Before working in social media marketing, the only ‘influencers’ I’d ever heard of were Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner. I’d read that businesses would pay them hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single post and I’d thought, damn… maybe I should fill my lips and release a sex tape? (Not reallllly… *eye roll*).
Things have certainly changed since then. Since then, social media ‘influencers’ and all things influencer marketing has exploded.
Now, it seems like every second person with an Instagram account, a bangin’ bikini body and a skinny tea product to hock on behalf of a start-up copycat company for big coin either is one or is trying to be one.
They’ve also become REALLY big business. There are tons of agencies representing the top influencers, there’s a lot of influencers commanding big money in exchange for sponsored posts and businesses big and small are sitting up, paying attention and trying to work out how to successfully incorporate influencer marketing into their social media strategy.
If you’re a small business, it can sound appealing, intimidating and too good to be true – often all at once. Pay an influencer X to feature you, and next thing you know you’re drowning in leads, business and sales and looking forward to spending the rest of your days working from your laptop, cocktail in hand with your business chugging along on autopilot.
Except, it’s NEVER like that in real life.
More likely, a small business will find an influencer with a big following, pay them for a sponsored post, and… *crickets*. A few website visits, even fewer sales, and before long the post is hidden below the fold and no-one ever sees it again.
The problem? There’s a lot of wannabe ‘influencers’ with big followings of people who don’t really care about anything other than the way they look being gifted (or paid) to feature brand productions they aren’t passionate about and which don’t really align to their values (because they don’t really have any). Sound confusing? That’s because it is.
‘Influencer marketing’ has, in my opinion, gotten way too big and convoluted for its own good and the reasons that it worked so well in the beginning (which we’ll get to in a minute) have kind of been lost.
THE MAGIC FORMULA FOR INFLUENCER MARKETING SUCCESS
Luckily, there IS a better way to do things.
The solution? Realising that when it comes to all things marketing – influencer marketing being no exception – bigger isn’t always better.
Let’s go back to basics… aka the reason why influencer marketing ever blew up in the first place. In a nutshell, it was a better, cheaper alternative for big businesses otherwise spending truckloads on things like celebrity endorsements and TV ads. It allowed them to reach a smaller – but MORE engaged – audience of people (compare to say TV ads hitting millions and millions) with a similar target audience to their product/service.
And whilst the audience was smaller, the target market alignment meant the influencer could more easily sway a purchase from their audience.
Visually, it looks like this:
BUSINESS —> ALIGNED TARGET AUDIENCE <— INFLUENCER
So golden rule number one – an influencer NEEDS to be perfectly aligned to your product or service. You NEED to know who your ideal client is, and you NEED to know that the audience of an influencer is similar.
From there, there are TWO important variables that come into play:
- SIZE: The size of the audience; and
- ENGAGEMENT: How engaged (aka likely to be SWAYED to purchase) the influencers audience is.
The larger AND more engaged the target audience is with an influencer, the BETTER.
The problem is, they don’t really exist – and if they do, they are usually too expensive/out of reach for the large majority of businesses. Influencers with a VERY LARGE, VERY HIGHLY engaged followings are kind of like unicorns (and yet everyone is searching for them). Usually, the size / engagement thing works on a sliding scale.
Want the secret formula to success? Here it is, the follower/engagement success matrix… And it’s NOT that hard.
Let’s break it down:
1// LOW ENGAGEMENT, LOW FOLLOWING
No. Just – no.
2// LARGE FOLLOWING, LOW ENGAGEMENT
This is where a LOT of businesses come unstuck. Super expensive and doesn’t convert because although the following is large, they aren’t engaged enough with the influencer enough to be influenced by them to buy.
3// LARGE ENGAGEMENT, LARGE FOLLOWING
A unicorn! Worth the investment, but expensive and hard to find.
4// LOW(ER) FOLLOWING, HIGH ENGAGEMENT
Ahhhh, and HERE it is, guys. The sweet spot. Also known as ‘micro influencers’, these guys have a lower following, but have followers that are HIGHLY engaged. They are generally less costly, less likely to be represented by agencies (making them cheaper again) and their following trusts them, making conversions much, much more likely.
Bottom line? Micro-influencers are where it’s AT.
WHAT IS A MICRO-INFLUENCER?
A micro-influencer is a person who has a smaller, yet highly engaged following within a specific niche based on their passion and/or expertise. On Instagram, they have between 5K and 100K followers and an engagement rate generally between 2.5 and 5%
What do I mean by a specific niche? Well, let’s say you’re a local business working in one city. Having an influencer with a smaller following and significant clout in that city makes more sense than a big influencer with a worldwide following – right? Other niches including specific demographics, interests, or influencers working in specific industries.
Just remember though, that micro-influencers – and influencers generally – aren’t just confined to Instagram. ANYONE with authority or influence on ANY platform can qualify as a micro-influencer. Example? Professional services like law are a natural fit for LinkedIn. Finding ‘influencers’ with a well aligned, highly engaged following on LinkedIn that are willing to promote or endorse your service can be a great way to promote yourself and your business.
WHY ARE THEY DIFFERENT AND/OR BETTER THAN LARGER INFLUENCERS?
There’s an interesting thing that happens as a persons following on Instagram increases. Here’s a breakdown of the engagement rate for accounts of different sizes:
UNDER 1000 FOLLOWERS: 9.4% ENGAGEMENT
1,000 – 4000: 4.5% ENGAGEMENT
4,000 – 100,000: 2.4% ENGAGEMENT
OVER 100,000: 1.7% ENGAGEMENT
As followers increase, engagement on the whole decreases. Why? Well, more followers generally means a more diverse, less targeted followership. It means that the influencer kind of appeals to a lot of people, instead of being highly influential to a core audience. This takes us back to the know, like and trust factor.
The level of genuine knowledge, authority and credibility that a micro-influencer has with their following means that their voice is extremely loud in their area of expertise or in their niche. People trust them, and buy based on that trust.
Given that 84% of consumers trust peer recommendations of brand advertising, that sort of credibility is much more likely to lead to sales than a big bunch of lukewarm followers.
HOW CAN I FIND GOOD MICRO-INFLUENCERS?
Finding great influencers for your brand is EASY.
Whhhhhattttt? I hear you say. You bloody idiot, have you NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE. Calm down. I have, and if you do it right, it’s true.
YOU understand your business and your clients better than anyone. And if you don’t, you should. Think about your ideal client – who are they? How old, where do they hang out? Who do they look up to? Make a list, and make it long and as detailed as you possibly can. And then, go to where those people are, using social media.
The thing is, if you’re looking for Instagram influencers, it’s because you KNOW your audience is using Instagram. So, use Instagrams tools to seek out micro-influencers with aligned target audiences in your niche.
How to do this:
- Search under locations
- Search using relevant hashtags
- Search using tags
Here’s an example… Say we have a business that specialises in corporate wear for women. So, we search the hashtag #corporateattire. At the top of the search results is the ‘top post’ with the most number of likes as you can see in this screenshot:
Click through the posts, and check out the users who have posted the photos or videos. You just need to look at the number of followers they have to see if they have less than 100,000 followers. Also check if they usually post content related to what you’re selling.
Let’s click on one of the posts in the search results above. As you can see, the post is from ‘Two Corporate Girls’. If the post has any other relevant hashtags like in the following post, make a note of them to find more micro-influencers.
You can see when you click into their profile that they have 48K followers – perfect. The content is on point, and they have an email for contacting them. This is the perfect influencer account for you to reach out to work with.
This process involves elbow grease. You’ll scroll through a lot of the wrong accounts to find the right ones. You can make it a LITTLE easier on yourself by asking your target market which accounts they follow, and looking them up directly.
A few quick tips:
- Look for influencers that you feel have a WELL-ALIGNED target audience.
- Look for influencers without agency representation. Usually, you will know if they are represented because they will say it in their bio.
- DON’T use influencers that come to you. If you are a newer or smaller business, you will find dubious ‘influencers’ approaching you and asking you for free product in return for a post. Usually, this is a massive red flag and handle with care.
- Look to see whether they are endorsing or working with other brands. If they seem to work with a HEAP of mis-matched brands something seems a little off, that’s usually because it is.
HOW SHOULD I APPROACH THEM?
Once you have a list of possible influencers that you think align well with your target audience, have a suitably sized following and that you think would amplify your business and sales, DO NOT START BY GETTING DIRECTLY IN TOUCH.
That’s right, do NOT send them an email or DM straight away. You want these people to WANT to do business with you, and ‘cold calling’ is not the ideal way to do it. Instead, follow them. Start to develop a bit of a relationship with them. Like some of their photos. Leave genuine, positive comments on their stuff (‘love this!’ doesn’t count – be authentic). This gets them to start noticing you. They may be even follow YOUR account back.
Only after you’ve done this for a while should you directly get in touch. To do this, find their email address, usually it is in the bio section of their account. If not, use the Instagram DM function.
WHAT SHOULD I WRITE TO THEM?
Be friendly and conversational, but professional. Include the following:
Why you want to work with them. Do you love their unique take on X? Do you think their values are a great fit with yours? Articulate what it is that drew you to them, and make it PERSONAL. No-one likes a templated, un-personalised email.
What you are willing to offer them. Be direct, and let them know what you are willing to offer them in return for the promotion. Make it compelling. What do they stand to get out of it?
Further information you may want. If you’re still not clear on their target audience and want more information on their engagement rate, ASK for it. Business accounts include Instagram analytics, request some more information from them. Ask for case studies and examples of previous businesses they have worked with. But don’t be demanding, or full on. Be friendly.
BUT WAIT, WHAT SHOULD I BE OFFERING THEM?
Well, what do you WANT? First, get clear on your goals and what you consider success to look like. And then work backwards.
Do you want a straight contra swap of your product/service in exchange for promotion? If so – great, this is the most popular form of influencer marketing.
At the other end of the scale is a set fee in exchange for a post or a series of posts.
In the middle lie compensation models like a percentage of, or a fixed sum for, every conversion. Or for a certain level of engagement, and/or click-throughs.
WHAT SHOULD I BE ASKING FOR FROM THEM?
In my opinion and based on my own previous experience, the BEST success comes from developing an ongoing relationship with a number of influencers in a niche. One post isn’t going to gain a lot of traction, multiple posts will. And multiple posts from more than one person that an audience is following is EVEN better.
Think 5 posts from one influencers, or give influencer posts at once, rather than one influencer giving you a one off post.
WHAT SORT OF CONTENT SHOULD I BE LOOKING TO GET FROM THEM?
Honestly, how long is a piece of string? Here are a few examples of the types of thing that you can look at doing.
1// FEATURED POSTS
This is the most common form of influencer marketing for product-based businesses. It involves an influencer featuring a product in a post, or several posts, on their account.
There a right away to do this, and there’s a REALLY wrong way.
Ever followed an account and come across posts that just don’t fit with their other posts. They are jarring obvious, usually because they are uninteresting or out of character or even just plainly salesy. This usually happens for two reasons:
- The influencers doesn’t really mind selling out, and it shows – in which case avoid at all costs; or
- The business has been way too restrictive and has tried to control the promotion too, too much.
The lesson? You need to give the influencer that you have chosen to work with a bit of leeway to promote the product in the way that naturally and best fits with the remainder of their content. There’s an element of trust here, but as long as you set loose guidelines, it’s the right way to go. It’s a balancing act.
Here’s what I recommend that you do:
- Let the influencer know what you are hoping to get out of the campaign.
- Give them a ‘don’t do’ list. Let them know what to exclude. For example, you might have certain brand colours that you use on your Instagram and you may want the post to feature them so you can re-post it on your account.
- Give them a basic outline of your brand, and what you are trying to portray, and well as anything important that you dont want them to miss.
Put this in a brief doc, and do it in a friendly way. Then, trust them to deliver – and let them know that you are confident that they will do something great.
These guys know their audience best, so leave it to them. if you don’t trust them to do a good job with this, then maybe they aren’t the right influencer (or, you’ve got trust issues).
A good way of leveraging influencers for service-based industries is to request that they collaborate with you. This works well with influencers known for their expertise and regularly produce content. For example, they may run a blog where they interview well known people in their industry, or a podcast.
Ask to be featured, and offer to share your expertise and knowledge with their audience. Make it something that they and their audience would be likely to get value from. This works incredibly well when approaching businesses with the same target audience in non-competing industries/verticals.
On the flip side, maybe YOU can consider running a blog, podcast, VLOG – basically, creating regular content whatever the medium – and offering to feature businesses on there as a way of developing a future influencer relationship.
For example, a kids clothing company might decide to write a weekly blog showcasing a mummy blogger/influencer each week and promote it on her Instagram. It’s highly likely those influencers will share it with their audience, giving the business a consistent stream of weekly exposure to targeted audiences.
Since day dot, word of mouth marketing has been one of the most powerful forms of marketing. It’s even more powerful when it’s coming from someone a person know, likes and trusts.
For that reason, HONEST reviews of a product or service by an influencer known by their followers to TELL THE TRUTH can be incredibly effective. Get them to review your product or service, and to provide their honest opinion on it – either in a blog post, video, mini blog on Instagram or similar.
In case you missed it, we put together a full post on how to run a kick ass competition.
They are hands down one of the best ways to grow your social media following – and can also be a great way to use micro-influencers to promote your product. Provide your product or service as the prize, and have the influencer run it through their account to their followers.
5// TAKE OVERS
A social media takeover involves an influencer taking control of your account for a fixed amount of time – it might be a day, a weekend or even a week. The influencer invites their fans over to your account, drawing in their engaged audience.
The potential benefit for the influencer is that it gives them a chance for recognition amongst their existing audience.
There’s a lot of other ways that you can leverage a relationship with a micro-influencer – these are just a few.