Have you considered influencer marketing, but aren’t sure how to get started? You may choose to set it up in several different ways depending on your goals and budget, so let’s dive into the world of influencer marketing to see if it’s right for you.

Influencer marketing works to reach your target audience across social media platforms.You’ve probably seen posts in your Instagram feed of people showing off a company’s clothes or products, but influencers can market on any social media platform, including more niche outlets like Twitch (a gaming audience), for example. While many of the same principles apply across the board, I’ll be referring to Instagram influencers primarily.

First things first: for influencer marketing to work, you need an influencer.

How to Choose an Influencer

When you start the search for an influencer, begin by searching industry-relevant hashtags and looking for people who post using those hashtags frequently. For high-end hotels in popular destinations, you might want to look for people who post with #travel or #wonderlust. If you’re a small local business, you might want to focus on hashtags relevant to your city, like #yeahthatgreenville for Greenville, SC or #charlottesgotalot and #queencity for Charlotte, NC.

Choose a few hashtags to check out and look at the posts. Find some posts you like. Consider picture quality and variety, use of hashtags, number of likes and comments and whether or not they’re already advertising in the space for someone else. If they are already advertising for someone else, their location or hashtags should indicate that it’s an ad in some way.

Look for someone who already has a solid following AND has plenty of engagement on their posts (likes and comments). Do they have a lot of followers? (This can sometimes be relevant to the size of your business. If you’re a small business, you may be fine with someone with a few hundred followers. If you’re a global business, you’ll want someone with at least several thousand followers.)

If they have a lot of followers but no interactions, it’s possible many of their followers may be bot accounts, which are not going to be buying your products or services.

If everything looks to be in good order, click through to their account and browse their other photos. Do they fit within the lifestyle of your target audience? Are their pictures clear and artistic?

Once you choose your ideal influencer(s), you’ll want to decide how to arrange the deal before you reach out.

Exchanging Products for Exposure

Some brands choose to provide the products or services to the influencer free of charge (or extremely discounted) in exchange for an agreed upon number of posts. For example, a clothing company may provide an influencer with 3 key pieces for free or at a discount in exchange for a few posts about the pieces with certain hashtags (like #ootd #outfitoftheday). It would behoove you to be clear and specific about what you want your influencer to do and how. Make sure you provide them all the info before you have them agree to do it.

Representatives: Special Coupon Codes and Commission

The majority of influencers I see on Instagram fall into this category. The influencer becomes a “rep” and is assigned a special coupon code to give to their followers (frequently included along with the website link in their bios). You and the influencer agree for them to receive a certain percentage of the sales they bring in.  The influencers usually still receive a huge discount, post about it, and tell their followers they can save too. Then, every month or three months, you can look and see how much money you made with people who checked out using your influencer’s coupon code and pay them the agreed-upon percentage of their sales.

This option is a great motivator because your influencer has to work hard to ensure they get paid for it. But when it works, everyone is really happy all around. Likes and comments don’t guarantee sales, so if you really want to ensure that your influencer marketing is translating to your bottom line, this may be the best option for you.

Other Influencer Tools

To spice things up and reach a broader audience, there are a few additional things influencers may help you with (other than just posting pictures/videos).

Live Unboxing – Send your influencer products in the mail and ask them to do a live video of the unboxing. Live unboxings can be very popular, depending on the audience type, and the influencer’s followers get to watch your influencer with anticipation as he or she is surprised by what’s inside the box!

Giveaways – Organize a giveaway with your influencer. Have them show what the prize is and require participants to follow your company page (and like, comment, etc.) in order to qualify them for the prize. Choose a winner, send them the prize, and ask them to post about it!

Partnerships –  Find other brands that complement yours without competing. Feature your products together, partner for a giveaway (requiring people to follow both brands to qualify), or utilize each other’s influencers to expand your audience.

Ultimately, influencer marketing can be a very effective tool to increase your brand awareness, gain followers for your brand social media accounts, and increase sales. It just requires thoughtful planning ahead of time. Happy hunting for those influencers!

A cautionary note:

In this, the age of the influencers, you may get requests from people who claim to be influencers essentially asking for free stuff. Unless you ask for people to submit themselves for consideration as influencers, I would either disregard them completely or put them into your candidate pool with no special consideration. Additionally, if you’re considering them, I would do some investigating into their followers to ensure they are legitimate people and not bot accounts. Also look at the followers/following ratio. Real influencers will have way more followers than following. If, after vetting, they hold up among the ones you hand-select, so be it. However, the best influencers are the ones out there doing their own thing, engaging with your target audience, not the ones looking to brands for a handout.

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