Influencer Marketing: How to Use Influencers to Market Your Business
71 percent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals. Sherry Bonelli details how to use that to your advantage.
I can still remember my first brush with “influencer marketing.” I was young, but I still remember seeing Bruce Jenner’s picture on that box of Wheaties at the breakfast table. Was that the reason why my mom bought that box of cereal? (It certainly wasn’t my favorite – I preferred Fruity Pebbles or the ones that had the best toy at the bottom of the box.)
Whatever the reason, people have always been swayed by celebrity endorsements or product placements. (Just think how E.T. helped make Reese’s Pieces a popular candy — too bad, m&m’s.) You’ll find these types of celebrity endorsements and product placements on TV, movies, magazine spreads, newspapers and, yes, on the internet – and that’s because they work! We all like social proof.
The difference between Jenner on that 1976 box of cereal and today’s influencers is that today’s influencers don’t have to be celebrities. Typically, most of them are every day, ordinary people – just like you and me – but they have a knack for creating content that catches people’s attention and gets followers. The fact that they’re just “regular people” like us makes them even more trustworthy and real than most “celebrities.”
What is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing refers to using a popular person — one with a following or fanbase — to promote your products, service or brand. “Influencers” have been around for a long time (just look at any commercial with a celebrity in it); however, in today’s always-on world of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blog sites, today virtually anybody can become an influencer. (Heck, according to BuzzSumo even I’M an influencer. My mom would be so proud!):
For the first time, virtually anybody can create content that can get attention and garner a large following of loyal fans.
Just look at Diamond and Silk, two ordinary ladies who went from being Democrats to outspoken Trump supporters. They’ve amassed a huge following of 168K subscribers on YouTube in a matter of three short years.
Others have become famous by showing off their makeup techniques, hair styling trends, fashion styles, fitness and nutrition guides, gaming tips, comedic acts, practical jokes, business strategies and more. If there’s a subject or topic you’re interested in marketing or promoting, you’ll find an influencer. And as a business, that’s great news!
CBS News created a list of the top 2018 social media influencers. You’ll see that many are just ordinary people who created a large following by being just who they are – a magician, comedian, fashion blogger, makeup artist and others with seemingly ordinary “careers.” What they did is create interesting content about their niche or talent, strategically promoted themselves and, in the process, garnered a large following of people — and they’re now able to profit from it by being an influencer in the marketing world.
Influencers’ opinions about products or services can often sway their followers into buying. According to Hubspot, 71 percent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals (like the ones made by influencers.) And a MuseFind’s study found that 92 percent of buyers trust an influencer more than they do an advertisement.
Because influencers have such an impact on consumers’ buying habits, the FTC has started enforcing “transparency laws” so that influencers clearly tell their fans what is paid-for versus unpaid content. That helps the trust factor, too.
In the age of ad blocking software and Facebook throttling a brand’s organic reach, as a marketer, influencer marketing is a tempting way to go. If you’re a company looking for exposure, the influencer marketing stats are compelling. So how can your business start using influencer marketing?
Find the Influencers Around You
For most national brands, it’s easy to find influencers, so we’re going to talk about what to do if you’re a local business without a New York ad agency budget. Okay? (Don’t worry Big Brands, you can use these strategies, too.)
When most people think of influencers, they typically think of the Kardashians, famous actors, sports stars, singers or musicians or other celebrities, but chances are you have influencers in your own backyard – you just didn’t realize it.
As an example, my teenage daughters started talking about this kid that used to go to their high school. His name: Flyy. (Don’ worry, his parents didn’t really name him Flyy. It’s a nickname.) Flyy has a YouTube channel, Flyy Does YouTube, where he and his friends play pranks and do other goofy things around the city of Cedar Rapids, IA. Well, many of the teenagers in Cedar Rapids are BIG fans of Flyy and his buddies’ antics. When he makes an “appearance” at a local park, for instance, the kids flock to meet him, take pictures and just hang with him. He’s cool and he’s real, and that’s one of the things the kids like about him – which is why he has such a loyal following. But what’s surprising is the number of followers he has. His YouTube channel has 96K subscribers. (The entire population of Cedar Rapids, IA, is only 126K!) This means that our buddy Flyy is reaching more than just the kids that go to his old high school.
In most of his videos Flyy goes to local businesses or places in the Cedar Rapids area and plays pranks, but the kids watching his often-hilarious videos are surely influenced by the places he goes to film. In this particular video, he heads to our local Walgreen’s to buy fidget spinners:
The plan? He’s going to drive through the city, visit the McDonald’s fast-food restaurants in town and prank the drive-through workers by pretending he found a fidget spinner toy — instead of the real toy they were given — in his Happy Meal. Seems harmless, yet fun. The reaction of the workers at McDonald’s is priceless!
Now, even though much of what Flyy and his friends say in his videos is not PG-13, if you are the manager of one of the local McDonald’s, you can bet that many of the kids in Cedar Rapids have been to your McDonald’s to buy a burger and fries just because Flyy grabbed a Happy Meal there! That’s influencer marketing.
In Flyy’s case he’s doing a lot of this for fun (and the commissions he receives by showing ads on his YouTube channel), but it would be easy for a local business that caters to teens to work with Flyy to plan out a “prank” at their store’s location. A savvy local business could even have a “Meet Flyy Day” at their store and they’d be sure to get kids lined up out the door.
This is just one example of the type of influencers you can find in your city. Just go on YouTube, Facebook or Instagram and search for the type of business you’re in or the type of audience you’re trying to market to and you are bound to find an influencer nearby you can reach out to.
For instance, if you own a restaurant in Orlando, FL, a simple search on Instagram will give you this food critic with more than 2,800 followers!
If I owned a restaurant in Orlando, I’d invite him over for a free taste of my best meal!
What to Consider When Selecting an Influencer
Most influencers are paid or get free products or services in exchange for the promotion they provide. So you’ll want to think about your budget or what you’re willing to give the influencer in exchange for their subtle (yet FTC-approved) “endorsement” of your brand, product or service.
You also want to make sure that you pick the right influencer for your company. When selecting a local (or national) influencer, here are some things to consider:
- Work with influencers who align with your brand or, better still, already USE what you sell.
- Would your audience follow this influencer? To maximize the marketing benefits, you want to select influencers in your area that you know your target market would likely follow.
- It’s important to look at the influencer’s audience size and the number of followers – is their audience big enough to warrant partnering with them?
- What message do you want to send? Find someone popular in your community with the right “voice” for your brand.
Above all else, the influencers you work with must believe in what you are selling. Influencers won’t want to disappoint or betray their followers, so they won’t promote something that doesn’t go with what they believe in. Finding the right influencer for your brand can mean the difference between a marketing campaign that’s a hit or one that’s a flop.
If you are a national brand or run a company with national appeal, there are some influencer marketing software packages that can help you find just the right ones for your business. To get started, here’s a list of some popular software tools that will help get your influencer search started. (BuzzSumo is one of my favorites!)
Contacting the Influencer
Once you found a few influencers that you’d like to work with, it’s time for your outreach campaign. Know that a lot of the really popular, mainstream influencers are hit up all the time, so you need to make sure that your pitch is perfect!
The best way to make a great first impression is to show that you’ve made an effort to get to know them, what content they create and learn about who their audience is. Do your homework. Showing them that you took the time to learn about them and their audience or followers will go a long way – and it will get their attention.
When you reach out to them, make sure you introduce yourself, tell them that you’ve taken a look at their content – even mention one of their recent posts or videos – and explain how you’d like to work with them. Don’t go immediately into all the details – build up the relationship first.
If you receive a reply or a phone call from the influencer (or one of their representatives) that’s great news! Make sure you know what you are willing to offer them by way of compensation, what you’d like for them to do or say and ask their opinion on the right strategy to take (after all, it’s their audience and they know them better than anyone else!) Plus, you’re bound to earn some brownie points if you get their input.
Once you’ve lined up the influencer you’d like to work with, it’s time to outline the details:
- Compensation – This should be determined as soon as possible, or you might be wasting everyone’s time. Do they want money and if so, how much? Or are they okay with getting free products from you in exchange for their marketing services? It’s always best to get everything in writing – especially when it comes to compensation.
- Campaign Schedule – Clearly explain the timeframe of when you’d like the campaign to run. Will your business only be featured in one Instagram post or one every other week for a month?
- FTC Regulations – The FTC regulations for sponsored content are very specific. Your influencer may not be aware of these rules, so be sure to go through them with your influencer and make sure the rules are followed. (In this case ignorance isn’t an excuse.)
- Usage Rights – It’s important for you both to agree on who gets to use the content and for what purposes – during the campaign and afterwards. For instance, if an influencer features your service in a blog post, can you later use that blog post as a case study on your website? Iron out all those details before you get too far down the road.
Remember people trust people more than they trust ads. By taking the leap and doing an influencer marketing campaign, you’re tapping into someone else’s trusted fanbase – a group of people you may not ever have been able to reach by advertising alone. That’s sacred AND powerful!
So when you do find the right influencer to help market your business, make sure you keep that trust and power in mind, because at the end of the day that loyal following is what matters to that influencer most. Make sure that what your company offers aligns with that influencer and their audience and you’ll see the power of influencer marketing first hand. Good luck!
**Sherry Bonelli is a nationally recognized SEO expert and digital marketing professional. She entered the digital marketing world in 1998 when she launched her first ecommerce business selling pregnancy and baby products. Her ecommerce site was selected as one of the top 10 websites by a leading pregnancy magazine, and she appeared on the TODAY Show, CNN, ABC News, MSNBC and other media outlets.
Her digital marketing agency, early bird digital marketing, is in Cedar Rapids, IA, but she serves clients all over the U.S. Sherry is passionate about helping her clients grow their businesses through integrated digital marketing strategies.
She is a recognized national presenter, speaking at industry events, webinars and podcasts, such as Traffic & Conversion Summit, SMX, SCORE, MozPod, The Local Business Leaders Podcast and others. Sherry also holds a Master of Internet Marketing.
As a guest columnist for some of the leading SEO and digital marketing websites, like Search Engine Land, Moz, SEMrush, GeoMarketing/Yext, BrightLocal, SCORE and others, she’s earned recognition by having some of the most shared local SEO blog posts on the internet — one of her blog posts was recently recognized as Search Engine Land’s second most popular local SEO post in 2017.
In her “spare” time she volunteers as a SCORE Mentor. As a SCORE mentor at the SCORE East Central Iowa Chapter, she enjoys helping businesses identify their digital marketing strategies.