Have you considered using social media influencers to increase your marketing efforts? Have you been told it’s a great way to increase your exposure, which can sometimes even be done for free?
But are you curious what all this actually means – and if it’s something you should do? I’m here to help answer those questions.
I’ll be sharing how to determine if it’s right for your brand, how to get started and how to avoid costly mistakes.
But first, what exactly is a social media influencer?
In short, it’s someone who has influence over a community of people. It’s like word of mouth, but with a very loud megaphone. Influencers are typically experts in their respective niche. You’ve likely seen them yourself if you follow a food, travel, or a fashionista blogger, for example.
They become a social media marketing influencer when they use endorsements and brand mentions to influence others. Meaning, they talk about a brand within their own content. They then get some form of compensation from the brand.
Social media marketing influencers are not that dissimilar from traditional advertising – in the sense that you’re paying to have your brand reach a certain amount of people (their followers). A traditional media outlet, like a magazine, has industry standards to follow: for x dollars you receive x impressions. There’s a lot to look out for in the world of influencer marketing. It’s a bit like the Wild Wild West still!
And like everything in social media, it’s constantly changing.
But here’s why it’s really important to consider: People trust humans and authentic connections more than they trust brands. It’s no wonder the influencer marketing industry has skyrocketed in recent years. In fact, it’s expected to become a $5.6 billion industry this year, according to Influencer Marketing Hub.
But is it right for your brand?
Influencer marketing can be an extremely powerful way to reach an audience in an authentic way. And when nearly half of Americans make purchases based on influencer recommendations and 81% of people use brand trust as either a deal breaker or a deciding factor when considering a purchase, it’s worth consideration. Especially in a time when creative marketing is necessary.
It can also be a can of worms, take a lot of time, and be difficult to track success. You may have heard other brands who’ve tried working with an influencer say they had very little direct business come from it and the influencer “acted entitled”. We actually hear this a lot. This is why it’s so important to carefully consider how to select an influencer, determine your goals and learn how to manage the process smoothly.
When it works correctly, we’ve seen huge success where thousands of new followers were gained, blog posts dramatically increased SEO (making it easier for people to find the business), and thousands of new customers were reached.
Any and every brand could benefit from someone talking positively about them through a social media megaphone! This isn’t just for the travel, food, and beauty industries!
It’s just about finding the right person to partner with who already loves what you do.
What’s the first step in getting started?
I would love to say there is a magic wand to find the perfect influencer quickly and easily, but it takes diligence. It takes diligence to not only find a potential influencer, but to vet them and determine your agreement.
The first step should always be to define your goals. Are you looking to bring awareness to your brand? Are you trying to grow your social audience? Are you trying to reach a very specific target audience? Are you trying to gather photos and videos of your brand to use for marketing content? Are you trying to increase your SEO (search engine optimization) so potential customers can more easily find you?
For example, if your main goal is to gather photos and videos, select an influencer who is also a photographer. If your main goal is to increase SEO, select an influencer who has a very active blog and reader base.
The opportunities for working with influencers are endless, and each influencer may bring different benefits. Determine the MOST important goal you’re trying to achieve so you can find the most fitting influencer.
After you’ve determined your goal, begin educating yourself.
Watch and listen before stepping in. Here are three simple ways to identify influencers to follow and watch. (Best done through Instagram)
- Run a hashtag search with your niche + the word ‘blogger’. Popular examples: #travelblogger #foodblogger #fashionblogger #mommyblogger. Even if you can’t find one that feels specific to your niche, following influencers in general will give you an idea on how they post.
- Anytime you see a person post about a brand, give it a second look. Do they seem like someone who could be influential and could help your brand? Follow them and see how they post. If you like what you see, begin engaging with their content to begin building a relationship for a bigger ask later.
- Ask others in your industry, “Have you worked with any influencers? Would you recommend them?”
Remember, an influencer doesn’t need to be someone with 50,000 followers. It could be someone with only 1,000 followers, but very specific to your niche with a very engaged audience.
How to know if the influencer is a fit:
Just because an influencer has lots of followers, does not mean they are a fit. Do your diligence! Here are four things to consider:
- Ask them about their audience: Who are they? Where do they live? What age are they? Many professional influencers have this on hand in their “rate sheet”. Or you can simply ask an influencer to provide screenshots of this from their social media analytics. This can be really important in reaching the right people. For example, you may quickly learn that the influencer’s audience is mostly in a country or state where you do not market.
- Is their content fitting for your brand? Look through their content and read the posts. Is their tone similar in style? Does the quality of their posts live up to your standards? Influencers will want to keep their own style to keep partnerships authentic. Ensure their style feels fitting with your own branding.
- Do they have authentic engagement? It’s very easy for people to amass an audience by “buying” followers. A high follower count doesn’t mean anything if they aren’t real people. An influencer with authentic engagement is one who has posts that include thoughtful comments from many users, not just one word responses. If the comments on their posts only include one word responses or emojis, this can be a sign of bots leaving comments, not real users.
- Do they have high engagement? Consider this: If an influencer has 50,000 followers, but only has about 30 likes on each post, it’s likely an influencer who has “purchased followers” and is not an actual influential account. 30 likes per post on account with 50,000 followers would be very low engagement. About 3% is an average engagement rate on Instagram, and influencers typically run higher.
How much does this cost?
Every influencer agreement can look completely different. The bad news is this increases the diligence needed to find a fit. The good news is the possibilities are vast!
Some influencers may charge a few hundred thousand dollars for one Instagram post (yes one post) and others may only charge $25. Some may not charge anything; they want your service or product as a trade!
While there is no one-size-fits all pricing, many digital marketers adhere to the one cent per follower rule (or $100 per 10K followers), but only as a starting point for a calculation.
If you do not have a budget for this, consider a trade agreement. Pigtail Media has worked with many hotel and travel companies, and some influencers love free vacations and are willing to work with trade agreements. Get creative!
I’m ready. Now what?!
If you think forming a social media influencer relationship could be fitting for your brand, we have another blog with tips on how to best manage this process! Before you reach out to any influencer to begin the conversation, read these tips to get started.
I hope this helps clarify some questions you’ve had surrounding social media marketing influencers. When done correctly, this can be an amazing way to give buzz to your incredible brand.
Cierra Savatgy-King is founder of Pigtail Media, a boutique social media marketing firm for hospitality, travel and wellness brands. She helps build strategies, manage content and train teams, helping clients tame the massive beast of social media.