As social media has become a necessary tool for communication — both in our personal lives and in the business world — it has created entirely new ways to reach customers and initiate conversations that weren’t possible two decades ago. One effective way to take advantage of the new marketing channels created through platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is social media influencer marketing, which means working with the top social media influencers to help share your message.
Influencer marketing works because traditional advertising has become increasingly less effective in getting the attention of potential buyers. The lack of interaction between businesses and customers, along with the high cost and inability to effectively measure what’s working, have caused the value of marketing through channels like billboards, television, radio and print ads to decline dramatically. What’s valued today is interaction, analytics and instant impact.
Influencer marketing has gained traction because it offers all of those elements. And, if you’re trying to reach a Millennial audience, influencer marketing might be your best bet: MuseFind reports that 92% of Millennials trust a social media influencer more than they trust a famous celebrity.
What Is a Social Media Influencer?
A social media influencer is anyone who has developed a certain level of credibility in a specific industry and also has a significant amount of engagement on social media. This makes them able to persuade or influence their followers, and is why brands want to connect with them. The top social media influencers are able to diversify their reach across multiple platforms and, through social posts, stories or videos, can help brands boost their profile.
Some social media influencers are celebrities, such as Kylie Jenner and Selena Gomez, but many are not, which is good news for businesses who don’t want to fork over a fortune to get the word out. Research shows that influencers can directly improve a company’s revenue stream; one Twitter study found that 40% of Twitter users make purchase decisions as a direct result of a tweet from an influencer, and McKinsey & Company reported that word-of-mouth marketing now drives between 20% and 50% of all purchasing decisions.
The trick, of course, is knowing how to find social media influencers and being able to connect with influencers who are the right fit for you.
Breaking Down the World of Influencer Marketing
- Nano-influencers: Less than 1,000 followers
- Micro-influencers: 1,000 to 9,000 followers
- Emerging influencers: 10,000 to 70,000 followers
- Macro-influencers: 100,000 to 1 million followers
- Mega influencers: More than 1 million followers
While macro- and mega-influencers will get the greatest number of views in a campaign, nano- and micro-influencers can be a better option for brands with a specific niche. That's because while they typically don’t enjoy celebrity status, they have a lot of sway within their smaller group of followers.
If you’re trying to let more people know about the new camping gear you’ve developed, for example, a micro-influencer who found a following by being a fearless outdoorsman could be more effective than a macro-influencer with a larger, broader reach.
The more targeted your market, the better you’ll probably do with a smaller, niche influencer. In fact, some research suggests that working with micro-influencers is more effective overall.
Finding the Right Social Media Influencer
In order to locate the right social media influencer, you want to find someone who fits with your brand image. You want to make sure their followers are going to be right for your brand and open to your message.
The most effective way to find a social media influencer is kind of like finding the right date: You just have to get online and start looking.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as Googling, “Find the social media influencer of my dreams.” You have to define what type of influencer is going to work best with your brand, then conduct searches related to that.
To do that, first determine who it is you want to influence. This is where your buyer personas can save you a great deal of time. You may want to use different social media influencers to attract different types of buyers.
Develop keywords that are relevant to what you want to promote and, with a clear idea of who you want to reach and what you want them to do, begin your search.
You can conduct your search in several different ways; you can do a few Google searches by entering a keyword related to your niche and look for social media posts related to it. You also can go directly to social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest, enter a specific hashtag or keyword in the search field, and see what posts populate.
From there, you’ll have to dig in and see if they have the right demographics for you.
If you prefer to speed up your search, there are a few tools you can use to find a social media influencer. They include:
- Buzzsumo, which offers a tool to search for influencers by topic or domain. There’s a charge for the service, but you can try it out for free.
- Hootsuite, which has a free influencer tool that will let you search influencers’ social media streams to look for relevant conversations.
- Trendspottr, an app you can use to see topics that are trending as well as the influencers who are posting about those trends.
How to Engage and Work With Social Media Influencers
When you’ve discovered an influencer or two that you think might be a good fit, you can follow them, start commenting on their posts and work to nurture a relationship. As with most things online, you don’t want to be too aggressive or look overly eager, because that quickly makes the leap from “enthusiastic” to “creepy.”
You also want to make sure that the influencer you’re interested in will be beneficial for your brand — and that they’re getting the kind of engagement that qualifies them as an actual influencer, not an aspiring one. To do that particular piece of homework, check these three things:
- Number of followers compared to number following. An influencer should have many more followers than the number of people they are following. If someone is only getting followers by following other people, they aren’t a true influencer.
- Engagement count. How much engagement are they getting on each post? Look for at least a 1 to 5% engagement count on each post — and check out the comments, too. If they seem fake and generic, your influencer might be a fake, too.
- Posting activity. Is the influencer posting regularly? You want someone who’s consistent, because that’s what drives engagement.
Once you’ve checked them out and are ready to move forward, look for a way to contact them. A direct message is great, if you are able to get an email address, but be aware it might take a little time to be able to make contact. You could connect with them through a chat or via a tweet; again, if you don’t have direct contact information, be aware that this could take some time and patience.
And, before you reach out, make sure you’re clear on what you want to accomplish and what you want from the influencer so you don’t miss an opportunity once you connect with them.
Running Your Influencer Campaign
There are different ways to run an influencer campaign, and you’ll want to create a strategy to outline what you’re able to do and also know what you hope or expect to get out of it. You'll need a budget, and you should keep in mind that the larger the influencer, the more it’s going to cost.
That’s where nano- and micro-influencers can also be beneficial; they might be eager to promote your product in exchange for free samples. You could also provide product for a contest or giveaway; contests and giveaways are extremely popular for influencers and can help increase engagement.
Two other strategies to consider are sponsored social media posts, in which you ask the influencer to demonstrate or talk about your product or service, and blog post reviews, in which you provide them with products that you ask them to review.
Disclosing Your Relationship With Influencers
Influencer marketing is legal, but it does require disclosure, and that’s something that the Federal Trade Commission takes very seriously. Because of this, you’ll want to build disclosure guidelines into any agreements you create with influencers.
Among the endorsement rules are that mandated by the FTC are that your influencer includes both written and verbal disclosure of any partnership and that the disclosure of this relationship is almost impossible to miss. Hashtags such as #sponsored or #ad are acceptable, but they must be visible and up front, not buried in a long list of tags. And, if you’re using an image-driven platform, the disclosure must be superimposed over the images.
Working with a social media influencer can have many benefits for brands. It can help drive traffic to your site, increase your brand profile and reach your ideal buyer. But, like any form of marketing, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of influencer marketing to make sure you get the greatest possible benefit from it.