It seems that everyone is talking about influencer marketing these days. And they should be. It’s one of the most effective ways to increase awareness and drive engagement with a captive and relevant audience. Why is that, you ask? Well, there are a few reasons.
Firstly, consumers are experiencing ad blindness. Whether it’s because they’re mentally tuning everything out due to the overwhelming ad noise they hear all day long, everywhere they go online and off, or whether they’re literally tuning it out with ad blockers (26% of desktop users and 15% of mobile use blockers according to the IAB), traditional ads are not seen and do not have the same impact they once did.
Secondly, consumers trust individuals more than brands. It makes sense--we’re all wary of the messages coming from brands because we know we’re being sold to, even if it’s not a hard sell. But when that message comes from a friend, a family member, or even someone we don’t know personally but know to be a real human being, it feels more genuine. They would never dupe us into buying something that’s crap! This is powerful.
And third, consumers are now in the driver’s seat. With near-unlimited data and resources at their fingertips 24 hours a day, consumers are dictating their own purchase journeys. They seek out the information they need and want, they join the communities that are stimulating and relevant to them, they connect with the people that make their lives more interesting and efficient. Brands must hop along for the ride if they expect to be seen and known.
So, how can ecommerce brands get on the influencer marketing bandwagon? Follow these five steps for getting started with influencer marketing:
1. Identify the Right Influencers
Just because an individual has a large social following does mean they’re an influencer. And just because they have a small following, doesn’t mean they’re not one. It’s all about quality and relevancy. Consider these things when identifying influencers:
- Are they passionate about my brand, product or the industry?
- How active is their network?
- Are they able to actually influence their network to take action?
- Do they produce good content?
- How do they handle negative feedback?
- How do they approach content for other brands? Does it seem genuine and unbiased?
Influencers could be bloggers, photographers, videographers, journalists, YouTube stars, celebrities, professors, authors, or even simply subject matter experts. Monitor social media channels for keywords and hashtags, search Google for relevant blogs and use one of the many influencer platforms, such as ANewsTip, NinjaOutreach, LittleBird, GroupHigh or Intellifluence.
2. Build Relationships
Get to know the influencer before reaching out. Read their blogs, check out their LinkedIn profile, Like their Instagram photos, reshare their posts. Learn what they’re interested, their tone and their audience so that when you do reach out, you can cite specific examples to complement their work and explain why they’re a good fit for your brand.
3. Provide Incentive(s)
Influencers have worked hard to build up and maintain their networks. When you ask to tap into that network, you need to make it worth their while. There are a few types of incentives that work:
Compensation - Some influencers require payment in exchange for their work. This can be a slippery slope--will the content seem as genuine if they were paid to produce it? No isn’t always the answer here. Use your best judgement to determine if it’s worth it, if the influencer will provide unbiased work and if you have the budget.
- Free or Discounted Product - This is essential for some types of influencers (i.e., photographers, review bloggers), but is also a great way to get them interested and invested in your brand.
- Commission - This can be a great way to ensure sales and keep your influencers active ongoing. Give them a percentage of or flat fee on each sale they are responsible for, similar to an affiliate.
- Social Activity - if you have a large social following yourself, this can be a great way to increase awareness, drive traffic and make that influencer feel important. Share posts they write, tag them social channels and thank them for their work.
4. Set Expectations
What do you want to get out of the influencer? Is it more social followers? Original content? Product sales? All of the above? Don’t be afraid to clearly set these expectations up front. Sure, you’re asking something of them, but you’re also providing something in return (see #3). You have every right to get what you want of the relationship.
Also, make sure you are clear on compliance and disclosure requirements. Most seasoned influencers are aware of these, but not all are and it’s best to cover yourself. Put it in writing and monitor their content to ensure they’re compliant.
5. Stay Engaged
After the influencer has provided content and/or completed the required actions, be sure the followup to thank them. If they contributed to your blog or social channels, and the content performed particularly well, let them know about it. This shows your gratitude and can help to set up future opportunities.
Influencer marketing will continue to grow this year as consumers demand more authentic content. It’s not too late to get started with this valuable (and profitable) marketing initiative.