Marketing is all about stories—the stories of products, brands, and people. This has been true for the last few years and remains valid for 2021. So, if you’re an entrepreneur trying to promote your brand, take a step back and ask yourself: How am I telling my story to my audience?
With that in mind, there’s no better way to communicate the essence of a brand than via a brand ambassador recognized by an engaged following. This is where influencer marketing comes in. When a product is promoted by people we look up to and are inspired by, we can’t help but be influenced by their valued opinion.
Celebrities were the brand ambassadors of the past, but fast forward to the present—social media content creators (also known as “influencers”) are now the desired brand ambassadors. Now, they’re all over social media, which makes them more accessible—to both audiences and advertisers—than ever before.
If this year you want to harness this marketing method (which we certainly suggest doing!) then read on. In this article, we’ve highlighted everything you need to know about getting started with influencer marketing in 2020.
So, let’s get right into it!
What’s Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is when you recruit prominent individuals like content creators to promote your brand. Usually, this goes hand-in-hand with social media, which in itself, should already be playing a pivotal role in boosting the customer awareness of your brand.
The idea behind influencer marketing is simple: First things first, get to grips with the specific audience you want to engage with, then reach out to authorities in that niche that already have a loyal following to get a feel for whether they’ll endorse your products or services either now or in the future.
Of course, this is an overly simplified explanation, but that’s influencer marketing in a nutshell.
Often, like most other forms of online advertising, you’ll have to pay the influencer to promote your products—so be sure to bear that in mind as you continue reading.
Why Influencer Marketing?
Ad-based marketing isn’t as effective as it once was. These days, consumers are pretty tech-savvy, and consequently, the majority of audiences have learned to ignore digital ads.
In fact, in 2019, over 25% of people used an adblocker. The moment they see a popup, banner, or other ad-based interruption, their immediate focus is finding an exit or skip button.
But, it’s not just digital ads that consumers are wary of, the modern-day consumer is also skeptical of businesses in general. We infer this from the fact that more and more people (especially millennials) thoroughly research products online before making a purchase.
This change in attitude is partially why influencer marketing works so well—it connects with consumers in a way that standard ads just can’t. Today’s generation is more likely to trust a (relatively) impartial third party, like an influencer, over an employee, CEO, or the general marketing materials produced directly by a company.
Well, many consumers view influencers as the “people’s advocate” for suggesting products that are the most relevant to them.
In light of everything we’ve just discussed, an influencer marketing campaign could be just the ticket for getting out of your marketing rut. If you’ve been stuck for fresh ideas on how to advertise online, this could be the ideal option!
What are the Risks of Influencer Marketing?
Unfortunately, while influencer marketing is highly effective (when done correctly), it’s also important to be aware of its downsides. This way, you can avoid them as much as possible.
Like most online ventures, there are risks associated with influencer marketing. The biggest one being accidentally choosing the wrong influencer. This can wreak havoc on the reputation of your brand. If the influencer you’re affiliated with gets wrapped up in controversy or posts something inappropriate, you might also face backlash for being connected with them.
Not only that but another downside is the challenge of measuring the results of influencer marketing—which makes calculating your actual return on investment (ROI) tough. The success of the campaign hinges on how well the influencer can promote your product and if they can’t do so effectively, you need to stop working with them and know when to cut your losses.
It’s also worth noting that some influencers aren’t always familiar with the rules, regulations, and laws surrounding advertising campaigns. They could, for example, fail to disclose that a post is sponsored or inflate followings and engagement with bots so it’s important to be aware of all relevant advertising rules and be savvy about analytics tracking so you can as in-the-know as possible.
All of this can be negated by working with the right influencer from the get-go. An influencer that shares your values and interests can be an excellent asset for your business and even elevate your reputation.
How Do You Find an Influencer?
Nearly everyone is on the internet, and most people post on social media and gain some attention from their peers. So, how do you define what a genuine influencer is or is not?
Brands often believe they need to go after the most prominent names they can think of, but this isn’t true. As long as your chosen individual can reach and engage your target audience, that person is an influencer. In fact, some smaller influencers may be more appropriate for your brand, especially if you’re targeting a particular niche.
Take note: “Engage” is the term to pay particular attention to here.
It’s not just enough just to get the message out. Your influencer needs to boast sufficient authority and garner enough trust within their audience so that their following is prompted to actually try or buy your product. Anyone can shout ad copy to thousands of followers, but it takes an experienced influencer to actually get scrollers’ attention and make them want to buy whatever they’re promoting. It’s influencers with a high level of engagement that you want to work with because you’ll be more likely to see better ROI from campaigns with them.
In terms of finding the right influencers for your brand, you can find them all over the web! They’re bloggers, vloggers, social media superstars, or all of these things combined. You can search them out yourself, or you can work with influencer marketing platforms like Grapevine or Famebit, or even go through influencer management agencies like Gleam Futures.
Now that we’ve clarified that, let’s get into the details of how to get started with influencer marketing.
Before You Look for Influencers…
First, you need to do a bit of homework (don’t worry, it’s not too difficult).
Analyze Your Brand & Define Your Targets
Understanding your brand and its customers is a crucial part of the process.
This means identifying a target audience that’s interested in your products and/or services. Think about who they are, where they hang out online, and why they need what you’re selling.
It’s also worth writing down a clear set of brand values. As you’re researching potential influencers, you can refer back to this to ensure they match the ethos of your business. Is your brand serious, trustworthy, and professional? Is your focus on creativity and small, budding businesses? Or is your brand fun, fashionable, and exciting? Or, If you’re a sustainable business, you shouldn’t partner with someone who doesn’t promote similar values as this could lead to various accusations of hypocrisy, causing a loss of credibility.
If you’re unsure about your brand’s values, here are a few ideas to help inspire you:
- An emphasis on creativity and self-expression (these values are usually applied to the following niches: Art, design, fashion, crafts, interior design)
- Self-improvement and discipline (these could be relevant in the fitness and finance spaces)
- Serious, trustworthy, professional, and informative (if you’re in the history, finance, or entrepreneurial industries, these can be ideal values to abide by)
- Fun, exciting, and edgy (you might want to affiliate yourself with these values if you’re in the lifestyle business or even something like the music business)
These are just a few of the many types of company values you could align yourself with—but you get the idea.
For those who don’t know, KPI’s stand for Key Performance Indicators. These are vital for measuring any advertising campaign’s success, so don’t make an exception for influencer marketing campaigns. Define these at the beginning of the project and compare them during and after the campaign is over.
Typical KPIs include:
- Brand Awareness: How familiar are consumers with your brand and products?
- Return on Investment: Compared to your initial investment, how much profit/ conversions have you generated as a result of the campaign?
- SEO: How high is your site/channel ranking? How many searches are there for your brand?
- Traffic: How much new traffic are you driving to your site? Where is it coming from?
- Average Stay Per Visit: How long do visitors stay on your site? What content do they interact with the most?
Needless to say, you need to pick KPIs that complement your overarching marketing and business objectives, so consider these long and hard before diving into the deep end.
Find Influencers Open to Collaboration
Now you’ve done the prep work, it’s time to find influencers who are open to collaboration. This may seem daunting, but don’t worry, there are several ways you can go about finding the right influencer for your brand.
Yes, the trusty Google search.
This may sound obvious, but if you’re starting from scratch, searching for influencers in your niche via Google is an excellent starting point. A quick search should populate tons of websites, blog posts, and videos. Scour through these results to find people who share your brand’s values and interests.
Gravitate towards influencers who boast a decent reputation with sizeable yet loyal followings—they tend to produce the best results.
An Influencer Marketplace
These platforms help connect brands, marketers, and companies interested in reaching new audiences with influencers. They try to match you with someone who can create the right sharable and promotional content for their audience to aid your brand. Some influencer marketplaces specialize in aggregating influencers in specific industries like fashion or fitness, others are platform-specific and offer influencers services for only Instagram, Youtube, or Twitter.
In other words, influencer marketplaces are great platforms to outsource your influencer marketing too. The pros are, you’ll get access to a vast network of influencers with amplification techniques to maximize your content’s reach. However, this doesn’t always result in a personal or long-lasting relationship with the influencer so consider both the advantages and disadvantages.
Social Media Monitoring
You can also find authoritative influencers in your niche using tools like BuzzSumo. These social media monitoring platforms allow you to see who’s already talking about the topics you care about.
You can also manually search for relevant hashtags on Twitter and Instagram to identify successful content creators in your niche. Also, consider using Twitter’s advanced search feature to listen in on social chatter related to keywords your target audience might be using.
Using any of these methods, you might even find influencers that are already talking about your brand organically. This is a significant plus because they’ll likely be a good fit for your brand and they might be more likely to be interested in partnering with you!
Picking the Right Social Media Platform
There are eight leading social media platforms you can use for influencer marketing, and some lend themselves to different content and niches more than others.
Depending on your brand, some social media platforms may better represent your values more than others. The moral of the story: Do your research first before committing to anything.
- Instagram: Instagram is a photo-sharing app and is one of the most popular influencer platforms. Consumers can shop straight from the content you upload, and influencers can promote brands through stories, images, and videos. Instagram is very visually engaging and works best for aesthetically pleasing physical products like fashion, jewelry, stationery, etc.
- Youtube: Youtube is ideal if you want to post longer-form content. It’s perfect for uploading how-to videos, tutorials, video essays, etc. Youtube audiences tend to be the most loyal as they’re prepared to wait longer for you to post new videos. Plus, they tend to engage with longer pieces.
- Facebook: Facebook allows you to post almost all content formats and has over 2 billion users. It also allows you to insert extended captions (including links) which makes driving traffic much more straightforward.
- Twitter: Twitter enables you to reach a broad audience through the use of hashtags and keywords. You can also mention other accounts to encourage retweets. Just like Facebook, you can also post photos, videos, and links, however, remember that tweets are limited to 280 characters.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the best platform for marketing to professionals. If your brand is providing products or services that benefit other businesses or entrepreneurs, this is an excellent network to utilize.
- Pinterest: This is a photo-board based platform, which is primarily used by women, and once again, it’s very visual. If your target audience is mainly women, use Pinterest to promote stunning products with a creative twist.
- Snapchat: Snapchat is a good option if you’re trying to target a younger audience. Influencers have public accounts, so stories are available to all.
- TikTok: This platform consists of short video content. It’s excellent for adding humor or creativity to concise ads and it caters more towards Gen Z, and Millennial demographics.
When researching potential influencers, make sure they have a following on the platform that’s most important to you.
How to Pick the Right Influencer to Partner With
As we’ve discussed, partnering with the wrong influencer could do more harm than good so it’s essential to be very careful when picking the individuals you partner with.
Observe the Influencers
To be on the safe side, spend some time observing potential influencers before approaching them.
- How they present information to their audience
- How their audience responds to them
- How often they promote brands
- What other brands they’re promoting
- The questions their audience asks
- How, or even if, they engage with their audience
It’s also worth researching whether they’ve received any negative press, or if they’re likely to get caught in social media conflicts and controversies.
If you’re an edgier brand, you may be able to choose to work with influencers more freely. You may even benefit from an influencer that often rides the wave of controversy. Still, a more conservative and professional brand needs to be far choosier about who they associate with.
Don’t Get Stuck on the Numbers
The vast number of followers an influencer has may seem extraordinary. And, of course, to an extent, this figure matters—but the quality of the following is far more significant.
So, pick an influencer who has the trust of their audience and the ability to encourage their following to try something based on their endorsement. An engaged, excited, and loyal following is a great asset, especially if you’re hoping to establish a long term relationship with the influencer.
Reaching Out to Influencers
Once you’ve found an influencer that matches your values, promotes similar kinds of products, and has a dependable following, it’s time to reach out.
Unless you found them on an influencer marketplace, start off slow. Follow them on social media, subscribe to their mailing list, and share their content. In other words, start to develop a rapport with them. Once you’ve established a relationship, you can ask them if they’d be interested in promoting your brand.
You’ll need to prepare two marketing plans:
- One for getting your influencer on board
- The other for the influencer to present to their audience
To market to your potential influencer, you’ll need to give them a way of experiencing your product and brand. Most commonly, brands invite influencers to their events where they can try their experiences or services as this gives them something to document and share with their community. Or, they send them a free sample of their product to try.
Preparing a Campaign
When you have an influencer on board and they love your brand—congratulations! Soon it will be time to market your brand and products to the influencer’s audience.
Often, influencers have their own ideas (and it’s worth listening to the influencer’s ideas because they know their audience best!) but here are a few pitchable ideas to get started with:
- Product Reviews: You hire the influencer to review your product in a blog post, YouTube video, Instagram video/story/IGTV, or TikTok video, etc.
- Contests or Giveaways: The influencer runs a giveaway contest with their audience, usually requiring their followers to follow both their and your social media accounts and tagging friends to do the same
- Native Ads for Your Product: You hire the influencer to run an ad for your product on their platform(s) where they’ll have to mention pre-determined specs about your brand and product
- Appearance at a Live Event: Hire the influencer to come to your event, meet people, and document it on social media to create buzz and promotion for your brand or new product launch
It’s essential to let the influencer have a say in how they’d like to promote your brand. They may not want to sound scripted, and usually, they’ll have their audience’s interests at heart. You need to respect that you’re using their assets—so, let them set the ground rules. If you’re uncomfortable with what they want to do you might not be compatible, so go back to the drawing board and find another influencer to work with.
Transparency, authenticity, and honesty are likely relevant to them, and they won’t want to betray their audience for your brand. So avoid insisting on glowing reviews—allow the influencer to be truthful about your brand and product.
Compensating an Influencer
Influencers will rarely (or never) promote your brand for free and they shouldn’t. They’re providing an advertising service and they’re the ones putting the work into creating content about your product or service to push to their audience and they should be compensated for it.
So, when working with influencers, expect to compensate them monetarily. Rates will drastically differ depending on the influencer’s audience size, their audience engagement, the kind of content you want them to create, and how much content you want them to create. Don’t think that you have to work with influencers with the biggest following to see results—micro-influencers (which are generally influencers with less than 100,000 followers on a given platform) usually have hyper-engaged audiences, so there can be great ROI when working with them.
Check out articles like this one to get an idea of what influencers are charging right now.
If, however, you don’t quite have the budget to hire an influencer just yet, there are several ways you can still get your product in front of them, and with any luck, in front of their audience too. For instance, you could:
- Send them your product for free without any obligation for them to feature your product on their social platforms. This won’t guarantee that they’ll talk about your product to their followers, but if your product really impresses them then they might!
- Provide a discount code where they earn a commission for every person that uses their code to purchase your product. This is similar to an affiliate program and gives them a monetary incentive to talk about your products but this way, you only pay out after a conversion has happened on your end.
- Promote them, in turn, to boost traffic to their social platforms. This is a great way to potentially build a relationship with them which could turn into a professional partnership down the line.
Again, these methods won’t guarantee that an influencer will talk about your products to their following, however, if you just don’t have the budget to hire influencers for advertising on their social platforms, then these are some great options that have the potential to be beneficial for you too.
Staying in Touch
If you’re happy with the promotion an influencer has done for you, this doesn’t necessarily have to be the end of the road. The longer the influencer uses your products, the more authentic their opinion will be, which will shine through in their content. Needless to say, if you’re able to establish a decent rapport with the influencer, you might be able to secure longer-term marketing campaigns.
So, stay in touch with successful influencers that match your values and ideas. Keep following their social media, promoting their work when it’s in line with your principles, and check in on them occasionally.
How is Influencer Marketing Changing in 2021?
This year, we’re likely to see a few changes in influencer marketing. Most notably, we predict that:
- Brands will be more likely to merge content marketing, influencer marketing, and social media sales. These strategies are no longer separate. Instead, they’re components of a single marketing process.
- Brands will be more cautious when choosing influencers to work with. In recent years, some companies have broken off partnerships with influencers because of controversies that conflicted with their values.
- More companies will use influencer platforms as their primary tool for running influencer campaigns in-house. Organic influencer marketing is taking too long, and as such, we think we’ll see a surge of entrepreneurs using the evolving services these solutions provide.
- Celebrities will become less relevant to advertising campaigns and instead, brands will focus more on the influential authorities in their niche. They’ll spend more time gaining a better understanding of who their audience trusts, and that will be the driving force behind their campaigns.
- Brands will focus on establishing long-term relationships with influencers rather than contracting new people on a campaign-by-campaign basis. This saves the brand the time and expense of searching for new influencers for every new campaign they launch plus, it increases the chances of establishing authentic and loyal partnerships.
- Regulations and enforcement will increase. This has taken effect since the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took an interest in influencer marketing and introduced rules in the last few years. Now, influencers have much stricter regulations to adhere to when it comes to disclosing when they have a relationship with a brand.
- Influencers will focus more on audio and video content. Already, 81% of businesses use video as a marketing tool. Mobile video consumption rises by 100% every year, so this trend will remain stable in 2021. Podcasting is another form of content that we expect to see influencers put more time into as well.
TikTok and Instagram Shine as the Top Social Media Platforms for Influencer Marketing in 2021
Consumers still prefer bite-sized, visually engaging, and mobile-friendly content. This trend has remained consistent for a while, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon. This is something Instagram has capitalized on and will continue to excel in—the platform continues to make Instagram stories and IGTV videos main features for platform users to engage with which plays into the rise in video and audio popularity—win-win!
Another platform gaining momentum as an influencer hotspot is TikTok. It also follows the trend of short video and audio content and the network focuses on personality, charisma, and humor and offers snapshots of entertainment in only a few seconds. The platform started as Musical.ly so there’s an emphasis on dance-related and lip-synching content which is different from other social media platforms, and generally, the demographics using TikTok are Gen Z and Millenials.
Are You Ready to Kickstart Your Influencer Marketing Campaigns?
Influencer marketing is a crucial strategy to incorporate into your 2021 advertising campaigns. With a rise in the importance of video and audio content and personal relationships with influencers, this remains to be a great way to connect with new audiences and boost the exposure of your brand.
We hope this article has helped you know how to get started with influencer marketing and that you now know how to identify the right influencers to work with and how to start a partnership with them. It’s a promising year for influencer marketing, so now is an exciting time to jump on these new trends and platforms.