Want to learn how to do influencer marketing?
Then this guide is for you.
Today I’m going to cut through the hype and explain how to create an influencer marketing campaign that leads to actual sales – rather than just likes and follows.
These types of campaign differ from a traditional public relations campaign.
If you want to know how to create long-term partnerships with digital creators who genuinely love your brand, this guide will show you how.
Here’s what we’re going to cover:
- Who is an influencer?
- What is influencer marketing?
- Why is influencer marketing so powerful?
- What are the risks of influencer marketing?
- How to do influencer marketing
- Setting goals for influencer marketing
- Choosing your influencers – how to do it right
- Creating content for your campaign
- How to measure the success of your campaign
- Can small businesses or charities do influencer marketing?
When you partner with an influencer who is genuinely aligned with your brand, it can be a highly profitable relationship for you both.
But there are risks with influencer marketing. And you still need to know how to write a media pitch.
Let’s go through the essential points first.
Understand these points and you’ll get the best return on your investment.
What is an influencer?
An influencer is someone who creates content (usually images or videos), shares it on their social media channels, and has built a large and engaged audience.
What makes them different from a movie star or actress who has a following on social media is, influencers were not famous before they started creating content. Their content has grown their following – and this has all happened organically rather than through advertising.
Over the past five years, influencers are increasingly monetizing their content through partnerships with brands, launching their own products or branching out into TV or film.
Don’t miss our epic guide on how to write a press release!
For example, Zoe Stubbs (aka Zoella), a previously unknown 27-year-old from Brighton, UK, who started her own YouTube channel in 2009 posting beauty and makeup vlogs.
Zoella has developed her own beauty line and has written a novel. She has an estimated income of $70,000 a month.
Sometimes smaller is better
As a subcategory of influencers, you also have Micro Influencers. These are Influencers with mid-size followings. Think tens of 1000s rather than millions, but their audiences are very engaged within a specific niche.
Brands are increasingly interested in working with Micro Influencers because they have a higher level of engagement, likes and shares proportional to the size of their following.
An example of a Micro Influencer is @chantalumali from the Philippines who documents her weight loss journey through yoga poses. She has recently collaborated with Marie France (Slimming Centre) as one of their ambassadors.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is when brands pay influencers to promote their product or service.
This can range from simple image posts (on Instagram or Twitter) saying what they love about a product to much more elaborate multiple post campaigns or video series.
Influencer marketing is not the same as a celebrity endorsement, which is when a celebrity lends their fame to a brand or a product, in a more traditional broadcast advertising style. You can read more about this in some of the best marketing books.
Instead, influencers are in conversation with their followers and offer a much more engaged audience.
Think of it as an introduction into an existing community of people who are all interested in what you have to say – the ultimate word of mouth referral.
Influencer marketing is big business, growing exponentially over the past five years. According to an ANA and PQ Media study, estimated total brand spending reached $101 billion by 2020. It’s gone WAY beyond free PR.
Increasingly brands are creating their own in-house teams dedicated to influencer marketing communications, and soon it will be rare for any brand to launch a campaign that doesn’t involve at least one social media influencer.
In 2019, we’re likely to see more brands establishing long-term relationships with individual influencers, positioning them as brand ambassadors within complex campaigns. There are some great marketing ideas for small business here to inspire you.
Why is influencer marketing so powerful?
The clue is in the name – influencers hold influence over their audiences. Followers trust influencers and are loyal to them. If they say they love a product, their followers are far more likely to buy it than anything else.
Trust is THE most important component in the sales process. If you trust a recommendation, you buy.
When an influencer shares branded content, they pass that trust on to the brand and a new audience is much more likely to purchase.
So an endorsement from an influencer on anything – dog food, where to go on holiday, what shampoo to use, is more effective than a traditional ad spot.
Even when an influencer is paid to promote brands, followers believe that they have chosen the product because they genuinely love it.
Add that to the rise in ad blockers – in the U.S. ad-blocking usage is 40% on laptops and 15% on mobile as consumers have become fed up with pop-ups and banners.
And a decline in radio and TV viewership – viewers prefer to stream content on social media platforms, that they have selected, on topics they want.
Influencer marketing is a no-brainer.
What are the risks of influencer marketing?
With businesses generating $6.50 for every $1 invested, there’s no doubt influencer marketing is lucrative for all involved.
But be careful, big profits also come with big risks.
Here are some influencer marketing red flags to look out for:
Not everything is as it seems. There’s a real risk (for brands and marketers) that an influencer’s follower numbers are padded or outright fake – meaning they have paid for them. Fake followers mean less engagement and fewer sales for brands.
Unilever’s CMO Keith Weed has led the campaign against fake audience numbers and declared that the company won’t work with influencers who are found to have any fake followers or have used bots to grow their accounts.
According to Digiday, fake followings are rife within influencer marketing and it isn’t just the influencer’s who are to blame, the PR agencies linking influencers and brands are in on the act too. Agencies have been known to buy followers for influencers and then take a commission for each client they connect them to.
This is why our suggestion is to learn how to write a press release and keep your marketing in-house.
You’ve done your research and carefully chosen an influencer. Unfortunately, there is always a danger that their content or behaviour can change and be at odds with everything your brand stands for.
See the story of PewDiePie losing his deals with Disney’s Maker Studios and YouTube over some ill-advised pranks.
Influencers going awol is not uncommon and brands do need to be cautious when investing in new relationships.
Yes, this can happen, just as with any supplier or business partner. Influencers can agree to share a certain number of posts or attend brand events but fail to do so and break their agreement. This isn’t to say you should avoid influencer marketing for your business, but you do need to stay on top of your relationships.
Just like the recent case of Instagram Influencer Luka Sabbat, who is being sued by a PR agency who claim he violated the terms of a $60k agreement to promote Snapchat’s Spectacles product on Instagram.
Blatant product placement can land brands – even the most popular influencer in hot water – when followers doubt the authenticity of the content. It’s essential that your brand matches and makes sense with the influencer’s audience.
Take the online abuse received by Instagrammer Scarlett London when she published an over the top product campaign for Listerine that went negatively viral.
The influencer received death threats and Listerine were hammered on multiple social sites for ridiculously staged content that bore no connection to reality. Getting some quality media training is probably a good idea.
Despite these risks, Influencer Marketing is still by far one of the most popular and effective marketing strategies of the moment.
If you’re up for making big profits then let’s get to the nitty-gritty – how to actually do Influencer Marketing.
How to do influencer marketing
Big brands are having serious success with influencer marketing and it isn’t just because they can pay big money (although that does help!).
They have entire teams dedicated to their campaigns, coordinating each element ranging from research to content creation, and everything in between. They have a comprehensive PR plan, of which influencers are one part.
Little, if nothing, is left to chance. Although posts may look organic and spontaneous, they are in fact the product of some very strategic and careful campaign management.
But don’t worry, even if you can’t match the budgets of big brands you can still compete in terms of campaign planning and management.
Our top tips for a marketing campaign
Here are my top four tips for executing an awesome marketing campaign:
- Set specific and measurable goals: decide now what you want to achieve and when
- Research and choose wisely: take time and choose the right influencer that is aligned with your brand
- Create content in partnership with your influencer: make sure the campaign engages their audience but retains the authentic feel of the channel
- Measure the impact: analyze what is working and what isn’t. Don’t want until the end. Assess as you go and be ready to adjust
Now let’s dive into each of these.
How to set goals for influencer marketing
Influencer marketing goals all too often focus on creating a ‘buzz’ around a brand or increasing awareness. Unfortunately, this rarely translates into a return on investment.
If you want to run a campaign that positively impacts your bottom line then set realistic and measurable goals.
Here’s what you need to remember:
- Be data driven. Link the campaign from the offset to web traffic, offer signups and most importantly sales.
- Be direct. Use a direct URL for your offer so you can track all new traffic to your site generated by the campaign.
- Don’t overlook the average. Don’t judge influencers on the total followers, or buy into the hype of peak posts that go viral. Instead look at what an influencer’s average engagement rate is over a set period of time (i.e. 30 days) and base your forecasts on that data.
- Be realistic. It is virtually impossible to achieve 100% engagement rates. Use an average performance rate instead so you can set realistic expectations about what can be achieved, and ultimately at what budget.
- Share these goals with your influencer. They need to know that you’re running a targeted campaign, and success of the promotion is based upon achieving these targets.
Setting the right goals for your campaign will help you figure out which kind of influencer you want to work with.
Don’t go on to the influencer research phase until you can answer these two questions::
- What do you want to achieve?
- Why do you want to achieve it?
How to choose your influencer
Choosing the right influencer is critical to the success of your campaign. Luckily for you, social media is awash with 1000s of them so it can be difficult to find a long list of potential influencers.
If you have the budget then you can pay people to do this research for you.
There are a multitude of influencer agencies, with new ones launching each month, who have a range of influencers on their books, all waiting to partner with you.
Agencies can match your brand values with the best-suited influencer – they’ve done the research already and profiled their clients accordingly.
What you should consider:
But if you don’t have the budget to do this, here’s what you need to consider with your research:
- Take your time: There’s no shortcut. Dedicate a set number of hours to search social, watch videos, and engage with content in and around your industry.
You need a consistent creator, who produces impactful content and will deliver on your investment. This can’t be rushed.
- Brand values: Remember your relationship with the influencer needs to be genuine, you both need to be aligned with the same values. Your product needs to fit in their lifestyle and they need to be matched with what your company is associated with. A mismatch will leave their audience doubting the authenticity of the campaign, and your current customers confused about the direction of the company.
- Look for your niche: Don’t just choose the most popular influencer you can find. Look for someone who has an active interest in your product area. It will make creating engaging and authentic content so much easier and their audience will be more receptive to your product.
- Look who’s talking: Search for your brand or product name on social media. Is anyone talking about you already? If so, approach these people first. They will be much warmer to partnership approaches and will love endorsing your brand.
- Don’t be fooled by fake followers: Accounts with multiple zeros are not always genuine. Monitor the account over time and see what the average level of engagement is to establish just how much influence the creator actually holds over their audience.
- Choose more than one influencer: Don’t put your eggs all in one basket. There are no rules about influencer exclusivity. If your campaign would work better with a number of featured influencers then create a shortlist of who you want to work with and approach them.
- Small can be beautiful: Don’t overlook micro-influencers, those with 100,000 followers. They generally vlog and share content on niche topics. And because they are specialist it means they have a much higher rate of engagement. It’s not always about attention grabbing headlines or big awareness days.
How to create content for your campaign
Now you’ve nailed your research and chosen the perfect influencer for your brand, it’s time to think about content.
Influencers (and their teams) are used to being in charge of their content. But when it’s your dollar on the line, content creation needs to be a collaboration between brand and influencer.
A successful campaign will carefully balance authenticity, the influencers own unique style, with the required promotion. Each relationship will be different and you’ll need to figure out who plays what role in it.
Here are a few things that you’ll need to consider during content creation:
- Messaging: What do you want the influencer to say about your product and is it the right fit for the tone of their channel? Have no more than 3-4 priority messages that you want to be shared. Too many messages become confusing and they won’t be remembered.
- Call to Action: Do you need to share a direct URL, mention a particular offer or ask followers to take a specific action? Give clear instructions and you’ll get clear results.
- Sign off: Are all parties agreed on the content? Are images on brand and is the copy getting across the key elements of the product without being a blatant hard sell?
- Scheduling: When will posts be scheduled, day, time and frequency? Do the posts need to link in with specific events or occasions? Are you considering global time zones when posting? Large brands have dedicated team members to manage scheduling, particularly it is a multi-influencer campaign.
- Going live: Despite best-laid plans there can often be issues in the posts when they go live, make sure you check on all platforms how posts look and how they are performing.
How to measure the success of your campaign
Remember those goals that you set at the beginning of the campaign? Now it’s time to measure the success of your campaign against them.
What were the engagement levels? How much web traffic has the campaign generated? How many sales?
Revisit your goals every few months. Don’t be afraid to reassess and hold your hands up to say this isn’t working.
It can take a few attempts to get the right working partnership with an influencer. It can take a few versions of content to score a widely popular post. In the early days of a campaign, you need to be prepared to make adjustments to get the best results.
Although the market has matured and we are now past the Wild West early days of Influencer Marketing, there are no hard and fast rules for what works and what doesn’t. You need to test, measure, and tweak.
Brands and marketers that are willing to experiment and be flexible in their approach, changing tactics quickly when necessary, are the ones who will continue to make the most gains.
Can small businesses or charities do influencer marketing?
Yes, small businesses and charities can do influencer marketing. Just because you can’t compete on budget, doesn’t mean you can’t compete on content. But to be effective, you have to be creative.
It will be harder for you to attract the attention of influencers if you’re not waving a wad of cash but that doesn’t mean that it is impossible.
That said, be realistic. Don’t go for the big hitters, you won’t get past the gatekeepers.
Target Micro Influencers instead, if you’re a right fit with their channel then they’ll be more open to partnerships.
So how can your brand be different, how can it stand out and make Influencers sit up and take notice?
Here’s where Influencer Marketing crosses over into Public Relations – you need to convince Influencers to partner with you despite your lack of budget.
Their endorsement can come from what PRs call, the Editorial Value of your product. This means they promote your product because of its own merits, or because of your compelling presentation of it.
It’s not easy and there won’t be as many quick wins. but if you’re prepared to be persistent and dedicate some serious time and effort to influencer PR, you can (and will) secure success.
Here my top three tips you need to know to secure the ultimate influencer partnership:
PR Tip 1: Relevance
First up, you need to be relevant. You may have an amazing product but if you aren’t going to be of interest to their target audience they won’t want to partner with you.
Now that doesn’t mean that you have to pretend to be something that your brand is not, it’s all about positioning and the story that you share with the influencer.
In PR terms, it’s called being newsworthy. And the best way to make your product newsworthy is to somehow connect it do the current news agenda.
In brand terms, that’s asking, what is hot right now? What is the latest trend? And how can my product fit into that trend?
PR Tip 2: Positioning
If that doesn’t work and you’re not the latest hot thing then position your product as part of a Feature.
Not sure what that is? A Feature is a magazine-style story or piece of content that covers an event, a travel destination or a humorous incident.
Much of popular social media content follows the features format – influencers aren’t concerned with news angles. Instead, they share knowledge or expertise in Life Hacks or How To Guides, cover events or travel destinations in their Travelogues, or do stunts or pranks.
A great way to secure a free Influencer partnership is to suggest a possible Feature for the social media star to use in their content.
Let’s look at the example of beauty YouTuber, Rachel Claire Levin aka @Rclbeauty101, and her video series Doing Makeup in Weird Places.
These are videos where she tries to put on her makeup in the weirdest places she can find – in a giant balloon, in zero gravity or in 500 pounds of jello.
In PR terms these are all ‘Features’. And if you’re a business owner of some weird and wacky event space you should contact her and suggest that you would be the perfect venue for her next feature in the series.
Influencers are under pressure to produce content and come up with new ideas. So when you give them a genuinely stand out idea they will respond favorably to it.
And if you’re offering to organize the event, supply them with the products and make their work really easy. Do this and they will say yes, especially if you know how to write a press release for an event.
If you’re not sure what the difference is between a news story and feature story examples then check out one of our most popular articles ‘What’s the Difference Between a News Story and Feature?’
PR Tip 3: Think Thematically
There are certain times of the year where Influencers need to produce content linked to particular events or anniversaries, holiday seasons or major public events.
They need ideas for content around these times so get ahead of the game and suggest things for them to do that involve your product.
For example, have you ever heard of Vlogmas?
Vlogging and Christmas = Vlogmas!
It’s when YouTubers post a video each day in December up until December 24th (Christmas Eve). 24 videos is A LOT of content and a whole lot more opportunities for you to get your product featured.
It’s not just Christmas that this can work Think about all the holidays or anniversaries of the year that Influencers need to cover – Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving.
You name it, any holiday is an opportunity for partnerships. If you need inspiration, here are 46 proven public relations examples.
Be creative and think about how your product can be featured within this anniversary content and you’ll be surprised by the positive responses you get. And make sure you use one of the best media monitoring services to track your success.
Take advantage of influencer marketing in 2021
At this point in 2021, your small business, charity, or product still have the opportunity to take advantage of an effective marketing channel that has still not hit the mainstream.
Influencer marketing will indeed go mainstream and all your competitors will still be trying to figure out how to make it work.
Your advantage is to get started today. If not, you will be playing catch up for years to come.
Want to know more about how to get partnerships with influencers through PR? Then take our free PR course.