The Beginner’s Guide to Influencer Marketing

Social media has become an unavoidable presence in our technology-driven, hyper-connected world. And, with the advent of social networking sites came drastic changes to the way marketers do their job. For the first time ever, both industry experts and regular people were given a new and easy way to connect with millions of like-minded users. Thus, influencer marketing was born.

If you’ve worked in marketing for any period of time, you’re familiar with influencer marketing. But, is it just another dying trend or is it a marketing tactic worth exploring? We say, it all depends on your strategy.

Today, we give you a brief introduction to influencer marketing, we explain its potential benefits, and finally, we teach you the best ways to execute your own influencer marketing strategy. Ready to learn more? Keep reading!

What is influencer marketing?

For the beginners here, influencer marketing is a marketing tactic that leverages the power of established thought leaders and social media personalities to market a product or company to a larger audience.

Influencers aren’t your run-of-the-mill industry experts. Instead, they’re bloggers, independent content creators, business owners, and much more. The common thread between them? A strong web presence and influence over an engaged audience.

Why is influencer marketing effective?

As marketers, it’s our job to get our brand, content, products, and messaging in front of as many eyes as possible. But as we’ve slowly started to understand the importance of personalized marketing, it’s become evident that a batch-and-blast approach will no longer cut it. Instead, marketers must fight for the attention of a very targeted group of prospects –  those most willing and likely to make a purchase.

Here’s where influencer marketing comes in. This tactic hinges on your ability to identify and work with influencers who have curated a trusting audience of people who have the same characteristics as your best buyers –  thus amplifying your marketing efforts to exactly the right people.

When brands get influencer marketing right, they reap big returns. Consider these statistics:

  • Twitter users report a 2X increase in purchase intent when exposed to promotional content from influencers (source).
  • Influencer marketing content delivers 11X higher ROI than traditional forms of digital marketing (source).
  • On average, businesses generate $6.50 for every $1 invested in influencer marketing (source).

Key considerations to make before you execute your own influencer marketing strategy

Now that we’ve proven the merits of influencer marketing, it’s time to talk strategy. We want to preface this section by saying that what works for one company might not necessarily work for yours. As with any new marketing strategy, you should expect a period of growing pains while you figure it out. Having said that, here are some of our favorite influencer marketing tips and best practices. Let’s get into it!

1.      Re-evaluate your buyer personas

In order for influencer marketing to work, you must have a thorough understanding of your target audience. Now, if you work at an established company, you probably have a good idea of who you want to reach – whether you have official documentation of your buyer personas or not. But, we say, you should always reevaluate.

Make sure you’re targeting the right audience by pulling a list of your most valuable customers. An effective buyer persona will look like an amalgamation of these customers’ shared qualities and traits. Yet, even if you find your buyer personas to be perfect, you’ll likely need to dig a little deeper to execute a successful influencer marketing campaign.

We recommend that you research the following:

  • What social media platforms are your best buyers most active on?
  • Are your best buyers likely to be swayed by the opinion of an expert?
  • What type of advice do your best buyers seek out online?
  • How likely are your best buyers to engage with influencers?
  • Are your best buyers trusting of opinions they read online?
  • How much research does the average buyer do before purchasing from your company?

While this list of questions certainly isn’t comprehensive, it’s a good way to get your team headed in the right direction.

2.      Conduct influencer research

Before we explain the best way to conduct influencer research, we should make one important distinction: An influencer is not just a person who has a large social media following. A true influencer is someone who can sway public opinion and inspire purchase decisions among their audience.

An effective influencer has a devoted following, usually within a certain niche interest group or industry. The content and opinions of each influencer speak directly to the wants, needs, and pain points of their audience. The size of an influencer’s following will vary, and often, it depends on how specific their interests or area of expertise is. Let’s take a look at the different types of influencers:

  • Mega-influencers: Influencers in this category are typically major celebrities –  think actors, musicians, athletes, etc. Mega-influencers have more than one million followers and drive 2%-5% engagement per post. This category has the highest reach on the influencer spectrum. They also tend to have lowest overall resonance when it comes to driving actions on behalf of a brand (source).

  • Macro-influencers: Influencers in this category are not necessarily huge celebrities but due to the nature of their content, have a large, engaged audience – think executives, bloggers, and journalists. These influencers have 10,000-1 million followers and drive 5%-25% engagement per post. They have the highest topical relevance on the influencer spectrum –  with category-specific influence like lifestyle, fashion, or business (source).

  • Micro-influencers: Last but not least, we have micro-influencers. Micro-influencers are everyday consumers or employees who have 500-10,000 followers and drive 25%-50% of engagement per post. These influencers have the highest brand relevance and resonance on the spectrum of influencers, with influence driven by their personal experience and their personal connection with their audience (source).

Now, when it comes time to research influencers, the goal is to choose people who have an audience that closely mirrors your buyer personas and who seem to have a good, trusting relationship with that audience. Consider quantifiable factors like followers and engagement metrics, but also look at less quantifiable things:

  • Does the influencer respond to comments, mentions, or tagged posts?
  • If the influencer were to talk about your brand would it seem like a natural fit?
  • Can you find evidence of an influencer’s audience purchasing something based on that influencer’s recommendation?
  • Has the influencer partnered with so many brands that they’ve lost their audience’s trust?

For some companies and industries, effective or notable influencers may come to mind right away. For others, it’s going to take a little digging. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Monitor hashtags: A simple way to find influencers is to monitor industry-related hashtags. If an influencer is a good fit for your company, there will likely be some overlap between the topics they post about and the topics your brand posts about.

  • Set up Google alerts: Use Google Alerts to notify you of web mentions related to your brand, industry, and products. This is a good way to find people who are already talking about your products – making outreach and partnership much easier.

  • Invest in technology: If you have the resources, invest in an influencer marketing tool, program, or platform. This addition to your marketing technology stack will cut back on manual search time and integrate nicely with your other marketing efforts.

It’s important to mention that influencer research is not a one-time project. It should be an ongoing effort that ultimately leads to an active pool of influencers to form lasting partnerships with.

3.      Influencer outreach

If you take one thing away from this article, let it be this: Influencers are not marketing campaigns. They are human beings and should be treated as such. Now, for most people this may seem obvious. But, when you’re crunching numbers and working to hit revenue goals it can be easy to forget.

Influencers are not a commodity that can be bought or sold and they certainly don’t owe your company anything. If you aren’t careful with your outreach efforts or partnerships, you can burn the wrong people – quickly. Remember, just as an influencer can elevate and promote your brand, they also have the power to do real damage if you treat them badly.

Having said that, most influencers are open to working with the right brands. If you’re ready to start reaching out to influencers, here’s what we recommend:

  • Engage: Avoid the urge to jump right in and talk campaign details. Instead, test the waters and engage with them first. Follow them on social media, share and respond to their posts – really make an effort to show that you’re invested and familiar with the work they do.

  • Look for the natural introduction: After engaging with an influencer, you’ll likely find a natural way to suggest a partnership. Look for the person to mention your brand, respond to your content, complain about your competitor, discuss a pain point your product solves, etc. The more natural the connection, the better.

  • Don’t make it about yourself: Although influencer marketing is, in fact, a marketing tactic, it’s important that you don’t make your initial outreach about yourself. Asking for an influencer’s help without offering anything in return is not only ineffective, but it will also have the opposite effect. Instead, ask them if your brand can help with a project they’re working on, ask to feature their content on your website, or simply introduce yourself and let them know you’d like to be a resource to them. Influencer marketing must be a partnership.

  • Set up a meeting: If the influencer expresses interest in working with your brand, or you’ve approached them about a specific project, it might make sense to schedule an in-person meeting. This establishes your commitment to the partnership and really puts a face to your brand’s name. Of course, this won’t always be possible, but if it is, we say, go for it! This meeting could turn into a brain storming session that leads to important projects.

Although most influencers can be reached via social media or offer a business email in their bios, if you plan on running extensive influencer outreach, it may be beneficial to partner with a business contact database. This type of service or company can provide you with the contact information you need to reach the right influencers.

4.      Types of campaigns

Now, you may already have a specific campaign idea prior to reaching out to an influencer – and that’s great. But some of the best influencer marketing campaigns come from true collaboration with the influencer.

Remember, most influencers create their own content and are responsible for their own success. Not only will they help expand your brand reach, but they also tend to be excellent marketers themselves.

If you’re stuck for campaign ideas, here are a few common types of influencer campaigns:

  • Affiliate marketing and discount codes: Create a unique discount code or affiliate link for each of your influencers. Then, they can share it with their followers to generate leads and drive sales.

  • Product reviews or mentions: If you have a trusting relationship with an influencer, see if they will film, tweet, or promote a review of your product. Of course, you should select someone who’s used the product and had success with it.

  • Content swaps or collaboration: Influencers are all about self-promotion – and not in a bad way. After all, most have achieved huge success using these tactics. By participating in a content swap you expose your brand to their audience and also generate content for your own site that the influencer will be happy to share.

  • Contests, giveaways, or sweepstakes: Most influencers love giving back to their followers if they have the means to do so. Therefore, if you have the budget to facilitate a contest or giveaway, we recommend asking an influencer for help promoting it. Entry guidelines can include following your brand, purchasing a product, or some other action that leads entrants to your company.

  • Influencer takeovers: Ask an influencer to tweet, snapchat, or Instagram from your account for a day. Their following will come to your channels to see their favorite influencer and as a result, they will be introduced to your brand.

  • Events and speaking arrangements: Invite influencers to professional events or even hire them as speakers. This will entice their audience to also attend, the influencer will share photos or a recap of the event, and your brand will ultimately receive much more exposure.

5.      Payment and compensation

Influencers often make a living through their social media presence and their partnerships with brands. Therefore, it’s important to compensate your influencers accordingly. 

Payment and compensation will depend on what you are asking the influencer to do. Remember, even something small like a brand shout out gives you the opportunity to leverage the influencer and their audience to make money. Although one tweet may not sound like much, the influencer has worked hard to amass a loyal audience. What we’re getting at is this: Don’t insult your influencers by low balling them, asking them to work for free, or in exchange for free products.

Instead, do your research and have an open dialogue with your influencers. Ask them how they prefer to be compensated and settle on an arrangement you’re both happy with.

Key Takeaways

Influencer marketing is an effective strategy when executed correctly  – but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. As with all business strategies, you consider your audience and determine whether it will work for your business initiatives.

Start small and work up to larger scale campaigns. And remember, just because something doesn’t work the first time, doesn’t mean it will never work. Be patient, persistent, and ready to learn.

About the author: Molly Clarke is a Senior Marketing Manager at Zoominfo, where she writes for their B2B blog. ZoomInfo is a leading B2B database, which helps organizations accelerate their growth and profitability. In her free time, Molly likes to write about topics related to marketing and business.

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