What is influencer marketing, and is it the right strategy for your business?
You’ve tried various marketing strategies, but you’re looking for a way to grab some extra PR. Or maybe you are hoping to get your business in front of a new audience, and need an “in” with your niche market. Either way, influencer marketing could be just the introduction you need to move your brand ahead.
If you’re not sure what influencer marketing means, it’s the strategy of selecting specific individuals who hold sway in your target demographic and marketing to them in the hopes that they will promote your brand. It can be a hard nut to crack, but it has the potential to boost your reach.
However, before we start, it’s important to remember: this strategy is not going to replace your content marketing. If you’re looking for a silver bullet, influencer marketing is still a gamble. You can spend a lot of resources trying to reach the right people and not see the results you need. So content should still be your number one priority. But once you have your content engine running full steam ahead, this is a great tactic to draw traffic to your website.
Identify your influencers.
Who are the people who will get the best results while promoting your brand? The answer to this question might be obvious, or it could take some creative thinking. Depending on the product you want to sell, you could be looking at Instagram stars, podcasters, YouTube personalities, bloggers, reviewers, or journalists.
One of the big advantages of the Internet is that an influencer doesn’t need to be a household name. They just need to be someone your audience trusts to deliver good recommendations. So if you can find someone who knows your industry and has the kind of audience that can bring you the attention you’re looking for, then they could be the perfect person to reach out to.
The important thing about selecting your influencers, though, is that you don’t just want people who can increase your impressions. You want someone who can inspire their audience to make a purchase.
Paid or unpaid?
Once you’ve found your influencers, decide whether you are going to offer them anything for promoting your product. Just remember that, while there’s nothing wrong with paying your influencers, you should be transparent about it.
Although you may not have realized it, we see paid influencer campaigns all the time. They come in the form of athletic gear worn by our favorite athletes, or makeup products on movie stars. Online, it’s more common to see influencer marketing practices in the form of sponsorship deals, as when a podcaster or a YouTube host pitches a product during a break in their show.
Sponsorship deals can be particularly great for your business, because they allow you to work more closely with the influencer. Plus, while many viewers think of commercials as a form of interruption, sponsorship gains you some good will with your audience. After all, you’re what’s making their favorite content possible.
On the other hand, if you expect your influencer to give a review of your product, payment can be tricky, as this could be perceived as underhanded. Your audience will only trust the influencer if they think they’re getting an unbiased review. If you’re paying, then encourage your influencer to be up-front about it, and give them free reign to be critical.
Collaborate on creation.
The best influencers are ones where you can establish a relationship. Particularly if you’re a small business, finding someone you like working with can create a mutually beneficial partnership. Plus, when you reach out to ask them about promoting your brand, you’re making a request. They’re more likely to accept if you’ve shown them you’re reaching out to them based on their work.
The way you make your request is also important. They aren’t your employee, and you’re hoping they will help you out, not the other way around. And before you offer them a shout out on social media, remember that you’re reaching out to them for their influence, not the other way around.
That said, if an influencer is interested in sharing your business, the kind of content you create with them will be important. If they run a YouTube channel or a blog and you’re hoping for a review, then offer whatever help you can but you’ll probably just need to leave them to it. On the other hand, if you want to sponsor them, they may prefer a collaborative effort.
If you’ve ever paid attention to advertisements or sponsorships on a YouTube video or a podcast you’ll know what I mean. There are some ads that are so obviously canned, I zone out the moment they start. But others, such as Starlee Kine’s advertisements for Kind bars on her Mystery Show podcast, were a highlight of the show. The same can be said of most Audible plugs I’ve seen on YouTube: when the star of the video comes out and offers a book recommendation as well as a promo code for a free audiobook, it’s too tempting to pass. So: work with your influencers. Create something special.
Measure the results of your influencer marketing strategy, and keep your own content coming.
The only reason we continue any kind of marketing strategy is if it works. That’s why we’re such big proponents of content marketing, and why we always encourage you to get your website and your content funnel in order before pushing dollars toward any other strategy. Not only do they work, but you can measure your success.
You should take the same approach with your influencer marketing. Determine what metrics are the ones that you will look at to judge the success of your campaign. Then use that to inform your next effort.
If it pays off, awesome! Hopefully you’ve established a good relationship with your influencer that will make further collaboration an appealing prospect. If it doesn’t, try to understand why. Was it the influencer? The pitch? Are you looking at the wrong metrics?
The bottom line is, while an influencer marketing strategy might seem like an easy way to get your brand in front of a lot of people, it’s harder than it looks. Big breaks aren’t the result of luck. They’re the fruit of hard work and persistence.