What Is Influencer Marketing & How Can It Help My Brand (especially if I don’t have a budget)?

In this article, I try to de-bunk the myths that surround Influencer Marketing. I aim to show you that Influencers aren’t all bad (really!), and that Influencer Marketing may be a great tool to implement into your Social Media strategy.  I explain the different types of Influencer (yes there are several), and illustrate to you which kind of Influencer may work best for you in your Influencer Marketing strategy.

I also show you how you can engage Influencers without a budget – yes without spending any money at all! I know many of you are starting out and simply don’t have the budget for Influencer Marketing so throughout this blog, you will find tips to help you.

WHAT IS INFLUENCER MARKETING?

When we think of Influencer marketing we often think of celebrities like The Kardashians wearing designer clothes and getting paid a fortune for each post they make on their social media.  This is a different type of marketing from Influencer Marketing and is called ‘Celebrity Endorsement’. Influencers create their own content whereas with celebrity endorsement the content is made for them – in a similar way to a traditional advertisement.

Influencers can be any person or brand – they don’t have to be famous or have loads of followers. It’s worth bearing in mind that, quite often, an influencer with less followers may be more appropriate to your brand and may bring you better results than a more ‘popular’ or ‘well known’ influencer, (but more on that later).

As well as celebrities, Influencers can be:

Brands – any brand can be an influence others – look at Coca Cola for example

Bloggers/Journalists – someone who writes about your industry can influence those who have read their articles or know about them from ohers.

Thought Leaders – there are too many of those to mention, especially in marketing but many of us read articles and act on the content.

Magazine/newspapers – On line or in print, we often share articles we see and read

Businesses/Venues – successful businesses like ‘WeWork’ write copy about business and entrepreneurism as well as venue information

WHERE IS INFLUENCER MARKETING MOST SUCCESSFUL?

Whilst the most common platforms associated with Influencers are You Tube and Instagram; Influencers can be seen on all social media platforms as well as on other media too such as radio, TV, print, screen, events, PR etc.

Where your Influencer marketing strategy works best will depend on your business and which platform(s) work best for you. If your strongest platform is Twitter, then your Influencer strategy should be based around that platform.  If your brand is strongest on Linked In but an Influencer with whom you would like to engage (see later for more on this), is only on Facebook – then it may indicate that you should be focusing more of your efforts on Facebook.

TYPES OF INFLUENCERS

Although Influencers can be used across the whole of your marketing strategy, the types of Influencers are generally categorized by their following on Instagram. So, for the sake of ease, let’s focus on that platform.

MEGA INFLUENCERS

These are usually hugely famous stars and are highly Influential

Following on IG: Over 1M

MACRO INFLUENCERS

Macro Influencers are usually household names who have a big audience and are also very influential in their field.

Following on IG: 100k – 1M

MICRO INFLUENCERS

This type of influencer is usually well regarded in their niche or industry or with a specific audience. Their audiences are often highly loyal and engaged with them spending a lot of time following, liking, commenting on their posts.

Following on IG: 10k – 100k

NANO INFLUENCERS

Generally, Nano Influrncers are less well known, not having been around for so long but are building their following around a particular topic, niche or industry

They are often highly trusted and authentic.

Following on IG: 1k – 10k

WOKE INFLUENCERS

Woke Influencers are the newest discovery in Influencer Marketing. They tend to be ethically aware with a focus on particular area (s).

Following on IG: Varies enormously

WHY DO WE USE INFLUENCERS?

So if there is so much controversy over Celebrity endorsements and Influencer campaigns, why do we still use Influencers? If everyone knows someone is being paid or given some kind of kick back for endorsing a product, maybe we should ask ourselves:

Why do people follow Influencers?

Why is the use and popularity of Influencer Marketing growing so rapidly?

Why do we want to use Influencers in our strategy?

Why are you reading this article?

Why did I even write it?

1          Awareness

If an Influencer shares your content, or talks about your brand and shares it with their audience, it has the potential to be seen by so many more people than if it only appeared in your page or feed.

2          Trust

Bizarrely, we still trust a like-minded person rather than an ad – even if we know they are being paid to say the same thing. Bizarre right?

According to a recent study by @Forbes:

            4% of consumers trust ads

            42% of consumers trust brands

            70% of consumers trust online reviews

            82% of consumers trust advice from friends and family

3          Authority and Knowledge

An Influencer has authority and knowledge about the brands s/he is promoting. They have been using that product for a while, they have tested other products and are adamant that this one is the best.

4          Expertise in communicating and engaging with communities

This is their job! They not only have the time but also the honed skillset to be work out who, and how, to engage and to also how build those relationships. Watching how influencers build their audiences can be quite a learning exercise.

5          Expertise in creativity

Influencers know that they have to entertain and ADD to the customer experience. If they make content which is not visually appealing or gives the wrong message, they will fail. Their creative flair will only help your brand too!

WHAT MAKES THE IDEAL INFLUENCER?

Influencer Marketing IS NOT JUST ABOUT THROWING MONEY AT IT!

Influencer Marketing has become a complex science and the more time and effort you can give your campaign, the more successful it is likely to be.

So in order to determine who is the right Influencer for your brand ask yourself 4 key questions:

1          IS THE INFLUENCER RELEVANT TO MY BRAND

Would people associated that person with my brand? There really is no point in getting, say, Joe Wickes to promote your wine blog – or a female chef to promote your mens shoes. What will happen is that both your audience and that of your Influencer, will be confused and will walk away.

2          IS THE INFLUENCER AUTHENTIC?

It’s not news that there are people who ‘buy’ followers to make themselves look popular.  These followers are not engaging with the person or brand and they will probably have little interest in the influencer and what they are saying.

3          DOES THE INFLUENCER HAVE THE RIGHT AUDIENCE FOR MY BRAND?

If  someone has an audience with an average age of 20-30, you probably don’t want to approach them to help you out on your range of skin care to prevent ageing, for example!

4          DOES THE INFLUENCER HAVE GENUINE INFLUENCE?

Ensure that people really do react and act, on what the Influencer does, says, wears etc.  Again, it’s about how engaged the followers are with the Influencer.

HOW DO I TELL IF THE INFLUENCER IS GENUINE, RELEVANT, AUTHENTIC AND HAVE INFLUENCE?

Make sure that people are liking and commenting on the page. The more followers a person has, the more comments and likes each post should have. I won’t go into details of calculating ‘engagement’ at this stage but you should be able to work out if an account is genuine if you keep an eye on it over a few days/weeks.

If someone has lots of people following them but few comments and likes on their pages, the chances are the followers are not genuine. Avoid at all costs!

WHICH TYPE OF INFLUENCER IS RIGHT FOR MY BUSINESS?

The type of Influencer which will help you grow your business will depend largely on the size of your business and your budget. If you don’t have a budget, it doesn’t mean to say you can’t have an Influencer campaign, it will just need to be managed in a different way. I cover this at the end of this blog – so keep reading and you’ll get there!

Generally speaking, Influencers will try to associate themselves with brands with a  slightly larger following than their own. This makes sense right? Put yourself in the shoes of the Influencer and ask what you have that they would want?  Have a look at the categories here to see where you think you should be targeting your Influencer Strategy:

MEGA INFLUENCER

If a Mega Influencer (over 1M followers on Instagram),  did partner with you, your status could rise enormously.  However, the chances are very slim. Also, their followers may not take your brand seriously if your following is comparatively much smaller than the Influencer – so save your energy and target Influencers with a smaller following.

MACRO INFLUENCERS

These are household names and, again, may be too big for your brand with an Instagram following of around 100k – 1M. So if you’re just starting out it is unlikely these Influencers will be interested in your campaign. Unless, of course, they are a ‘Woke Influencer’.

‘WOKE’ INFLUENCER

A new phenomenon has arisen – largely in the world of fashion. Certain fashionistas have woke up to the fact that they can promote their ‘cause’. Scroll through Instagram on any given day and you’ll see original fashion influencers such as Tamu McPherson declaring Black Lives Matter and Susie Bubble encouraging her followers to exercise their right to vote.

‘Woke’ Influencers have a strong belief in the cause. It is usually environmentally based: greenhouse gasses, plastic free, veganism etc.  The thing to be careful of here, however, is that your campaign needs to match their beliefs – 100%! If recycling is their passion your packaging isn’t fully biodegradable, they may not be interested.  Also, make sure you are completely transparent at all times. For example, if they find out your shampoo contains additives when you have said it is completely natural, you could do yourself a great deal of harm as they are likely to not only drop you immediately but give you some really bad PR.

‘Woke’ Influencers tend to have a large following already but may be interested in working with a smaller brand if it genuinely promotes their cause (and fits their brand in other ways of course!).

MICRO INFLUENCERS

With a following of betweetn 10k and 100k, Micro Influencers are usually experts within their field, and may be interested in collaboration with a smaller brand, especially if there is something particular about your brand that they like –  it may be so perfect for them that they cannot refuse, it may resonate with them in some way, if, for example you are a charity specialising in dyslexia and they or one of their family is dyslexic then there is a real connection there.

NANO INFLUENCERS.

These tend to have an Instagram following of between 1k and 10k. These Influencers may not even be aware they are Influencers and may be so flattered by you approaching them on the subject that they are more than happy to promote your brand via their social media posts as they clearly see the benefit of collaborating with other brands at this stage in their journey.

As Nano Influencers have a smaller following, the ‘reach’ of your posts will be considerably less. However, the good thing about Nano Influencers is that you can have more than one! It is acceptable to have several Nano Influencers.

HOW TO ENGAGE AN INFLUENCER

Engaging an Influencer takes time, research and tact. It isn’t about a quick fix, it is not about throwing some money at someone and getting them to wear/eat your stuff.

Influencer Marketing is about building relationships over time. You need to establish trust and confidence between your brand and your Influencer/s.

Choose carefully after you have done your research and take a fairly gentle approach initially.  What you are doing is building a RELATIONSHIP so don’t be the proverbial ‘bull in the china shop’. Think of it in a very different way.

Put yourself in this position:

You’ve seen someone you really like the look of in a bar, at work, at the gym.  You really want to ask them out. The more you think about them the more you worry what to say. Do you go straight over to them and ask them to go away on holiday with you? You would more than likely scare them to pieces!  A more realistic approach may be to start by trying to catch their eye, a small nod or smile from across the room. Then you might try to strike up a conversation about something current or topical (If I ever meet you in person, ask me to tell you my joke about Williams and Jones on this!).

After you have realised you really DO like this person, only then would you ask them for a date right?  You need to make sure you like them as well as they like you – that you will work together as PARTNERS!

So, when you have decided on which Influencer you want to target then try this formula:

1          LIKE

Begin by ‘liking’ one or two of their posts

2          COMMENT

Next, you could comment on a post and see if you get a response. Ask a question on one of their posts for example and see if they answer.

3          STORIES

A really good way to get into someone’s feed is by liking and commenting on their Instagram stories!  I have been doing some testing on this and although I don’t have the actual stats yet – it really works. Not many people have really cottoned on to this idea yet but I have seen how messaging on stories really helps build connections.

Even top celebrities quite often manage their own stories. Their feed may be run by an assistant or a separate social media team, but stories are the more authentic side of social media and tend to be run by the person themselves. Thus, if you reply to their stories, it’s more likely that they will see it themselves and may well respond or even ‘like’ back. Either way, you have brought your feed to their attention.

4          VIDEO REPLY

Send them a video! Yes it sounds a bit crazy but record a short video introducing yourself and your brand and send it as a DM!  What have you got to lose? The chances are they will be so flattered they will watch it. They may even reply with one of their own. They definitely will have noticed you!

5          @  MENTION THEM IN A POST

If you tag someone in a post or a story, they will get a notification and will more than likely, take a peep at who is mentioning them. Again this takes them over to YOUR feed so they are bound to have a look at your page. Only tag someone in on a post which is relevant to them though – otherwise it looks desperate and unprofessional.

6          MUTUAL CONNECTIONS

Check if you are following any of the same people. If you are, tag that person in too and ask them both a question. It’s a bit like when you’re at a party and you find out someone in the group who you have never met, is a good friend of your brother. You have something in common to talk about!

NOW YOU HAVE THEIR ATTENTION, WHAT NEXT?

Once they have started to notice you, build up that relationship. Ask them questions, send them DM’s, videos etc. Ask their advice on your feed or product, get them involved in your product.  When you feel you have their trust – NOW is the time to ask about a collaboration.

When you first ask, go in with an open mind as they may not like your initial suggestion but may offer a counter suggestion. There may be some negotiation before you reach a deal.

WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE A BUDGET FOR INFLUENCER MARKETING?

Social Media Marketing can be a costly business in terms of time as well as money. However, it doesn’t have to break the bank if you implement the right strategy.

If you’re an SME or start up and simply don’t have the money, you can begin an Influencer Marketing strategy without spending a penny – as long as you have the time and the patience.

I cannot say it enough, but Influencer marketing is not a quick fix. It is about building relationships and authenticity.

Do a LOT of research to work out who you think would be the right Influencer for you. Approaching the wrong potential Influencer could be a waste of your time and theirs.   Spend even more time on the process above, be very careful and see if it is likely that they may work with you for no money by seeing if they collaborate with anyone else.

The more that you really understand who they are, what they are doing, what are their likes, beliefs etc. the more likely they are to want to work with you. Flatter them with your knowledge of them. Find their pain points and see if you can help solve them.

One thing you can do is OFFER THEM SOMETHING IN RETURN! So, for example, ask them to write a blog about you on their social media and you will do the same for them. Or you could interview them or ask them to interview you. Either way, if the two of you share the interviews/blogs on each other’s social media, you will both get exposure to each other’s audience. Win Win!

Look at this as a collaboration where you both benefit.

I hope you’ve found this blog useful. It’s a bit of an ‘overall’ view of Influencer Marketing so please feel free to get in touch if you want to know more or need some help setting up an Influencer Marketing Strategy.

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