Can you name the most recognizable figure (in western countries, at least) in the history of influencer marketing?

It’s this guy:

influencer marketing beginner guide santa

That’s right, folks. Santa started appearing as an influencer for Coca-Cola in the 1920s (though we’re pretty sure nobody actually asked him if he wanted the gig).

Influencer marketing has been around for a while. Sure, it’s changed quite a bit and gone digital, but the basics are still the same: find a well-known and trusted figure to tell their followers that you can be trusted too.

We’re finding out, though, that not all influencers are created equal, but maybe not in the way you think.

For instance, did you know that non-celebrity bloggers are 10X more likely to influence an in-store purchase than celebrities? 🤯

In fact, social reach alone doesn’t mean much in terms of returns on campaign engagements, according to a study published by Collective Bias in 2018.

The “sweet spot” of followers that influencers tend to have to produce the best campaign engagement is 100,000. After that, returns drop off quickly.

influencer marketing how to

This is great news for those of us whose budget can’t afford an influencer who has reached celebrity status, right? Focusing on influencers with under 100K followers, micro-influencers seems much less overwhelming.

In this post, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about getting started with influencer marketing: what it is, the benefits, who influencers are and what they do, and how to start those important influencer relationships.

Let’s get started!

What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing focuses on marketing your products and services to influential people instead of the target market as a whole.

This differs from traditional marketing where you pay for ads and hope they’re enough to entice people to buy your product. Influencer marketing is entirely about leveraging the relationship that exists between an influencer and their followers. It’s all about social proof.

What Are the Benefits of Influencer Marketing?

When done correctly, influencer marketing is a powerful tool that can help brands develop a deeper understanding of their consumers through observation and analysis of the interaction between influencers and their followers.

For brands, there are three key benefits to consider:

People Trust People

People just trust recommendations from other people. Things like product reviews, media mentions, and user-generated content are all forms of social proof that signal to the average consumer that people are using and enjoying your products. You can learn more about how to use social proof to increase conversions here.

Top Tools Alert: Check out this list of social proof software tools you can use to add social proof to your website!

Influencers seem to be trusted a bit more than most other folks. They’ve put in the time and effort to build their own brand and grow their own audience. And, they value their audience more than getting a quick payout to say nice things about a product or service that they don’t actually use or believe in.

Their audience knows this. Which is why they trust them. 🙂

Insight From the Folks That Know the Audience Best

Influencers are influencers because they know their engaged followers really well. They know what kind of content drives them to engage and what falls flat. They know what interests them.

By observing, measuring, and analyzing your consumers through their interactions with influencers you can learn valuable information that will help you create more complete customer avatars, better content marketing, and higher-converting traditional campaigns in the future.

More Leads

Influencer marketing is great for “word of mouth” leads.

Let’s just consider social media for a moment. There are millions of social media users around the world.

top social media platforms

Every time an influencer posts about your product and a follower shares that post your product or brand is seen by someone who may have been unfamiliar with you until that point.

What do Influencers Do?

They will do just about anything you want them to do as long as it feels like something they’d do anyway. 😄 It really depends on your goals and what you ask of them.

Let’s talk about some of the more common things that we’ve seen influencers do for brands.

1. Link to You

Influencers will sometimes include links to your products or services on their website or in a blog post. OptinMonster likes doing this, particularly in our case studies.

influencer marketing beginner guide link to customer

2. Write About You

An influencer could write a complete review of your product or “best of” style post where your product is compared to your competitors… And hopefully, your product comes out on top!

3. Contribute to Your Site, Social Media, or Event

Having an influencer guest post on your blog, do a social media account takeover, or speak at your event is a great way to show their support of your brand and product. And, since the content won’t be available on the influencer’s own platforms their followers will have to come to your platforms to get it.

Plus, social media takeovers are always a good time, as evidenced by the Instagram feed of the city of Calgary:

influencer marketing how to social media takeover

Residents and city ambassadors take over the city’s Instagram each week to showcase all that the city has to offer.

4. Promote You at an Event

An influencer can promote you at an event in a number of different ways, from very formal to super relaxed. On the formal end, they could speak at the event on your behalf or appear at your sponsored booth. Or, they could just show up in your branded gear as an event attendee.

5. Share About You on Social Media

Most influencers, even if they aren’t considered big on social media, are probably going to share about you on social media anyway. Depending on the platform, this could include text, images, or video, possibly even a link to your site.

These posts will look different depending on the platform. Even Facebook and Instagram (owned by Facebook) handle branded content a bit differently, so pay attention to posting guidelines.

Facebook

facebook branded content

Facebook’s branded content guidelines.

Instagram

instagram branded content

Instagram’s branded content guidelines.

How to Start Influencer Marketing Relationships: Step-by-Step

Now that you have a clear grasp on what influencer marketing is, here’s how to find the right influencers for you and your brand.

Step 1. Set Goals

Before you try to find an influencer or plan any marketing at all, you need to think about what you want for your brand or product.

Here’s a list of common goals to get you started. You can pick from this list, or choose your own.

  • Create authentic brand content
  • Generate easily-found, authentic product reviews
  • Create cost-effective content
  • Reach a younger audience
  • Drive engagement around my brand or product
  • Drive traffic to my landing page or website
  • Grow my email list with qualified leads
  • Drive online/in-store sales

Content Marketing ROI: How Do I Know My Content Works?

Once you’ve chosen a goal, set 2-3 key performance indicators (KPIs) around that goal. For example, if your goal is to create authentic brand content one of your KPIs could be focused on decreasing bounce rate percent and increasing time spent metrics.

Check out this post for more ways to measure content marketing ROI.

Step 2. Define Your Ideal Influencer

To make sure that you’re finding the right influencer for you, look for an influencer who:

  • Shares quality content regularly
  • Engages with their followers
  • Has a large and actively engaged follower base that likes and comments
  • Appears authentic in behavior and speech
  • Fits with the feel of your brand

Remember that the number of followers doesn’t mean that the reach or engagement is going to match. Micro-influencers with followers ranging from 10,000 to 100,000 can do far more for your brand than influencers with follower counts in the millions if the level of engagement is higher.

Step 3. Find the Right Influencer

Anyone can be an influencer. Even animals.

No, really:

influencer marketing how to nala_cat

This is Nala. She thinks that CBD Oil is pretty cool.

Influencers have large online audiences who look to them for reviews, tips, and trends. It’s common to see influencers stick to a certain niche like health and fitness or entertainment news.

They also tend to specialize in a specific platform like social media or blogging. Even within social media, the reach may differ based on each platform. An influencer with a huge Instagram reach may not have the same reach on Twitter or Snapchat, for example.

With all of these variables, how can you ever be sure that you’ve found the right influencer?

Influencer Gary Vee lays out a straightforward method of making sure you’re on the right track:

  • Evaluate their audience to know who they’re really reaching. If your target is moms, but their audience is 15-year-olds, it’s not a good fit.
  • Assess actual engagement as a percentage of their overall number of followers to see if the interactions are superficial or if the followers are actually interested and engaged.
  • Evolve by assessing the effectiveness of what you’re doing and making sure goals are being met, and then make changes based on your results.

Finding the right influencer is a tricky game of keyword searching, scouring profiles, reading blogs, and Google searches. It can be a time-consuming process. It’s rewarding and worth it, but time-consuming.

Fortunately, there are a few sites out there that make it a bit easier:

BuzzStream

buzzstream home

With BuzzStream you can research influencers, as well as reach out to them with personalized communications to build relationships.

FollowerWonk

followerwonk

FollowerWonk lets you find relevant Twitter users in your niche, search bios, compare users, track followers, sort followers, and more.

PeerReach

peerreach

With PeerReach you can ensure you’re always talking about what matters the most with the people who matter the most.

Interested in more like this? Check out these other online marketing tools.

Step 4. Negotiate Fair Compensation

You should have already planned for this, but we mention it at the end because your plan should allow for some wiggle room for some negotiation with the influencer.

Remember, you approached them because you saw something of value in their involvement. Maybe that’s worth a little more to you, maybe not.

Step 5. Track and Measure Results

If you set up your goals and KPIs in the beginning, this step should be easy. Refer back to them throughout your campaign to see where you are so you can make adjustments accordingly.

That’s it! With our influencer marketing beginner guide, you have everything you need to get started. Why not take a minute to see how a blend of social proof and OptinMonster helped Social Media Examiner grow their email list 66%? And be sure to check out these cross-promotion ideas you can use to triple your customers.

Want to know what OptinMonster can do for you? We do too! Join us today.