It’s impossible to run a successful business without an effective strategy for generating new leads.
But for many businesses, ensuring that there’s always a steady stream of new customers coming in is a big challenge – finding working approaches for lead generation in an ever-changing marketplace is tricky and requires to always be on the lookout for new ways to reach your target audience.
The majority of people don’t buy the product just because they see an ad– 70% of today’s consumers do their research and want to learn about products through content as opposed to traditional advertising methods.
Luckily, there are ways for businesses to turn this into a huge advantage.
Those companies that are able to utilise the power of word-of-mouth and social proof through social media can gain an advantage over their competitors. And those that manage to get their products reviewed by prominent social media figures in their industry can even accumulate a massive loyal following in a matter of days, disrupting the dynamics of the marketplace.
That’s the power of influencer marketing.
Many of today’s more prominent brands utilise influencers to expand their reach, position their brand, and add credibility to their claims. If executed correctly, influencer marketing can become an incredibly effective social media strategy both for big companies and smaller businesses.
But How Does Influencer Marketing Work?
Just as social media has completely reshaped how we communicate and absorb new information, it has also had a considerable effect on the way businesses market themselves and their products.
And one of the most effective ways to utilise the power and reach of social media is through influencer marketing.
Unlike more traditional marketing methods, many of which have made the switch from print media to online ads, influencer marketing relies on social media figures, or “influencers”, who have earned the trust and loyalty of their followers and can make product or brand recommendations that overcome distrust barriers and can result in an immediate influx of sales.
But what is an influencer, exactly?
Well, the primary and most important part of being an influencer is having a following. Even if a social media figure has demonstrated his expertise in a field, that doesn’t matter if he cannot back it up with thousands of followers who have decided to follow his advice.
Sometimes, influencers can have hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers – this is often the case for celebrities, media personalities or bloggers that have a strong presence online. But an influencer can have as little as 5,000-10,000 followers and still be able to make a huge impact if his following is loyal and engaged.
If brands can reach an agreement with an influencer to recommend their products and services, it can result not only in a temporary increase in sales, but in increased brand awareness, improved market reach, and much more.
So, basically, influencer marketing doesn’t invent anything new – when an influencer recommends a product or a brand, it serves as a testimonial or word-of-mouth marketing. The only difference is that this person already has the trust of his followers and can reach tens of thousands of people with a single post.
A Data-Driven Marketing Approach
It’s clear that influencer marketing can be a very effective strategy.
But many companies that try it never see the results they hope to achieve – while they can usually put together an outreach campaign that gets at least a couple influencers on board, their posts don’t generate nearly as much traction as expected.
The reason is not enough research and bad targeting. Knowing which influencers to target for your influencer marketing campaigns is absolutely essential if you want returns from your investment and time commitment.
However, in order to identify the right influencers, the first step should always be defining the audience that you want to reach. You see, even if you manage to strike a deal with an influencer with millions of followers, that won’t matter if his followers aren’t interested in what you have to offer.
Therefore, the first step towards a successful influencer marketing campaign is adopting a data-driven approach.
And the most reliable way to learn about who your best prospects are is by creating a survey of your current customers that helps you understand who they are, what they like, and what they don’t like about your products.
While it’s important to learn the essential demographics of your audience, you should also try to find out their interests, opinions, and preferences as it pertains to your products and your brand.
Besides running surveys or interviews with your customers, you can also use analytics to gain valuable insights as well. If you have a following on social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram, you can gain at least basic insights about who’s following your brand.
Social media also allows you to test different ideas through content and see what your audience responds to best. This can be very helpful when developing an influencer marketing strategy because it allows you to plan every detail of your post, including choosing the right keywords to target.
The Right Influencer = Successful Social Media Campaigns
Once you define your audience and know who to target, you can start looking at influencers that fit your brand and can help you drive sales.
One of the most commonly looked at criteria is ‘number of followers’, but while that is important, it should never be the deciding factor. For instance, some celebrities have millions of followers, but they’re not engaged and aren’t focused enough to deliver any real success for the likely investment.
You should also ensure that the influencer’s views and expressed opinions align with your brand so that associating with the influencer doesn’t cause damage to your reputation.
You should target influencers who have expressed similar views as your brand and can be a good representation of your core company values.
You should also utilise the data that you collected when researching your audience – you likely discovered the social media platforms where your audience likes to hang out, and perhaps even content that they like to consume, so make use of this information when looking for candidates.
But even if you find the right influencer, your job is not finished – you need to craft an irresistible proposal that will make them want to work with your brand.
How to Engage Influencers?
It’s one thing to know how to engage your audience and take action, but approaching an influencer who likely receives dozens of requests and proposals each day is a whole different story.
So how can you approach influencers to maximize the chances of them wanting to work with you?
Well, there are numerous factors to consider such as your industry, the type of influencer you want to reach, what can you offer, and the prominence of your brand, to name a few.
One thing is clear: a one-size-fits-all approach simply won’t work.
But with that being said, there are a few basic rules that can help you increase the likelihood of success.
Building a Relationship with the Influencer
Once you find the influencers that you’d like to work with, it’s important not to rush in with a direct proposal without even establishing any prior contact.
Your chances of reaching an agreement with an influencer increases substantially if you can find a way to establish a relationship.
Luckily, since they are already on social media, that’s not too difficult – by simply consuming their content and engaging with them on their platforms, you can get on their radar and thus increase your chances of success.
Although it does take some time, there’s really no shortcut for building a relationship – if you simply offer a cash deal on your first communication, it can significantly reduce the chances of your offer being accepted. Especially, when you consider how many proposals they receive each day.
Crafting a Perfect Proposal
Once you have established a relationship with the influencer you want to approach, you can start crafting a proposal that will be hard to say no to.
Remember, influencers spend years carefully building their reputation and earning the trust of their followers, so they’re extremely cautious about business proposals since even one poorly-chosen arrangement could erase all that work in an instant.
But since they are business people just like you, they can get behind a proposal that provides clear value to them and is in line with their goals.
That’s why, when making a proposal, you have to be clear and concise, while at the same time intriguing enough for them to want to learn more.
Taking the time to craft a unique and eye-catching proposal is essential – although it will be a difficult process at first, over time, you’re likely to develop effective proposal templates that can be tweaked according to the situation.
Monetary Compensation Matters
At the end of the day, influencers are running a business, so they’re unlikely to consider any offer that utilises their social reach if they’re not adequately compensated for it.
So, if you expect to get free publicity by merely asking to promote your product, that might prove difficult, unless you’re targeting social media figures that are just starting out and don’t have a strong following yet.
But if you do establish a budget for your influencer marketing efforts, you will gain an advantage over a significant chunk of your competition. According to a survey, less 50% of brands offer cash when reaching out to influencers.
Still, you can’t just offer money and expect the influencer to accept immediately.
As mentioned before, influencers are very careful about which offers they accept and will only consider yours if you provide additional value and can position your brand in a way that fits with what they represent.
Getting creative with your monetary compensation can help as well – for instance, instead of offering a flat fee, you could offer an affiliate program so they could earn a percentage from each sale driven by them.
Getting Started – 3 Types of Influencer Marketing Campaigns
Once you’ve got an influencer on board, it’s time to decide what type of influencer marketing campaign you want to run. There are three main types:
#1: Brand Ambassador Programs
Brand ambassador programs are one of the most popular types of influencer marketing campaigns, and for good reason.
If you can find an influencer who’s willing to not only make a recommendation but actively promote your brand and vouch for it on multiple platforms, it can bring incredible results in terms of brand awareness, introducing your target audience to your products, and increasing your bottom line.
As your brand’s ambassador, the influencer would produce content such as posts and videos around your products, share images that promote it, write articles, and even promote your products on public appearances.
An influencer who becomes an ambassador for the brand can help the brand reach much more than just his followers – through multi-tiered promotions and content over a period of time, the potential scope of the campaign can be much bigger, especially if a compelling call to action is used in communications.
#2: Social Media Takeover
An alternative way to put together an influencer campaign is to utilise a social media takeover.
During a social media takeover, influencers take over all the social media accounts of the brand for a specific time period. For instance, an influencer could take over the brand’s accounts and post content for a few days, a week, or even a month or more.
A takeover can offer a unique opportunity for the brand to associate a well-known face in the industry with themselves and also provide more personality to their content marketing strategy on social media.
However, since you’d be relinquishing control of all of your social media accounts to an influencer, you need to trust them completely and know that they can capture the voice and message that you need in the posts.
#3: Sponsored Content Post
Finally, if you think that long-term commitment with an influencer is not the best move yet, you can opt for a sponsored content post, which is the simplest and most common form of influencer marketing out there.
The entire process is pretty simple – you reach an agreement with the influencer about posting content on his social media platforms on your behalf, and then develop a message that fits in with his voice and persona while also accomplishing your goals.
While the content can be very diverse and include articles on popular blogs, social media posts, images, or even videos, the primary goal is the same – reaching and engaging the influencer’s audience and showcasing your brand and its products to increase brand awareness, drive sales, and grow your audience.
It’s essential to collaborate with the influencer throughout the entire process – while you may know more about your product and its unique selling proposition, the influencer knows his audience and can help you come up with a message that will generate a positive response.
Micro-Influencer Marketing – a Budget-Friendly Strategy
Influencer marketing can produce excellent results, but the truth remains, it does require an investment to work.
And while that may not be a problem for bigger companies, some small businesses just don’t have a big enough budget to pay a prominent influencer to promote their products.
But even with a tiny budget, it’s still possible to reap significant results from influencer marketing.
Even though influencers with hundreds of thousands of followers may be out of your reach, you can still contact smaller influencers that have anywhere from a few thousand to around 50,000 followers. Although these influencers may be smaller, they often have a much stronger sense of community with their audience and can achieve incredible engagement numbers.
What’s more, smaller influencers may be much more receptive to small business marketing ideas and be more open to trying out innovative ideas that might turn out to be very useful.
The only challenge is discovering these micro-influencers in the first place – they can often be much harder to find, and you’ll likely need to spend a significant amount of time if you want to identify them.
What’s more, they might not be used to receiving a ton of business opportunities and will likely be much more open to working with you. Still, make sure you create professional proposals that highlight the benefits of working together if you want to maximise your chances.
Influencer Marketing Can Become Your Most Powerful Asset
It’s not hard to see the reason behind influencer marketing’s popularity – it simply works, and many brands were built using it.
But it’s not as easy as going on a social media platform and paying an influencer to share your post – if you want significant and long-lasting results, you need to map out your strategy and know exactly what you want to achieve.
Only by continually tweaking and improving your approach can you expect to see the success that can completely change the course of your business.
What do you think about influencer marketing strategies? Have you adopted any of the techniques in this blog? Leave a comment, wed love to hear your opinion.
If you’d like to learn more about using social media to propel your business, check out our guide to Social Media Posting Times, The Best Times to Post on The World’s Biggest Networks, or for more (purely) Instagram goodness check out Instagram’s Most Popular Hashtags.