If you’re a small business owner looking for different ways to spread the word about your products or services, partnering up with a social media influencer can be an effective, low-cost marketing strategy, and a great way to get your business noticed online.
Here we’ll look at what social media influencer marketing is, how it can benefit your business and how to go about finding, approaching and working with the right influencers to promote your venture.
Let’s dive in.
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What is social media influencer marketing?
Social media influencers are people who have built a loyal, engaged following through their online content creation. Here are a few examples of Aussie influencers:
- Instagram fitness guru Kayla Itsines
- Ethan of Ozzy Man Reviews on YouTube
- Self-styled wannabe filmmakers Danny and Michael Philippou of RACKARACKA
Businesses often reach out to people like these in the hopes that they will mention their products or services to their fans.
Traditional influencer campaigns of the past focused on working with major celebrities, which required an equally major budget. Today, influencer marketing is far more cost-effective and with the evolution of social media, the scope has broadened.
Now an influencer can be anyone including a:
- Industry expert
If their topics align with your business and they have amassed enough followers who love their work, they could be a worthy collaborator.
Soft selling works online
For a while there, social media influencers got a bad rap for being contrived and inauthentic, along with a perceived lack of transparency around sponsored posts and empty metrics. That perception has since shifted. Now there’s a clear return on investment for the businesses they promote.
Social media influencer marketing is not about the hard sell — in fact marketing as a whole has moved right away from the old school, sleazy sales approach. It’s far more subtle and story-focused now. It’s about great content, first and foremost.
The power of social proof
The rise of social media influencer marketing is based on the fact that we trust personal recommendations and referrals more than we trust brands and businesses. This is also known as social proof.
40% of Australians say they are more likely to buy from a business mentioned in an influencer post.
Influencers cultivate a loyal following based on a foundation of trust, authority and rapport. Their followers tend to trust the influencer’s recommendations, as they’re based on their own personal values and choices. It’s like trusting advice from a friend.
Influencers, therefore, can wield a lot of power and won’t promote just any product or service. It has to be a good fit for their own personal brand as well. This is why working with an influencer is more of a collaboration or partnership than just paying for an ad.
How can an influencer help your business?
There are a number of ways a social media influencer can help your business. They range from Likes, comments and engagement with your social profiles to more direct actions such as clicks, sales and conversions (i.e. turning casual browsers into followers).
The most common campaign goals are:
- Product launches
- Raising awareness of your product/service
- Content generation
- Community building
The extent to which an influencer can help with your campaign goals comes down to a number of factors such as their engagement rate, your campaign budget and length of the campaign among others.
While some influencers may charge fees for promoting your business, others may be happy to promote you in exchange for free products and services.
Where to find the right influencer for your venture
The first place to start looking is at the existing fans and followers of your business, also known as brand advocates. Brand advocates tend to have smaller followings and less influence but can still help you by endorsing your products or services.
Who else are they following, what are their interests and what do they like about your business?
Where to be
The most popular platforms for influencers are currently Instagram and YouTube with the Chinese-owned TikTok rising in the ranks, due to it’s primarily video-based content.
There are also tools and platforms, both free and paid, to help you discover and match up with key influencers within your field. For example:
BuzzSumo is a social media analyst and content curation tool for marketers that offers a free search function as well as paid plans with additional features. Simply type in a content topic or keyword and you’ll get a list of content currently trending. Have a look at the list and check out the creators to start researching potential influencers.
Global platform influence.co has over 100,000 profiles listed and offers a free search of influencers, grouped by:
- Posting frequency
- Engagement rates
Other paid platforms include Hypetap and Tribe, which both provide matchmaking services for businesses and influencers.
Creating your campaign
Before you start approaching influencers, you need to do your research and have a game plan for your campaign.
1. Work out your goals
Think about what you’d like to achieve from partnering with an influencer. Are you launching a product or a new offer? Do you want to make more sales? Or do you simply want to raise your profile among your target market?
At the very least, you need to have a good understanding of your audience and how they want to connect with you. You also need to work out some guidelines for working with an influencer:
- How long will the campaign run for?
- Are there specific hashtags you want them to use?
- Are there any brand aesthetics that need to be included (colours, photo style, etc)?
- How much are you prepared to spend (or trade)?
Getting clear on this will help you find the best influencer for the job.
2. Do your research
Search for the top social media accounts in your field using hashtags and search terms related to your industry. Create a list of influencers who match your criteria and evaluate their target audience.
- Do they have an audience that matches your ideal buyer?
- How much engagement do they have with their following?
- Look at the other brands they’re partnering with; are they similar to your own?
- What kind of content are they creating?
Answering these questions will help you narrow your list down to a select few.
3. Build a relationship
Now that you’ve found an influencer you think might be a good fit for your business, it’s time to start engaging and build a relationship with them. To begin with, simply:
- Comment on their work
- Subscribe to their content
- Share their posts with your community
Help raise their profile and show that you understand the reciprocal nature of a potential partnership. Taking the time to build a connection will help make your eventual pitch more personal and hopefully more successful.
4. Reach out
There are a number of ways to approach an influencer about partnering up. You can ask them to:
- Review your product or service
- Promote a giveaway or contest you’re planning
- Provide costs for sponsoring their content
Send them a personal direct message (DM) or an email. The key is to personalise your pitch and make it clear you genuinely like and appreciate their work. Outline the benefits a possible partnership could have for both of you.
Influencers are on the lookout for successful collaborations just as businesses are.
By showing them you’ve done your research and you’re serious about working together, you’ll increase your chances of making a deal.
Spread the word — naturally
As you can see, social media influencers can generate a lot of awareness and pull for your business. But you don’t have to spend your entire marketing budget on a high-profile celebrity or athlete.
Take the time to do your research, using relevant hashtags and key search terms and look for content creators who are either:
- Already fans of your business or
- Aligned with your values and aesthetic
Share their work and focus on building a relationship with them.
If you’re a good fit, a partnership with a social media influencer can be just the ticket to generate the right buzz for your venture and take it to the next level.