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Content marketing. Relationship marketing. Niche marketing. Digital marketing. Inbound marketing.
The number of marketing types grows by the day and is enough to make the most seasoned marketer's head spin. For small business owners who are bogged down with the everyday operations of running a company, wading through the marketing mire is impossible.
You know you should be doing some kind of digital marketing. After all, by 2019 mobile advertising will represent 72 percent of all U.S. digital ad spending, and 74 percent of consumers already use social media to make purchasing decisions.
How can you get started on your digital marketing strategy? Influencer marketing is a great place to start. The strategy is simple, and often requires very little time and monetary investment but has a huge potential ROI.
Consider this. Ninety-two percent of people trust recommendations from individuals, even if they do not know them, over brands. Influencer marketing leverages that consumer behavior. Here's how it works.
What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing uses key "influencers" to drive your brand's message to a larger market. The concept isn't new. Advertisers have been using celebrities to influence consumers since the dawn of marketing. However, the emergence of social media has leveled the playing field. Companies no longer need to pay millions to get a celebrity to endorse their products. Now, anyone with internet access can have a voice, and become an influencer. Instead of marketing directly to your customers, you hire or inspire influencers to reach them for you.
Social media is full of common people who now have thousands of followers, simply because they are entertaining, informative, or have developed a reputation as a trusted advisor in a particular area. For example, an average health enthusiast may create her own blog that includes recipes, exercises, and tips. She promotes the blog via Instagram and Facebook, eventually accumulating thousands of followers. Makers of organic food products, vitamins or even large corporations like Dole might seek out this influencer to promote their products, or simply post that she's using them.
It's no surprise that 81 percent of marketers view influencer marketing as effective.
How much potential ROI can influencer marketing bring in?
Just how effective can influencer marketing be? To illustrate, let's take a look at success from the influencer's point of view. Here are a few social media rockstars featured by Marie Claire last year.
Arielle Charnas launched her fashion blog, Something Navy, in 2009. According to her, "Everything changed for me once Instagram launched, followed by Snapchat." She now has over a million followers and recently landed a spot in a Tresemmé commercial.
Other success stories include Los Angeles blogger and creator of The Blonde Salad Chiara Ferragni. At 6.2 million followers, Ferragni has more influence than many movie stars.
Similarly, interior designer Aimee Song boasts 2 million pageviews a month.
More and more big brands are choosing these self-made social media stars over celebrities. Why? Because consumers trust their opinions. One study found that social media influencers now have as much influence as a neighbor or friend. Forty percent of respondents said they have purchased an item online after seeing it used by an influencer, and 20 percent said they have shared something they saw from an influencer.
So, products are not only seen by the influencer's followers, but their followers' followers as well. The potential is exponential. That's why Twitter VP of Market Research and Insights Jeffrey Graham calls influencers "an ROI machine."
How to pick the right influencers
While big name corporations are using influencer marketing, and paying big bucks for it, there's no reason small businesses can't reap some of the rewards at a fraction of the cost. The first step is to pick the right influencers. Who best engages your target audience? Who is trending in your industry on Twitter? Who has the most Facebook and Instagram followers? Look at blogs in your industry. Who are your competitors using? Influencer marketing for small business can be as large-scale as getting a globally-recognized name with thousands of followers or a local industry leader that can help you reach more people in your region.
Here's a small-scale example. Imagine a local health foods store wants to reach more customers in its region. The store manager may look for health food bloggers, personal trainers or other trusted advisors in the health and fitness sector. A good place to start would be the health food store's social media accounts. It's likely they already have a health enthusiast on its follower list. Tap that enthusiast to try new products, review them and simply start a conversation with his or her followers. The influencer may be willing to do it in exchange for free product, store discounts or a small negotiated fee per post.
Fees can range from $50 each for small-scale promotion to $50,000 per post (the going rate for Kylie Jenner to promote your product). This coconut oil products company got 218 mentions from influencers across multiple channels, and the company's only expense was a box of sample products for each influencer.
Look for influencers that are actually engaging their followers, not just pushing content. Do people respond, ask questions or comment on the posts? Would you trust a recommendation from this influencer? It's easy to investigate potential influencers since their social media history is easily available. Engage with them first. Repost, like, or comment on their content to create a connection and monitor what's going on in their online community. This direct engagement is the best way to find out if the influencer's audience matches yours. You can find the most famous celebrity to promote your brand, but if their audience doesn't match yours, it's money wasted.
Influencers don't have to be people. Sometimes the influencer can be a publisher, blog, or trusted website. Check out this example from Video Fruit, a web-based marketing consulting company. The company's founder wrote a guest post for Okdork, a well-known marketing blog. The same day the post was published, Video Fruit's website traffic jumped from 285 visitors per day to more than 1,000. Of those, 73 percent were new visitors and they raked in 215 new subscribers, a 12 percent conversion rate.
Think about industry leaders to which you could form a mutually beneficial bond.
Have a clear focus
Have a marketing plan in place. Influencer marketing isn't about just grabbing some people to push your products. Decide how you can best leverage the benefits of an influencer. Do you want one paid post on Instagram or a series of YouTube videos? Is there a clear call-to-action you'd like to drive home, or are you just looking to raise awareness?
Having a clear focus also means identifying the best channels. Will you use multiple channels with the same influencer? Know which platforms are most effective with your target audience(s). For example, a B2B company might lean toward Twitte, LinkedIn, or podcasts as its main channels. Or, as in the Video Fruit example, you might seek out authoritative websites or industry bloggers. Whereas, the health food store we mentioned earlier might choose to focus on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. A company looking to reach teenagers might focus on YouTube since eight in 10 of the most influential people for teen audiences are YouTube stars (or Snapchat!).
Lastly, allow for your influencer's personality. You want to have a clear focus, but giving the influencer too much direction will make the pitch less genuine. This might be difficult since most marketers protect their brand like a hidden treasure. It's a delicate balance. Be true to your brand, but don't force an influencer to just pass on a canned pitch. Followers will see right through it. They will view it as straight advertising. Instead, give the influencer room to show his or her style.
Here's one more statistic to get you excited about influencer marketing. Fifty-one percent of marketers say they get better customers from influencer marketing since the relationship began with the trust of the influencer. Start your list of potential influencers today!