Social media influencers are one of the newest careers and the opportunities they provide for brands are only going up. It’s projected that influencer marketing will be a $10B industry by 2020. More and more consumers are seeing fewer ads due to the use of ad-blocking software and are basing buying decisions on influencer recommendations, so it’s a new area in marketing that needs to be taken seriously.

If you’re thinking about using influencers in your marketing campaigns, there are a lot of things that you need to consider before committing to one. Instagram influencer & digital marketing agency co-founder Kiki Von Glinow joined us for a webinar all about how to get started with influencer marketing and gave us a great crash course. Watch the webinar for more!

Define your objectives

Like with any marketing initiative, the first thing that you need to decide is what your goals are. Do you want to reach new audiences? Increase sales? Create content that you can use later?

Which KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) you focus on will depend on your objectives. For instance, if your priority is brand awareness, then you want your influencer and their content to have great reach in order to tap into new audiences. If your priority is content creation, then you want an influencer with a great engagement rate.

Influencers are reporting that Instagram is where their influence has the highest impact, but you want to pick your platform with your objectives in mind as well.

Outline your budget

When you’re talking about budget, you obviously need to outline what you can afford to pay an influencer but you also need to consider what other resources you have that can contribute. How much would it cost to gift your product or service to an influencer? Do you have any people who have experience managing these types of campaigns? Do you need to invest in a tool to track results?

Make sure it’s sustainable

When a brand hires an influencer, it can either be on a one-off project or you can start to develop a long-term relationship with them and their audience. It would depend on your current goals and how the influencer and their audience align with your brand or goals.

Every influencer has a different level of attention and influence:

  • Nano: 1,000 – 10,000 followers
  • Micro: 10,000 – 50,000 followers
  • Mid-tier: 50,000 – 500,000 followers
  • Macro: 500,000 – 1,000,000 followers
  • Mega: 1,000,000+

As the number of followers goes up, so does the cost. It may seem like a good idea to dump your budget into a Mega influencer with huge numbers, but that isn’t sustainable. Nano & Micro influencers tend to have a lot more authenticity & trust with their audience, while bigger accounts tend to have diluted audiences without any niche or specific interests. In most cases, you’ll get better ROI (Return on Investment) when working with smaller influencers who have a more niche group of followers who hang on their every word and engage with every post.

That’s a better use of your resources. That’s sustainable.

Find the right influencers

It’s important for someone that you hire to have a sizeable audience, but it’s more important that they have the right audience. One that is already interested in what you’re offering, they just need to be made aware of it or gently nudged in your direction. A huge audience isn’t worth much if your message is falling on deaf ears.

There’s a good chance that you’re already following influencers that you like on social media. Start there. The people that you personally follow might not be right for your company’s brand, but those people will be connected to other people who are more appropriate.

Once you have a list of potential influencers, you’ll want to screen them by a few different factors.

The first would be your mission, values, or goals. You want to ensure that someone who’s going to represent your brand is doing it for the right reasons. You want someone whose values align with your brand’s and isn’t just doing it for the paycheque. Otherwise, it’s a recipe for disaster because an influencer will lie or at least be inauthentic, and their audience will see through that. The audience’s distrust will start with the influencer but will extend to you.

Next, you want to ensure that an influencer you work with has a healthy engagement rate. As the number of followers goes up, so does the number of incoming likes, comments, and messages, so it can be hard to keep up. 

  • < 1,000 followers: 8% engagement
  • 1,000 – 5,000: 5.7% engagement
  • 5,000 – 10,000: 4% engagement
  • 10,000 – 100,000: 2.4% engagement
  • > 100,000: 1.7% engagement

How to reach out

In the same way that a follower doesn’t want to be lied to by an influencer, an influencer doesn’t want to be lied to by a person looking to do business. That means that you want to foster a genuine relationship with the person you want to work with.

Aim to be a genuine fan and follower. Following their social accounts will give you a better sense of who the person is & what they post and they’ll feel more comfortable working with you because they’ll know that a real person chose them for the right reasons instead of just being a name on a list. Once you start following them and browsing their posts, start engaging. They’ll take notice and will be more likely to answer your DM when it comes in. Again, don’t come across as a spammer or a bot by following, engaging, and DMing in too short a time. Spread it out like any other follower would do.

When you do reach out, do so via email if they have theirs listed on their profile. If not, it’s okay to send them a DM. Make sure that your first message is tailored to them and isn’t just a copy-and-paste script. Tell them what you like about their account (individual posts, theme, captions, etc.) and why they’d be a good fit to be an advocate for your brand. Lastly, outline what they’ll get from you in addition to compensation. Free trials of your product or service, commission on sales, specialized experience, etc. Go through all of these things casually at first. Don’t bombard them with too many details or rules right out of the gate. You’re not signing the contract yet.

Pro tip: You know how Instagram filters out DMs from non-followers for approval? If you have a verified account, the message lands right in their inbox without having to be screened.

Getting an influencer on board will take a lot of trial and error. You’ll need to reach out to a lot of people to find the ones that are interested in working with you and you’ll have to perfect your messaging along the way. With each pitch, you’ll get closer to finding the right (type of) influencer for your brand and you’ll get closer to finding the right language to seal the deal. Don’t hold out for “the one” before reaching out to any influencers. Practice pitching to others until you find them.

Make sure you do…

Give the influencer a reasonable amount of time to deliver on what you ask of them. Not too much; people do have a tendency to procrastinate so you don’t want too much time to drag on before seeing results. Not too little; being an influencer is often a hobby or side-hustle or hobby and you don’t want working with you to impact the rest of their lives too much.

Ask about other relevant influencers. People who work in a particular field tend to know about one another, so an influencer should be able to recommend other influencers for you to work with. This can open up opportunities for collaborations (which means more reach for you) but it also serves as a vetting process for other potential candidates. An inexperienced influencer will at least know other people in the space, but an experienced influencer can also make recommendations for reliable people that they’ve worked with before.

Keep things personal and professional, but not corporate. People don’t want to work with faceless logos, so remind them that they’re working with real people by using casual language and signing off of emails and DMs with your name.

Make sure you don’t…

Micro-manage. Nobody likes to be told what to do, but creative people definitely don’t. If you decided to hire an influencer, it was for a reason. Their unbridled creativity is what’s going to grab people’s attention, so don’t stifle it. Trust them to know what they’re doing. If you try to micro-manage your talent, you won’t get the best final product. A camel is a horse designed by a committee.

Ask them to use more than one brand hashtag. It will be made clear when an influencer is working for you (legally, it has to be) so don’t overdo it by having your influencers use multiple brand hashtags in a post. Use the ones you need to reach your desired audiences, but you don’t need to lay it on too thick that this is a branded post.

Make careless mistakes. There are too many examples to list but we’ve all made them. The most common is probably reusing email copy without changing names. Careless mistakes like this will get you in trouble and may end a business relationship before it even starts. Be careful and read everything over twice.

Things to work on with an influencer

Account takeover. They take over your channel for a day and (depending on your brand) maybe you take over theirs.

Product review & unboxing. This is a great way to get an influencer to talk about your brand and product or service. Hopefully, everything they say will be positive but, if it isn’t, it’s good information for you to have on how to improve. Consider also giving the influencer a free product or trial of service to their followers.

Social cause partnership. If your company’s (or personal) values line up with a particular cause or non-profit initiative, it can be a great opportunity for you to both do some good and get some good attention at the same time.

Affiliate program. Influencers can distribute special codes or links that track their referred sales. The beauty of this is that the influencer can distribute them through whichever method best suits them. Include them in an email newsletter, in a Story shout-out, as a link on their website, or in the copy of a promoting photo/video post.

Event promotion in Stories. Stories have been a great tool to not only let people know about upcoming events but also to remind them regularly. Regular promotion of an event in Stories will be much less annoying than the same number of feed posts.

Product collaborations. Collaborations make reach skyrocket. Your brand advocate can work with another brand to collaborate by putting your two offerings together. The chances of seeing an increase in sales for both brands is very high.

Host events. Depending on the influencer’s personality and/or talents, they might make a great host for an event. You’ll reach new audiences through promotion and they’ll hopefully be able to entertain attendees to draw a crowd and make the event memorable.

Measuring success

As we mentioned at the top, your success will depend on your objectives. If you want more brand awareness, see the influencer’s reach. If you’re looking for good content, check their engagement rates.

While these are good metrics for determining some success, the best test of any marketing effort’s success is an increase in sales or revenue. Being able to track and prove that an influencer got customers to buy your product or service is how you determine their ROI.

URL Tracking

By making your influencer an affiliate and providing a custom link, you can track which online sales were generated by their content. You have several different options for generating and tracking custom URLs, including Google Analytics, shortening services like bit.ly, or embedded in marketing tools like HubSpot.

If an influencer has at least 10,000 followers on Instagram, they gain access to the ‘swipe up’ feature that allows them to attach a URL to their Story to make it really easy for users to visit the page that the influencer is talking about. These URLs are also really useful for email newsletters or other social posts to accompany content designed to entice consumers.

Promo Codes

Promotional codes have a similar benefit to tracking URLs but they’re less convenient. In the backend of your e-commerce site, you can add codes that offer certain discounts or other benefits to customers who use them, then you can track how often the codes are used. You can create different codes for each influencer and/or each campaign to help you track how effective they are over time.

While promo codes can be used without providing additional benefits (which you may consider doing just to get the tracking benefit) it isn’t encouraged. Consumers will be more likely to buy if they’re getting some sort of deal or freeby and it also gives the influencer something more to work with and promote in their content.

Customer Feedback

At the end of the sales funnel, it’s common practice to reach out to customers for feedback. In addition to common fields like rating service and efficiency, you might consider adding a field that asks something like “How did you hear about us?” Not only can this be used to track customer that learn about you through influencers but it can also be useful data for the customers that don’t. If you do ask for customer feedback, this is something that you should implement anyway since it can tell you when customers are coming from untrackable sources, like word-of-mouth or print advertising.

Conclusion

The relationship that develops between an influencer and their audience is unlike any other. In any other form of media, there’s a disconnect between the talent and their viewer; traditional media lacks the ‘social’ element and celebrities there are usually playing a character as opposed to being themselves. For this reason, social media celebrities or influencers are regarded as being more authentic & trustworthy and people trust them when they make recommendations. Brands are becoming more and more aware of the power of this influence and hiring these celebrities to influence their audiences to buy the brands’ products. And it’s working.

If you’re looking at hiring an influencer for your marketing campaigns, there are a lot of things that you need to consider; the business objectives and results that you want to achieve, who the right influencers are to help you get there, how to approach them, and how to track their progress.

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