Influencer marketing (or ‘strategic word of mouth’ as I like to call it) has grown and grown and grown over the past few years – the stats don’t lie.
However, I still think there’s a huge chunk of small and online business owners that aren’t utilising this strategy–or ANY outreach-focused strategy for that matter.
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably thinking about creating an influencer marketing strategy for your business this year. Or maybe you’re wondering what ‘influencer marketing’ is all about, or why you should even bother adding it to your to-do list that’s already as long as your frickin’ arm.
I’m here to help you start your influencer marketing strategy and get collaborating to grow your business!
What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is all about collaborating with authorities/influencers in your niche to create word of mouth around your brand.
An ‘influencer' is somebody that has an authority and a level of influence within a certain niche. This could be a blogger, a YouTuber, a well-known business owner, or someone with a large Instagram following.
Influencer marketing traditionally consists of a brand working with a blogger to create a sponsored post to promote their product/service. In the world of online business, we can start smaller and get a lot more creative!
For you, influencer marketing could mean anything from:
- Starting an affiliate program to sell more of your physical or digital products
- Sending a blogger or Instagrammer your product to try out/promote
- Inviting influencers to host a Joint Venture webinar with you during a launch
- Creating exclusive content for an influencer’s membership or course
- Getting guest posts published on influencer’s blogs
- Organising live trainings in an authority’s Facebook group
- Gifting an authority your digital product in return for a testimonial
- Collaborating with an authority figure to create a pop-up service or product
- Appearing as a guest on podcasts or interview series
6 ways an influencer marketing strategy can grow your business
So what exactly can an influencer do for your business? Here are six benefits of working with an influencer.
Building brand awareness
If you want to get your brand out of the shadows, then influencer marketing is the way to go. It's almost as if you're grabbing your virtual megaphone and shouting, “Hey, I exist!” to your target audience.
In the same way you add multiple income streams to your business, you need to add multiple marketing streams. Facebook ads and Instagram stories are great but influencer marketing gives you a +1 in terms of the know, like, and trust factor.
Reaching new audiences
We might feel like we have marketed our little socks off, but believe me, there are STILL whole groups of our target audience that have never heard of us or our products.
By working with an influencer, you can reach their audience through their content. Who better to introduce them to your brand than someone they respect and admire?
Increasing brand trust
You've probably heard this statistic before (and it sounds like a broken record to me) but here it goes:
Eight-four percent of consumers say they either completely or somewhat trust recommendations from people they know about products and services – making these recommendations the highest ranked source for trustworthiness. – Nielsen
Influencer marketing is essentially strategic word of mouth, and nothing builds more trust in a brand than word of mouth. Would you rather be telling your audience you think you are great (in Facebook ads, blog posts, social media) or have someone they trust tell them you are great?
By collaborating with an influencer, you are reaching their audience and exposing your brand to a loyal community. Brand communities can grow and develop on an influencer's platform, especially if you have a long-term relationship/partnership with the influencer in question.
If the influencer is being positive about your brand, they can encourage positive feedback and comments from their audience. This can start conversation around your business online – and you can't put a price on word of mouth!
Making meaningful connections
One of the best results of influencer marketing is the connections you make. I'm sure I don't need to preach to you about the importance of networking for your business–well, influencers are some of the best people you can connect with.
If you run a smooth influencer campaign (and don't make any rookie mistakes), you'll come out of it with some strong working relationships that could be great for your long-term marketing strategy.
Increasing your SEO performance
We've all heard about doing guest blog posts to add backlinks and improve our SEO. Well, the same rules apply with influencer marketing.
Asking an influencer to link to your website will really help your SEO ranking! Now, I'm not super techy so I've found another great explanation of how this works from Onalytica:
Off-the-page SEO in social is defined by the amount of shares you receive but also by the influence of who retweets or shares your content. Key influencers on social media can highly increase your reach on those networks but they can also have a very positive effect on off-the-page SEO.
So, basically, influencers have a positive effect on your SEO, which will mean you can get more referrals from Google, which (hopefully) means MORE SALES!
7 things you need to look for in every influencer
Lots of business owners hear about influencer marketing and dive straight in without a strategy.
Lucky for you folks, I have a 7-point criteria you need to know before you start searching for influencers within your niche.
When you come across someone you think would be great to collaborate with, ask yourself these 7 questions:
- Are they within your niche? – Duh! This is super obvious but you need to make sure the influencer is in the same niche as you. On the other hand, they could be in a different niche entirely but still share your ideal audience. There needs to be some crossover here!
- What is their engagement rate on their largest social media platform? – This is a great way to measure how influential they are on their most popular social profile. I’ll get onto exactly how to measure their engagement rates in a second.
- Is their engagement rate higher than average? – I.E. Is their content performing better than the average user? This is key to telling you if the influencer has an engaged community or not. Again, I’ll get onto average engagement rates in a moment!
- Have they posted sponsored content before? Take a look back through their posts and see if they’ve posted anything sponsored before. If they have, you can ask them for some tangible results from that content.
- If yes, did their audience respond well? If they have posted sponsored content before, you can have a look through their comments and see how the content was received. Did that content receive less engagement in comparison to their other posts? Maybe their audience didn’t acknowledge the brand they were promoting?
- Do you brand values align with theirs? Pretty simple, really. If you are a promoting a local burger restaurant, you wouldn’t reach out to a vegan blogger. Oh wait–this legit happened to a blogger I know last year! There weren’t even any vegan options on the menu?! Major no-no.
- Does your brand identity align with theirs? This one may seem trivial, but it really helps in an influencer collaboration if your brand identity will fit into the aesthetic of their content. E.G. If you have a bright pink product, you might not be able to collaborate with an Instagrammer who has an all black and white account. Some people take themes very seriously!
If you’re happy with most of your answers, then get that name written down and continue your search!
Figuring out engagement rates
Like I said, you need to be able to figure out an influencer’s engagement rates on their largest platform and compare it to the average user. It took me hours of research to actually find the average engagement rates on each platform (they don’t make it easy!) so let me spare you the fuss!
This won’t work for blogs as you can’t easily see the number of people following a blog, but I do have a trick for measuring influence in a minute!
How to work out an influencer’s engagement rate:
First, you need to total the amount of engagement they have received. This could be likes, comments, shares, dislikes (on YouTube), retweets (on Twitter), etc.
Second, take that total number and divide it by the number of followers, page likes, or subscribers they have.
Third, divide that number by 100 and you have your engagement rate percentage.
Engagement rate averages on each platform:
Okay, so you’ve got your engagement rate. Now you just need to compare it to the average user. Here’s the breakdown:
- For bloggers: Use Moz to search their URL and find out their Domain Authority. Their DA should be around 20 to be considered influential, but I’d recommend a DA of 30 to 40 for bigger influencers. Also, take a look at the number of comments they receive on each post–it’s all relative but I’d consider 10+ comments per post to be great!
- For YouTubers: Their average stats should be higher than these:
Views:subscribers = 14%
Likes:views = 4%
Comments:views = 0.5%
To work these out, simply divide the first metric by the second metric. For example, if someone had 100 views and 300 subscribers, their views:subscriber rate would be 33%.
- For Instagrammers: You want their engagement rate to be at least 4% on each photo they post but, personally, I’d aim for 6%!
- For Facebook and Twitter: It may not seem like a lot but, honestly, anything over 1% is great!
If your influencer’s engagement rate is similar to or higher than the average, you’re good to go!
Now that you know what you need to look for when you search for influencers, I can talk you through my step-by-step strategy on how to actually find them!
How to start an influencer marketing strategy on Instagram, Pinterest, and iTunes
While you can find influencers on all social media platforms, I’m going to tell you how you can find the right influencer for you on what I think are the top three platforms- Instagram, Pinterest and iTunes.
Finding influencers on Instagram
Yes! Time to get into the nitty gritty of searching for influencers. Instagram is a great place to start your search because it’s like going down a virtual rabbit hole. Once you find one influencer, you’ll find 10 more, and so on!
There are three main ways to find influencers on Instagram – let’s dive in:
Use hashtags to find influencers on Instagram:
Write a list of 10 to 20 hashtags that are either within your niche or tags that your ideal audience is using. Search through these tags and have a look at users within the ‘Top Posts’ section of each tag. These users are likely to have high levels of engagement!
Take a look at their profiles and see if they are a good fit for a collaboration. Do you think they are the right person to collaborate with for your brand?
Search through ‘related profiles’ on Instagram:
When you’ve found someone that is a good fit for your brand, head to their profile. Click the drop down arrow under their follower count and Instagram will show you a bunch of relevant accounts. This is a great way to find more and more influencers that are in your niche (no matter how small your industry!) that you may not have come across before.
Remember the above criteria still applies–when you land on their profile, have a look at their engagement, followship, and content. Are they are good fit?
Investigate your own followers and see who they’re following:
Alternatively, you can take a more grassroots approach and head to your own follower list for inspiration. Take a look through the following list on their profiles and you might see the same names popping up again and again. You can also head to your followers’ content to see what hashtags they are using themselves and head back to step 1 to find more influencers.
Finding bloggers on Pinterest
Truth be told, Pinterest can be a little hit and miss in an influencer search but it really depends on what niche you’re in. That said, it’s still an essential path to take on your hunt to find creators in your niche.
You want to be using Pinterest to find:
- Creators who have already written about something related to your business OR
- Creators who target your ideal audience
For example, if you were an organic clothing brand, you might be on the search for a fashion blogger who has already written round-up posts about ethical clothing OR perhaps a vegan food blogger who is happy to write about fashion + lifestyle. You’re reaching the same audience but in different ways.
Here’s how to find creators + influencers on Pinterest:
Search keywords in your niche:
Make a list of 10 to 15 keywords to describe your niche and search them one by one. Don’t worry if you get stuck–Pinterest recommends keywords to you underneath the search bar anyway.
Take a look at the results:
If you see any pins that are relevant to your niche, open them up in a new tab and come back to them in a minute. Keep searching through this keyword until you’re happy and then move onto the next keyword and repeat this step.
Sift through the posts:
You should have lots of tabs open now with blog posts relevant to your niche and audience. Fair warning–there will be a lot of crap here! But it’s worth sifting through it all to find the diamond in the rough.
Check them against my 7-point criteria:
Once you find an influencer, check their social media followings, and check their blog post comments to see if they have an engaged audience. Do they have an email list? Do they have a ‘work with me’ page where you can find more details about collaborations?
Finding influencers on iTunes
This might not seem obvious but iTunes is actually a great place to search for authorities in your niche. Why? Podcasts, my friend.
This step is pretty simple.
Search keywords on iTunes and see what podcasts pop up! If you’re not having much luck, you can always do a Google search for “podcasts for [insert niche]”.
If you can find some popular podcasts in your niche, you’ll be able to see the people behind them. They will most likely have some kind of community/following behind them if they have a podcast, but it’s always worth checking their social media stats and having a nosey at their blog.
Remember that you don’t need to be collaborating with influencers who are *obviously* in the same niche as you as long as you share an ideal audience. For example, a yoga instructor might not appear on a yoga focused podcast but might want to be a guest on a show about mindfulness or healthy living if their audience’s align.
Essential steps when reaching out to an influencer
Now that you know how to find the right influencer that aligns with your business, it’s time to ask them to rep your brand. But instead of sending them a cold email, there are some steps you can take to build a relationship with them first.
Warm up the connection
Like most things in business, it’s best to start small. From your list, choose two to four influencers you feel are the best fit for your business and take the time to make a connection with them.
Taking the time to warm up a connection with influencers will help you stand out to them when you send your initial email as well as helping you become a recognisable member of their community. You want to become a familiar face to the influencer as well as their audience!
So, how do you do this?
- Follow them on their top social media platform–simple!
- Turn their post notifications on and take the time to interact with their posts with relevant and authentic comments
- Watch their Instagram stories, comment on their blog, and message them where appropriate
- Follow them across another social media page and interact with them over there
- Join their mailing list or Facebook group–perhaps even sign up for a webinar if they are hosting one soon
This should feel as organic and meaningful as possible so don’t go too overboard on all the comments and DMs. You want to be interested in what they’re doing without driving them away!
Action step: Pick two to four influencers to start connecting with and give them a follow! Set a daily reminder to interact with their profiles and any new content.
Make the first move
You’ve set your purpose, found your influencers, and warmed up the connection. Now it’s time to make the first move and send your initial email to your two to four chosen influencers!
Hands up if you hate writing pitch emails?! I hear ya.
We’ve all been there, staring at a blank screen wishing the words would just appear ready in time for you to hit ‘send’. Luckily for you, I have an Influencer Outreach Bundle you can grab below.
There are two key things to mention for those of you who don’t grab the bundle:
- Keep it personal: Always use their first name and try to use information from your time spent warming up the connection to throw in something personal (i.e. ‘Hope you had a lovely holiday!’ or ‘P.S. LOVE your new puppy!’)
- Keep it concise: Who knows how many emails these guys are getting every day?! Short, sweet, and simple is the way forwards.
Action step: Choose one influencer to reach out to with a personalised email! I know it can be super daunting but just take a deep breath and hit that ‘send’ button before you change your mind!
I really hope everything in this article has helped you get started on your path to influencer collaborations!
If you want to learn more about influencer marketing, I've got you covered! You can grab your free influencer marketing training by hitting the button below.