To pull off an effective influencer marketing campaign you need to work with the right social media influencers.
This guide will show you how to do both those things.
But before we get to influencer marketing how-tos, tips, and tools, let’s start with what and why…
Bonus: Get the influencer marketing strategy template to easily plan your next campaign and choose the best social media influencer to work with.
What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is a form of collaboration. A business collaborates with an influential person to promote something. It could be a product, service, or campaign.
Celebrity endorsements were the original form of influencer marketing.
But in today’s digital world, social content creators with niche audiences can often offer more value to brands. These people have dedicated and engaged groups of followers on social media. They are known simply as “social media influencers.”
More than two-thirds of North American retailers use some form of influencer marketing. And almost half of US and UK digital marketers spend at least 10% of their marketing communication budget on influencer marketing.
That spending is set to increase in 2019. Nearly two-thirds of marketers will increase their influencer marketing budgets this year.
Not convinced influencer marketing can lead to real business results? A survey found that 34% of daily U.S. Instagram users bought something because a blogger or influencer recommended it.
Instagram is the platform of choice for social influencers. 89% of marketers identify it as one of the most important channels for influencer marketing.
About a third of the influencer content on Instagram appears in Stories. This number will likely grow this year. The swipe-up feature to link out from Instagram Stories is now available to accounts with just 10,000 followers. This makes Stories a great place to share and link to brand content.
But don’t ignore the other platforms. Nearly a quarter of daily Facebook users have made a purchase based on a blogger or influencer recommendation. So have 29% of daily Twitter users.
What is a social media influencer?
Quite simply, an influencer is someone who can influence others.
A social media influencer is someone who wields that influence through social media. The form of influence can vary and no two influencers are the same.
The right influencer can reach your target audience, build trust, and drive engagement. They create original, engaging content. They won’t be keen to follow a template advertising style provided by your brand.
So, it’s critical to work only with social media influencers whose vision aligns with your own.
Influencers can have millions of followers. Perhaps the world’s best-known influencer is Kendall Jenner. She has 108 million followers on Instagram and regularly gets millions of likes on her branded posts.
But not all influencers are Hollywood types. Some of the top social media influencers in 2019 include:
James Charles (@jamescharles)
This teenaged makeup artist is a top beauty influencer. He has partnerships with brands like Morphe Cosmetics and Covergirl. Brands love him for his 16 million devoted followers on Instagram.
Murad Osman (@muradosman)
The founder of the #followmeto series of photos is one of the best-known travel influencers on Instagram. He regularly partners with travel destinations. He has 4.2 million followers on Instagram.
Massy Arias (@massy.arias)
With 2.6 million Instagram followers, this health coach and online fitness guru has partnered with brands like Fabletics.
How to find the right social media influencer in 8 easy steps
There are more than 500,000 active influencers on Instagram alone. That means you have many potential opportunities for influencer collaboration. It also means you have to put in the work to find the right influencer.
Marketers’ confidence in their ability to find the right influencer varies widely by country. In China, 81% of marketing professionals are confident they can find impactful influencers. In the United States, only 39% of marketers feel the same way.
Here are 8 key ways to find and connect with the right influencer for your campaign.
1. Consider the three Rs of influence
Influence is made up of three components:
A relevant influencer shares content relevant to your business and industry. They need to have an audience that aligns with your target market.
For example, Intrepid Travel worked with a group of vegan influencers to launch its new vegan tours. The influencers’ had a highly relevant audience that the company gained access to in an engaging and authentic way.
Erin Ireland is a passionate vegan advocate. Her Instagram post about how the tour opened up travel for her in India as a vegan gained more than 5,700 likes.
She also posted about the trip in her Stories, which live on as highlights.
Reach is the number of people you could potentially reach through the influencer’s follower base.
This is the potential level of engagement the influencer can create with an audience relevant to your brand.
Bigger isn’t always better. A huge follower count is meaningless if those followers aren’t interested in your offer. And a smaller follower count can be very powerful if it’s a niche area. Niche influencers can have very dedicated and engaged followers.
Tapinfluence found that engagement rates are often higher for “micro-influencers.” Micro-influencers have 5,000 to 25,000 followers. Thirty percent of North American retailers now work with micro-influencers.
The latest development is the emergence of nano-influencers. These influencers can have as few as 1,000 followers, but their word is gold to their dedicated fans.
2. Know who you’re trying to influence
Your influencer campaign can’t be all things to all people. An effective strategy requires you to speak to the right people using the right tools. (And, in this case, the right influencers).
The first step is to define who your audience will be for this specific campaign.
Developing audience personas is a great way to make sure you understand who you’re trying to reach. Once you’ve done that, create a matching set of influencer personas. This will help you understand the qualities you’re looking for in your influencers.
3. Look for engagement and trust with the right audience
The key is trust.
Your audience must trust and respect the opinion of the influencers you partner with. Without the trust component, any results will be superficial. You’ll struggle to see a tangible business impact from your efforts.
How do you tell if your potential influencer is trusted? Engagement. You want to see plenty of views, likes, comments, and shares. Specifically, you want to see these from the precise follower segments you’re trying to reach.
A good engagement rate also means a loyal following, rather than an inflated follower count bolstered by bots and fraud accounts.
4. Go for a consistent look, feel, tone, and values
You need to find someone who’s producing content with a look and feel that complements your own.
The tone must also be appropriate for the way you want to present your brand to potential customers. This will ensure things don’t feel disjointed in either party’s social media posts.
Cook and photographer Dennis Prescott (@dennistheprescott) has a very identifiable photography style. It works really well for his partnership with Traeger Grills. When Traeger Grills reposts his content on their own feed, it fits in seamlessly with their other meat-forward content.
5. Keep an eye out for sponsorship saturation
Take a look at what your potential influencers are posting. How often are they sharing sponsored content?
If they’re already hitting followers with tons of paid posts, their engagement rate may not last.
Look for plenty of organic, non-paid content to keep followers interested, enthusiastic, and engaged. YouTube influencer Laura Reid recommends only having one in every five or 10 posts sponsored.
Keep this in mind when thinking about what you’ll ask the influencer to post, as well. Asking for too many posts in a short timeframe will make your offer hard for the influencer to accept, even if it comes with a large paycheck.
6. Research and learn
In-demand influencers get lots of offers. When you first approach an influencer, you’ll need to show that you’ve put in the time to learn what they do.
Get to knows what their channels are about and who their audience is. Even better, start your approach slowly by interacting organically with your target influencer’s posts. Like their content. Comment when appropriate. Be appreciative, not salesly.
7. Plan your budget
Influencers with extensive reach rightly expect to be paid for their work. Free product might work with nano-influencers, but a larger influencer campaign requires a budget
Think about what kind of payment structure makes the most sense for your goals. But be willing to consider the influencer’s needs, too. For example, an affiliate or commission structure might be an option instead of a flat fee, or to reduce the flat fee.
We’ve outlined the various payment models in our post on how to pay Instagram influencers.
Remember that micro-influencers and nano-influencers will have more flexible payment terms.
8. Reach out privately, and personally
A direct message is a great place to start. If you can find an email address, try that too. But don’t send a mass email or generic DM.
It may take a little longer to write a personal message to each influencer. But, it will show you’re serious about a potential partnership. This will in turn increase your chances of striking a deal.
In the wake of the Fyre Festival fiasco, influencers want to know that the brands they work with are legitimate and well-intentioned.
“I definitely do as much research as I can,” Kendall Jenner told the New York Times about her involvement with the legendarily doomed festival. “But sometimes there isn’t much research you can do because it’s a starting brand and you kind of have to have faith in it and hope it will work out the way people say it will.”
Make it easier for influencers to trust you by providing as much information as you can about your brand. Tell them what you hope to accomplish with your Instagram campaign. Make it clear how the influencer will benefit, beyond the paycheck.
Influencer marketing tips
Follow the rules
Before you dive into influencer marketing, it’s important to understand the rules. In the United States, those rules come from the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC takes disclosure very seriously. Make sure you build disclosure guidelines into your agreements with influencers.
Influencers must identify sponsored posts. However, Truth In Advertising found that many do not do so. Some do disclose, but not in a way that meets the FTC requirements.
Here are some key points from the FTC:
- Video reviews must include both written and verbal disclosure of the partnership. It must be within the video itself (not just the description).
- The built-in tools on social media platforms are not enough.
- #ad and #sponsored are great hashtags to use for disclosure. But make sure they’re highly visible and not just tacked on to the need of a long string of tags.
That last point is an important one. Some influencers may be wary about putting the #ad or #sponsored hashtag right up front.
But it didn’t limit engagement on this sponsored post for Ferring Pharmaceuticals Inc. by Janise Burrafato (aka @mamainheels). The post got more than 1,800 likes within 24 hours.
View this post on Instagram
#ad I feel grateful and blessed every single day for this family of mine. It is National Infertility Awareness Week (#NIAW), and it felt like the right time to #TalkAboutTrying and share our story of how we became a family of four instantly eight years ago. At the time I didn’t know I had fertility issues. I was so busy focusing on my career that I had let the time slip by and never once thought I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant. I knew I wanted to start a family when I met my husband @gabrielburrafato and we tried for over a year, but sadly, nothing happened. I finally went to see my OB-GYN specifically asking for tests to determine if I could conceive. After several rounds of blood and hormone tests, it was determined that my infertility was caused by fibroids blocking the fallopian tubes. Our only option to conceive was via IVF. Given my “advanced maternal age” at the time my success rate was less than 5 percent. However, we were determined to try because if we didn’t then we would never know. After many heartbreaks, tears, and joy we became a family of four. Thanks to IVF technology, we were able to have a family. We are part of an amazing group of miracles, where 1 to 2 percent of all babies born in the United States each year are conceived via IVF. It’s astounding! If you have been trying for a year (under 35 years old) or 6 months (35+) and are not getting pregnant, it may be time to see a reproductive endocrinologist. Go and visit My Fertility Navigator (https://bit.ly/2WugCS1) to find one in your area as soon as possible. You are not alone. The fertility journey is a rollercoaster. It’s unexpected and never goes to plan. For every social media post using #TalkAboutTrying during #NIAW, @FerringPharmaceuticals will make a $1 donation to RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. @resolveorg. This post is sponsored by Ferring Pharmaceuticals Inc.
A post shared by J A N I S E | Mama in Heels (@mamainheels) on
This post is also a great example of how important it is to find the right influencer for your campaign. Janise shared her personal story with infertility in this post. This creates a real emotional connection to the brand story.
Be willing to give up some creative control
A social media influencer who has worked hard to build a following will not accept a deal that makes their own personal brand seem inconsistent. After all, influencers are content creation experts. You’ll get the best value from their work by allowing them to showcase those skills.
Macy’s invited a group of influencers to a preview event for their new watch collection. While they were all posting from the same event, the photo styles were very different. Each influencer created content that matched their own feed. This gave the event coverage a natural feel.
It’s a good idea to provide some guidelines about what you’re looking for, of course. But don’t expect to stage-manage the entire campaign.
Boost credibility with influencer messaging on your own channels
You can also share or cross-post content from influencers on your own channels. This helps highlight the collaboration and benefits both your brand and the influencer.
Canon recently worked with micro-influencer Katja Gaskell (AKA @globetotting) to try out one of their cameras. She posted one of the photos and mentioned the partnership on her Instagram profile. But that was just the beginning.
Katja shared more photos in her Instagram Stories, along with a link to a blog post about her experience on the Canon site.
Canon also shared her photos in Stories across several of its branded Instagram channels.
Measure your results
When you launch your influencer campaign, it can be tempting to focus on vanity metrics like likes and comments. If your influencer has a much larger following than you do, you might feel a little dazzled by the sheer number of likes that can rack up.
But to measure the effectiveness of a campaign, you have to understand its value in terms of return on investment.
UTM parameters are one way to track the visitors an influencer sends to your website. They can also help measure how much engagement the campaign receives.
When you assign each influencer their own unique links with UTM codes, you’ll get a clear picture of the results. That allows you to calculate the impact on your bottom line.
Giving influencers their own discount code is another easy way to track the sales they send your way. For example, in this post, influencer Alanna Durkovich (aka @xandervintage) shares a discount code based on her name.
You should also request that the influencer send you detailed reports on the reach and engagement levels of their posts. This is especially important for Snapchat and Instagram Stories, where engagement happens out of the public view.
Don’t be shy here. Nearly two-thirds of marketers say they have personal experience with influencer fraud. It’s important to get detailed analytics you can trust.
Influencer marketing tools
Now that you’re ready to get started with influencer marketing, here are some tools to make it easier.
This tool from Moz allows you to search for relevant influencers on Twitter based on keywords and location. It’s a great first tool to use when building your list of potential influencers to engage and partner with.
Hootsuite search streams can help you discover influencers by monitoring conversations relevant to your industry across multiple channels.
Once you have an initial set of influencers in mind, add them to a stream to track what they share and who they engage with. This will help you understand their relevance to your audience while highlighting other potential influencers to work with.
This app can search out top content shared by influencers based on topic and location. Use it to identify thought leaders and discover potential influencer partnerships based on the quality of the content they share.
This app provides custom influencer recommendations. It helps predict estimated reach, engagements, and other campaign results.
Make your influencer marketing activities easier with Hootsuite. Schedule posts, engage with influencers, and measure the success of your efforts. Try it free today.