Influencer marketing has evolved into a core business strategy that is practiced by over 93 percent of marketers. And it shows no signs of slowing down in 2020—the industry is on track to hit as much as $10 billion by the end of the year.
This form of marketing is not just for large firms anymore. Now more than ever, small businesses can tap into the power of influencers to help take their company to the next level. We'll walk you through some of the basics.
What Is Influencer Marketing?
Influencers are people who have a large and loyal following, typically on social media, and who are seen as tastemakers or voices of authority in their field. Influencer marketing is when companies pay these experts to mention or endorse their products or services.
The industry was once the sole domain of celebrities with millions of followers, but it is now full of “ordinary” people with smaller audiences but who nevertheless have an authentic voice and create compelling content.
Why do companies turn to these lesser-known influencers? In a word, trust. Their audiences follow their lead when they recommend products, and their word provides social proof of your brand to customers who might not otherwise have considered it.
So what can influencers do for you?
1. Raise Your Brand Awareness
Whatever your niche is, chances are there are influencers out there who can help broaden your audience and deepen the connection to the one you already have.
Naked Juice has used sponsored Instagram posts to move into new territory—health, beauty, and fashion. Key influencers including lifestyle blogger Kate La Vie share posts in which a Naked Juice sits comfortably among the clothing and beauty products they plan to use that day.
2. Engage with Your Community
A great way to maintain an active relationship with your customers is to create promotions that ask them to participate, such as surveys or contests. Influencers can help spread these initiatives to an even wider audience while getting a perk that further endears them to their own crowd.
Wireless company Sprint created its #LiveUnlimited campaign in 2017 to go after a younger audience, with the help of entrepreneurs, musicians, and other creators. These influencers had large followings on social media and authentically demonstrated what it was like to live “unlimited.”
3. Boost Sales or Donations
If you have new merch you want to move or a worthy cause you want to support, influencer marketing can shine a powerful light on those efforts.
Old Navy is no stranger to this strategy, having previously partnered with bloggers in the lifestyle and fashion space to create branded content that featured the retailer’s clothing. In 2018, it worked with retired New York Yankee retiree Alex Rodriguez as part of #GivingTuesday to encourage donations to the Boys & Girls Club of America. Rodriguez himself is an alum of the program and helped the outlet raise over $1 million in one day.
Getting Started with Influencer Marketing
If all of this sounds good, here are some next steps to get you started building your influencer program.
Find Your Influencers
Look for them where they live: on social media. It’s best to start with one platform—Instagram is popular among influencers, but they also thrive on Facebook, Twitter, and newer platforms like TikTok—preferably one that your company already uses.
Be on the lookout for these four essential influencer traits:
Expertise. Are they famous for the thing that your company does? Would your content sound believable coming from them?
Reach. Do they have influence on the social platforms where your audience already lives?
Reputation. Are they popular because of their positive energy and good works, or notorious for bad behavior? Pick the former every time.
Demographic. Does their audience overlap with yours? Are they in the age range/cultural groups that you want to further attract?
Set Your Budget
Be sure to consider such factors as the pay rate for influencers, as well as the time needed to plan, run, and evaluate the campaign. Influencer campaigns, like loyal pets, require regular care and feeding, not a set-it-and-forget it mentality.
Set Goals and Craft Your Message
What, specifically, does your company need? More customers in the age 18-24 range? Deeper engagement with senior citizens or women? Be sure to understand and articulate these goals before you engage with influencers.
Influencers in This Moment
Now more than ever, your business needs to be authentic and relevant to consumers who are in the thick of, or slowly coming out of, the COVID-19 pandemic. Used mindfully, influencers can demonstrate that you are here to help customers over the long haul. From home improvement projects to mask-making tutorials to affordable recipes from the pantry, influencers are as relevant as ever.