location, and then look for influencers that operate on your chosen platform. Doing so will help you maximise success rates.
Know your influencers and the type you want to attract, whether a micro-influencer with a specific niche audience or a larger one who commands a broader reach. Failing to evaluate properly could see you end up with the wrong fit. Or, even worse, a fake influencer!
Research your competitors to see if they're working with any influencers. Look at who they are partnering with and the campaigns they produce. Even though it's unlikely you will be able to work with the same influencers, knowing which ones partner with your competition provides a clearer indication of the influencer landscape.
The most vital aspect of researching involves setting your goals. Without them, it will be hard to pinpoint the best influencer fit for your brand. Decide on the outcome you want, whether brand awareness, audience building, product sales, lead generation, et cetera.
Having clear and defined goals will help you better understand the landscape you're operating in, making it easier to find good-quality influencers who can improve your brand. You will be able to assess influencer relationships and which ones could work for you.
The right influencer for your brand already shares content relevant to your industry and has an audience interested in your products. There doesn't have to be complete synergy, but there should be a link between you. Working with a gaming influencer is unlikely to bring results if you sell beauty products, for example.
Your brand might be fashion related but promotes eco-friendly products. In this scenario, the influencer could be involved with green solutions rather than just fashion. However, there will still be a match as their audience should also be interested in eco-friendly topics.
Before striking up a partnership with an influencer, first, you need to define your target market. There's a strong possibility you've already done this, as it's any business's most important task – whether on social media or traditional methods.
Unless you're a blue-chip company, your target audience won't be everyone. That's why it's vital to align with an influencer where there is synergy. It might be tempting to go after the people with the most substantial following, but successful influencer partnerships focus on the target audience rather than the follower count.
Examine the entire spectrum: how much does the influencer interact with their audience, what stance do they have on their niche topic and what is the response rate? Are people highly engaged when the influencer posts? Are their followers more like a community that interacts with each other?
Understanding an influencer's relevance goes much further than the number of followers. It's their entire behaviour around their subject of interest that will make them relevant and, in turn, do the same for your brand.
Engagement and reach
While follower count doesn't define an influencer, it does hold enough weight to form part of your research. The relevance of their reach is more integral for interacting with the right audiences, but influencers do need to have a decent-sized following to make partnering with them worth your while.
Huge follower counts are meaningless if it's the wrong audience. But an influencer with 500k followers in the same target audience as your brand is better than one with 100k in a similar field. While reach shouldn't be the overarching factor, it should be considered when choosing an influencer. It's worth drawing up a chart and comparing follower counts to understand the landscape better.
Sometimes, however, going for smaller-scale influencers is more productive. A nano influencer might not seem appealing at first glance. But if their audience is highly engaged, the chances of turning some of their followers into customers might be higher than an influencer with a high follower count who is mainly unengaged.
That's why it's so important that you recognise who you're trying to influence. Even if you know your target market, developing audience personas helps you better understand who you're trying to strike a chord with. Your campaign audience might be a subset of your general target audience, or it may be a broader spectrum than your typical market audience. You won't fully know until you've recognised the personas you're trying to reach.
Essentially, everything circles back to engagement and trust. Influencers with close relationships to their audience (even if that number is lower than traditional influencer levels) typically command more respect. These are the type of influencers you want to work with to help build your brand.
It's all well and good having access to people who have built up a huge following online. But what experience do they have working with businesses? You shouldn't dismiss any influencers with a high following who don't have previous experience with brands, though it's worth looking at the landscape to see who has done what.
For the ones that have previous experience, look through their posts and see what type of sponsored content they create. You will get a thorough understanding of their style and how it helped promote brands on their timelines.
If you're reaching out to an influencer that is relatively new to the world of sponsored content, start a dialogue with them to gauge how to present themselves. Influencers can add a huge benefit to brands, but the fit needs to be right – and they should be responsible and professional at all times.
Once you've deciphered relevance, reach and engagement, it's time to turn your attention to the type of content they post. Content goes hand-in-hand with engagement and provides the crux of an influencer's interaction with their audience. But the consistency of content can be telling.
How frequently do they post to their followers, and what message are they communicating? Frequency and quality go hand-in-hand for building a strong audience, no matter the vertical. Good-quality, frequent posting will see a higher volume of people returning for more content.
A lower volume of posts indicates that interest will drop off, and follower counts will grow slower. Yet influencers don't want to oversaturate their audience for the sake of having a presence. That's why you should look at interaction types when it comes to influencing interactions with their followers.
Are they only posting images on Instagram? Do they write regular blog posts and use their platform to promote those articles and draw more traffic? How often do they post a video if they're using YouTube, and do they regularly respond to comments?
Are they posting for the sake of it, or do they have something relevant to say? The best influencers post regularly but always have something of interest to communicate. They scratch the itch of their audience and keep them engaged. Going through an influencer's timeline will provide a clearer indication of the type of content they post and whether it holds the attention of their followers.
Where to look
Essentially, you want to cover the following areas when looking for an influencer:
- Social media monitoring
- Google alerts
- Influencer marketing platforms
If the plan is to increase your brand's social media outreach, then social media platforms are where you will find an influencer. You might get lucky and find ones already talking about your business. This is a great way to find influencers who are already engaged with your product or service. But even if you don't have any previous mentions, there are still tools that will help you find an influencer.
Social media monitoring can be a good way to get notified when an influencer surfaces. Tools can help you choose specific keywords related to your industry, which you can select based on the requirements you have identified for finding the right fit for your brand.
It's also worth using hashtags to source influencers, with relevant hashtags potentially unearthing someone who you could partner with. Influencers tend to use plenty of hashtags as they know the reach spreads far, and tapping into those tags might help you unearth an influencer for your brand.
Google alerts are also worth exploring, as they can define specific key terms for your influencer search. It will be beneficial for finding bloggers who might be writing about your industry who could end up becoming brand advocates. Influencer marketing platforms, such as Grin and BuzzSumo, can also help you find people to align with by providing a database of influencers.
Working with influencers can be hugely beneficial to your brand. If you want to see more traction, finding the right type of people can get your online store in front of more eyes. The result will be increased engagement as well as a boost in revenue if you find an influencer who commands an engaged audience in your industry.