A colleague told me years ago he would love having Jennifer Anniston or David Beckham promote his business. He believed sales would skyrocket in an instant. Of course, it would cost many, many thousands of dollars, if he could get in contact with one of them at all.
The good news is, today a celebrity endorsement is no longer the only option for a brand to showcase themselves to the wider public. Social media influencers are now the preferred class of online brand advocates, and they are ready to help promote your business.
Who and What Are Social Influencers?
Social influencers are people who can affect the purchasing decisions of others. They make their living producing content online, and this content is watched, read and consumed by an engaged audience. Most of their income is through endorsements and the promotion of products on their online platform of choice.
They can sway opinions because of their expertise or close relationship with their audience. Thus, they’re called “influencers.” (Though in the last few years that word has brought with it negative connections due to fraud and lack of accountability … the preferred term is now “creator” or “digital creator.”)
Though they rarely do so out of the goodness of their hearts, many will also voluntarily recommend brands that support worthy causes such as conservation or causes that align with their values and beliefs.
On the flip side of the coin, most won’t just promote anything for money. The most successful social influencers (“creators“) balance the endorsements of brands they agree with and what they believe their audience will benefit from.
Have you been following the blogs, tweets or posts of a certain individual? Who among them recommends a product or service? Be observant the next time you check their social media posts. An endorsement can be obvious or subtle.
Somebody you follow may even become the future representative of your product or brand. And often, it will cost less than you think.
Benefits of Influencer Marketing
There are compelling reasons why businesses engage in influencer marketing. Did you know that 75% of consumers trust product reviews on social media? 40% have purchased a product seen on Instagram, Twitter or YouTube.
Here are more reasons to tap into the social media market:
- You can better reach your target market if the influencer’s audience aligns with your market
- You have exposure to a broader audience who may be interested in your products or services
- It will vastly increase trust in your brand, since a favored influencer in your niche endorses you
- It opens up another source of revenue
- A successful promotion will help achieve your business goals
- Create long-term partnerships with influencers to further grow your business
Outlook For 2020 and Beyond
Research before the 2020 pandemic indicated that 91% of businesses surveyed believed that marketing by influencers is effective. For every $1 spent, the return has increased to $5.78. Of those surveyed, 80% will set aside a separate budget for influencer marketing.
The industry was expected to grow to $9.7 billion this year (2020). Has the pandemic affected this forecast? A popular social influencer and expert believes that the influencer market will, in fact, grow even faster, as more people stay at home and consume more social media.
Here are other statistics that you might find relevant.
- As of Feb. 2019, 90% of American adults between the ages of 18 to 64 use social media.
- Only 40% of adults 65 years old and older use social media.
- As of July 2020, Facebook is still the most popular social network, with 2.6 Billion active users monthly.
- Eighty-seven percent of businesses surveyed use Instagram for influencer marketing.
- Celebrity influencers are not as popular as before. Also, most audiences connect with values and not necessarily brands.
Influencer by Type
An “influencer” isn’t just a Kim Kardashian-type model with millions and millions of fans. In fact, that likely isn’t the best way to spend your ad budget. I’ve narrowed down to five the more common influencers you’ll encounter. Other types are simply variations of these:
1. The Experts.
These are people audiences listen to when they need educated or technical advice. I’m talking about professionals like doctors, engineers, mechanics, financial advisors and skilled practitioners.
Experts are not limited to persons with degrees. They include those with extensive experience in their field or niche, and are passionate about educating others.
How about having a beer after a hard day as a building contractor?
2. The Social Media Stars.
At the uppermost tier are influencers with at least a million followers. They’re perfect for brands or products for the masses. At the bottom level are micro-influencers with followers in the low thousands.
It’s the bottom tier you should actually target. Not only will it be more affordable, but they will likely have a more focused audience interested in your brand. Look for people who belong to a specialty niche. Partnering with several of them could also be a more worthwhile strategy over one or two larger stars.
Aside from followers, take note of engagement numbers. They’re more significant as it shows how passionate and engaged the audience is towards the social influencer … and thus how many will actively see and engage with you when your brand is mentioned.
3. The Platform Specialists.
Most influencers prefer one channel over others. So, you’ll probably come across podcasters, bloggers and YouTubers, but they won’t have a large presence on another platform.
First, determine which platform will work out best for you before you approach an influencer. Would an unboxing video of your product from a YouTube star be more effective for a brand over an image of your product on Pinterest?
4. The Celebrities.
Celebrities can still influence large audiences, but they’re no longer the best option. This isn’t just due to greater advertising cost (and more difficulty in contacting them and convincing them to promote your brand), but their followers will usually be a huge, broad range of people.
If you have a niche product, it is not the best use of your budget, as you will be paying a large amount of money but will only interest a small segment of the celebrity’s followers who happen to engage in your niche.
As well, people listen closely to what celebrities say. A wrong word or insensitive remark, or some scandal in the news media can quickly discredit any celebrity, and with it, your brand. Damage control is messy. Just ask the big corporations who had to distance themselves from former endorsers who disgraced themselves.
5. The Public Figures.
American Press named Bill Gates as one of the most influential people in U.S. History. He’s not an expert on everything, but when he talks, everybody listens. It would be great to have someone like him endorse your brand.
Of course, Bill Gates probably isn’t open to seeking many endorsement opportunities! However, you don’t have to search nationally or globally for a public figure. Instead, look for somebody in your locality or region.
An approachable public figure could be the guy that your local news station always turns to as an expert. Maybe it’s the corner baker who knows a lot about kitchen appliances. How about that famous board member of a local charity?
Local public figures are the modern versions of the sages of old. People turn to them when they seek advice. Take the time to search for one. He or she might just be living around your corner and is willing to promote your business.
Set Goals and (Re)Use the Content
The reasons for engaging in influencer marketing may be obvious, but you have to be specific. It’s easy to say you want more conversions or exposure. But “more” is not a number. Write an actual amount or figure. It’s easier to track.
You will be spending money, and a single post by an influencer won’t do the trick. You’ll probably pay for a package. Add a target ROI to your goals.
A person may become aware of you but will not buy or subscribe. That same person, however, may recommend you to others because he or she trusts that influencer, and that person recommended your business.
What type of content do you wish to promote? A specific product, your website, your services, or your brand? When searching for influencers, feel free to ask them the best form of promotion. They would know their audience and what works the best.
Once the influencer posts or endorses your content, reuse this content in your own marketing to amplify the message. Share it in your own social media, a press release, or pull quotes from the influencer for your own future blog posts.
How To Find Your Influencer
Now that you’ve decided on your goals and the best platform to advertise on, it’s time to create a list of influencers.
Yes, this could be time-consuming, and you can outsource this to a researcher. However, it’s best if you spend some time in the research, as it will help you get a general feel of what is going on in your market and niche. This includes trending topics, emerging experts and new competitors. This is all valuable data for your business as a whole.
While researching influencers, study their profiles and visit their online assets. Their popularity is only as important as their persuasiveness. I have some tips for what to look for in an influencer:
- Product awareness. Will your influencer likely use your product?
- Compatibility. Imagine your influencer using your product. Do you see a match?
- Audience relevance. Is your target market among the influencer’s followers?
- Integrity. Is the influencer honest? Does the person share your core values?
- Engagement. Are your influencer’s followers active? Is there enough interaction?
- Expertise. Is the influencer an authority in your industry?
There are free tools available to help you find influencers. Here are some:
- HypeAuditor. This ranks Instagram influencers.
- BuzzSumo. You get help to find industry-related influencers.
- Upfluence. Search through their database of 3 million influencers.
- Podbay.fm. Try this if you want to focus on podcasts.
Prepare Your Sales Pitch
Influencers are busy people too. The top-ranked influencers are approached by numerous businesses on a daily basis. Many have assistants handling inquiries and requests.
So, be straightforward. Observe KISS (keep it short and simple), whether it’s verbal or written. These are questions you must answer when preparing your proposal:
- Who are you as a brand and what do you represent?
- Why should an influencer endorse your brand?
- What form of endorsement are you proposing?
- What’s in it for your potential influencer and their audience?
According to Influence.co, a post will cost you from $20 to $1000 in the U.S. The amount will depend on the number of followers an influencer has and the niche.
Compensation dependent on the number of postings isn’t your only option. The payment of commissions is also becoming the preferred arrangement. How about giving a free product or service on top?
Many influencers will tell you upfront what they charge. Conversely, don’t be shy with your first offer, as long as it’s fair. You can always negotiate.
Contact your Influencer
Most influencers have their contact info readily available. I would first approach micro-influencers. Send them a private message on their platform. If your brand is new or unknown, you have to be persuasive to be considered.
You shouldn’t give up easily when your offer is declined. Your brand may scale up an influencer’s status. It might also solve an influencer’s problem. Find that X factor. It could mean more than any monetary benefit.
What’s the best way to communicate with influencers? E-mail is more desirable if you need to share a lot of data. Instant messaging is fine as long as you provide links and your contact info.
Ask via text if you can call them. It’s been known to be more effective. Lastly, engage them on their social media accounts. It’s another great way of introducing yourself.
With dedicated links or promo codes, you’ll know if your influencer is driving traffic towards your business. However, some tools can measure the effectiveness of your influencer. Google Analytics is one of the most common ones (and free).
Complement this with the use of UTM parameters. Click here for more info on how to use these to measure your tracking.
Do you need influencers?
It’s been trending for a couple years now, with a lot of changes happening in the industry. Changes are mainly positive, such as better integrity and more industry standards, as well as involvement with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) to reduce scams and increase disclosure and accountability.
So, is it time to devote some of your advertising budget to influencer marketing? Just because a lot of people are getting involved doesn’t mean you should too. Here are a few questions you should answer:
- Is your target audience big enough?
- Is influencer marketing appropriate for your brand?
- Are there qualified influencers for your product?
- Will conversions increase?
- Do you have enough of a budget?
Answering “yes” to all of the above is just the first step. You’ll have to research as well. This will include visiting the social media accounts of your competitor’s influencers. Once you’ve decided to invest in influencer marketing, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.
Will influencer marketing add value to your business? I think you should definitely make it a part of your overall marketing strategy. Like any endeavor, dedicate time, effort and resources.
It might take some effort (and you’ll learn a lot more about your market in the process), but you’ll soon realize it’s worth investing in “digital creators”. Let me know what you think!