What is Influencer Marketing?
Whoever your target market, there's an influencer—probably many—who can help share your business with the online world. For instance, Mercedes Benz recently used an influencer and his insta-famous wolf dog Loki in a 360-degree online video to promote their brand to a millennial audience.
I love this new approach to marketing, and this blog post will break it down so you can better understand how influencer marketing might work for you.
What is influencer marketing?
Simply, influencer marketing is focusing on marketing your business to people with influence. The current buzzword refers to sharing your product or service with social media influencers. But, even traditional media relations is influencer marketing, too—introducing editors, writers and on-air personalities to your brand in the hopes of getting coverage. The difference between media relations and influencer relations is that there isn't money exchanged with the media (at least there shouldn't be), whereas you can pay an influencer to review your product.
I know what you're thinking, "Pay someone to say something nice about my already wonderful brand?!" You don't have to offer payment. It all depends on who you want to share your business with and how much influence (how many followers) they have.
So, what makes an influencer?
An influencer has influence over a large audience. So, in traditional media, this means that an editor or reporter has access to their magazine or TV station's audience—potentially hundreds of thousands of people.
Social media influencers can be celebrities, popular bloggers or even people who have grown a following solely through their Instagram feed.
- Kim Kardashian West has 102 million followers. Her posts get an average of 1.2 million likes and 17,000 comments.
- Popular Canadian mommy blogger and Instagrammer Sina a.k.a. HappyGreyLucky has 100,000 followers. Her posts get an average of 4,000 likes and 90 comments.
- Instagram influencer Daneta a.k.a. Danetab has almost 18,000 followers with no blog or website or celebrity status to speak of. Just a beautiful Instagram feed full of photos of beautiful family. Her posts get an average of 850 likes and 39 comments.
You're already thinking about how much it would cost to get someone like that to share your business with their following, aren't you? (Upwards of $250 per post.)
Luckily, social media stars don't need 100,000 or even 10,000 followers to be considered an influencer. It's all about engagement. Tracking engagement rates has become almost trendy, but you don't need to know how the equation works to understand why they're important. (If you actually want to know how engagement rates are determined, I explained it on my blog.)
Basically, if someone has even 1,000 followers on Instagram who are engaged with that person's content, meaning they like and comment often, they could be an influencer, especially if their audience is one you'd like to tap into.
How do you start using influencer marketing?
Well, for starters, if your business is not on Instagram or Facebook but your audience is, you should be too. (If you're a social media beginner, start with this post.)
If you're already in the midst of growing your own little social community, it's a good time to start reaching out to influencers.
First, find people who are your target market. Do you make children's clothes? Follow moms who often post about their kids' adorable ensembles. On Instagram, search for hashtags like #letthembelittle or #torontomoms (or #montrealmoms, etc.) and #kidsfashionforall.
Click that little arrow next to the word "Follow" or "Following" on Instagram and a whole selection of other people to follow opens up. Often those people are similar to the person whose profile you're viewing.
Make a list of influencers you'd like to reach out to. Use the collections tab of Instagram for this. You can click and hold the little bookmark icon on the bottom right corner of a post and either just save it or even add it to a collection, like you would on Pinterest.
Once you've made your list, decide what you're going to offer and what you're going to ask for in return. Offering free product or services is best. While a discount can be nice, the person you're offering the discount to should probably already be a customer or is someone you know is already interested in your business.
Besides free swag, you can also offer the influencer an opportunity to run a contest for their followers or offer their followers a discount. If you do offer a discount, create a specific promo code just for this promotion so you can track which sales came from each influencer. You can also create custom bit.ly links for each influencer to use so you know where your web traffic is coming from.
Don't be afraid to ask specifically for a certain number of posts or even a certain type of post in return for freebies. Maybe you'd love for the influencer in question to shoot a photo of their baby using the product. Ask. Giving simple direction is actually helpful and will ensure that both you and the influencer are happy in the end.
Why use influencer marketing?
Jennifer Chua (another Mamas & Co. member) of Hip Mommies, a distributor of thoughtfully designed baby and toddler products is a big fan of influencer marketing for her business:
"I find that connecting with influencers (especially the less polished, more 'real' mom influencers) is a really good way to get our products in front of other parents. The benefit for us, of course, is that we get a testimonial on social media about how our product has worked for them." she says. "We specifically choose to partner with influencers that we feel could actually benefit from one of our products, and we find that generally they use (and love!) our goods long after the post goes up."
Influencer marketing is like a Facebook ad and Google review rolled into one beautiful package you can share again and again. Unlike an ad, the post an influencer shares never expires (unless of course, it's in their Instagram stories or on Snapchat). It's always there, in their feed, and if you repost it, in yours. It will include a nice photo of your product (or something representing your service) and a catchy caption with a positive review. It's the compelling ad you could never create yourself and is so valuable strictly because it's coming from someone else.
Vanessa Grant is a mom to two wild things, a journalist and a former fashion and beauty editor. Her company, Grant Media helps small businesses blog and make connections through social media, with style. Vanessa is the brains behind Mommyfluencer, a business (and Instagram account focused on matching stylish brands with Instagram mom influencers.