Should I work with influencers? And how do I even start?
Influencers. If you market yourself in the digital space chances are you’ve heard of them. They’re seemingly everywhere. And they’re not just confined to industries like fashion and beauty either. There are influencers working with all types of businesses, from DIY blogs, to sports and nutrition “gurus”, restaurant bloggers, money saving influencers. Whatever your business is, there’s likely to be an influencer who your target audience engages with.
Big brands are increasingly investing more and more of their marketing budgets into working with influencers and a lot of small businesses are following suit too.
So just where do you even start with putting an influencer marketing campaign together? Here’s a guide to follow.
What even is an influencer?
Influencers aren’t a new concept. They’ve been around long before the days on the internet, they just went by a different name: celebrities. Celebrities who found fame through music, sport, acting and other high profile professions, used their fame to work with brands and sell more than just their latest album/film/whatever. Celebrity endorsements is still a huge part of many marketing campaigns.
But what about non-celebrity influencers? Well, you probably have a few in your social circle – that friend who’s always ahead of the curve, buying the latest technology before it becomes popular, being into the newest bands, the trendsetter who’s already visited that new holiday destination and inspired you to do the same.
It’s this “friend” vibe that sets today’s influencers apart from celebrities. Thanks to the intimacy of social media publishing, people can feel like influencers are trusted friends. The official term for this is a parasocial relationship; the audience comes to feel like the influencer is someone whose recommendations they’ll follow, someone they genuinely like and feel an affinity with, even though the influencer doesn’t necessarily directly interact with them, . Today’s online influencers can seem more relatable than a big celebrity with a life so far removed from their audiences.
Is Influencer Marketing The Right Move?
Item 1 on the checklist: should you be doing influencer marketing in the first place? I said earlier there was most likely an influencer who’s reaching the target audience of most business types, no matter how niche. But just because the audience is there, that doesn’t necessarily mean you jump straight in.
Ideally, working with influencers needs to be considered as part of your wider marketing strategy. Unless you have an unlimited marketing budget, chances are you’ve got to choose your campaigns wisely and keep your eye on the return on investment.
Struggling to make a decision on whether to put budget into influencers? Take a step back and start with your marketing goals. Research your target audiences, and consider other ways you could reach them aside from influencers, so you can compare. Can you get a better return on investment using another channel?
I’d also advise doing some competitor research. Are your competitors working with influencers? Is it working? You obviously won’t be able to see the financial results, but the great thing about social media is that brand collaborations are there in place sight for all to see. What’s the engagement like? Do you think you could be doing a better job?
Find the right influencers for you
Ok so you’ve decided influencer marketing is something you’d like to try. Time to find some influencers to work with. Remember, the focus should be on your target audience – whose YouTube videos are they watching? Which Instagrammers are they engaging with? Do the research, ask your existing customers. The responses might surprise you, the “influencers” you had in mind for your campaigns might be completely different to the ones your target audiences are following.
There are tools and searchable databases online which can help you with your search for influencers. Facebook is even trialling an “influencer search engine” for marketers. And if all else fails, run some basic searches across social media channels and the ones which come up first will give you an indication of who’s the most influential on various topics.
You should hopefully have a shortlist of potential influencers now, and you’ll probably have realised it’s hard to compare. There’s possibly a few on your list with 100s of thousands of followers – they’re probably going to be more expensive to work with than an influencer with 10s of thousands. And perhaps you have some on your list with less than 10,000 followers, or less than 5,000.
The key thing here is to look beyond the numbers. “Fake” influencers are a concern. They’re influencers who have bought followers in bulk to make themselves seem more popular and influential than they really are. Tools like Socialblade offer one way to check for influencers buying followers, but you can also use your common sense. Look at their posts, take a look at how many likes and comments they’re getting. Huge follower numbers with low engagement rates are a red flag.
Mega Influencers or Micro Influencers
Ok let’s go back to the follower numbers for a moment. You’ve probably heard of the term “micro influencers” – this is often used to refer to influencers with a smaller (typically less than 10,000 followers), but heavily engaged following. Mega influencers is a phrase I’m not sure is widely used, but I’m using it here to refer to influencers with big followings, I’m talking 50k+ into the millions.
In an ideal world, you’d have the budget to work with all types of influencers, but in reality, chances are you don’t have that option. So who do you work with?
To make this decision, take it back to the objectives of your campaign. If you want one-time exposure on a huge scale, it might be best to sink all your budget into 2 or 3 mega influencers. If you want longer term exposure to an audience, then a micro influencer might get you the best return on investment.
What are the options for influencer campaigns?
Influencers chosen, now what? How do you want to work with them? What are the options? Just send them some free stuff and hope they’ll write about you? That’s a risky tactic and your offering is likely to get lost in all the other free stuff they’re receiving!
Your first port of call should be to read these guidelines from the Advertising Standards Authority because however you choose to work with influencers, if money, goods or services are exchanged with the influencer in return for something, then you’re going to have to disclose this to their audience.
In terms of options, again I’ll refer you back to your campaign objectives. Decide what you want to achieve and work with your influencers to agree on the best way to get there. I’d advise treating the influencer as if they were a freelancer working for you – set out your brief, work with them, agree on deadlines and payments, and most importantly get everything agreed in writing. This will help keep both you and the influencers on track and ensure a return on investment for both parties.
A few examples of ways to work with influencers include:
- Offering them products or services to trial in return for creating and sharing social media/YouTube/Blog content about the product or service.
- Paying them to create and share content about your products.
- Hosting events to showcase your products/services to influencers
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How do you make contact with them?
Many of the big influencers have “agents” or managers who deal with all the requests they receive. Others run the show on their own, alongside full-time jobs and family commitments. Either way, be professional in your approach, whether the first method of contact is a social media Direct Message, or an email.
You may need to get creative with your opening line to grab their attention. Tom Chapman, CandidSky’s Publishing Specialist, who regularly reaches out to publishers to pitch ideas and collaborations for clients advises:
“Get a good understanding of what your influencer enjoys covering. A ‘mummy influencer’ is going to be searching for angles to do with parenting and work/life balances. Search through what they’ve previously covered and try to focus on a unique approach.
“Do this, and you’re already better than the vast majority of offers they receive.”
Final three things to remember
In essence, to get your influencer campaigns flying remember these three things:
- Audience Targeting
- Setting Objectives
- Keeping your return on investment in mind
Checklist complete! Now you’re ready to go. If you’re in need of some ideas and inspiration for how you could be working with influencers, get in touch with the CandidSky strategy team now on 0161 956 8963.