This in-depth influencer marketing guide was created in collaboration with Isaac Lekach (based on our interviews), CMO of Rep, which is a Los Angeles-based influencer marketing platform and Eden Mogese who’s a makeup influencer with experience using multiple influencer marketing platforms.
The explosive growth of influencer marketing continues in 2017. With a surge of platforms and providers now helping brands capitalize on this inbound marketing strategy, SmartInsights predicts that influencer marketing has an enormous potential to scale even faster in 2018.
Influencer marketing is now becoming one of the most effective ways for businesses to attract customers and clients. Partnering with an influencer is like having a mutual friend that connects you and your business with your target audience and gives you the ability to increase traffic to your sites, boost your brand awareness, generate more leads, and grow your sales revenue.
However, influencer marketing goes beyond getting an influencer to publish a guest blog post you wrote or feature your product on his or her Instagram account. A successful influencer marketing campaign is a carefully planned inbound marketing strategy that spans across multiple channels.
This guide will help you learn and understand the fundamentals of creating a stable strategy to help you get these influencers on your side so that you can cut through the noise, get heard, and be noticed.
What is Influencer Marketing?
SmartInsights defines influencer marketing as a marketing strategy that centers on collaborating with key leaders to help you cut through the noisy online marketplace to help get your brand as well as your products right in front of your target market.
The concept of influencer marketing is based on the adage, “tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.” Influencers are those who your target audience trust, respect, and listen to because of their credibility and integrity. Through influencer marketing, you can leverage the popularity, reputation and trend-setting power of these influencers, affiliate your business with these influencers, and get some of their credentials to rub on you.
Who Can Be an Influencer?
Often when we hear the term “influencer,” we immediately picture a successful and highly influential individual within a particular industry such as Kylie Jenner, Neil Patel, Gary Vaynerchuck, and Everette Taylor, to name a few.
The truth is that the term “influencer” is not only limited to individual people. Organizations can also be critical influencers within a particular niche. Examples of these include Nike for sports apparel, IKEA for interior design, Apple for technology, and TripAdvisor for travel. When you hear these brands, you don’t look at one particular person in this company as an influencer. Instead, you consider the entire company as an influencer.
So what makes an individual or an organization into an influencer? An influencer is anyone who has the power and ability to change consumer behaviors, and impact buying decisions through the content they share. Although influencers differ from one industry to another, they share the following characteristics:
- They have a huge organic follower base in their area of expertise.
- They can create content around brands that is trustworthy and authentic.
- They have the power to inspire and persuade their followers to take action.
- They are passionate and confident about what they are doing.
- They have exceptional networking skills that allow them to connect with people in a genuine and friendly manner.
Why Does Influencer Marketing Matter?
Much of this is brought about by the decline of traditional forms of marketing as we know it. Consumers are now beginning to tune out traditional ads, and instead, make their buying decisions based on recommendations that they get in social media. In fact, according to the Deloitte report, one in three consumers in the US say that their buying decisions are influenced by social media, specifically by recommendations of influencers within a specific industry.
In contrast, a study done by Nielsen shows that 90% of consumers trust recommendations coming from peers and third-party resources. Of these, 29% will convert into paying customers within the same day they learn about it from an influencer talking about it in social media.
Moreover, an influencer marketing strategy catalyzes your current inbound marketing campaigns, enabling you to reach—and even surpass—your goals. Here are a few stats shared by Quick Sprout:
- 81% people trust information they read from blogs owned by influencers.
- 63% people say that they are more convinced to buy a product or service that is mentioned in an influencer’s blog than elsewhere.
- 61% people will purchase a product or service based on an influencer’s recommendation.
A classic example of this is Fashion Nova, an online retail store based in Los Angeles that made headlines with this infamous Instagram post made by Kylie Jenner:
This, along with posts from other influencers from the fashion industry, helped grow Fashion Nova’s Instagram followers shoot to 6 million. More important, by tapping the right influencers, Fashion Nova’s CEO Richard Saghian reported their sales skyrocketed with 75% of their customers returning to their site within 90 days from their initial purchase.
Creating an influencer marketing strategy offers a host of benefits for businesses of all sizes.
Source: Sprout Social
However, these benefits don’t come without any challenges. In the same report, companies listed three main challenges they face when doing influencer marketing.
Measuring Influencer Marketing ROI
78% of marketers point to their ability to concretely measure the ROI of their influence marketing strategy to be the number one challenge they face. The reason for this is due to the presence of fake followers that, sadly, many of these influencers use to bulk up their followers.
The sobering reality is that a portion of the mass following you see in the social media accounts of influencers in different industries are fake. In an article published by The Next Web, there are approximately 83 million fake accounts on Facebook and 20 million fake accounts on Twitter. A report released in the Business Insider shows that nearly 8% of Instagram accounts are fake.
Further complicating this challenge is the presence of inactive accounts. Although these are genuine accounts owned by real people, there is hardly any activity that comes from these accounts.
Finding the Right Influencer
In a study done by Econsultancy, 73% of marketers point to finding the right influencer to connect and collaborate with as their most significant pain point.
Isaac Lekach, CMO of Rep, explains that the content a person publishes on social media can often be misleading for marketers looking for influencers with whom they can collaborate on their influencer marketing campaigns.
“Just because the person is a pretty girl and poses a lot in bikinis doesn’t mean that her audience is necessarily a female-centric, swimwear-buying audience,” he explains.
Getting the Influencers’ Attention
59% of marketers say that another significant challenge they face is approaching and connecting with influencers to get them onboard with their influencer marketing campaign.
As I mentioned earlier, influencers become influencers because of the power that they possess to inspire and affect the decision your target audience make. Most of these influencers, especially those that have a massive clout, turn this into a business in itself. That means that not only should you propose ideas and concepts that align with their branding, but you should be willing to offer a financial reward.
Also, the stakes are quite high. According to the State of Influencer Marketing report, the average amount companies allocate for their influencer marketing budget ranges between $50,000 and $100,000 per program, double of what they were in 2016.
Creating an Effective Influencer Marketing Strategy
Benjamin Franklin once said, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
Indeed, a lot of the challenges faced by marketers boils down to one reality: they aren’t equipped with the knowledge of creating—much less, implementing—a productive and successful influence marketing strategy.
Just like with creating an inbound marketing playbook, there are a series of steps to developing an influence marketing strategy that will yield you the right results.
Develop Your Influencer Marketing Goals
Before you even start looking for influencers to connect with for your influence marketing strategy, take a few minutes to go over your current inbound marketing goals. When you know what it is that you want to achieve, you will have a clearer idea of what it is that you will ask the influencer to do for you when you reach out to them.
Setting SMART goals is crucial in developing an effective influencer marketing strategy. SMART is an acronym which describes what a carefully planned goal should look like. It has to be:
- Agreed upon across the board;
- Realistic; and
Set Your KPIs
One of the critical characteristics of a well-thought-out goal is that it has to be measurable. That means that you have to have the right metrics in place. These will help you gauge the success, or lack thereof, of your influencer marketing campaigns.
Here are some of the common metrics you can use to help gauge the effectiveness of your influencer marketing campaign:
- Referral traffic. This metric shows you how many of your visitors were directed to your site by the influencer.
- Brand sentiment. This tells you how the influencer shaped your company and product’s image and reputation based on whether conversations around them are positive, neutral or negative.
- Engagement rate. This is the ratio of the number of likes, shares and comments on the influencer’s post about your brand and product received.
- Conversion rate. This refers to the ratio of how many of the influencer’s followers became qualified leads or customers.
Review Your Buyer Persona
One of the common mistakes marketers make is creating an influencer marketing campaign without having a clear understanding of their buyer persona. Often, this results in launching an influencer marketing campaign with the wrong influencer, sharing the wrong content on the wrong channel.
Your buyer persona is the compass that points you to not only which influencers to collaborate with, but also what type of content they’ll most resonate with and where they look for these pieces of information.
When reviewing your buyer persona, go beyond the demographics and instead focus on their interests, pain points, and goals. Pay close attention to their content preferences by asking these questions:
- What topics does your buyer persona frequently search for online?
- Where do they go to get answers?
- Who are the people and brands they go to for advice?
Conducting surveys is another excellent way to do this as in the case of Applango. In addition to helping them pinpoint the right influencers in their niche, the survey also enlightened Applango with the fundamental goals and pain points their target audience face. With the data they gathered, they were able to create the right content and worked with the right influencers, significantly boosting their brand awareness.
Create Your Influencer Persona
Just like you need a buyer persona for your target audience, you also need to create a persona of the ideal influencer you would like to collaborate with. That’s because the influencer serves as your brand’s ambassador, and their reputation and credibility will be a reflection of your brand’s. More important, the influencer you choose to work with needs to be a contextual fit for your brand.
When creating your influencer persona, there are three key areas that you need to consider:
- Context. This refers to the type of content they share and the demographics of their audience.
- Personality type. The personality of your influencer should represent the image you want your target audience to have around your brand and product.
- Engagement rate. This refers to the ratio between the responses the influencer gets from his or her followers, and the number of followers they have.
- Your goals. The influencers you choose must align with the goals you’ve set to reach.
One example of this when the app Looky! used influencer marketing to get more people to download and use their app. Since the main feature of their app is to show who your celebrity lookalike is, they realized that using celebrities and well-known personalities won’t be a good fit for their campaign. They reached out to Rep to help them find influencers that look like popular celebrities and personalities
By tapping the right influencers, Looky!’s influencer campaign received an engagement rate as high as 15% with one influencer and received over 500 click-throughs from the followers of these influencers to their app’s site (average CPC $.21).
Build Your Influencer Outreach List
Now that you have an idea of what type of influencer you need to work on your influence marketing strategy, the next step is to document their information in either an excel sheet or in Google Sheet.
Along with the influencer’s name, the key pieces of information to include on your list are their social media accounts, the number of followers for each account, engagement rate, their email address, blog or website (if they have one), website domain authority, and website Alexa rating.
I share a whole list of tools and resources that will help you build your influencer outreach list later in this post, so make sure to keep on reading.
Segmenting Your Influencer Outreach List
Not all influencers are equal. That said, the way how you approach an influencer will be different, so it is very important to segment your list into three categories: mega- or macro-influencers, micro-influencers, and nano-influencers.
Often called mega-influencers, macro-influencers are those that have a follower base of 100K and up. Needless to say, they offer you the highest reach to your target audience because of their celebrity status, making them the most sought-after influencers by brands for their influencer marketing campaigns. Because of this, they are the most well-versed when it comes to collaborating with brands for their influencer marketing.
Ironically, the massive follower base macro-influencers have is not entirely a captive audience. One reason for this is that their fanbase is quite diverse and not niche-specific. Also, as I mentioned earlier, macro-influencers tend to have fake followers as well as inactive and duplicate followers. It’s for these reasons that, of the three categories, macro-influencers tend to have the lowest engagement rate, ranging between 1% and 5%.
Micro-influencers are those that have an average between 10K and 100K followers. Unlike macro-influencers, micro-influencers are more niche-specific. That means that their follower base is more targeted, resulting in 22.2x more conversion compared to macro-influencers.
While most micro-influencers expect to be compensated financially for their collaboration, they are significantly more affordable than macro-influencers. One study shows that 97% of micro-influencers charge less than $500 to post a promotion on Instagram, a mere fraction of the thousands of dollars usually paid to one macro-influencer.
Last, but certainly not the least, of the three influencer categories, are the nano-influencers. These are influencers that have 10K followers and below on their social media accounts.
Most marketers tend to overlook nano-influencers because they have the least number of followers in their social media accounts. While that may be true, adding them to your influencer outreach list is vital. That’s because what they lack in following, they make up in engagement. Lekach says that the average engagement rate his company observes working with nano-influencers is at least 8%.
Another reason is that nano-influencers often recommend products or services they actually buy and use. Many of them are happy to work with brands that they promote in exchange for these products and services, making them an ideal choice especially for startups with very lean budgets.
Craft Your Offer
You have your influencer list. Now what?!
It’s time to create the offer you will use when you approach them to get them onboard your marketing campaign.
Here are some of the typical offers you can use when working with influencers.
A sponsored post is mainly a post that the influencer creates and publishes on his or her blog or social media account in exchange for a fee. Usually, the company will provide the influencer some guidelines when creating the post like what features they would like highlighted in the post.
Giving the influencer the liberty to create a post in his or her style helps ensure that it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb against the other posts the influencer publishes. At the same time, it will also help increase engagement since the influencer is in the best position to know what types of post his or her followers will resonate with the most.
Sponsored posts also help you gain more authoritative backlinks to your site, helping you increase your page rankings in Google and other search engines.
Product reviews are a great way to work with influencers if your goal is to generate more revenue.
According to Hubspot, 81% of consumers research about a product online before they make a purchase. Reading and watching product reviews is one of the ways how they do that. Since many tend to favor recommendations made by influencers, they are more likely to buy a product that receives a positive review from one of their favorite influencers.
One thing to remember when asking influencers to do a review of your product is that you have no control over what they will say. In fact, there’s always the chance that the review the influencer may give is negative.
That said, it’s essential to do some research on the different product reviews that the influencer did in the past. Look at the ratio between the number of positive reviews he or she has versus the negative reviews. If you notice that the influencer has consistently given negative reviews to products similar to yours, you may be better off working with someone else.
Influencers love running contests and doing giveaways for their followers because it helps them increase their engagement rates and follower base. Offering to sponsor a giveaway gives them a win-win working situation for you.
Communication is essential for this technique. You need to take time to work together with the influencer when developing the mechanics of the giveaway. It should not be too complicated or tedious for the influencer’s followers to do. At the same time, it should be able to help you gather the information you need from their followers so that you can nurture and convert them into customers after the giveaway period.
This works very much in the same manner as the sponsored giveaway approach, except in this case, it’s the influencers who are competing for the prize, not their followers.
One good example of this was Skype’s competition titled “Your City, Your Passion” to further boost their brand and mission of “bringing people together whenever apart.” Skype partnered with 10 influencers from different parts of the world, who used the app as a storytelling hub. This quickly caught on with over 5,000 more people joining in the campaign, and 10% of the over 140,000 people that visited the campaign hub downloaded and activated the app on their mobile device in one month.
When creating a competition for influencers, it’s vital that you offer them something that they will consider extremely valuable and beneficial to them. In the case of Skype, the winner of the competition mainly the chance to have a Skype session with a celebrity expert in their industry.
Guest Blog Posts
Influencers are always in search of providing their followers with highly valuable, helpful, and actionable information and advice. Offering to contribute a guest blog post on their site will not only help them provide more value to their followers, but it will also help you promote your brand and generate more leads.
Compared to the other ways of working with influencers, this is the most time-consuming since you not only have to create the post yourself but also get the influencer to publish your post on their site. Nevertheless, I find this to be one of the most effective and cost-efficient ways of working with influencers.
One of the most effective ways I found to get influencers to publish my guest blog post is by sending a courtesy email to the different influencers I mention in the guest posts I publish on my blog. I mention in my email how I found their post so valuable I used it as a reference for my blog post.
By using this approach, I was able to receive an invite from SmartInsight’s co-founder Dave Chaffey to contribute a guest blog post on his site.
Sending courtesy emails also gave me the opportunity to have my guest blog posts published on over 20 websites.
When offering to publish guest blog posts to influencers, it is critical that you need to first build and establish some form of relationship with them. Based on my experience, I noticed that many influencers have their guard up when you approach them and offer to do a guest blog post because they want to protect the credibility and integrity of their site. By focusing on building a genuine relationship with these influencers, you can bring this guard down, making it easier for you to pitch in your guest blog post.
This is precisely what happened with Jamie Turner of the 60 Second Marketer and me. I’ve known Jamie back in 2016, and he has become (and still is) one of my mentors. I only sent him an email in October 2017 offering to do a guest post on his site. He said yes, and within a week of submitting my guest post on creating stories for buyer personas, my guest post was published.
Guest posting has been extremely helpful in growing my business. Within one month of doing guest posts, several of my posts from my own blog ranked on the first page of Google for different keywords:
While affiliate marketing is an entire marketing strategy in itself, it’s a low-risk, cost-effective way to work with influencers.
Unlike sponsored posts where you pay a fee to an influencer regardless of the outcome, affiliate marketing pays the influencer a percentage of every sale made on your product or service. As a result, the influencer needs to make sure that he or she not only publishes valuable content that will make your brand and product look good, but also needs to put in the work to get as many sales through his or her affiliate link as possible.
Affiliate marketing is nothing new to influencers. In fact, this is the technique they use to get other influencers on board to collaborate with them. One good example of this is Amy Porterfield, a key influencer in the social media niche. Offering to contribute a guest blog post, Amy shared her collaborations as an affiliate for Marie Forleo’s B-School Program and Michael Hyatt. Both are key influencers in their respective niches.
Tools and resources to help you build your influencer marketing strategy
1. Influencer Research
Google is one of the best places to go to find influencers in your niche. Run your search based on the keyword phrase that you would like your site to rank to help you find the most relevant influencers. Focus your search on the first two pages, especially if you find multiple posts from the same influencer listed on the first page of Google.
Additionally, make sure that you also check out the results you get from the different related search keywords listed at the bottom of Google’s search result page.
FollowerWonk is a tool developed by Moz that gives you a list of people on Twitter that have included the keyword you used in their bios. At the same time, it also gives you the person’s social authority rank or influential clout in Twitter.
The easiest way to find influencers here is by clicking on the Social Authority tab located in the rightmost part of the search results.
This way, the bios are listed from highest to lowest social authority rank. Those with a social authority of 70 and up are ideal influencers to connect with for your influencer outreach.
This is one of my favorite tools to use when researching influencers because, in addition to providing an influencer’s social authority rank on Twitter, it also gives you the domain authority of the influencer’s blog, the average retweets each influencer gets from his or her followers each time he or she publishes a post.
2. Influencer Outreach
Not all influencers readily post their email addresses on their social media accounts or blog posts, making it very difficult for you to get in touch with them about your influencer campaign. Hunter.io is a search tool that helps you find their email address by typing in their name or the URL of their blog (if they have one).
The service is free for the first 100 requests, which is quite sufficient to help you find the email addresses of influencers to reach out to for one campaign.
MailShake is an email outreach platform created by Sujan Patel and Colin Mathews that allows you to quickly create emails to send out to influencers for your marketing campaign. It comes with a wide range of different email templates you can customize and use to send out to influencers.
Although it was initially designed to help sales teams reach out to qualified leads, you can also use the HubSpot Sales Hub as a useful influencer outreach tool.
One of the unique features of this tool is that it helps you keep track at a glance which influencers have opened your email and which ones have not. That way, you will be able to craft the appropriate follow-up emails so that you won’t come across as too pushy.
Ninja Outreach is a beneficial tool if you’re just starting out with influencer marketing. This tool allows you to find influencers within your niche whose information you can immediately store in a CSV file. It also allows you to create an email campaign for your influencer outreach and helps you track the open, reply, and click rate for each of the emails you send out.
The Next Step
In this blog post, I shared with you many things about influencer marketing, how to create your own influence marketing strategy, the tools to use, and how it can help you grow your business by helping you develop more leads and generate more revenue.
The only thing left for you to do now is to implement it in your business.
Creating an effective influence marketing strategy can be a time-consuming and tedious process, especially if you’re doing this for the first time. A lot of this will involve some trial and error on your part to get this right and working for you.
Getting help from an influence marketing partner is an efficient way for you to get started doing influencer marketing for your business. They have the experience and knowledge to guide you in developing your influencer marketing campaign that’s within your budget. At the same time, an influence marketing partner already has a pool of influencers for you to work based on your offer, eliminating the need to do extensive research.
Influencer marketing is a proven and effective strategy that can help grow your business with significant results. And it’s only going to get better in 2018. If you want to get ahead, you need to start reaching out and build your influencer network now before your competitors do.