What is influencer marketing? You’ve probably heard the term quite frequently the past few years as it has risen to popularity.

Let’s start with what an influencer is: An influencer is an individual with a highly engaged and loyal audience on social media who has the ability to influence their audience into becoming potential buyers of products, campaigns, or services the influencer promotes or recommends.

Influencer marketing leverages influencers in your marketing strategy. You can use influencers to support your product, campaign, or service by asking them to endorse it, co-create content around it, host a giveaway, and drive organic conversations aimed at increasing a target audience’s awareness of, engagement with, and buying of your product, campaign, or service.

A decade ago, influencer marketing was primarily centered around celebrities; however, in the past few years, the strategy has gradually shifted, creating space for anyone with a significant social media following or rate of engagement. Some of the most successful influencers today are simply average individuals who, because of the niche in the content they create, have amassed a great following on social media platforms and have built a strong brand reputation for themselves.

Such influencers tend to be more relatable to their audience and can offer more value to brands compared to celebrities. By selecting influencers with the right audience for your product, campaign, or service, you’ll find more success in reaching audiences who want to engage with your brand.

Why Brands Rely on Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is a robust marketing strategy that continues to deliver tangible results for brands. Why? Because Millennials are currently the largest consumer demographic, and only 1% of them trust advertisements. A whopping 33% of them trust blog reviews, and 62% are more likely to become loyal customers of brands that engage them on social media platforms.

Younger generations consider YouTubers and social media sensations more authentic sources of information than traditional celebrities. In fact, 35% of people who spend at least two hours on social media purchase products recommended or promoted by influencers.

And that’s why influencer marketing works: For every $1 invested in influencer marketing, businesses generate an average return of $6.50.

So even though influencer marketing is a relatively new marketing strategy, compared to traditional marketing tactics, it is one of the most viable marketing solutions available today for two main reasons.

1. The social media takeover

A 2018 Pew Research Center study on the use of social media by American adults between the ages of 18 and 24 years found that:

  • 94% of adults 18-24 use YouTube
  • 78% use Snapchat
  • 71% use Instagram
  • 45% use Twitter 
  • 68% of all American adults are active Facebook users

These stats highlight why brands must use social media platforms to effectively engage their target audiences. And nobody has greater power to engage audiences on these platforms than influencers do. Therefore, brands must collaborate with the most suitable influencers to generate and distribute content, host giveaways, and recommend their products, campaigns, or services, to target audiences.

2. The power of word of mouth marketing 

If your trusted friend recommends a product or service they’ve used and liked, you’re more likely to try it, right?

This word of mouth marketing is the basis of influencer marketing. Thanks to social media, audiences have a connection with the influencers they follow and even consider them to be their friends. In fact, 40% of Millennials say their favorite YouTube personality understands them better than their real-life friends do.

So, what does that mean for brands? Recommendations from influencers are more valuable than any other form of advertisement.

Today’s consumers do not care about advertisements through television, magazines, or newspapers. They value recommendations from influencers who are fellow consumers and people they can relate to.

How to Create a Robust Influencer Marketing Strategy

Just like any other marketing tactic, the success or failure of an influencer marketing strategy is dependent on how well it is planned, targeted, and executed. To start on the right path of creating your influencer marketing strategy, follow these steps.

1. Determine your goals

What do you want your influencer marketing campaign to accomplish? The answer to this question should help you identify and determine the goals of your influencer marketing campaign. And depending on your goals, you will be able to develop a relevant influencer marketing strategy that is executable throughout your campaign to help you achieve your goals.

Your influencer marketing strategy will then help you identify the campaign metrics to track and monitor, ultimately helping you to gauge the level of success of your influencer marketing campaign during and after its conclusion.

Some common goals of influencer marketing campaigns are:

Brand awareness. Increase the recognition of your brand with your target audience, increasing your brand equity.

Sales. Increase the purchase of your products or services.

Brand identity. Communicate your brand’s personality and values to your target audience.

Customer loyalty. Increase the number of consumers that connect with and remain interested in your brand.

Audience building. Increase the social media following of your brand.

Engagement. Increase the number of shares, comments, and likes on your social media content.

Lead generation. Encourage more consumers to sign up for your lead magnets and offers.

Link building. Improve the quantity and quality of links directed back to your website.

2. Define your target audience 

Understanding your goals goes hand in hand with knowing your target audience. After all, you must have an audience in mind to create those goals.

Define your target audience. Who are you specifically trying to reach with this influencer marketing campaign? Answering this question will define your target audience. The most effective way to go about identifying your target audience is by first developing the buyer persona of your brand, service, or product.

Buyer personas represent your brand’s ideal consumers. Personas are developed based on the average demographics of your target customers and their psychographic segmentation.

Once you know your goals and target audience, you’re ready to select a type of influencer marketing campaign and search for influencers who fit both of your requirements.

3. Select a type of influencer marketing campaign

Based on the goals and target audience you have identified for your influencer marketing strategy, consider which influencer marketing campaign will help you achieve your goals. The campaign has to be a good fit for both the influencer and your target audience, so determining the campaign type will help you select the right influencer in the next step.

These are some of the more common influencer marketing strategies used in campaigns:

Sponsored content. In a sponsored content campaign, you pay an influencer to feature your brand on their digital media platforms, such as a YouTube channel, blog or Instagram post. You can be a part of the content creation or give the influencer free rein on the content they post.

Creative freedom is important to influencers, so whenever possible, keep your involvement in their content creation minimal—or let them have complete creative control. The more authentic their voice, the greater the influence.

Contests and giveaways. Giveaways and contests can be highly effective when it comes to increasing engagement on your brand’s social media accounts. As a brand, you can create a giveaway for consumers to win prizes and set the guidelines for entering the giveaway, such as sharing the content, tagging friends, or signing up for a newsletter. Influencers can then promote the giveaway or contest on their platforms and encourage their audience to participate.

Influencers can also act as the host of your giveaway.  In these cases, the concept is the same, however the Influencer hosts the giveaway directly on their blog (possibly within a sponsored post), Instagram account or other social channel. They drive all of the advertising efforts, collect the entries, select the winners and in some cases, ship off the prizes to the winners directly.  This is another great way to keep things authentic and ensure the influence remains free from too much advertising.

Either way, the giveaway will allow you to tap directly into their audience, adding them to your social following and email list for future marketing efforts.

Co-creating content. Co-creating content, involves your brand collaborating with an influencer to create uniform content that will be shared on your brand’s digital media platforms, the influencer’s digital media platforms, and any other third-party digital media platforms.

Guest posting content. Guest posting content involves creating and contributing content from your brand, then posting it on an influencer’s digital media platforms. The influencer credits your brand as the content producer, driving traffic back to your site and social media accounts.

Develop a content plan in the early stages of the guest posting campaign. This plan should outline the various topics and issues to be addressed in the content generated and have a detailed content calendar specifying which dates content needs to be created by and posted on.

Social media mentions. A social media mention partnership with an influencer is solely aimed at having them mention your brand, share your content or giveaway,and post about your brand on their social media platforms.

Influencer takeover. When you do an influencer takeover, you allow an influencer to take control of your brand’s social media platforms for a specific period of time to interact with your audience and have their audience cross over to your brand’s social media platforms.

Discount codes and affiliate marketing. If your campaign goal is to increase sales, partnering with influencers for affiliate marketing and discount codes is an effective strategy. Your brand gives an influencer a unique discount code for your products or services that they can offer to their audience while promoting your brand. With affiliate marketing, on the other hand, you provide an influencer with a unique code that they share with their audience. When their audience members make purchases of your product or service and use the influencer’s code, the influencer gets a percentage from those sales.

Brand ambassadors. You can create brand ambassadors by forming a relationship with fans who are loyal to your brand and tasking them with promoting your brand, campaigns, products, or services in exchange for exclusive offers, free products, or being featured by your brand.

Gifting. You can offer an influencer free or early access to products or services in exchange for a mention of your brand on their social media platforms. For example, an influencer might do a quick unboxing video to capture their reactions to opening your product for the first time. Most influencers will require a sponsored campaign to create a full unboxing or review of the product, but periodic gifted product can be a great way to generate continued excitement among the influencer’s following alongside (or without) a campaign contract.

With the above information—and some further research—you can create and customize the ideal influencer marketing campaign that will benefit your brand, products, or services most, starting with discovering potential influencers who fit your campaign’s goals, target audience, and strategy.

4. Discover potential influencers

Once you have defined your target audience, goals, and type of influencer marketing campaign, the next step is to create a pool of appropriate influencers that you can collaborate with for your influencer marketing campaign. To develop this pool, you will need to explore different types of influencers.

Who does your target audience tend to follow or relate with most? These are the influencers you should engage. They could be bloggers, celebrities, social media sensations, industry experts, or thought leaders. What online platforms does your target audience engage on most frequently? Is it Instagram, a specific website, or across several identifiable online platforms? This information will enable you to narrow your scope of influencers to target.

To further narrow down your pool of influencers, you need to decide the category of influencer you want to engage. Influencers are mainly categorized into these three levels:

Nano-influencers. Nano-influencers tend to have relatively few followers—perhaps around 1,000—but are ideal for companies with a niche product who want to target a small, but highly engaged, audience. Nano-influencers have a more intimate relationship with their audience, so their endorsements tend to come off as more authentic.

Micro-influencers. Micro-influencers are influencers with 5,000 to 100,000 followers. Even though their follower numbers are on the lower end, they tend to have dedicated followers and usually have higher levels of engagement with their audiences. Micro-influencers are the most affordable category of influencers but will often yield the most significant value to brands.

Macro-influencers. Macro-influencers are the top-tier influencers in the digital world. They are characterized with a following of more than 250,000 people. However, their large following is not necessarily equivalent to their fan engagement rate. Because of their online “celebrity status,” they may have lower engagement levels with their audiences. Macro-influencers are obviously the most costly influencers to engage in an influencer marketing campaign.

5. Determine the influencer’s compensation

How do you plan to compensate the influencers who will partner with your brand for your influencer marketing campaign? It is important to note that influencer marketing campaigns are a partnership and collaborative. So the only way the relationship will be fruitful is if both parties—the brand and the influencers—benefit from it. The following are some of the most effective and most appreciated ways to compensate influencers:

Cash. Don’t you love it when your paycheck hits and you have cash in your bank account? Well, guess what—so do influencers. Monetary compensation is the most preferred form of payment by influencers for the services they provide. So, as you work to identify a pool of potential influencers, ensure you can afford them.

Commission. If you don’t want to rely on only one mode of compensation for your influencers, you can combine paying cash with paying commissions. For every sale generated by an influencer, a certain percentage of the total sale price goes into their pocket. This arrangement allows you to negotiate the payment rate of an influencer downward to suit your budget and let them work to top off the balance through affiliate sales.

Free products and services or discounts. If your business cannot afford monetary compensation and is looking to collaborate on simple influencer marketing strategies such as social media mentions, then offering influencers free or discounted products and services from your brand is a great way to begin the partnership. Along the way, commissions can be included as a mode of compensation; eventually, you can work toward a cash compensation.

6. Qualify your potential influencers

Out of the pool of potential influencers you have listed, you must thoroughly examine each one to identify those who are the perfect fit for your brand and your influencer marketing campaign. You can qualify the influencers with the following questions.

Is the influencer legit? There are many fraudsters on online platforms, so you must ensure you are working only with legit influencers. You can do this by exploring the influencer’s feed and comparing the engagement on their posts (such as likes and comments) compared to their follower count.

For example, an Instagram influencer with 25,000 followers should have an average of 10,000 likes on their most popular posts. An influencer with an abysmal engagement to follower count ratio is a sign of a dubious account that buys followers or engages in fraudulent means to increase their following.

Does the influencer already post similar content relevant to your brand, product, or service? It is easier and more valuable to work with an influencer whose content is already aligned with your brand. Vet an influencer’s blog or social media content to ensure that your brand would be proud to be associated with the influencer.

Is your target audience represented in the influencer’s audience? The most important qualification of an influencer is having an audience that includes your brand’s ideal consumer. More than the quantity of their reach, the quality of an influencer’s reach is most important. Monitor the types of followers an influencer has, and determine how much of your target audience is represented in the influencer’s total audience.

Some other questions to ask:

What brands have they worked with in the past?

How frequently do they post on their pages?

What social platforms are they on?

What past promotional campaigns have they run?

Once you have qualified and selected the influencers your brand would like to collaborate with, the next step is to contact them.

How to Run a Giveaway with an Influencer

Decide how to run the giveaway.

There are a few ways to go about running your giveaway. Do you want to use a giveaway program where you can collect emails from the entrants and leverage other entry options? Or would you rather this be a strictly social based giveaway, where entrants have to follow, like, comment, and/or share the post to enter to win?

Depending on your goal you should select the type of giveaway that will directly tie back into that objective. Using a giveaway platform also gives you the added benefit of easier reporting and picking winners.

Know the laws.

While it may seem like a no-brainer to come up with a giveaway and get it up and running, be sure you are aware of the legalities surrounding the type of promotion you’re planning to run. The FTC regulates the ways in which influencers promote branded content with or without a giveaway attached. In addition, there are state, federal and industry specific laws regulating sweepstakes, contests and games.

Before launch, ask yourself these questions.

  • Do you know the proper hashtags and disclosures required by the FTC when an influencer advertises the giveaway or otherwise promotes your brand as part of a paid partnership?
  • Have you created full official rules and legal disclaimers?
  • Are you requiring a product purchase to enter?  
  • Are you marketing to minors?
  • Are you awarding a “legal” prize? (hint, it is not legal to award alcohol)
  • Does your total prize pool exceed $5,000?  
  • Are you opening up your giveaway outside the US?

If you do not know the legal requirements surrounding any of the questions above, contact a sweepstakes administrator to ensure your structure is compliant.

Remember, it is your responsibility to articulate the legal requirements and any corresponding legal disclaimers, disclosures and hashtags to the influencers you’re working with. Their failure to utilize them in any influencer campaign can directly impact you as the brand if a legal issue were to arise.

Be communicative from start to finish.

Your first contact with the influencer should be clear and personable. Demonstrate that you’ve done your research on them and that you have a compelling reason to want to work together.

Then, once you’ve established a strong foundation, be as specific as possible about your goals and requirements. Some things you’ll want to establish are:

  • Which products you would like them to give away
  • How many posts you would like from them (before or after the giveaway)
  • The platforms you would like them to use for the giveaway
  • How to reference your brand
  • Hashtags and key points
  • What media they should use
  • Preparation of the product
  • Product usage
  • The specific entry requirements (who may enter)

Come to an agreement on the above, and set clear deadlines while still leaving some buffer room for delays.

Be sure to pass along all FTC required legal disclaimers, hashtags and disclosures and instruct the influencer regarding their use.

Let the influencer decide their approach.

Influencerss know their audience like the back of their hand, including what works and what doesn’t. Their followers like them because of their distinctive style, so excessive fine-tuning from your end can dilute the influencer’s authenticity. Emphasize the message you’d like them to get across, but also let them rephrase it into their own words.

Track and Analyze the Results of Your Influencer Strategy

The success of your influencer marketing campaign is determined by whether you meet the goals of your influencer marketing strategy throughout and at the end of the campaign.

Depending on the goals you set, the following metrics can be used to gauge the level of success of your influencer marketing campaign. 

Brand awareness metrics

  • Website traffic
  • Pageviews
  • Social media mentions
  • Time spent on site
  • Site users

Sales metrics

  • New sales
  • Revenue changes
  • Price per ticket increase

Building brand identity metrics

  • Social media mentions
  • Number of articles on brand’s products or services
  • Quantity of backlinks to brands from online platforms

Customer loyalty

  • Customer retention rates
  • Renewal rates
  • Audience building metrics
  • Email opt-ins

Engagement metrics

  • Shares
  • Comments
  • Likes
  • Retweets
  • Reposts

Throughout your influencer marketing campaign, track the relevant metrics, and at the end of the campaign, analyze the statistics. From the analysis, you should be able to identify the goals achieved and the aspects of the influencer marketing campaign that worked for your brand.

This information should guide your next influencer marketing campaign, making each campaign more and more successful until you become an expert at developing winning influencer marketing strategies and campaigns.

Common Influencer Marketing Misconceptions

The influencer marketing scene is rapidly changing, and because of this, a lot of misleading information is out there.

As you do your due diligence and research, don’t fall for these common misconceptions about influencer marketing:

Finding influencers is too much work

Once upon a time, it was hard to get an ideal influencer. However, with today’s technology, many online tools are available to do the job for you. Some of the most reliable tools for identifying suitable influencers for your brand and influencer marketing campaign include BuzzSumo, Upfluence, NeoReach, and Klear.

Tools such as VoilaNorbert and Mailshake come in handy when determining how to email influencers directly.

Influencer marketing is only for big brands

No, it is not! Influencers accept several forms of compensation, so you don’t have to have the marketing budget of a Fortune 500 company to make influencer marketing work for you.

With a budget of than $10,000, you can get a quality micro-influencer to do your marketing campaign. And, with an even smaller budget you can secure a top-notch nano-influencer specific to your niche, with high engagement rates.

Influencer marketing can’t be measured

The return on investment, or ROI, of influencer marketing campaigns can be effectively measured based on the metrics of your goals. What’s more, numerous influencer platforms are available to measure the performance and ROI of your marketing campaigns in real time.

Influencer marketing is just celebrity endorsement

The misconception that influencer marketing is just celebrity endorsement could not be any further from the truth. Currently, celebrities make up a tiny percentage of influencers engaged in marketing campaigns. The shift has already been made to consumer influencers because their content is more relatable or more authentic to their target audiences.

Influencer marketing posts are just ads that look like content

Yes, influencer marketing can involve paid content. However, whether it is paid or not paid content, influencer marketing campaigns still win as long as the content is relevant and valuable to the target audience. Studies have confirmed that consumers are not put off when an influencer states content is a paid ad; many consumers are happy to see their favorite online personalities get paid or compensated for the excellent work they do. 

Influencer marketing is only about finding large reach

What good is an extensive reach if a massive audience neither engages with the brand nor relates with its products, campaigns, or services? This is why the main focus of influencer marketing is primarily on targeted audiences and high engagement rates.

As a brand, you can just produce the content yourself

Yes, you can produce the content yourself instead of working with an influencer. However, it will not be received the same way. That’s because when an influencer shares your content, their followers see a fellow consumer sharing their opinion and recommending a brand rather than a brand just advertising their own products or services. And we have already established the current market does not identify with blatant advertisements.

Influencer marketing is no different than the digital programs we’re already running

Influencer marketing is very different from all other available marketing programs and channels. Compared to traditional media, influencer marketing is the only form of marketing where the cost of content creation and distribution is the same. It is also the only form of marketing in which the content lives long after a campaign is concluded. And when it comes to ROI, influencer marketing is the most effective marketing channel available today that really resonates with most consumers.

The Bottom Line on Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is quickly becoming the go-to marketing strategy for many businesses and brands. And even though research has proven it to be a worthwhile investment, as well as  the most effective way to engage target audiences, you are not guaranteed to enjoy these positive results with every influencer marketing campaign you carry out.

Some campaigns will flop miserably, and others will meet and surpass your goals. Remember this is a learning process. After every campaign, re-evaluate your strategy, identify the shortfalls, and pick out the wins that can be transferred and replicated to the next campaign.

When you embark on an influencer marketing campaign, you will create great content, earn credibility with your target audience, and enjoy the exposure your brand and products get through the influencer’s network. Influencer marketing might be new(ish), but it is here to stay. With the number of influencers growing daily and the constant changes happening on social media platforms, we can only expect influencer marketing to evolve even further.

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