If you’ve spent even a few minutes scrolling through your social media feeds recently, you’ve probably noticed a growing trend: every brand, from fashion retailers to breath mint manufacturers, is partnering with social media influencers.
And it’s not only consumer-facing companies leveraging the persuasive power of popular Instagrammers and YouTube personalities—B2B brands tap prominent thought leaders and well-known entrepreneurs to help promote their products, too.
In other words, if you’re considering adding influencer marketing to your social media strategy, you’re not alone. Brand spend on influencer marketing is projected to reach $101 billion by 2020, according to a report from the Association of National Advertisers, for one simple reason: when done well, it’s wildly successful. But when done poorly, it is a waste of time and money—and a potential hit to your brand’s reputation.
To help you get started on the right path with your social media influencer marketing efforts, here are several tips and and important considerations.
A social media influencer is an individual who has established credibility in a specific industry or niche and has amassed a large following of several thousand or millions of social media users with whom they hold a great deal of clout.
A successful social media influencer earns their sizeable audience and favorable engagement rates through a combination of high-quality content, authenticity and a desirable lifestyle. Brands often partner with these personalities to reach the influencer’s loyal audience directly.
There are many advantages to partnering with influencers as part of your social media marketing efforts. Here are just a few reasons organizations of all sizes use social media influencer marketing:
It can yield impressive ROI. A great influencer marketing campaign can generate an immediate flurry of sales. In fact, one study found influencer marketing to earn 11x the ROI of banner ads, according to data shared by Convince and Convert. Of course, the speed and size of your ROI depends on a variety of factors, such as the average length of your sales cycle and how well your strategy aligns with your audience.
It helps you build an authentic connection with your audience. Consumers crave authenticity, and aligning your brand with the right influencers can help you drive genuine connections with a highly engaged audience. Just be sure to disclose your relationship. Not only can failing to do this get you in trouble with the FTC, but it can also jeopardize your ability to build and earn your audience’s trust.
It allows you to reach your audience in their preferred platform. Working with influencers allows you to get your products or services in front of potential customers in the places where they’re already spending time, engaging with content and passively looking for the things they want and need.
There are millions of influencers to choose from, so selecting a partner can seem a daunting task. However, there are a few steps you can take to narrow your options and find the best social media personalities for your brand and marketing goals.
Define your audience. Chances are, you already know your typical buyer. Strive to find influencers who share your same audience. For example, if your company develops invoicing software for freelancers and small businesses, you’d want to partner with a popular small business blogger or a renown entrepreneur.
Use tools to refine your search. There are several tools you can use to find and build lists of potential influencers, such as Buzzsumo and Hootsuite. Influence.co is another great to to find influencers. They have a Google Chrome browser extension that gives instant access to influencer stats, social profiles and contact information with a single click from your Chrome browser on any page that mentions an Instagram handle.
Identify your goals. Do you want to drive overall brand awareness or promote a specific offering? Do you want to introduce your products and services to a new audience or deepen your connections within an existing vertical? Defining your objective will help you decide whether to work with macro- or micro-influencers. Macro-influencers have relatively large followings (generally several hundred thousand) while micro-influencers have smaller audiences (usually less than 100,000). While macro-influencers may be able to reach more people, micro-influencers typically have more personal relationships with their followers, which can translate into more genuine connections and better quality leads for your company.
Before you partner with an influencer, be sure to evaluate the following:
Engagement rate: Take the average number of likes, comments and shares on their last three posts and divide this by the total number of followers. For example, if someone has 500,000 followers, and receives an average of 20,000 engagements has an engagement rate of 4%. (Aim to work with influencers who have an engagement rate of at least 1%. Low engagement can be indicative of low-quality content or fraudulent activities, such as buying followers.) Always look at comments that the influencers are receiving for legitimacy.
Expert tip: Use Influencer Marketing Hub’s tool to measure the average engagement rate, estimated cost per Instagram post and estimated media value per post.
Niche: Always work with influencers within your industry or vertical. For example, it doesn’t make sense for a B2B healthcare company to partner with a famous fashion influencer—even if they do have a massive following and a healthy engagement rate.
Brand safety: Carefully vet influencers and review past content to ensure they don’t have a habit of posting anything offensive or controversial that could negatively impact your brand’s reputation.
Social media influencer marketing can be a great addition to your marketing strategy, but it does require special care. Setting proper expectations and finding successful influencers whose brand aligns with your company’s tone and values will help increase the effectiveness of your social media marketing efforts.