I bet if I asked you what lipstick your favourite blogger wears, you’d know. How about their favourite restaurant in Toronto? Or the new bag they just received? This is how influencer marketing works, in a nutshell.
While this is nothing new in the PR and advertising world, what’s interesting is the fact that “influencers,” not celebrities, are capitalizing on this new trend.
So how are brands finding these people? Who really qualifies as an “influencer”? More importantly, should you be doing this to promote your brand? I mean, it obviously works, right? Well, not always.
How Instagram brought influencers to the surface
Before we dive into the glamorous world of influencing, let’s take a look at where it all began. Influencers are individuals whose content is relatable and whose lifestyle you’d want to emulate. With Instagram’s explosive entry into the social media world in 2010, many bloggers and content creators took to the platform to promote their thriving YouTube channels and popular blogs assuming it was just another promotional platform to add alongside their Facebook and Twitter pages. What they didn’t know was just how big the platform was going to get.
The early birds of Instagram saw tremendous growth to their following which got a lot of brands and PR agencies to sit up and take notice. While celebrities were late to this platform, these influencers (a term dubbed just for them) were rising stars with their 100K+ following. Soon the same brands that used to pay celebrities for talking about them, were reaching out to these influencers to send them free products. What followed was the birth of “Instagram Influencers” — individuals who may or may not have been content creators on other platforms but they sure were on Instagram. From dedicated content to a planned feed, Instagram was suddenly THE platform to be on.
Brands & their race to the top
Brands were soon trying to get as many, if not more, influencers to work with them instead of their competitors. The only one winning here was the – they could cherry pick the brands they wanted to work with. What ensued was not just promotional content but brands coming out with products in collaboration with these very influencers. And it wasn’t just t-shirts or caps, we’re talking eye shadow palettes and lipsticks that were sold worldwide, makeup collections that cost hundreds of dollars and jewellery collections featuring diamonds. The reason it worked was that they weren’t celebrities. They were relatable, they were people like us, they could have been anybody.
So who benefits from influencer marketing?
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “great so it works best for beauty and apparel brands.” Well, you are kind of right. While this rapid growth may have been made possible by these industries, it’s really everybody that’s profiting. With restaurants inviting them for free dining experiences to car companies lending them their brand new cars for a weekend getaway, it was only getting better.
Around 2017, even airlines had jumped on the bandwagon. They started sending these influencers on special trips to cities like Paris and New York, in business class. Countries were inviting them to promote tourism opportunities and companies like Mastercard were sponsoring their expenses. It really couldn’t get better. Or could it? Well if you count front row seats to fashion shows, free mobile phones and gadgets, and the big bucks to promote these brands, it really does.
How to get started with influencer marketing
So, how can you get influencers to talk about your brand and where do you even start?
The best place to start would be with some research. Say you’re a local jewellery brand looking to promote yourself or you run a national eCommerce store selling handmade soaps, there are influencers who work for your specific needs. Here’s what we suggest:
1. Find the right platform
If you have 100,000 followers on Facebook but a few thousand on Instagram, you probably want an influencer whose Facebook stats outweigh their Instagram stats. Better cross-promotion opportunity on the right platform.
2. Right location
If you’re a local business in Ottawa, do you really want influencers from Vancouver talking about your business? It’s better to work with a local influencer whose followers are more receptive to their advice than a national one with just the numbers.
3. Numbers are not everything
If you find 10 influencers with 40K following each, rest assured it’s better than working with someone with 200K following. Why? Look at how many comments and likes they’re getting. Micro-influencers (under 40-100K followers) have higher engagement levels than macro-influencers (100K+ followers). The only time you should prioritize macro-influencers is when you’re looking at reach and brand awareness over everything else.
4. Do your research
Finding the right influencer who fits your brand and your voice isn’t luck, it’s time and research. Do they often promote brands in your industry? Are they experts or do they work in the same industry as yours? These are questions you need to ask before deciding on who to work with.
5. Can it fit your marketing strategy?
If you’ve planned out your campaigns for the next six months, influencer marketing may be a great way to supplement those initiatives. The beauty of influencer marketing is how easily it ties in with your other advertising and marketing efforts. Planning to launch a new product? Why not promote it through influencers. Have a social cause to talk about? Work with influencers for content. The possibilities are endless.
6. Clarify what you’re offering
There are various types of collaboration, you can send them a free product or sponsor their next social media update. It could be a dedicated blog article or a video at your store for a fee. All of these work very well but figure out what your budget encompasses.
7. Define the deliverables
If there’s one thing to learn from all the success and drama surrounding collaborations, it’s to clarify (or have it in writing) what’s decided in terms of assets. Is it a video? Or 3 dedicated posts. Have it signed and agreed on. It also helps to plan out the timeline in advance, so your sponsored content isn’t buried under 20 outfit pictures.
A bonus tip, make sure you’re not only looking at their follower counts. With the opportunities of buying followers and engagement, it’s not difficult to have 500K followers. Take a look at their last 50 posts, do they have people commenting on it? Are they engaging with their followers? Do you see their replies? Do you see people asking questions? Or do the comments look like spam? You need to consider all of this before you actually decide to go ahead with these influencers.
If after reading this you’re still unsure about how to work with influencers, you may as well enlist the help of professionals. Influencer marketing is a service now offered by digital and PR agencies. From finding the right influencers for your brand to taking care of the deliverables and communication, we offer an end-to-end influencer marketing solution for your brand.