Influencer marketing involves a lot more than celebrity endorsements and that’s great news for small businesses.
What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing, also called influencer outreach marketing, happens when companies promote their products and services by partnering with an individual with a large and active social following. Eric Enge from Moz.com defines influencer marketing as, “the name we give to the process of developing relationships with influential people that can lead to their assisting you in creating visibility for your product or service.”
At its heart influencer marketing is a partnership. Influencers need a great deal of content to keep their channels moving and active. Companies both large and small have the opportunity to work with influencers to create content and in exchange have their products introduced to thousands of potential customers.
An Influencer is an active social media user, often with an audience of at least 2000 people. These influencers can be active on any social media channel—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or YouTube—and many are active on more than one. Influencers usually have a specific niche they post about which can be anything from beauty trends to travel to parenting. This built-in audience is where the strength of influencer marketing lies. In an influencer marketing campaign companies get the opportunity to speak directly to people who have already indicated they are interested in the influencer’s area of expertise.
How does it work?
In an influencer outreach strategy a company partners with an influencer to create a piece of content that is sent out to the influencer’s audience through their own social channels. Because the content is matched to the interests of the existing audience and carries the trusted endorsement of the influencer, it is a very targeted form of marketing that often sees great results. How effective is it? These stats from ION tell a compelling story.
- On average, businesses generate $6.50 for every $1 invested in influencer marketing.
- 70 percent of teenage YouTube subscribers trust influencer opinions over traditional celebrities.
- 86 percent of women turn to social networks before making a purchase.
- 71 percent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on a social media reference.
There are essentially three ways an influencer can share content about a company with their audience:
- The influencer can create a piece of content. They can write a blog post, or create a video, or post something to Instagram that specifically features the product. Sometimes these are round-up posts that feature several brands at the same time. Others could include unboxing videos, review posts, or Instagram photos taken while experiencing a service or using a new product. These posts are often labelled as being “sponsored content”.
- The influencer can talk about a company in their social channels. These posts are particularly well suited to fashion and lifestyle brands where the influencer notes where they purchased the items in the photograph. They can also be a slightly more subtle form of marketing where it appears the influencer is mentioning the brand in passing, as part of their everyday life, instead of specifically pitching it.
- The influencer can allow a company to post a guest post on their channel where the brand has full control over the piece that is created and the audience knows that the content is not coming directly from the influencer.
How to create an influencer marketing strategy
Like any good marketing strategy the first step in creating an influencer strategy is defining the campaign goals. What kind of audience the campaign is trying to reach? Who are they? What are their interests? Do they live in a specific area? Be specific. Second, what is the desired action the audience should take after they see the content? Is this a brand awareness campaign? Should audience to make a purchase? Request a free sample? Enter a contest? Follow the company’s social channels?
Once the audience has been defined and the goals are set, it’s important to put together a KPI – a Key Performance Indicator. This chart will track what has happened in the campaign, and show if it is going well or where it needs to be adjusted. The KPI may be different for each campaign, it all depends on what is being tracked.
You can see a sample KPI here. This sample also includes a chart for tracking the communication process with each influencer.
How to find the right influencers
It’s important to remember that the goal is to create a mutually beneficial relationship with the influencer. This process can take several months. It is usually necessary to reach out to multiple influencers to find the ones that accept the offer. It can be very helpful to have a chart or system to keep track of all of the communication from first email to follow-ups and responses. The number of influencers that will need to be contacted will vary depending on the industry and the strength of the offer.
The key to a good influencer outreach campaign lies in finding and targeting the right influencers. There are many tools to discover people who are talking about a given subject and also help select which influencers are the right fit for each campaign.
Buzzsumo (buzzsumo.com) combines content research, Twitter influencer research and monitoring into one app. The influencer interface searches by topic and then refines the search by geographic area and other factors. The search results quickly show the user’s domain authority, audience size and social activity so it’s easy to find the right fit. Buzzsumo’s Audience Builder tool also allows for searches for users who are already talking about a given topic.
FollowerWonk (https://moz.com/followerwonk/) finds influencers by searching Twitter bios and profiles providing information about who is talking about each topic, or has talked about it in the past. The search results also include audience size and social activity information to find the users that best meet the criteria.
Upfluence (upfluence.com) focusses primarily on finding influencers in Instagram. Upfluence includes information on which posts within a user’s profile get the most response providing a good picture of how well a company’s products and services will fit with their audience.
Pitchbox (pitchbox.com) is a full service influencer outreach system which not only has research tools for finding the right influencers across all social channels, it also tracks and manages all of the communication with the influencers. Pitchbox lets users create and schedule follow-up emails and create workflows. Pitchbox can be a real timesaver, especially with larger campaigns.
Once the influencers have been identified it’s important to look at the size of their audience. A bigger audience can be more desirable but those are often also the influencers that are the busiest. Businesses working with a more modest budget should consider aiming for the middle of the pack rather than the influencers at the very top of the list.
How to reach out to influencers
The best influencer partnerships are founded on good relationships. Spend some time on each potential influencer’s social channels to make sure that they are reaching the right audience and also check to be sure that they are a match for the tone and voice of the company. Remember that if a company partners with an influencer that company will be associated with their channels. Make sure there aren’t any red flags that could prove embarrassing later. Before sending a pitch, take the time to get to know each influencer. Follow their social channels and comment on their posts so when the pitch lands in their inbox the company name is familiar.
When it’s time to start sending out emails, keep it personal. It will help to have part of the email pre-written, but make sure the opening paragraph of each email is tailored to the recipient. Influencers receive a lot of offers. Emails that sound generic are likely to be ignored.
This graphic from GooveHQ outlines the anatomy of a great influencer outreach email. It starts with a personal opening, includes details that show familiarity with the influencer’s channels, clearly outlines the pitch and sets up the next email. This example is geared for a guest post, but it serves as an excellent guide for all types of influencer outreach.
Make sure the pitch is both clear and specific. What is the company offering the influencer? How will it add value to their social channels? How will the influencer be compensated? Will they be paid? Offered free products or services? Will it be some combination of the two? There may be some influencers will to partner with businesses just for the content itself, but that is a rare opportunity and likely to be limited to influencers with smaller audiences. Be prepared to make a good offer.
Influencer outreach marketing sends your message to an audience that is already primed and ready to hear it. If you’re ready to add an influencer outreach campaign to your 2017 marketing plan, Stir can help. Contact Stir’s social media experts for a free consultation or project proposal.