Influencer marketing is one of the most valuable forms of marketing for any brand or business. Recent studies show that it is the primary factor behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions. The reasons are obvious; compared to ads or other corporate messaging, potential customers are far more receptive to recommendations from a person they trust and respect. But in the new online world of digital relationships, word-of-mouth extends way beyond family and friends.

Who are influencers?

Simply put, an influencer is a persona that carries influence over others.

Originally, influencer marketing took the form of celebrity endorsements. However, now we’re in the age of online connections, ‘regular’ people have become online superstars with powerfully engaged social media followings. This holds especially true in market segments such as fashion, beauty and travel. Surprisingly, a Variety survey taken by U.S. teens found that YouTube creators stole 8/10 top spots in a survey of influencers, outranking traditional music and movie stars.

The benefits of influencer marketing

Traditional outbound marketing is becoming less and less effective. Consumers are becoming immune to traditional online ads. They stick out like a sore thumb and some users are even installing software to block them. Modern users are self-sufficient and want to research a brand on their own and hear about it from someone they trust. It’s for this reason that influencer marketing is becoming one of the most effective ways to attract customers.

An influencer acts as the mutual friend connecting your brand with your target consumers. When you join forces with an influencer, not only do they bring their audience, but also their audience’s network as well. Social media influencers usually have a very loyal following and have the ability to drive traffic to your site, increase your social media exposure and practically sell your product or service. Therefore, it’s wise to get them on your side before your competitor does. It can make a huge difference in the success of your company.

Choosing the right influencer

Getting the wrong influencer on board can be an expensive mistake to make, so it’s worth investing a bit more time in finding the one that’s right for you and your brand.

There are hundreds of different influencers out there, scattered among pretty much every market there is. Whether it’s fashion, fitness, lifestyle or travel, you’re more than likely to find some good options. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding on which influencer to join forces with.

Audience

A desirable influencer will already have an existing audience. You might have found the perfect person to promote your brand, but if they don’t already have a following, then they won’t be influencing much.

But be wary about automatically targeting high-profile influencers. Those at the top of their game are likely to charge a pretty penny for posting about your product or service. Some prices even reach into the thousands. To prevent spending all your marketing budget on an influencer, it’s becoming more common than ever to target micro-influencers. Micro-influencers are not traditional celebrities, but are individuals who work in their category or are truly knowledgeable, passionate and authentic. They are seen as a trusted source when it comes to recommendations for what to buy. They usually have 500 – 5,000 highly engaged followers. A recent study by Experticity shows that 82% of consumers are “highly likely” to follow a recommendation made by a micro-influencer. So it might be more valuable to reach out to micro-influencers in your field.

Relevance

It’s not just about quantity, but also the quality of an influencer’s audience. It’s pointless working with an influencer that has 5million followers, if they are in a field that has nothing to do with your brand. An ideal influencer will already be talking about relevant topics in your industry, producing content with a similar look and feel to your own, and whose tone is appropriate for the way you want to present your brand to potential customers.  This will make it much easier for your brand and the influencer to share, swap, and collaborate without creating a disjointed feel in either party’s social media posts. Similarly, your chosen influencer should be talking to an audience similar to your own. You want to reach people who can convert.

Engagement

How engaged an influencer is with their audience is vital to the success of your campaign. Some influencers have huge social media audiences that are full of people who don’t actually care what that person has to say. Just because they might have a large reach, doesn’t necessarily mean they have great influence. You need to do your due diligence and make sure a person’s followers and subscribers actually listen to what they’re saying. Look at the likes, shares, replies, comments, etc they receive to see what kind of engagement they usually get. Check if the influencer actually succeeds in driving people to perform actions; whether that’s making a purchase or sharing something on Facebook. If they don’t, then the likelihood of them influencing their audience to buy into your brand can be put into question.

Targeting your influencer

Influencers are becoming increasingly important in the social media world and their significance is only set to rise. Thus, influencers expect to be recognised for the value and exposure they bring to your brand. There are some key ways to ensure you build relationships that are beneficial over the long term. Once you have identified appropriate bloggers and social media influencers in your niche or local area, your first step is to establish the relationship through some initial engagement.

Establishing a Relationship

You should begin by following your chosen social media influencer across the online channels they are active on. Doing this gives you an insight into the channels where they are most active. It also helps you to become familiar with their style and the type of content they post. From there, you can develop common ground for communication with them. Influencers are people too. They’re much more receptive to people who have a genuine interest in them and their story, rather than “cold calls” from brands that didn’t bother to take the time or effect to learn about them.

Making contact

When a social media influencer catches your eye and you’re keen to engage with them, it’s important to start the connection process slowly. Reach out to them through the content they’re already sharing and conversations they’re already engaged in. Get involved in Twitter chats and comment on their blog posts to show that you’re actually reading their content. Keep in mind, these first messages should be used to connect with your chosen influencer on a personal level. Keep them light and avoid sounding like a spammy sales pitch. It’s important to get this right. These messages lay the building blocks of what could potentially grow into a business partnership.

Create mutual value

Although you’ve probably focused on the value that influencers can bring to your brand, you have to also appreciate it from their point of view. To create meaningful, lasting relationships, influencers must also derive value from partnering with you. The point is you want your influencer to feel rewarded, acknowledged, important, or any combination of those.

This compensation for their services doesn’t have to be financial. It could involve product discounts or freebies, which would really incentivise the influencer to keep talking about you. Shout-outs and sharing posts they write about you on your social media will bring more traffic to their site. It will make them feel important and valued. However you compensate your influencer, it’s important to always keep in mind that mutual value will be the key driver of long-term influencer relationships.

Measure the results

Using influencers is fast becoming one of the best online marketing trends at the moment. However, you still need to treat it as any other marketing tool. You’ll need to ensure that you have a way of measuring how successful the collaboration was. Do your research, ensure your efforts align with your overall strategy, and don’t forget to test and track your results.

There are many strong reasons why you should consider an influencer-marketing budget. Raising brand awareness, generating content from a new perspective, and reaching different target audiences are just a few.  The options are plenty, but the key is finding the right partner, with the right audience.

Photo by Ed Gregory via Pexel.com