Influencer marketing is the concept of partnering with key individuals who, through their personal content, can affect purchasing habits of your target audience. In a sense, it’s similar to celebrity endorsements, but adds a level of trust with consumers because the content is developed by the influencer – not the brand.
We all saw what happened when Kylie Jenner decided that trucker hats were cool again. (If you missed the news from last April, just Google “Kylie Jenner Von Dutch.”) People collectively lost their minds over it. Kylie Jenner is an extreme example of a social media influencer and the celebrity status of her family certainly helps. But the way her devoted followers hang on her every Instagram post or Snap demonstrates the power that social media and internet influencers can have.
Now, while it would be great if we could all get our products in the hands of the Kylie Jenners of the world, we know that’s not realistic or necessary. Small businesses and small influencers can really make an impact for each other. Last February, The New York Times did a great piece on how small YouTube influencers can have a lot of sway.
So how do you get started? As with everything, a little planning and preparation goes a long way.
- Know your audience.
Marketing 101 for sure, but it can’t be reinforced enough. Do research with your top customers. Learn what their media consumption habits are. How do they get their news? What social media networks are they on? Where do they spend their time on the internet? Know their affinities and what they are likely to enjoy. For example, people who go hiking are more likely than the general public to eat granola bars.
- Know who influences your audience.
By knowing your audience, where they are and what interests them, you can narrow down who are likely influencers that they follow. You can also get ideas for which influencers to approach by talking with your customers. You’ll likely find that many of them read the same bloggers or watch the same YouTube stars, and follow the same people on Instagram. Birds of a feather flock together, right?
- Know what topics and products resonate with your audience and their influencers.
Don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole. You shouldn’t have to force a fit between your brand and the influencer. If you’re product isn’t something that the influencer you’re hoping to work with would naturally use, you should probably look for another influencer. Forcing a partnership that doesn’t have a natural fit will damage the influencer’s reputation (which is the reason they’re so powerful) and will likely make your brand look bad.
- Determine your influencer strategy.
Different influencers use different channels in different ways. So make sure to narrow down your strategy to where your customers truly are. For example, an influencer on Twitter is not going to use videos the same way that a YouTube star would. While YouTube allows for longer format videos (and it’s great for demos), Instagram and Snapchat allow for only a glimpse at a time. Think about how you want someone to use your product.
- Then, let the influencers do what they do best.
Don’t try to control the message. You have to let go and let the influencer do their thing. It makes the integration of the brand more genuine. You have to remember that the person you’re working with has built a reputation for being honest with their subscribers, and that’s how they continue to build their audience. If they showcase a product that doesn’t actually work the way they say it does, it can ruin their influence.
- Define success.
What do you hope the influencer’s audience will do when they hear about your brand from their favorite author or internet sensation? How is that measured? Can you get the influencer to agree to put a link to your website at the end of their video or in the description, so that you can track referral traffic? It’s difficult to get a budget for future projects if you can’t show the success, or if the measure of success doesn’t align with your vision for the project.
- Negotiate reasonable compensation for partnerships.
Don’t ask people to work for free. While using influencer marketing in your strategy is not the same as paid endorsements, simply giving product samples to a YouTube star that has the potential to significantly increase your sales, isn’t enough. And it’s not fair. Be prepared to compensate them for their time and access to their subscribers.
If you’d like to learn more about how influencer marketing can work with your brand, contact us!