Most startups won’t be able to afford traditional celebrity endorsements of their products, but the widespread use of social media has allowed new classes of influencers, including micro-influencers, to gain marketing power. Social media influencers feature your products or brand in their posts and help you reach larger audiences. Social media influencers often have well-defined niches and specialties to help your brand get recognized by the very people who would be most interested in it.
What You Need to Know about Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing combines word-of-mouth endorsement with trusted referrals and reviews to help brands gain exposure in the crowded world of social media. Influencer marketing includes social media influencers, bloggers, brand ambassadors or advocates, niche promoters, and YouTube stars who create content to develop awareness and facilitate sales. Influencers are frequently active on a few social media platforms or have a much-followed blog.
Finding the correct influencers for your brand could mean big Return on Investment (ROI) and powerful branding partnerships.
Among the influencers’ greatest attributes is a wide network. But an influencer’s reach is not only measured by their followers. If an influencer has done a good job of engaging followers and fellows, then there’s a good chance that they will also be able to communicate with their followers’ networks, meaning an even wider audience for your products and services.
Customers are more likely to trust recommendations from a third party than from the brand itself. Influencers can make a brand seem more personal by integrating your brand into their lifestyle and blogging routines. Rather than relying on a few high budget ads that they disseminate to many outlets, influencers grow their audience’s trust through consistent, quality posting.
Influencer marketing isn’t necessarily flying under the radar, as far as marketing goes. Customers know about influencers, and the FTC has been cracking down on paid influencer posts that go unmarked. Nonetheless, most customers are more likely to trust influencer posts than ads and posts that are marked as sponsored content. Furthermore, customers elect to follow influencers, read their posts, and watch their videos, making it their choice to see these particular advertisements.
Influencer Market Goals
Like any other marketing strategy, your influencer marketing needs a story and an aim. Ask yourself why you need your influencer. Are you intending to drive sales? Or simply looking to accumulate followers and brand awareness?
You should then define what kind of reach your ideal influencer would have. Are they a blogger? Instagram user? Pinterest? Twitter? Or are you intending to generate content across multiple platforms? YouTube is a great way to reach the teenage audience, while Facebook has more appeal for professional-aged to older generations.
Successful influencers can drive traffic to your website, grow your brand’s social media profile, develop branded hashtags for you, and in some cases, they will flat out sell your products.
Your ideal influencer will push past brand awareness by giving their audience a call to action about your product. More than just visiting a location or using a product, the influencer will make their audiences want to visit that location or use that product. They can help you orchestrate sales and promotions, giveaways, and demonstrate ways of making your products and services applicable to their audience.
Your Ideal Influencer
To find the best influencer for your brand, think about the type of accounts and personalities that your audience would follow. You can start by searching the hashtags that these accounts would generally use.
Niche is everything. Influencers in your niche will already be generating content that is similar to your brand. They might also be taking part in conversations about you and your competitors. Engaging influencers and creating brand loyalty among them is a good way of steering niche-based conversation favorably in your direction.
Influencers have their own form of branding, so not every influencer will work for your brand. The reach of their audience is not enough to sell your products. Their audience must also connect with the products or services that the influencer is featuring.
Middle-range influencers, or micro-influencers, are people who average between 10k and 100k followers. These will be your best bet for most brands, because they have a wide reach while still being small enough to engage with their followers and cultivate loyalty on a personal level.
What are the Risks?
Any influencer that you hire will most likely post about other things than your brand. This is risky, because these other things your influencer posts could positively or negatively reflect on your brand. Some influencers, especially those trying to expand their reach, will do a lot just to get clicks, likes, and attention. Influencer marketing forms a partnership between brands in some cases, and the influencer’s exposure will feed on your brand. If your influencer posts something that is distasteful, it could implicate your brand and cause you a headache while you explain your way out of working with that influencer.
You might also lose some control over how your brand is represented in marketing. While you can and should give guidelines about how you want your brand to be represented, most influencers are creatives who will want to put together their own posts. It’s best to go back over paid posts and double check how you are being represented, so that you can give feedback.
Who’s Using Influencers the Most
Most influencers represent brands that have physical, lifestyle products to sell, such as the beauty and fashion industry. This marketing is particularly useful for eCommerce sites to bring their products to life.
There are many budding uses of influencers both in the spheres of local and national business. Local influencers are also great representatives for local small businesses, such as local grocery stores, specialty shops, and restaurants. They can appeal to regional flavor and aesthetic, and easily relate to their audience. On the global side, influencer marketing can be similar to the affiliate marketing that is used by Amazon and various software and online brands. When it comes to software, influencers tend to appeal to a professional niche and post products to blogs.
2018 Influencer Trends to Look For
- Look for brands and influencers to be more transparent about their relationships. Sponsored posts should be marketed with a partner hashtag, i.e. #[BrandName]Partner.
- While Instagram is one of the main marketplaces for influencers, consider finding brand advocates on other platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest. The pricing on these networks could be lower due to less traffic, and they could help you reach different, more personal audiences.
- Think about using an influencer marketing management tool like TapInfluence and Upfluence to help you organize and analyze this new marketing strategy.
- You can use specialized eCommerce codes and branded hashtags to track the ROI on influencers, so that you can better communicate with your target demographic.
Using your Natural Following
Your brand’s natural following includes those people who already know what your brand has to offer. Sometimes they will already follow you on social media and email newsletters. If not, then invite them to do so. This following will already contain a warm market of brand advocates. These will be individuals who like your brand and mention it to their friends and family. They might already be sharing your products and services on social media without compensation.
Cultivate this natural following by finding out what it likes, and how you can nurture it. Help them to develop a branded hashtag for you. Ask them to upload photos and videos of themselves using or wearing your product. Ask them to join the conversation, and always make sure to reply, credit, and engage.
Some brands are moving to hiring influencers onto their marketing team, or alternately, these brands are helping their employees to develop into influencers. Developing an in-house influencer team requires investments in education and training. However, the effort allows a strong sense of brand loyalty between the brand and the employee/influencer, as well as a sense of transparency about the brand itself.
Large brands, such as Hello Fresh, L’Occitane, and Birchbox are making the move toward internal influencer marketing teams. And while this is quickly becoming a trend among large companies, it has frequently been a practice among smaller businesses, as employees and brands link back and forth from personal to branded accounts about products, services, and accomplishments.
As you dive into the fun and interactive work of influencer marketing, keep in mind that your best scenario is to find an influencer who is loyal to your brand. This person should be a partner in your branding, and an advocate for your goods and services.