Consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and demanding in this digital era. Brands have to develop new, innovative ways to reach their customers. Influencer marketing is becoming an increasingly powerful marketing tool. How can small businesses exploit this power?
What is influencer marketing?
Essentially, an influencer is a person with a large social media following who has an effect on someone’s buying behaviour and brand perception. Influencers often have a specific niche, such as fitness, beauty or fashion.
Influencers spend years crafting a unique identity and forging a relationship with their followers. This is paramount to an influencer’s success. Companies have latched onto influencers to promote their brands.
Influencer marketing is a mutual collaboration where brands pay influencers to promote their product or service via their social media channels.
In this digital world, nearly half of the world’s population is on social media. This offers a great opportunity for small businesses to utilise Influencers in order to:
- Build brand loyalty and trust
- Build brand association
- Strengthen brand image
- Increase brand awareness, interest, traffic and sales
- Increase social engagement, interaction and follower count
Long gone are the days when an “influencer” was considered a mega celebrity with an endless, multi-million list of social media followers. You do not need Kim Kardashian, who supposedly charges a whopping $500,000 per Instagram post, to promote your brand or product (however if you know her personally it would not hurt to give her a message).
Instead, smaller brands should focus on the newer concept, micro-influencer. Micro-influencers are the same concept as regular influencers however are on a smaller scale, ranging from 10K to 50K followers.
So, why are micro- influencers the future for smaller businesses?
Over 80% of people are more likely to follow recommendations from a micro-influencer. So, although it may seem counterintuitive for a brand wanting to boost sales and awareness to choose an influencer with a small following, there is a variety of reasons to do so as micro influencers:
- appear more authentic, genuine and relatable
- have better communication and engagement between an influencer and their followers
- sell products and services in a more natural feeling way so do not appear as desperate
- are seen as experts in their field and topic specialists, allowing brands to target specific audiences
- have a more active group of loyal followers
- are a cheaper option, especially good for smaller businesses, as charge less per sponsored post
How to choose the best influencers for your small business?
Now we have discussed the benefits, it is now time to start planning your first influencer campaign.
At this beginning stage it is important to set out a brief plan, have specific goals in mind and ask questions:
- What do you want to get out of the campaign? Sales? Subscriptions? Followers? Buzz?
- What will you be offering the influencer in return for their sponsorship? Money? free product or service?
- What kind of post would you expect from the influencer? Videos? Pictures? Giveaways? How many posts? Any special requirements for the post, special messages or tags?
- Are there any time constraints or deadlines?
Finding the right influencer for your campaign can often seem like searching for a needle in a haystack. However, below are a few things to consider to hopefully make this seem like a less daunting task.
Although an influencer’s audience may look great on paper, it is important to delve deeper into the statistics and really understand who their followers are to ensure that their demographics are aligned with your target market.
Ask influencers to send you screenshots from their social media insights and/or google analytics. This may include data on their gender split, top age ranges and geographical locations.
- Brand alignment
It is important that the influencer is an organic fit with your brand, especially as consumers are becoming more and more aware of what is a genuine recommendation opposed to what is simply a paid post. For example, a small business which specialises in hiking gear will not choose to partner with an influencer who specialises in skincare, as this appears forced and desperate.
A good place to start, is for a brand to look at their own values and vision and choose an influencer based on this. Questions you may ask are: “what are our key brand values”, “Is our feed colourful or more subdued?”, “Is our tone serious or more informal?” The more questions you ask yourself about your own brand, the more chance of finding influencers who are a good fit, making the collaboration seem more believable.
Engagement refers to the number of likes, comments and shares a post gets. It is important to break down an influencers engagement in order to fully understand who is communicating with the posts. Are they genuine likes and comments from active users? Or do they look more like spam being generated from a robot account? Afterall, fake followers are not going to buy products.
Customers are attracted to and are more likely to listen to “real” people, who reflect their own identity, traits, interests and values. An influencer may be seen as authentic by
- providing their followers with an insight into their everyday lives,
- posting less polished, posed and unedited photos
- giving back to followers through online competitions
- regularly engaging with followers.
If an influencer comes across as genuine and trustworthy the recommendation will almost sound like it is coming from a friend, helping to stand out from the normal marketing blurb.
Analysing competitors’ social accounts can give you insight into what type of influencer marketing they are working on and what is going well (or not!). It lets you see if there are any influencers which may be loyal to their brand and not worth pursuing.
Searching through your competitors comments section and likes, allows you to identify potential influencers for your own campaign. If influencers you are thinking of working with are supporting brands which align with your values and already post similar concepts, you are on the right track!
Monitoring and evaluating success
Crafting the perfect influencer campaign can seem ineffective unless you are measuring its impact. Success can show in many different forms:
- Conversion rates (generated sales and revenue)
- Engagement (likes, comments, shares and brand mentions)
- Awareness (audience/follower growth and impressions)
- Referral traffic (amount of traffic being driven to your website)
Through focusing on these performance metrics, you are able to see what works for you and what does not, providing you with useful information to boost the success of future campaigns.
Influencer marketing is not going away anytime soon. According to research, influencer marketing spend is due to reach $15 billion by 2022, up from $8 billion in 2019.
People have always trusted recommendations through word of mouth, with influencer marketing being a more advanced version. Brands are utilising the popularity of certain individuals to increase brand awareness and sales.
Long gone are the days when influencer marketing was only available to large businesses. The growth of ecommerce, easy access to information and advanced logistics has changed how small businesses look at their marketing activities. Now, small and local businesses can sell their product to anyone, anywhere in the world.
Although it is tempting to go for the best show-stopping idea or the influencer with the largest follower account, remember the loudest and most prominent voices in the industry are not always the most influential. It is best to start small and go from there. If a small business wants to get ahead of their competition in this increasingly digital world, they simply cannot overlook the transformative marketing tool that is influencer marketing.
Sophie Campbell is a University of Glasgow business graduate currently working as a digital marketing intern at TidyChoice. She has published several articles on marketing, business and lifestyle topics.