Influencer marketing is a growing trend and a tactic that you should consider adding to your marketing mix.
While it’s unlikely you’ll be hiring Kim Kardashian to represent your brand anytime soon, everyone has some degree of influence, and many will talk about your company, products and services, provided you offer the right incentive.
This article will help you understand the ins-and-outs of influencer marketing and how it can help your business.
What is Influencer Marketing?
According to Joe Sinkwitz, founder and CEO of Intellifluence, an influencer marketing marketplace, who spoke with Small Business Trends by phone, the term just means getting someone else to spread your message for you.
Sinkwitz says an influencer marketing campaign can take many forms: blogger reviews, social media mentions, celebrity endorsements and more. In some cases, content is sponsored, meaning that money changes hands. In others, the company sends products to influencers in exchange for a review.
(The FTC requires explicit disclosure of compensation in these campaigns, but that doesn’t always happen, so “caveat emptor.”)
Why Should I Use Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing works for three reasons:
Relies on trust. It takes advantage (in a good way) of the trust influencers have earned from their constituency. Trust is valuable currency in a world where peer influence reigns supreme and leveraging it to call attention to your brand, products and services is worth the investment.
Penetrates a niche. Influencer marketing relies not on breadth but depth regarding numbers — a heuristic that says it’s better to penetrate deeply into a niche market (where the person has influence) rather than shallowly across a broad market.
Can be cost-effective. Influencer marketing campaigns can garner media attention without requiring a huge investment of resources.
One campaign, for a coconut oil products company, received 218 mentions from influencers across blogs, social media, YouTube, Instagram and other outlets. The only expenditure was a box of sample products sent to each person, as this video reveals:
You don’t necessarily have to reach out to hundreds of influencers to run a successful campaign. Depending on your market niche, even a few dozen can tip the scale in drawing consumer attention to your brand or products, bringing them to the forefront on search engines and social networks.
Keep in mind that the shorter your list, the more high-profile it needs to be, so find the most authoritative people in your industry that you can.
Statistics Show Influencer Marketing Potential
A report from Rhythmone (PDF), an influencer marketplace, cites the following statistics as evidence of influencer marketing’s potential for success:
- 92 percent of consumers have made a purchase after reading about a product on their favorite blog;
- 69 percent are likely to make a purchase if someone they follow on social media recommends a product;
- 81 percent of marketers who have executed influencer marketing campaigns agree that influencer engagement is effective;
- 65 percent of brands have plans to spend more on influencer marketing in 2016 than in 2015.
“Influencers draw passionate audiences that engage with their content and actively take part in the community conversations that stem from it,” the report states.
That’s reason enough to try this approach, don’t you think?
How Can I Use Influencer Marketing?
The following five practices, contributed by Intellifluence CEO Joe Sinkwitz, can help ensure that your campaign is a success.
1. Define Your Goals
Sinkwitz advises you first need to define your goals before engaging in an influencer campaign. By selecting the appropriate goal, you can narrow your search when it comes time to pick an influencer.
“If the goal is branding and visibility, finding an aspirational influencer (i.e., celebrity) would make sense given their broad reach,” he says. “If the goal is sales, develop multiple use cases in the form of buyer personas (a fictional person who represents your target market), then extrapolate using tools such as Hootsuite to figure out who is most similar to these personas.”
2. Appeal to a Sense of Authority
Sinkwitz says that you can take the persona approach a step further by appealing to the most authoritative among the group you discovered.
“See who among the group is most authoritative on the subject you’re interested in, engage them directly and employ a peer influence strategy, which relies on the influencers to reach out to others in the target market on your behalf.”
3. Rely on the Right Channels
A common mistake businesses make when starting an influencer campaign is relying on the wrong channels, Sinkwitz says.
“A small business selling B2B customer relationship management software probably shouldn’t be spending much time trying to increase Instagram engagement, since the buying audience is going to exist more on Twitter and LinkedIn,” he says. “Conversely, the organic tea manufacturer needs to be targeting Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook, considering the demographics in these networks are more in line with the target audience.”
Sinkwitz added that if you sell products on Amazon, you should put ample effort into getting as many reviews as possible there, then promote them on your social network channels, to drive business back to the site.
4. Agree on the Compensation
Pitching influencers shouldn’t be a cause for consternation and panic, says Sinkwitz, who added that many small businesses “fret and undervalue their products” when reaching out to potential influencers, thinking it will require “obscene amounts of money and a year’s supply of product for coverage.”
“In reality, if you’ve done your homework on picking the right influencers, the product might be sufficient compensation in and of itself since it would be a valued product in the eyes of the influencer,” he says.
Sinkwitz warns that businesses should not be alarmed if an influencer demands monetary compensation in addition to products.
“Just make sure of what you will be receiving in return,” he says. “Is it a well thought out video and blog post or a simple product tweet? Is the value obtained in keeping with the compensation?”
5. Combine Influencer Campaigns Into the Overall Marketing Mix
Marketing professionals will tell you that no marketing tactic should exist in a vacuum, and Sinkwitz agrees.
“When placed within a chain of other proven tactics, influencer marketing as a concept is almost unfair in its use of psychological triggers,” he says. “Employed correctly, it can stimulate an intense purchase desire among your target market.”
Sinkwitz posits this scenario as a case in point:
“Imagine what would happen if your buyer persona saw her favorite celebrity tweeting about your product, followed by a well-respected member of her community mentioning the positive attributes of your product on his blog,” he says.
“She then sees a friend posting on Facebook about how great the product is and, finally, sees retargeted ads via native advertising channels promoting a discount trial offer of the product.”
A celebrity endorsement combined with an authoritative review, subtle peer pressure from friends and a discount offer would be hard to resist by anyone’s standards. Such is the power of influencer marketing.
Consider these tips, in addition to the best practices listed above:
Be generous. The better the “gift” you offer in your pitch, the more likely the influencer is to agree to write or, in the case of video, record a review.
Go beyond the A-list. It can be difficult to get A-listers to decide to look at your product, much less write about it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Just don’t limit yourself to them. Bloggers and social networking types further down the “long tail” can be easier to connect with and more receptive to your advances.
Remember that less is more. Don’t cover every detail in your pitch. Leave room for intrigue. Often, the product will sell itself.
Allow for personality. Don’t place too many constraints around what you’re asking the influencer to do. Instead, leave room for the person to make the review fit her style and personality. It will come across as more genuine and engaging that way.
Use Small Business Influencer Marketplaces
One way to find prospects to promote your products is through marketplaces that match companies with influencers. Quite a few exist, although not all are intended for small businesses. These three are:
Intellifluence. Previously mentioned and written about here, Intellifluence is a bit more one-sided than the other marketplaces in that it allows businesses to reach out to influencers but not the other way around. Still, at $9 per month for unlimited usage it’s quite a bargain.
Tomoson. For $99 per month, Tomoson lets businesses carry out up to ten campaigns with as many as 100 people.
Famebit. This marketplace allows businesses to get started for free. Endorsements cost as little as $100, and campaign creators can set a budget that’s comfortable for them, review proposals from influencers and choose which platform to use for brand promotion.