Influencer marketing isn’t dead.
Not yet at least.
So while it’s still around and hasn’t been entirely outlawed by the social media gods, why wouldn’t you take advantage of it?
Whether you have an existing influencer marketing strategy that could use some tweaking, or you’re brand new to the concept and don’t know how to get started (“How do you even approach these uber-cool people?” you ask yourself), there are a number of different ways you can work with influencers.
HOLD UP! Don’t skip the first step.
That’s right. I can’t iterate enough just how important doing some initial research is.
Let me get real with you for a minute.
You might get screwed by influencers.
This holds especially true if you’re not paying them in any way, shape, or form and are relying solely on the goodness of their heart. Or if you haven’t listed out clear expectations from the onset of your relationship.
So, what should you look for when you take the first step on the influencer marketing journey?
1) Check yo self -- and their audience.
Who’s following this influencer you want to collaborate with? Is her audience similar to your target audience?
If you’re in the business of selling automotive tires, you’re probably not going to find much in common with the followers of a beauty blogger whose feed is full of makeup tutorials. Or maybe you will because beauty bloggers need tires too, right?
But your money will probably go further with a different influencer.
2) The deadest of all giveaways: a suspect follower to engagement ratio.
Does your “influencer” have 250k followers, but somehow only gets 20 likes on his pictures? Your spidey senses should be tingling here. Chances are, he probably bought those followers or used some sort of bot to get a bunch of “fake friends”.
No new friends. Stay away from these guys.
3) Are people actually engaging with the influencer’s content?
I’m talking about more than just likes here. Are people commenting on the content as well? And are the comments positive or negative?
Some people’s fight or flight instinct kicks in when they see an influencer whose follower to following ratio is fairly close (e.g., 6,321:6,120). I think this is perfectly acceptable as long as the engagement levels on each post roughly reflect the number of followers.
4) Look for signs of other brand collaborations.
Creep through the influencer’s feed and check to see if she’s done collaborations with other brands. This is usually pretty obvious. You can tell from the tags, the caption, and from the hashtags used (e.g., some will use #ad or #sponsored).
If an influencer has done collaborations in the past, do some creeping on those accounts, too. What sorts of brands are they? Do they have large followings?
Creep, creep, and just when you think you’re done creeping, creep some more.
Photo Credit: @jennexplores
Why work with an influencer?
Because sometimes, we can all use a little help. Here are just a few reasons that come to mind:
- To grow your followers.
- To grow your engagement.
- To gain exposure for your brand.
- To sell stuff.
The key thing to remember is that influencer marketing, although inherently a business transaction, is about building a relationship. Before asking someone to promote your brand, you’ll want to “slide into their DMs” as the kids nowadays call it, but figuratively speaking, of course.
For example, in order to start getting on their radar, maybe you’re re-posting some of their content or commenting on their photos.
When you make your pitch, don’t just go in there with:
“Hi, I want to send you some of my stuff so you can promote it. You down?”
Instead, go back to some of your research and comment on the influencer’s own brand, what you like about it, why you think the influencer’s values align with your own, etc. Because at the end of the day, you do want something out of this relationship and they’ll also be wondering, “What’s in it for me?”, list out some deliverables. This part will probably involve some negotiation.
Micro vs. macro influencers
Let’s discuss the difference.
A micro influencer is someone who typically has less than 10k followers to a few ten thousand. These influencers work more in a “word-of-mouth” manner. They’re typically much cheaper to work with than macro influencers.
Get on these guys before they blow up.
To give you an example, I worked with an influencer who at the time had around 50k followers and gave me a good deal on the collaboration (I gave him some merch, he took a photo and gave my client a tag and shoutout, everyone was happy). He also happened to be traveling in my area at the time so everything worked out great. Shortly afterwards, one of his photos was shared on CNN Travel and he blew up to over 100k followers. Something tells me his rate probably went up, but my client’s photo is still on his feed (#win).
You can probably figure out what a macro influencer is. These guys have followings in the hundreds of thousands or millions. To give you a ballpark figure: some influencers with followers in the millions receive an average of $100,000 per sponsored post.
… And here’s how to work together:
OPTION 1: GIFT SOME MERCH
Alright, so let’s say through your research you discovered the influencer shares your passion for fine leather goods and you’re convinced he’ll like your brand. Send him one of your top selling (or newly launched) fine Italian leather wallets to try out.
Just because he accepted your gift, however, doesn’t automatically oblige him to promote it. The fact of the matter is, many influencers nowadays want to get paid in addition to receiving free sh#!.
OPTION 2: GIVEAWAYS
This option involves sending the influencer some merch to give away to her followers.
For example, say you sell limited edition, handcrafted watches (once they’re gone, they’re gone!), you could send two to an influencer: one for herself, and another to give away to one of her followers.
You don’t want to put too many stipulations on the process of entering the giveaway and make it too complicated, but you should put some low-effort stipulations on what people must do to be entered. After all, you do have your own marketing goals here.
If your goal is to grow your social media following, have the influencer ask participants to post a photo on Instagram with a caption about the giveaway and perhaps even a branded hashtag.
OPTION 3: ASK FOR A PRODUCT REVIEW
Be prepared to have your feelings hurt here. You can’t stop an influencer from producing a negative review of your product, but you can usually get a pretty good idea from looking at other product reviews he’s done.
And if you’ve done your homework, you’ll have a good understanding of his values and passions, so you should already know whether he’d even be interested in your product.
To take it up a notch, ask him to do a video review. Now you have video content!
OPTION 4: EXCHANGE OF SERVICES
This is especially popular in the hospitality industry.
Say you’re a hotel owner, offer a local (or semi-local) influencer a complimentary stay at your hotel in exchange for social media coverage.
If you’re looking to bring in an international influencer, you’ll almost certainly have to pay him (or pay for his travel expenses). But, if you get lucky, maybe he’s planning a trip to your city already, so you can piggyback off of an already planned vacation.
OPTION 5: GUEST BLOGGING
This goes both ways: you can ask an influencer to guest blog on your account in exchange for some free merch (saving you content creation efforts), or you can ask an influencer if you can guest blog on her website.
Here, too, she’ll probably ask you, “Well, besides free merch, what’s in it for me?”
Be prepared with information about your own reach, audience, and how this collaboration can benefit you both.
OPTION 6: PAY THEM
A growing number of influencers have turned influencing into a business, and marketers are willing to pay for it.
Since you’re paying for the post, you might think you should be able to dictate everything about what the influencer posts, when, and what he says about it. You can certainly supplement him with key points you’d like to have him cover in the post, but he should still be writing content in his own voice so the post doesn’t seem forced and turn off his followers.
If he’s following FTC guidelines, he’ll indicate the post was sponsored, but that the opinions expressed in the post are his own.
Photo Credit: @wildbonde
You can also give the influencer a unique coupon code for his followers to use if you so choose.
Make sure you ask him to report results back to you! Remember, you’re paying him now, so it’s perfectly reasonable to set some KPIs ahead of time. You can even ask him to set up a pixel on Facebook that would allow you to track exactly how many direct sales you get from the collaboration.
Ok, so let’s say you work at a digital marketing agency and you don’t have budget for photoshoots and influencer collaborations... combine them!
Many influencers are also great photographers with large followings, so if you’re already going to hire them to shoot some photos for you, you can try to negotiate some social media shoutouts, too.
Don’t worry, influencers don’t bite. Get out there and start building those relationships.