You see it everywhere: the big-name Hollywood actress with the perfect teeth endorsing toothpaste; the legendary race car driver promoting his favorite automobile brand; the famous chef serving up delectable cuisine in her signature line of cookware. As a small business, you probably think you can’t afford celebrity marketing tactics like these – and you’re probably right.
As the cost of high-profile endorsements rises, so does consumer cynicism, making this tactic unaffordable and impractical for most small businesses. The good news is there is a cost-effective option that has quickly gained popularity and credibility with the social media set. When done correctly, it can be a highly affordable and impactful way to reach your specific audience.
Nearly two-thirds of all U.S. businesses have partnered with “social influencers” to target niche markets, engage with customers, generate more revenue and build brand loyalty. Here’s why.
What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing utilizes social media spokespeople who have developed substantial online followings and can affect purchase decisions because of their expertise or association with a specific niche market. These influencers typically have at least two social channels on sites like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter.
Popular influencers write blogs, develop video blogs (vlogs), produce podcasts or create social posts about a specific topic. For example, Mariam Ezzeddine is a mom and entrepreneur in Dallas who pursued her love of cooking and creates social posts that feature easy family dinner recipes. Better known as @cookinwithmima, she has over 2 million Instagram followers. Food providers partner with her to have their products mentioned as ingredients in her recipes. Mariam’s online followers trust her opinion and they are more likely to purchase the products she recommends – this is where the “influencer” component takes shape.
Of course, the larger the influencer following, the larger the fee for brand partnership. However, more followers do not always equal more influence. Your goal is to find an influencer who matches your specific business niche and offers you the greatest opportunity to have the influencer steer potential customers to your brand.
What are the benefits of partnering with a social influencer?
Many small businesses that include social influencers as part of their marketing strategies are seeing positive results, including:
As a small business owner, you may receive the best results from partnering with a “micro-influencer” who has anywhere from 1,000 to 50,000 social media followers. While in the past, “impressions” – the total number of people exposed to a marketing message – was the benchmark measurement for marketing success, micro-influencers drive engagement. For example, influencers with 1,000 followers drive 85 percent higher engagement “lift” (think more visits to your website and greater sales) than those with 100,000 followers. Engagement is the new impression.
One of the biggest benefits of influencer marketing is spreading the word about your brand to an audience that is likely to be interested in your products and services. This type of highly targeted niche marketing appeals to influencer followers because they feel like they are receiving a tip from someone they trust rather than being sold something.
When you share information about your products and services directly with a highly interested audience, sales conversions are more likely to occur. In addition, having a trusted influencer endorse your product or service through a positive review or mention builds added brand credibility.
Return On Investment
On average, businesses make a 5 to 1 return on all influencer marketing investments. In addition, small business retailers experienced almost 50 percent higher customer engagement when they included a micro-influencer in their sales plan. Choosing the right influencers for your brand is the key to creating customer engagement and generating an ongoing return on investment.
Start with an online search.
How can you find the right social influencers to connect you to the audience that wants and needs your brand? Start with an online search on Google, Yelp or Bing. If your company produces camera backpacks, for example, look for blogs that are focused on photography, including wedding and travel photographers, plus destination influencers who share their travels with their followers. These are the types of online personalities that will understand the value of your product and may be willing to share it.
Search social media to find accounts that cater to your followers. For example, on Instagram, type in “wedding photographers” in the search bar and you will see a list of accounts that match this description. Browse these accounts to see how many followers they have and scan the comments section to see if the responses and topics discussed will be a good match with your brand. Social media monitoring tools like Mention and Little Bird can help you quickly find influencers who may already be talking about your brand or business category, so you can contact them about partnership opportunities.
Once you find interesting influencer possibilities, narrow your list to three or so and prepare to reach out to them.
Secure an influencer relationship.
Contact your prospective influencers through social media channels with a direct message or send them an email. Tell them a bit about your company and what product or service you would like them to share with their followers. Once they express interest, negotiate the terms of your relationship. Some influencers require a flat rate for their services, while others will agree to pay-per-click terms in which they receive compensation when someone moves from their blog post, video or social post and clicks through to your website. Other influencers will work in trade for free products or services in exchange for a positive review or mention in their content.
Trust your influencers to spread the word.
Once you have formed a relationship with an influencer, it is important to step back a bit and allow the influencer to communicate your message to his or her audience in an authentic way. Remember that you are working with them because of their expertise and their following – trust them to do their job. Review your goals and objectives, but don’t dictate specific tactics or approaches. Let your influencer do what they do best: interact with their audience and provide positive information about your products and services.
How to make the most of influencer content.
When an influencer creates content about your brand, be sure to promote it on your website, social media channels and via email. You’ll also want to make sure that your website has an eCommerce page so site visitors can make a purchase when they are most excited about your products and services. Supply your influencers with a promotional code to include in their content. This will help you generate greater revenue and will help you determine the true value of the social media influencer you are partnering with.
When measuring the success of influencer marketing programs, marketers cite engagement, website clicks and sales conversions as top performance indicators. Some use trackable links and promo codes that influencers can include in their content to see how well their content is performing. In addition, free online resources like Google Analytics help you monitor how many additional website visits are being generated during an influencer content campaign so you can begin to measure the effectiveness of your influencer relationship.
Influencer marketing is an affordable and low-risk way to reach an audience that is interested in your products and services. By partnering with the right social media influencers, you can increase brand awareness, promote customer engagement and generate more revenue for your small business. And, if you decide you want to work on enhancing your web presence along the way, the Web.com team is here to help.