Our Comprehensive Guide to Influencer Marketing
An Introduction to Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is a modern take on the celebrity endorsement. We all can remember how, not so long ago, advertising for luxury goods or cosmetics would include some famous backer. While that hasn’t gone away completely, nowadays brands like to use everyday people to market their products and services. Typically they have a significant following on social media and are seen as knowledgeable about their specialty. Here are some resources to help you get started on leveraging this new yet old type of marketing for your business!
I believe that influencer marketing is beneficial to all types of brands, across all industries. Here are some of the benefits that are available to every company.
No matter how hard your marketing department works, brand awareness efforts only go so far without outside help. For instance, there are customers who don’t spend a lot of time-consuming traditional media, and who typically ignore internet ads of all kinds. Influencer marketing lets you get around this problem by raising awareness of your brand even with people who only listen to other humans.
Expanding your reach
Not all potential customers can be found in the typical places for your industry. Some brands, for instance, make the mistake of mostly marketing at conferences. Unfortunately, conferences provide limited access to consumers. With influencers, you get access to their entire network. That includes people who are passively interested in your industry all the way to true devotees.
Increasing credibility and trust
Especially in very competitive or high stakes industries, credibility is critical to sales success. With influencers, it’s easy to build brand credibility, because everyday people are trying and talking about your products. People like to know that something works well before they buy it.
Better value for money
Social media ads are expensive. Influencer marketing has proven itself to be more cost effective than traditional internet ads. Plus, with the human touch you get a better reach than any algorithm can give you. People follow influencers because they’re interested in what those people have to say. You already have a foot in the door.
Did you know that brands are spending big on influencer marketing? They are, and that’s largely because of the huge successes that have been seen through this approach. In fact, most brands intend to increase their influencer marketing spend, with some brands like Estee Lauder planning to devote most of their marketing budget to it. Considering that influencer marketing generates 11x the ROI of banner ads, this isn’t surprising. It works well in multiple segments: Millennials, professional audiences and business buyers all respond well. However, you do need to watch out for fakes and frauds. Some people will buy followers and engagement, or will fail to follow legal guidelines. Don’t get your brand taken advantage of by unscrupulous actors.
This post is basically an explanation and overview of my new book, The Age of Influence. Essentially, I felt that after talking so much about LinkedIn and other networks, it was time to talk about the hottest emerging trend we call influencer marketing. My thesis is simple: all businesses should be doing some degree of influencer marketing, because it is an incredibly powerful tool with excellent ROI. Besides giving you an idea what’s inside my book, I give you some tips for formulating a good influencer marketing plan. Then, I give a few of the brief reviews I’ve received.
My colleague Raymond Morin gives us some predictions for this year. Essentially, he sees a change in how influencer marketing campaigns are to be structured. Rather than just pitching stuff, influencers will likely use more video content to teach you about a product. Another trend that he sees is a shift to using employees as influencers more often. Data should become more central to influencer campaigns, including through targeting and performance metrics. Finally, the gig economy will have a profound impact because influencers will be seen as running a business.
To say that COVID-19 has been disruptive is an understatement. Things were shut down for months, resulting in millions of layoffs and other marketing challenges. Disruptions in people’s lives also trickled down to the influencer marketing industry. Here’s a look at the changes.
There’s less of it
OK, so there’s less of everything. But this is the first year in the history of influencer marketing that its use has declined. Much of this seems to be the result of reduced marketing budgets, but it’s also due to the overall difficulty of doing business.
It's less efficient
With less money for people to spend, influencer marketing isn’t selling as much stuff as it once did. However, not all industries were affected equally. For instance, industries like food and healthcare have been more effective than usual. Travel and dining sectors went through the floor.
Micro influencers? They’re in style
This one isn’t surprising. Brands are betting more heavily on micro influencers because they’re more cost-effective. Also, a lot of people aren’t paying so much attention to the big names. Instead, they gravitate towards the people most like them.
Topics? Keep it relevant
Topics have shifted to things that are relevant when the world is falling apart. Things like home improvement or decorating, for example. Recipes are also a big one when people can’t go out to eat so easily.
The Different Types of Influencers That Exist
While most of us know what influencers are, you might not be aware that there’s more than one type of influencer. According to one classification system, influencers are ranked by the size of their following. However, another way to define influencer types is through their relationship to a company or brand. Let’s look at this a little more closely.
According to Natalie Weber, it’s possible to make millions of dollars by leveraging the power of macro influencers, who are also called celebrities. This is an advantageous strategy because you can reach a whole bunch of people fast. It also works because macro influencers have a reputation to protect, so if you’re trying to launch a new line it’ll lend you some credibility. Enhanced data points and influencer expertise are also advantages. However, not everything about working with macro influencers is good. For instance, they are expensive to work with and it takes a long time to get them to engage. Influencers at this level tend to be fussy, and there’s a significant risk to your reputation if they are involved in a scandal. It can also bite you if there ends up being something wrong with your product and people complain. Finally, engagement rates are low due to the influencer’s broad fan base. Be sure to consider if this is an issue for your brand before considering hiring a macro influencer.
Micro influencers are the hottest trend in marketing right now, but that doesn’t mean they are always your best option. Natalie Weber is an expert on helping brands find and work with micro influencers, so she’s seen both the successes and the failures. First, how do you “make” your brand with them? By taking advantage of their high level of engagement with followers. Specifically, the good ones have high engagement and conversion rates, making you money. They’ll also offer lots of enthusiasm, accessibility, and a wonderful return on investment. On the other hand, you can “break” your brand with the wrong influencer. This happens when they are inexperienced and don’t have enough reach. In those situations, you can help them gain experience through helping them design and execute the campaign, which in turn expands their reach. However, if the problem persists, cut them loose.
If you’re new to influencer marketing, there’s a good chance you mostly think about platforms like Instagram and Facebook. However, YouTube is a very good place to do influencer marketing. Here, we’ll take a look at the advantages of doing influencer campaigns on YouTube.
Benefits often outweigh the costs
One of the reasons that YouTube based influencer marketing is less popular is the cost of the campaigns. Videos take a lot of work to produce, and in some cases you need expensive equipment. Add to this the increased difficulty of measuring return on investment, and it’s easy to see why the platform is often overlooked.
However, there are situations where the benefits far outweigh the costs. For instance, video is a great way to do consumer education about your product. Have the influencer develop a tutorial of some sort, and you’ve got great potential. In some industries, explainers and tutorials are very important to getting conversions.
Influencer discovery is really important
Because YouTube is so large, it’s really part search engine. This means that you’ll have to look carefully to find the right influencer. YouTube campaigns are longer term engagements, both because of the time it takes to develop content, and how long content lasts. Things can be found easily for years.
Unfortunately, influencer discovery is also tricky. YouTube doesn’t have the influencer marketing tools or platforms, so you’ll have to do everything by hand. That includes Google searches and combing through videos. With that said, once you find the right person there’s potential for a long relationship.
With YouTube, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, be sure to strike a balance between micromanaging and being too hands-off. This medium requires a good amount of creative freedom. Second, it’s a bit harder to measure success on YouTube, in part because of its long-term nature. I’ve left some tips to check out.
It’s one thing to talk about the importance of influencers, and another to know where to find one. Worse, once you’ve found an influencer you’ll need to determine if they’re likely to be the type you need before contacting them.
Before you set out trying to find the right influencer, it’s important to think about how many people you want to reach. Are your advertisements being ignored? This isn’t uncommon nowadays, and influencers help you cut through the noise. However, be careful because doing influencer marketing the wrong way can be disastrous for your brand. So, when you find potential influencers in your field, the first step is to figure out how effective they are going to be. Too many influencers buy engagement or followers, leading to wasted money for marketers. On the other hand, AI-fueled analytics tools are helping marketers find the right fit. They will tell you what an influencer is interested in, their follower counts, engagement rates, and overall effectiveness. In addition, with AI you can get a view of their personalities and whether or not they’re likely to get involved in scandal. My best advice is to make use of these tools, because this is the best chance to have a successful campaign with the right influencer.
In this post, I give several tips on finding Instagram influencers. First and foremost, it’s important to know what kind of person you’re looking for. This includes personality, values, and creativity. At the same time, you need to know your target audience. Once you’ve done that, here are my tips:
- Look close to home. In this case, check and see what influencers, if any are already following your Instagram account.
- See who’s following competitors. This will provide you with some influencers who are interested in your industry.
- Check hashtags. People who produce a lot of content for relevant hashtags might be influencers.
- Google it. Specifically, Google relevant terms to see who turns up.
- Use influencer discovery tools. These cost money, but they sure save time.
- Make sure they’re genuine. Finally, make sure potential influencers aren’t faking it with purchased followers or engagement.
How to Engage with Influencers
Especially after they’ve become established, influencers have a lot of people contacting them about business opportunities. For that reason, you can’t just swoop in and get their attention. Relationships have to be “warmed up” first. These posts will give you some specifics on how to accomplish this.
As influencer marketing becomes more mainstream, it’s becoming more expensive to do. However, influencers have a great advantage over some other forms of advertising: they can create their own content. Better, user generated content means that you don’t have to pay your staff to put in some studio time. In fact, this is an excellent option because it helps align content with the consumer mind and scales creation with the added bonus of superior quality content.
So, with that in mind, how do you approach influencers? I recommend that with micro influencers you try services like Trend. These are marketplaces where micro influencers look for work, and they have to pass a vetting process. They deal with a lot of the logistical details, so that you can spend time doing other things.
If you want to work with influencers in a different way, Dave Schneider suggests you try having them guest post on your blog. However, there’s a trick to getting people to agree to this. The hard part, as always, is finding the right people. Once you’ve done this, consider sending them a proposal or pitch for the project. Then, email your prospect and continue to follow up until the post has been written. In other words, sometimes all you need to do is ask.
Influencer Marketing Case Studies
What does influencer marketing look like in real life and what results can you achieve from it? There's no better way to see this than through the lens of case studies of businesses that have been there and done that.
This post is a sort of “catch all” for fresh case studies that have emerged since The Age of Influence was written. Each case study is something that is relevant to my audience, and has something to teach us as marketers. Brands discussed have taken very different approaches, so there’s truly something for everyone.
Industries covered by the case studies are diverse. For instance, I cover L’Oreal, a major beauty conglomerate. Another one is Hubspot, a huge website they’ve built from scratch. Tire companies, fashion brands, health companies, travel industry giants, appliance manufacturers and more are featured here. Overall, I talked about 16 different companies. Check it out for some interesting reading.
Influencer marketing isn’t just for B2C brands. In fact, B2B brands are jumping on the bandwagon. In this post, I talk about eight different approaches you can take, and give a bunch of examples. For instance, collaborations are just as good for B2B brands. Giveaways are for everyone, really. Events and cobranded content are highly effective. Roundup and guest blog posts are excellent for driving traffic to your site. Finally, never forget employee advocacy or collaborating with B2C brands. You never know who loves your products.
How to Compensate Influencers
If you want to work with influencers, their services won’t be completely free. Some influencers work in exchange for free product or service, while others want cash. There’s also a group that wants both product and cash, as well. Here’s how to approach the compensation question.
This guest post by Natalie Weber gives some insight into why you should give freebies to influencers. Using this technique is especially effective with smaller campaigns and those influencers who are new to working with brands.
It shows appreciation
Giving free stuff to influencers shows them that they’re appreciated. For the purpose of appreciation, the gift isn’t the only form of consideration an influencer is getting. Instead, especially with commissions-based agreements, this is something they get in spite of the overall outcome.
It rewards small-time influencers
Not every influencer deserves a cash payment. Especially when starting out, influencers are quite happy to get free stuff. Really, this is where it starts for many influencers. Anyhow, free stuff is fun, right?
It’s cost effective
Product is always worth less than it costs to make. So, when you give out freebies you’re only paying out the production price plus shipping in cash money. Not only that, but there’s no question of how much the entire campaign is going to cost.
They’ll make the photos and videos
When you don’t give an influencer the product, you might have to give them stock footage or pictures. This is less personal, and it’s typically duplicate content that gets posted everywhere. Do you really want a campaign to look like all the others?
Better sales and exposure
When an influencer does all the content production, you win. Why? Because the content is much more interesting. If you send them the product, they’ll have all sorts of fun with it. This will show in the content. Then, more people are likely to share the content, in addition to buying stuff.
If an influencer gets something for free that they already have, or that they don’t want to use themselves, they might give it away. This is common in the beauty industry, where a brand will send out a ton of different cosmetic colors, many of which the influencer can’t wear. Giveaways are popular, and you’ll get great exposure from them.
If you’re talking about money, Natalie Weber has some things to consider when setting a price. For one thing, you need to consider the value of an influencer, which is determined by their analytics. You’ll also want to consider their talent level. Other considerations include exclusivity, experience, specifics of the campaign, and the type of influencer. Once you have a value, think about the various compensation options: cash up front, commission, free product, collabs or a product line, events, discounts, and exposure. If they do especially well, consider a “bonus” of some sort. Also, there are cash “going rates” for various types of content on different platforms, if you’re going the cash route.
Besides upfront payments, there are ways to compensate influencers based on performance. In order to do this, you’ll need good analytics-and be trustworthy enough that influencers will take the job. Once you agree upon pay by performance, there are two basic ways to do it. First, there’s commissions, which is commonly used with affiliate marketers and similar. Some brands also pay per conversion, which is convenient when the main goal of the campaign is lead generation.
Influencer Marketing Industry Issues
It's safe to say that things aren’t always as easy as you’d like them to be. With the influencer marketing craze, there are regulatory, financial, and public relations considerations. These can cause problems with the influencer, the brand, or both.
In a European study, marketers were asked what their challenges were in influencer marketing. The results are reported by Raymond Marin. Essentially, the challenges come in three types: influencer identification, developing lasting relationships with influencers, and evaluating the return on investment. This study was conducted in the UK, France, Belgium, and Spain. We’ve seen similar answers in the American market as well, showing us that the same problems seem to be concerns worldwide.
From a PR perspective, influencer marketing presents its own challenges. For instance, we have to build (and maintain) the public trust. You’ll also want to choose influencers who encourage brand loyalty and build long term relationships with them. Don’t leave upper management in the dark about your social media campaigns and get their approval for influencer initiatives. Finally, let your brand ambassadors (including employees) generate and distribute their own content.
While many influencers will have a small number of fake followers, if there are a lot of them you need to be careful. The best way to know if an Instagrammer has bought followers is to see if they have a bunch of bots. For instance, bots have profiles that don’t look “real,” or lack activity on the network. Check to see if the followers have their own engagement, and if their geographic location makes sense. Has their following grown in an organic pattern, or is there a huge spike? Automated tools are your best friend when trying to demonstrate an influencer has real followers and genuine engagement.
Influencer Marketing Tools
If you’re going to do influencer marketing right, you’ll need some tools. From discovery help to success measurement, there’s always a way to improve the odds of getting the right results from your campaign.
This one’s a huge list, so I am just going to tell you the types of tools you can find here. In short, just about anything. For instance, I talk about how to work with those of us who blog. Of course, classic tools are listed too. I have a section on social listening tools, influencer finding tools, agencies, marketplaces, and much more. So, if you are wondering where to start, check this one out.
Speaking of marketplaces, there are 15 of them that are noteworthy. Each has its own flavor, and some specialize in a specific type of influencer. Some of them let you deal directly with the influencer, while others act as a go-between. Other differences include the hoops you or the influencer have to go through, their payment structures, and methods of matching people with brands.
How to Become an Influencer Yourself
Becoming an influencer is a great way to make money…if you can pull it off. Here are some ways of accomplishing that goal.
After talking about what an influencer is, I give my step-by-step method for achieving influencer status. First, find your niche. Then, pick a social media channel and develop your content strategy. Distribute your content and grow your following. Making money can be done a few ways. Sponsorships are an easy one, and require you to produce high quality content for brands. Webinars are a good option, as are affiliate marketing, consulting, and several more.
New Data Helps You Measure Your Instagram Influence – and Hints at How to Become an Instagram Influencer
Knowing how influential you are on Instagram is important. But first, know your niche because the metrics required for effectiveness depend heavily on competition. Then, take the industry-specific benchmarks and use them to fuel your growth goals. To become influential quickly, choose a less competitive niche, create awesome content, and use analytics to boost your effectiveness and adjust as you go along.
If you want to become an influencer, Dave Schneider recommends blogging. It’s actually pretty easy. First, start that blog and produce quality content for it. Have a winning strategy to collect loyal followers who will read your content regularly. Consider collaborating with other bloggers, and then expand onto social media. Finally, scale up your content and blog when the analytics say that you’re ready to achieve more. Over time, you’ll increase followers and build a sphere of influence.
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