Influencer marketing currently rules the Social Media space. In a world that’s all about engagement, you won’t get far without establishing relationships and collaborating with the top voices of your communities. However, they don’t have to be the multi-million dollar Youtube stars to be effective at what they do. In fact, mid-level “Power Middle” influencers can drive an engagement rate 16x higher at a much lower cost. Every audience, whether large or niche, has its influencers.
But how exactly do you find influencers? And even when you find them, how can you reach out to them and start working with them? Like any professional business relationship, there are do’s and don’ts to working with influencers, and we have the tips to keep you on track.
1: Identifying Influencers
Starting out, you should definitely get to know your audience. Your target audience has already involved themselves in networks of people who they trust and look to regarding certain topics. When it comes to brands and marketing, the vast majority of people don’t believe advertisements outright but around 90% trust peer-reviews. Most people who’ve followed your brand on social media have also followed influencers they trust. A simple mine through followers and who they’re following will quickly turn up figures in the community who have gained trust and audiences of their own. You’ll know them by their higher-than-average follower count, blog and website links in their bio and product/business reviews that pop up in their feed. But don’t let other reviews intimidate you, reviews are a good sign. It means the influencers are open to working with brands and spreading their thoughts to their followers and within their community.
2: Selecting an Influencer
Influencers are storytellers, the story they’re telling just happens to be their own. Nobody will want to work with you if you don’t genuinely care about what they have to say, and influencers have a pretty good BS detector. After identifying potential influencers in your space that you want to work with, take the time to actually get to know them and their story. Follow them, pay attention to their posts, see how they feel about what they’re sharing – these are all key aspects to picking the right collaboration. The more you know about an influencer, the easier it will be to determine if you’re a good fit for each other.
3: Reaching Out
Once you have been following the influencer for awhile, if you like what you are seeing, it is time to reach out and establish a relationship. Most Influencers will have a business contact listed in their bio on various social media, use this email. However, if they don’t have anything listed, ask for their email through direct or private messages on instagram by briefly introducing yourself and stating you would like to collaborate. In some cases, it can be better to send the introduction through private message, depending on the space and the person. Take note to only do this if a relationship has already been established, meaning you have spoken before either in person or on instagram, or if they already follow you. In this case you can send a direct message letting them know you will send an email or ask them where they would like to communicate. Understand that Influencers get dozens of these messages a week, and direct messages often get missed or lost in the shuffle. For this reason email is usually the best option unless an influencer states otherwise.
In your first contact, it’s best to keep things informal and short. Now is not the time to pitch a business plan with figures and offers. Instead, introduce yourself and your position within your business, provide links to your business’ website and social media along with one or two sentences briefly describing your business, and express interest in working together. Avoid any specific language that seems too formal, or “business-y” for now, just end the email with an interest in back hearing from the person on whether or not the would like to work together and know more. Of course, always make sure they have all the necessary contact information.
4: Making Your Offer
According to a recent study by Tomoson, businesses tend to make around $6.50 for every dollar they spend on Influencer Marketing. This is most likely in the best of cases with Influencers who have large audiences and high engagement, but it still bares importance when thinking about making a deal with an influencer of any size. Social Media may be the new frontier in marketing and entertainment, but Influencers know that they have the potential to be your greatest customer-acquisition asset. In short, like any service, if you want to play, you have to pay.
This doesn’t have to mean spending thousands of dollars at a time, however. If you’re a restaurant, for example, offering an Influencer a free meal in exchange for a featured blog post, Instagram post, or any other mentions across social media, can often be enough for a promotional exchange. Keep in mind, the entire reason you’re approaching this person is because of where they sit in the network of your audience, so don’t keep their reach neglected. Additionally, if the influencer is local and you’re offering to have them come in for your services, make sure they can bring a plus one. No one wants to do something fun alone and an influencer will typically need someone to take a photo of them. And who knows, that friend may have an audience of their own too! Win win!
If you’re sending them a product to review, or are starting a relationship over a specific product or service – think about whether or not to have a promo code or deal ready for the influencer to drop to their audience. Remember how 90% of people trust peer-reviews over ads? If the audience is already engaged with the idea of the product, getting them to try it themselves is the next point and you want to make that conversion as easy and attractive as possible. By giving them a discount you are incentivizing the sale. A code also makes tracking the sales made by a specific influencer really easy to track. Discount codes work! Walmart, for example, found that coupon redemption rate through influencers was 44.8% versus a historical 15% rate.
5: The Legality of it All
In crafting a deal with an influencer, it’s important to know that just because you’re working in the Wild West of Industries; it doesn’t mean you’re working away from the Law. You have to be smart, just as with any business deal. It’s important to keep correspondence recorded and archived, and it may even be beneficial for both parties to sign a contract so the details of the collaboration are clear cut. Making sure that everyone is one the same page with what the expectations, asks, and payment from the offset saves a lot of potential headache and drama down the line.
Additionally, the FTC or Federal Trade Commission has recently been bringing down the hammer when it comes to influencer marketing. While working with an influencer is 100% legal and recommended, it’s not without its guidelines by the government. Even if the content is truly unintrusive and organic, if you’ve sponsored something from an influencer they have to make it clear that it’s paid content. Full disclosure protects you from getting smacked with sanctions and fees by the FTC, and audiences appreciate the honesty. So, make it a requirement that your influencer discloses that it is a paid collaboration by using #ad or #spon and work that into your agreement.
6: Finishing Up
Once the content you’ve asked for has been posted, it’s always a smart idea to not only track its engagement and reach but also the impact it had on your business. Compare that to past campaigns where you didn’t have influencer marketing but were, perhaps, tracking down leads, sending promo codes and trying to reach new potential customers. If it does well, consider forming a long term partnership with the influencer and making them a brand ambassador!
Ultimately, how you define success depends on you – but, if you found influencer marketing to be to your liking, keep in contact with the Influencers you work with. If everyone was happy with the outcome, the opportunity to work with each other again may present itself. These are the first steps on your journey to converting Influencers into loyal brand ambassadors, but that’s a topic for another day!