Do you ever wonder why your Instagram feed is littered with celebrities promoting products you’ve never heard of?

Welcome to the world of influencer marketing. More companies than ever are teaming up with celebrities, trending personalities and industry leaders to promote their products and gain recognition. However, many small businesses have been left out of the party.

How could a brand with a small customer base get the attention of a large audience?

How could a local business make a splash in a world of national influencers?

Small businesses don’t need to feel intimidated by influencer giants. It’s possible for a company of any size to take advantage of this marketing to grow its business. The key to success is strategy, planning, and knowing what is right for your brand.

In this article, I am going to break down influencer marketing and provide some real-life strategies and tips that you can use for your business, whether it’s large or small.

Influencer Marketing Strategy by imFORZA

What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencers (highly visible experts or social personalities) are typically paid to mention a product or service and talk about how amazing it is. This increases brand awareness within that influencer’s audience while driving sales of the product. Brands love influencer marketing because it gives them the chance to expand their reach outside of their existing social media audiences. The influencers appreciate the chance to earn money through product promotion.

Influencer marketing combines the trust of word-of-mouth reviews with the actionable insights of outreach.

More than 90 percent of consumers say they trust word-of-mouth recommendations over ads and 47 percent of consumers use ad blockers.

Internet users are making it very clear that they don’t want to make their buying decisions based on full-page pop-up ads from companies. Rather, they want to read a product review or watch a video from someone they trust — like an Instagram celebrity or YouTube video creator.

Many companies have noticed a shift in this marketing trend and are investing in influencer marketing.

Almost 85 percent of brands have a plan to tap into influencer marketing in 2017 and companies report a $7 average return for every $1 invested.

The source of these statistics ranges from small businesses to large enterprises, proving the value of influencer marketing to brands.

Industry Case Study: Beauty and Cosmetics

One field in particular that has benefitted from influencer marketing is the cosmetics and beauty industry.

Almost 60 percent of beauty companies said they use influencer marketing as part of their outreach strategies, and an additional 21 percent plan to add influencer marketing to their campaigns in 2017.

Influencer marketing connects customers with brands they might not already engage with.

For example, 86 percent of the most-viewed beauty videos on YouTube were made by influencers, compared to 14 percent from brands themselves.

Not only do audiences follow influencers because they’re interesting, they also trust them more. L’Oreal is naturally going to say that its products are better than Neutrogena, but an impartial influencer can compare the two and honestly say which is best.

The beauty industry is mostly B2C, and it is highly visual. Within a matter of minutes, influencers can show how a particular brand of eyeliner gives them the perfect cat-eye or how a face wash brand removes it immediately.

However, you don’t have to represent a major cosmetics line to tap into this. Local small businesses can reach out to influencers like mommy bloggers, news hosts, and minor celebrities and invite them to try their products. Suddenly, your organic face cream or luxury day spa will be a hit when local influencers are sharing how amazing it is.

Small businesses can seize this marketing opportunity and grow their brands through influencer marketing. They just need the right tools and guidance to make it successful. The goal of this guide will be to provide the necessary steps and resources for small businesses to tap into influencer outreach.

How to Find Influencers

The first step toward launching an influencer campaign is to find the right people to promote your brand. Your outreach efforts can fall flat if your potential influencers aren’t responding to your emails or if their promotion efforts don’t drive results. Follow these criteria when selecting influencers to make sure your campaign gets off on the right foot.

Choosing the Right Size

When most people think about influencer marketing, the first examples that pop into their heads are Kendall Jenner or Selena Gomez accepting $550,000 just for one Instagram photo with a product. Not only is that way out of the budget of most small businesses, it’s also not effective.

The first step when choosing an influencer is to identify the right audience size. You want to find people who have enough pull to increase traffic and sales to your page but aren’t too big that they won’t care about your brand. For a small business, this typically means local influencers.

Is there a food critic that audiences turn to for the hottest restaurants in the area?

They could be a top influencer for you.

National brands can also tap into influencer marketing by choosing the right partners. B2B brands can work with popular speakers at conferences or thought leaders in their industry to promote their products to potential customers.

Valuing Engagement Over Fan Base Size

Engagement is just as important (if not more) when choosing your influencers. To understand this, look at your own social media channels.

Do you have thousands of followers but only get one or two likes per post?

What is the point of growing your audience if everything you say falls on deaf ears?

The same concept can be applied to your influencers. There are plenty of people on social media who have thousands of followers but struggle to get any clicks. These followers might be fake or just inactive. Either way, while this influencer might be the right size, they’re unlikely to drive the ROI that you need to continue investing in them.

As you start checking your influencers, keep an eye on their engagement rates.

The average Facebook and Twitter engagement rate is around 1 percent. The average Instagram engagement rate is between 3 and 6 percent.

If you find someone with followers actively commenting, liking, and sharing, then you can consider adding them to your influencer database.

Finding Influencers Who Are a Good Fit for Your Brand

The final step in influencer research is making sure the influencers you choose are a good fit for your brand. Again, Selena Gomez is a useful example here. While many of her fans pay taxes, they’re not going to be as excited if she promotes TurboTax as when she shares her favorite new Maybelline lip gloss color.

Inkybee and Little Bird are two research tools that can help you with this process. They break down influencers by topic so users can see which influencers are already talking about a specific industry. This is particularly useful for niche B2B brands with a national audience that needs very specific influencers.

Finding an influencer with a large and active following is exciting, but if they can’t drive traffic to your product and turn audiences into customers, then you’re wasting your money.

Case Study: Houston Moms Blog

The Houston Moms Blog is comprised of more than 20 contributing moms who blog about parenting, local activities, and personal stories. The blog has a following of more than 25,000 people in the area.

Each contributing mom has her own favorite topics to discuss. Some are donut fans who share their top five places to grab a pastry in Houston, while others talk about getting young children into sports or STEAM education. The moms all have kids of different ages, which means the content varies to accommodate most parents in the area.

These influencers meet all three criteria:

  • They have a large following
  • Their engagement rate is high
  • They discuss topics that are relevant to many small businesses in the area

A local company could tap into influencer outreach by inviting the moms to spend an afternoon at their business or sending them samples of their products.

What Promotional Value Do Your Influencers Offer?

Influencer Marketing Value

Every company has its own marketing goals and has to determine which strategies are the most effective to achieve them. Typically, brands use their marketing dollars to increase sales, drive traffic to their websites, boost brand awareness, and increase visibility on social media and search engines. Depending on your brand, influencer outreach can achieve some (if not all) of these goals.

As you start to develop your influencer campaign, set concrete KPIs for each influencer, content piece, product, and promotion. By tracking these metrics, you can clearly see what is working and how your marketing efforts are helping your business.

Name Recognition

Awareness is the first stage of the buying process.

If your audience doesn’t know who you are, then how are they going to buy from you?

Name recognition is why foot fungus brands and lumber companies spend millions of dollars on a football game ad. It’s unlikely that customers immediately ran to the store to buy fungus cream or lumber, but the next time they needed it, the name recognition triggered a memory or positive association that might have lead to a sale.

Many B2B brands or local businesses that sell higher-ticket items tap into influencer outreach to boost name recognition. They want people to learn about their brand and products so they’re the first name that comes to mind when there’s a problem.

For example, most people only call a plumber when something is backed up. A long-term name recognition strategy can increase the number of calls a plumber gets from desperate customers needing their help.

Traffic

An immediate result of influencer marketing is traffic.

Let’s say a local restaurant only had 1,000 likes on Facebook and needed new customers. Through an influencer marketing campaign, it could pay five local influencers to post about the restaurant and encourage fans to eat there. If each influencer has 10,000 followers, then the restaurant just increased its reach from 1,000 to 50,000.

Assuming that the restaurant and the influencers involved have a 1 percent reach on Facebook, the restaurant likely drove more than 500 visitors to its website instead of the 10 it would have brought with social promotion alone. Because of the immediate results, many small businesses use influencer marketing to promote upcoming events or to drive customers when sales are low.

Sales and Lead Generation

Ultimately, one of the main goals of influencer marketing is to drive sales.

According to Search Engine Land

The average website has a 2 to 6 percent conversion rate.

A website might see its conversion rate increase or decrease during an influencer outreach campaign because of the quality of the traffic.

For example, let’s say a local realtor chose to promote his brand with two different influencers. The first influencer is a local investment reporter who explained why now is the best time to buy a house. The second influencer is a finance blogger who gives advice to local college students looking to save. Even though both influencers are relevant to his industry, leads and calls might spike from the investment reporter but not from the college finance blogger. The second target audience is completely different, as most college students are not ready to become home buyers.

Boosting sales through influencer marketing means the quality of the traffic is just as important as the quantity.

Links

Along with sharing products on social channels, influencer marketing also encompasses link building – a critical component of an effective SEO strategy. Influencers might blog about your product and link to your homepage or specific product page on their websites. While the blog post certainly drives traffic in the short run, the link from a high-authority site can boost your search rankings in the long run.

BuzzSumo is a great tool for checking out what content works. You can add your URL and check which web pages perform best with Facebook engagements, Twitter shares, and the number of links. It’s also a fantastic discovery platform for understanding what content goes viral. If you’re working with a new influencer, consider checking their top articles on BuzzSumo. If you can improve upon something that worked in the past, you’ll increase your chances of success.

Brand Loyalty

According to Rosetta Consulting,

Engaged customers are five times more likely to buy from the same brand in the future.

This means that the more your customers see your brand and connect with it, the more likely they are to keep spending money with you and ignore your competitors.

Customer retention is particularly important considering a 5 percent increase in retention rate can boost sales by 25 percent. Existing customers spend more when they return to your company and are more likely to try new products or services.

Your influencer marketing campaigns assure your customers that your brand is something they should engage with. If one of their favorite bloggers gives your business a good review, they can feel like they make good choices. For example, everyone wants to be told their favorite restaurant is the best in the city, and no one wants to hear that their favorite restaurant was shut down by the health inspector.

Case Study: G. H. Hurt & Son

G. H. Hurt & Son is a small business in Nottingham, England, that has sold lacy knitted shawls and scarves since 1912. The business was relatively unknown and had about 500 likes on Facebook and fewer than 200 on Twitter.

In 2013, the infant Prince George was carried out of the hospital swaddled in a shawl made by G. H. Hurt & Son. Immediately the company was “besieged” by requests and orders for the shawl, which costs about $75. Similar occurrences happen to local shop owners anytime the young prince makes a public debut.

While G. H. Hurt & Son didn’t pay for the promotion by Prince George, this proves the power of influencer outreach. The company immediately received a flood of traffic, links, and sales. Furthermore, name recognition increased significantly once fashion and gossip sites started talking about the company.

Creating a Content Plan Around Your Influencers

Influencer Marketing Content Strategy

At its core, influencer marketing is a combination of content marketing, social media marketing, and outreach. While content and social media can be created and shared on their own, outreach efforts connect people and boost the content that’s shared.

After all, what’s the point of creating amazing content if no one ever sees it?

Choosing the right platform for your outreach campaign requires you to consider where your influencers are the strongest and where your budget can produce the highest ROI. Below are a few examples to choose from and advice for making the most of your outreach efforts.

Social Media Outreach

Social media marketing is typically the first platform people think of when they start an influencer marketing campaign because it’s the most visible.

In fact, social media drives an average of 31 percent of all referral traffic online.

However, just because it’s popular doesn’t mean social media is the best option. Ask these three questions before you agree to an influencer promotion:

  • On which social channels do my influencers have the largest followers and engagement?
  • Will these outreach efforts also grow my own social media channels?
  • Is the platform relevant to my influencer marketing goals?

While Facebook and Twitter seem like natural home runs, some B2B and professional brands experience more success working with LinkedIn influencers. Furthermore, promoting on Snapchat or Instagram could have negative effects on your brand if audiences perceive you as unprofessional.

Blog Content and Collaboration

Outside of social media lies blog content promotions and collaboration. Through blog content outreach, influencers will typically talk about a specific product and why they like it. Examples of this include baking tutorials with a specific blending tool or a makeup video that shows off a brand’s eyeshadow colors.

Blog content tends to go deeper than social posts can. Whereas a Facebook or Instagram post is limited to a few dozen words, a blog post or video can last for hundreds of words or several minutes. The more a brand is highlighted, the more customers can see the value in using it.

Along with simply paying influencers to advertise products on their blogs, some brands collaborate with them to create interesting content or videos. Tour companies might invite travel bloggers to take a tour with them and promote their brands. The travel blogger can easily create content while the travel company gets its service promoted.

Non-Digital Promotions

Paid influencers can be found across the internet but also offline. Local mayors and bloggers are typically invited to restaurant openings to generate buzz and encourage customers to stop by and see them. Celebrities are often spotted wearing specific brands or products that instantly sell out. While you’re working through your outreach campaign, consider ways your brand could benefit from working with an influencer outside of the computer screen.

Cross-Channel Promoting

In all likelihood, you won’t work with just one form of content promotion for your influencer campaigns. Most marketers create plans to boost the effectiveness of outreach efforts and traffic to guarantee a high ROI.

For example, two parties might collaborate on a blog post and then share them on both of their social media channels. To continue the promotion, one brand might mention the blog post at a conference or link to it in a newsletter. All of these efforts will drive traffic, build links, and increase sales for the parties involved.

Cross-channel promotion is the main reason influencer marketing isn’t just outreach or content marketing. It requires all three elements of social, content, and outreach to be successful.

Building Influencer Marketing Into Your Marketing Strategy

Influencer marketing has significant short-term benefits like traffic boosts and increased sales. However, your influencers can also have long-term effects on your search rankings, customer retention, and revenue.

As you create your influencer outreach plan for the year, make sure you have the infrastructure to track its progress. This will help you prove that influencers do more than drive a surge of traffic; they can actually lead to long-term growth.

Many large companies have already invested in some sort of influencer marketing strategy at this point, but that shouldn’t stop your business. You can still stand out with the right planning and an appropriate influencer strategy for your marketing goals.

Ready to spice up your online marketing strategy with an influencer marketing campaign?

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Vinny La Barbera

I’ve been working in online marketing since 2000 and have helped thousands of companies improve their online presence and grow their business through better web / mobile design, development and online marketing.Learn more about me or follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or LinkedIn.