Over the last few years, social media has grown tremendously in importance. According to a report released by We Are Social last year, almost 3.5 billion people actively use social media — that’s about 45 percent of the world’s total population. Certainly, these people are interested in looking up to someone to help them make decisions.
In the world of social media, these “someones,” called “influencers,” are individuals who have built a reputation for their specialized knowledge, authority or insight on a specific topic. They post regular content in that subject area on various social media channels and generate huge followings of enthusiastic, engaged users who pay close attention to their views. Their preexisting presence in an industry makes them a useful launching pad for companies looking to establish credibility.
Influencers help businesses with “influencer marketing” — a type of social media marketing that uses product mentions and endorsements from influencers.
Businesses love to work with social media influencers because they can establish trends and encourage their followers to buy products they promote. In fact, research says that due to its effectiveness, nearly 39 percent of marketers increased their influencer marketing budgets in 2019 — 54 percent of marketers planned to spend more than $250,000 annually on influencer marketing, and 17 percent planned to spend more than $1 million.
Businesses can get influencers to take on the following responsibilities, among others:
- Spread the word about a brand: Influencers can mention the brand or share content and lead their followers to the company’s website or social media account.
- Become brand ambassadors: Influencers can regularly mention and share information about the business.
- Write about their company: Influencers can cover company news by writing about the brand’s story, products and/or services and more on their social feeds.
Influencer marketing is effective because it uses such techniques as social proof and word-of-mouth marketing, which currently are essential elements of any successful marketing strategy. Customers trust their friends, peers and people they admire more than the businesses selling the products and/or services they buy and use.
Types of Influencers
An influencer could be a celebrity, blogger/vlogger, industry expert or even a lifestyle brand. Influencers can typically be broken down into the following four categories:
- Mega influencers: A-list celebrities such as actors, athletes, musicians and social media personalities with at least one million followers are considered to be mega influencers. They aren’t necessarily subject matter experts, but they have the greatest reach because their posts end up in front of the largest number of people. This category of influencers is the most expensive to work with. And, because celebrities are so repeatedly used as spokesmodels for products, they are considered less trustworthy than their “self-made” counterparts. One of the best examples of this category would be Kylie Jenner, who has more than 190 million followers and is known to charge up to $1.2 million per sponsored post or advertorial on Instagram.
- Macro influencers: Similar to mega influencers, macro influencers typically rise to fame through the internet. Podcasters, social media stars, vloggers and influential bloggers fall under this category. Their average audience size is usually between 100,000 and a million followers. Blogger Chris Brogan would be a good example of a macro influencer. He found fame as an early adopter of social media, talking about how this new medium could be used to connect businesses and consumers.
- Micro influencers: Micro influencers usually have knowledge on a particular topic — they tend to stick to one subject and leverage their expertise to build their authority. Their audience typically ranges from 1,000 to 100,000 followers; however, while their audience may not be as big as mega and macro influencers, micro influencers allow companies to generate high engagement at a lower cost among niche communities. According to one study, on average, micro influencers generate seven times more engagement than other influencers with larger followings.
- Nano influencers: Nano influencers tend to have between 1,000 and 10,000 followers on social media. Their audiences are niche, small and have influence within their communities. A few examples of nano influencers are local government leaders, a town's pastor or a local community leader.
The majority of influencer marketing today occurs in social media, especially Instagram. According to a report, Instagram influencer marketing is expected to reach $2.3 billion by 2020.
The content on Instagram is presented in the form of images or short videos, and it encourages more peer-to-peer conversations, which help businesses improve and grow their target audience reach. The audience on Instagram isn’t limited to only direct followers; influencers can also connect with their followers’ followers, who further share their content.
Leveraging Influencers to Grow Your Business
Influencer marketing incentivizes people to share information on a company’s behalf. And because influencers are also consumers, the target audience is more likely to find the shared information credible. As a result of increased trust, influencer marketing can help a company grow in these eight ways:
1. Increase social media presence: According to Statista, as of 2020, there are about 233 million social network users in the United States, which is equal to about three quarters of the country’s total population. Therefore, establishing a presence on social media is crucial for successful marketing. And through influencer marketing, paid social media users reach out to their followers on social networks with information about a business, its offerings and links to the business’ social media profiles.
2. Develop customer loyalty: There are various ways to handle influencer marketing. Some firms pay influencers in cash, while others incentivize them with freebies, discounts or entry into contests when they share the business’ marketing content on their social media profiles. Sometimes, companies also pay commissions to influencers for purchases made through them. This process builds customer loyalty. Satisfied influencers are likely to be loyal to the brands they market. In addition, their followers who turned into customers trust the influencer and hence the brand, increasing the likelihood of them remaining loyal.
3. Expand reach: Influencer marketing is employed because influencers have large social media followings. And since these influencers have grown their online social networks through personal relationships or by sharing interests, they tend to have an easier time reaching fellow users. As a result, they have a wider reach, which companies can tap into through influencer services.
4. Identify leads and markets: As mentioned earlier, influencers have connections because of personal relationships or common interests with their followers. Therefore, when an organization deploys an influencer marketing campaign, it can reach the influencer’s audience, generating a lot of relevant leads.
5. Combine varied forms of effective advertising: Influencer marketing combines many different forms of effective marketing strategies, including social media, digital, native and search engine optimization (SEO). This makes it quite powerful as it has the potential to beat current marketing pitfall trends.
6. Overcome ad-blockers: One study has found that 47 percent of online consumers use ad blockers. And since tools such as ad blockers eliminate or limit standard ads, marketers are increasingly relying on advertising that blends in with other media. This is where influencer marketing qualifies, as it cannot be stopped using ad blockers and other such tools.
7. Yield a high ROI: Influencer marketing can yield a massive return on investment (ROI) for its users. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, for every $1 spent on influencers, businesses get an ROI of $5.78.
8. Boost SEO ranking: Influencer marketing plays a powerful role in a company’s SEO toolbox. With links continuing to play the most important role in SEO — but the challenge of obtaining them increasing — influencer marketing can help businesses generate authentic links that have the benefit of increasing user engagement signals, visibility and traffic.
How to Find Influencers
Use the following tips to guide your search for social media influencers. These guidelines should help you find the most relevant influencers for your business.
- Establish your goals before you begin: When looking for influencers, focus on the right fit, and not the one with maximum followers. The right influencers for your business are those brands, people and accounts that can best help you reach your audience and goals. Begin by outlining what you want to achieve. When you have clearly-defined goals, you can better evaluate influencer relationships and determine if they will help you achieve desired results. Some common marketing KPIs are building brand identity, developing brand awareness, generating leads, making sales, building an audience, boosting engagement, forging customer loyalty and building additional links.
- Determine the type of influencer campaign you want to run: As you lay down your influencer marketing strategies, consider what kind of campaign will best help your business connect with the type of influencers you want to work with. Different types of influencer campaigns include gifting (giving influencers gifts in exchange for posts, mentions and the like), guest posting (getting influencers to write for your blog, or vice-versa), sponsored content (paying influencers to create content for your brand or share your marketing content), giveaways and contests (using these as an incentive to get them to share your content or mention your brand), influencer takeovers (letting influencers take over your social media feed for a set period of time), affiliates (sharing affiliate codes with influencers so they earn commissions every time someone comes through their funnel and makes purchases), discount codes (letting influencers offer discount codes for your offerings to their followers) and brand ambassadors (partnering with influencers who regularly promote your company in exchange for perks).
- Find influencers related to your industry: A good place to look for influencers in your niche is with well-known figures in your industry. These experts can help you spread your brand message and build awareness in your target market. To support niche marketing, you can set up Google alerts for industry-related words or expressions to see who is regularly posting content about relevant topics in your industry, and browse online forums to see who is frequently answering questions associated with your industry.
- Find influencers who promote your competitors: Influencers who are already working with brands such as yours will be more likely to share content about your company than those that never mention other brands in your industry or niche. Look for industry-related hashtags on social media to see who is regularly talking about your competitors and sharing content.
- Understand the power of the influencer: In order to decide which influencer is right for your marketing campaign, assess their authority/influence to determine whether they have a large enough or relevant audience to help you accomplish your goals. Consider influencer factors such as the Alexa ranking of their website, total followers, engagement rate, quality of content and the depth of niche coverage.
- Track your results: After launching a campaign, track influencer marketing KPIs (such as audience building, brand awareness, lead generation and link-building) that will help you figure out if you’ve reached your goals. And once your campaign is complete, review your results to determine whether the campaign was successful or needs rework.
Where to Find Influencers
Here are six avenues you can use to find the right influencer to help you improve your brand awareness and reach.
- Google search: The simplest way to go about finding an influencer is using Google (or another search engine). A Google search for industry-related terms and keywords will give you names in those areas.
- Social media: Another place to find influencers is on multiple social media platforms. The influencers’ profiles will serve as a great way to learn more about them.
- Referrals: Make use of your current networks (professional and personal) to get referrals.
- Blogs: This is another great way to find influencers. Look for people mentioned in the blogs. The blogger might have asked them to contribute to the article or may have mentioned a quote from them.
- Influencer software: Owing to the growing popularity of influencer marketing, various software options have emerged to help businesses identify influencers and measure their success. BuzzStream and BuzzSumo are two of the most popular options.
- Talent agents and agencies: If you are looking to hire a celebrity influencer, you will not typically be able to contact them through regular channels. Instead, you can work with a talent agent or agency to ascertain whether that celebrity is willing to work with your company and for what price.