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Social media marketing is crucial to business growth. With an estimated 4.59 billion social media users worldwide, businesses must reach customers directly where they are in order to keep their products top of mind. As social media continues to evolve, so do the marketing options — and the competition. Utilizing everything from paid ads to video marketing can help you build brand awareness and stay one step ahead, but leveraging a trusted voice, such as an influencer, can further maximize your efforts.
What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is when popular social media users are tapped by businesses to help promote products and services. It’s important to note that the term “influencer” is not always interchangeable with “celebrity”. The power of the influencing world is that, in most cases, influencers can be anyone, anywhere.
Ordinary people who have invested time exploring a specific niche like beauty, fashion, or food and consistently share their experiences make it easy for audiences to view them as experts in their field(s). As a result, audiences hold influencers to a different standard than celebrities, and the trust placed in them is constantly growing. According to Morning Consult, 61% of Gen Zers and millennials said they trust social media influencers, up 10% from 2019. Leveraging this trust to promote your brand can help establish trust for your own products and increase sales and traffic to your platforms, further building your audience.
Types of influencers
Nano: Nano influencers are social media influencers with less than a thousand followers. While their following count may be on the lower side, that doesn’t mean their engagement rate will be. Because these influencers are actively building their authority, they tend to be more intentional with their audience when it comes to engagement, posting, and transparency. This ultimately makes them more trustworthy to their audience.
Micro: Micro influencers are social media influencers with between 1,000 and 100,000 thousand followers. In general, micro influencers tend to have some of the same qualities as nano influencers in terms of engagement and trustworthiness, allowing them to yield similar results on a larger scale. By the time influencers reach this following, their niches are more carved out and their content becomes more specialized, making it easy for your brand’s content to appear more natural.
Macro: Macro influencers are social media influencers with 100,000 to a million followers. Because these influencers tend to have more followers, they’re great for improving your brand’s visibility and reach. Engaging influencers of this magnitude tends to be more about awareness and less about engagement, so be strategic about setting up this partnership.
Mega: Mega influencers are social media influencers with over a million followers. Once an influencer reaches this level, they tend to cross into celebrity territory. This means they’re the most expensive, and there’s more opportunity for your brand’s products to get lost. While they’re able to provide maximum reach, marketing efforts from this tier of influencer tend to work best with brands that operate on the same following level. There tends to be more buy-in from customers and maximum visibility between brands, allowing for a higher return on investment (ROI).
Beyond following count, there are two important things to note when considering the type of influencer you work with: their niche and the platform you choose to use. In terms of niches, there are a few to consider, depending on your business type. The main influencer niches tend to be fashion, food, and beauty. For some influencers, these niches can overlap, so it’s crucial to examine their content closely and compare their target audience against yours to determine if the two aspects align with your goals.
The next important factor is platform. There are several platforms where social media users can be influencers, namely Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. While some influencers’ following counts may align across platforms, others won’t. For instance, some influencers may have a million followers on TikTok and a few thousand on Instagram. Do your homework on how your prospective influencer stacks up across platforms to gather a better understanding of whether they’re the best fit for your business and what platform works best.
How to develop an influencer marketing strategy
Determine campaign goals.
When developing any marketing strategy, it’s important to have specific goals. Are you hoping to see a 10% increase in engagement? A 30% increase in traffic to your website? Being specific about your goals can help you measure success, keep your campaign on track, or pivot your approach if necessary. Keep in mind that there can be more than one goal for a campaign, but try to keep this number around three to keep your campaign focused. Setting up SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) goals can keep you organized.
Define your budget.
Defining your budget makes your options clear. It defines the type of influencer you can afford, the content the influencer creates, and how you promote your campaign. Knowing the rates of your preferred influencer(s) can help you map out this step. Influence.co’s Instagram influencer rate map can provide a baseline of the average Instagram influencer’s rate based on follower count, engagement, state, category, and more.
Some influencers are open to receiving goods and services for free in exchange for marketing your brand. Regardless of the compensation agreement, it’s crucial to be clear about the terms to protect your brand.
Determine your platform(s).
Influencers are on just about every platform. When deciding which platforms to activate your influencer marketing strategy, prioritize your target audience. If your target audience is millennials, for example, then Instagram might be the better fit. Also consider the pros, cons, and flexibilities of each platform. Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok all have unique differences that are important to keep in mind. Video length, for instance, differs across platforms and is important to keep in mind as you carve out your messaging.
Find your influencers.
Once you decide on your platforms, it’s time to choose your influencers. Checking niche hashtags can help you get started on your search. Keep in mind niche, engagement, follower count, prior influencer content, and overall content to gauge whether or not the partnership would make sense for your brand. Be mindful of any existing competitor partnerships that could create a conflict of interest.
When you reach out to influencers, be sure to search their page for how they prefer to be engaged. Some influencers may prefer to be contacted via direct message, while others may have an agency or manager’s email address in their bio. Using the right channels to communicate can go a long way toward creating a positive first impression and helping to foster a relationship. Once the communication lines are open, be sure to ask questions about their rates, lead time for deliverables, preferred relationship setup, and more to gauge compatibility.
Perhaps the most important part of your influencer strategy is deciding what your content will look like. Depending on your niche, there are several ways you can go about this. For restaurants, having your influencer try your food out on camera, show off the aesthetic of your space, and give their honest opinion about the products and customer service is pretty standard.
For beauty and fashion brands, things can look slightly different. Often, products will have to be shipped to the influencer, which can add an extra fee to your budget. Then there’s usually an unboxing experience that can impact the first impression of your brand on camera. Regardless of the niche, it’s always important to give your influencer key messaging to share with their audience. Some influencers might prefer bullet points, while others may prefer a short script. If your brand has a unique distinguishing factor, like being vegan or minority-owned, be sure to have the influencer call that out to further set you apart.
Last but not least, have a clear call to action. For example, if you’re going to offer a discount code attached to the influencer’s name or platform, have them emphasize this key point. If there’s a new product or a semi-annual sale that you want to spread awareness about, have them make that clear. Having a clear CTA can have a tangible impact on your campaign goals and performance, so be sure to make it as specific as possible.
Measuring the results of your efforts can help you understand your ROI. If your campaign exceeded your goals, you had a high ROI and it may be worth it to have the same or a higher budget for future campaigns. If your campaign didn’t produce in the way you expected, it’s an opportunity to consider how you can improve. Be sure to take a closer look at your goals, call to action, timing of your campaign, the target audience of your influencer, and the content itself, and decide what to do differently next time. The issue could be anything from a small tweak to an entirely different course of action.
Repurposing influencer content
Once your influencer campaign has been launched, whitelisting allows you to extend the lifespan of your content. Whitelisting occurs when an influencer grants a brand access to their Instagram and/or Facebook accounts to run paid ads that don’t show up on the influencer’s feed. This allows the brand to optimize influencer content across its target audiences, creating room for brands to rely on more than just organic reach.
Whitelisting can be managed through Facebook or Instagram’s Business Manager or through third-party technology platforms. To manage this option appropriately, identify a clear agreement between you and your influencer and be thoughtful about the content you run ads behind. For best results, lean into content that is already seeing a healthy ROI in order to spend your budget wisely.
Email and SMS marketing
Including videos in your email and SMS marketing is another great way to repurpose influencer content. To drive traffic back to social channels or your website, consider posting a short teaser clip or image with a call to action leading them to the intended place. With powerful marketing automation software like Square Marketing, you can include video, images, and even GIFs in your email campaigns to stand out in your customers’ inboxes. Regardless of whether you decide to choose email, SMS, or both, get the most out of your influencer marketing by putting your content directly in front of customers.
Social media/video marketing
Reposting or resharing influencer content is a no-brainer. But thoughtfully using it to create your own unique content, like a compilation video of reviews, to enhance your video marketing is another option. You can also cut down the overall influencer video into shorter sections to curate throughout the quarter or a specific time period to give your investment more legs. Don’t be afraid to think beyond the moment with your influencer content and set clear expectations with influencers to limit any surprises.
When used strategically, influencer marketing can give brands a boost and take their overall marketing efforts to the next level. Choosing the appropriate influencer type for your goal and building out a solid strategy can work to set your brand up for long-term success. Like any marketing effort, be sure to keep an open mind and examine your results, preparing yourself to make changes if necessary.