How Influencer Marketing Can Pay Off for Small Businesses in 2017 Arielle Kimbarovsky | January 4th, 2017

The digital space is constantly evolving, forcing entrepreneurs, small business owners, and marketing teams at bigger companies to continuously reevaluate their marketing strategies in order to stay competitive. In the past few years, we’ve seen significant changes in how companies market. These changes range from participation on new social networks, new technologies, and the increasingly popular content marketing.

But many companies are finding that there’s too much content – much of it not especially useful or actionable. Customers and prospective customers are becoming overwhelmed with content – much of it is just noise. These problems are made worse by changes made by Google and others in the way email is delivered. There’s no question that content marketing is more difficult to execute effectively today.
Smart business owners and teams are looking for creative ways to lift their content marketing efforts without relying on email or other more overused techniques. That’s where influencer marketing can help.

Influencer marketing pushed itself to the front of many marketing strategies, and will continue to be an important marketing tactic in 2017. While larger companies are already relying on influencers (60% of chief marketing officers plan to increase their influencer marketing budgets), startups and small businesses should also take advantage of this tactic.

We saw this when a company would partner with a celebrity like Kylie Jenner, and send Kylie free products in an exchange for an Instagram post. Kylie Jenner’s followers would see the post, and connect to the product by either following a social media account or purchasing the product. At an average cost of $50,000 per post, the company converted thousands of Jenner’s followers into customers. This worked because Kylie Jenner has positioned her brand as being luxurious and desirable, attracting 82.6 million followers just on Instagram and netting over $28 million last year between her lip kits, modeling, TV appearances, and social media ads. Her success has skyrocketed over the past few years, exponentially growing the demand for sponsorships.

But influencer marketing has become more sophisticated recently to include not just pure celebrities, but also other types of influencers. Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO of Pure Performance Communications, defines influencer marketing in an interview for Prezly:

I look at it as ‘influence equals action’. It’s knowing there’s individuals that come in all different shapes and sizes, everyone from your own customers to bloggers, Twitter personalities, LinkedIn power-users, analysts and experts who are able to move the needle for you.

Similarly, Google discovered that certain content creators on YouTube had 3x as many views and 2x as many actions on sponsored content posts than celebrities.

These trends suggest that it would be smarter for companies to focus on influencers who best engage with their niche target audiences rather than just looking for general household names. Here are five tips to get you started.

1. Identify the right influencers.

Create a list of influencers who you find best engage with your target audience. Some might decline to work with you, so make sure you have enough names on that list to give you some options. Find people in your industry that are trending on Twitter, being talked about on Facebook, or have the most followers on Instagram. Identify people who run the most popular blogs in your industry, or even who your competitors are using as their influencers and build off of those networks. To find a high quality influencer, look at engagement to make sure that the influencer isn’t just pushing content, but that they are also having conversations with their followers. Renowned marketing expert Jay Baer clarifies the fine line between content pushers and influencers: “True influence drives action, not just awareness.”

Expert Tip: Find an influencer whose recommendation you would personally trust. According to Nielsen, 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations as opposed to 33% trusting advertisements.

2. Align your influencer(s) with the right channel(s).

Make sure that you align your list of influencers with your preferred channels. This typically happens organically, since you should already be using the platform that your target audience is using. Be wary of sponsoring content on channels that you are not involved in, because it can create a disconnect with your target audience. For example, if you don’t have a presence on Instagram, it would be more difficult to reach that audience through an influencer on Instagram – but not impossible. It just requires more careful planning and strategy.

Expert Tip: Target influencers who have large followings on multiple social media channels so that the sponsored content can be cross referenced.

3. Be clear on what you need from each influencer.

Whether it’s one paid post or a video series on YouTube, have a clear idea of how the influencer can help you. Usually, the method of distribution is guided by the channel. While it’s common to have one-off sponsored posts across multiple social media channels, tactics like brand takeovers have become synonymous with Snapchat or Instagram Live, and Q&A sessions with Twitter. Influencer marketing should always be backed by a specific focus, and the method of distribution has the power to vary that focus from a new announcement to a call to action of purchasing a product. Since influencers commonly help businesses, don’t be afraid to ask for their advice and leverage their experience to improve your campaigns and tactics.

Expert Tip: Use the channel of distribution to prime the influencers before you reach out to them by engaging with them. Repost, like, or comment on their content to start creating a deeper connection.

4. Reach out to the influencers.

Connect to the influencers to get the conversation started. It’s important to introduce yourself and your company, and to briefly describe the mutual value that the partnership would provide. Also include your preferred method of compensation, whether it’s your product/service at a discounted (or free) rate, or a payment. Use clear, friendly language so that the outreach seems personal and not automated. Follow up once in 2-3 days if the influencer hasn’t responded, but avoid filling up their inbox with emails, messages, or tweets. Unfortunately, you won’t always receive a response or agreement. When you do, keep the conversation going as you work with the influencer to refine the sponsored content for their audience.

Expert Tip: Reach out to the influencers through the social media you’d like them to use and through email to have a better chance at getting their attention and cutting through the noise. This will also help you assess how responsive each influencer is to their audience.

5. Follow through with an integrated strategy.

Once you have come to an agreement with an influencer and the sponsored content has been released, implement the action plan that you created around the campaign. Analyze the traction that the sponsored content creates, or reach out to consumers that comment or share the content. It’s important to evaluate the efficacy of the content to inform your future influencer marketing strategy, and also to keep the content relevant so that you can reach the maximum number of consumers.

Expert Tip: Check out these tools for additional support on influencer campaign management.

Influencer marketing isn’t for everyone, but many businesses can benefit when they increase the power of their brand voice through influencers. A few smart influencer connections can let you speak to a much larger audience of potential customers, and pay off big in 2017.

Image credit: Alan O’Rourke

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