Influencer marketing is big business. This occasionally controversial industry is expected to reach $13.8 billion in 2021 — and for good reason.
Because like it or not, traditional advertising just can’t compare with the honest opinions of real people when it comes to generating consumer trust. And influencers are all about building trust with their community of followers.
That trust is something e-commerce brands can capitalize on — and should, given the fact 87% of people say social media influencers have inspired them to make a purchase.
But that’s not all influencer marketing can do for your e-commerce business. From helping you reach new audiences to generating new leads, influencers offer a variety of ways to help your business grow.
Still not sold? 89% of marketers say the ROI for influencer marketing is comparable if not greater than other channels. (Now that’s an endorsement.) 🤯
Whether you’re already working with influencers or just testing the waters, we’ve got the scoop on how to find the best content creators for your brand and leverage influencer marketing for the biggest return for your business.
The scoop on working with influencers
- What does an ideal social media influencer partnership look like?
- How to find influencers and choose the best ones for your brand
- These 5 things are key to successful relationships with social influencers
1. Clear expectations
2. Helpful resources
3. Creative freedom
4. Fair compensation
5. Performance metrics
- Above all, aim for authenticity
What does an ideal social media influencer partnership look like?
Before you start your search for an influencer, identify what you’re looking for and nail down your must-haves vs. nice-to-haves. As you evaluate potential partnerships, you’ll be able to compare apples to apples and stay laser-focused on your top priorities without getting distracted by less important attributes.
Here are a few qualities that make for a strong relationship with a potential influencer.
Popular with your target audience
Just because an influencer is popular doesn’t mean they’ll be a great fit for your brand. For example, a home decor maven with 2.5 million followers might not be the best partnership for a performance nutrition company. But an athlete or personal trainer? Absolutely.
Loves your brand
Authenticity is key to successful marketing in 2021, and the last thing you want is for your campaigns to come off as fake. So when you choose to work with an influencer, be sure it’s someone who actually does — or would — love your brand.
Aligns with your mission or values
Brand values carry more weight than ever as consumers grow more selective about the brands they buy from. As you build relationships with content creators, consider how their mission or values align with and reflect yours — you may even find some great opportunities for more in-depth collaborations.
Fits your budget
Working with a celebrity influencer like Kylie Jenner might be outside your marketing budget, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Micro-influencers (accounts with fewer than 35K followers) actually tend to have higher engagement because they’re more relatable and have closer relationships with their followers. As a result, you may be able to get a bigger ROI by connecting with several micro- or mid-tier influencers than with one mega-influencer.
How to find influencers and choose the best ones for your brand
Once you have a good idea of what you’re looking for, how do you actually find the right influencers to work with?
If you’re an active online participant in your niche, you may already have a few candidates in mind, but if not, try these strategies:
- Focus on the right channel: Depending on your target audience, you may want to put all your effort into one channel or opt for a mix.
- Instagram — the #1 choice for influencer marketing
- Explore your industry, competitors, and audience: Search relevant hashtags for your industry, see who’s already talking about your competitors, and look for overlapping or complementary audiences to identify potential influencers you may want to work with. Keep in mind that influencers are also on the hunt for opportunities that are a good fit for their audiences.
- Review your existing fan base: Unless you’re brand new to the world of e-commerce and social media, it’s likely you already have an awesome resource at hand: your followers. Search through to find any established or growing influencers who’ve already raised their hand in favor of your brand.
- Try an influencer marketing platform or agency: There are a variety of platforms designed to help connect brands with influencers — some are even free (like Influence.co or Klear). If you’ve got a bigger budget to spend, working with an agency may help you get results faster.
- Evaluate metrics: Data is super important when selecting an influencer partner. Key metrics like follower count and engagement rate can give an idea of influencer reach. If you’re working with an established influencer, be sure to ask about verified web traffic.
These 5 things are 🔑 to successful relationships with social influencers
As the business of marketing and selling on social media has grown, so has the role of social influencers. Per Later.com, “Influencers will become true brand partners in 2021, with brands investing in ongoing relationships over an extended period of time.”
Long-term, integrated relationships (versus one-off promos) offer brands and influencers the opportunity to create more effective, engaging content and make a stronger impression on the influencer’s audience. Not only does this promise to be an easier approach for both parties, but ideally a more lucrative one too.
To get your influencer partnerships started on the right foot, follow these five steps:
1. Define campaign expectations
When you’re working with a social influencer, establish clear expectations about the campaign from the get-go. Will they share an honest review? Post a photo or video? Use your product during a livestream? How many posts will they be expected to share?
If timing is important for your campaign — say, leading up to the holiday shopping season and BFCM — you’ll need to define the timeline as well.
2. Give influencers the tools to succeed
Unless your brand is already a household name, you’ll need to provide additional resources to help the influencer understand your brand and products better.
For example, you might provide information about your origin story, brand values, key differentiators, notable competitors, etc. All this can help the influencer create more powerful content and highlight the best benefits and features of your product.
3. Encourage creative freedom and trust their gut
Although you want to empower the content creator with useful information, you definitely don’t want to get into strict guidelines, unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Remember that influencer marketing is a collaborative effort — and influencers are simultaneously building their brand while promoting yours. Give them the freedom and latitude to create content that will resonate best with their audience. They are, after all, the experts in that department.
4. Compensate influencers fairly
Free products are the most common way for brands to compensate influencers, and for one-off promotions or certain types of consumable products, that might work. But if you want to build a strong, long-term relationship, monetary compensation is the only way to go.
Influencer rates can vary widely depending on a number of factors, including the social channel, the influencer’s reach and engagement metrics, the type/number of posts, and the amount of effort required to create them.
5. Be upfront about evaluating performance
If you’re going to invest in a long-term partnership with an influencer, you want to know you’re getting a solid ROI, which means you’ll need to track performance.
Marketing metrics are notoriously difficult to track, especially in the more sticky areas of brand awareness and attribution, and on platforms like Instagram that don’t allow clickable links in post captions and comments.
So, what’s the workaround?
Provide influencers with a personal affiliate or discount code to help identify any sales that came through their channel.
It’s also vital to be clear with influencers about what you’re going to evaluate (engagement, followers, traffic, sales, etc.) before initiating a campaign. Both parties need to be aligned to the same goals to help create the right type of content for stellar results.
Above all, aim for authenticity 💯
The best-sponsored content is authentic — a real person showcasing a product they genuinely like and honestly believe will benefit their audience. As you work with social influencers, generating that kind of content is the ultimate goal.
And believe it or not, your business relationship with influencers will have a major impact on whether your sponsored content resonates with the audience. Besides being ‘damned by faint praise’, consumers can smell bad vibes and phony endorsements a mile away — and that’s no good for your brand or the influencer’s.
But if you take the time to find content creators who are a great fit for your brand (and vice versa) and focus on building strong partnerships based on mutual respect, you’ll drive bigger and better results every time.
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