Influencer marketing for small businesses: an insider’s view
🕒 3 min read
✏️ Mike Hindley
What is influencer marketing?
The growth of social media has given all of us the power to become publishers. At the same time, trust in traditional institutions like the government and media has dwindled to below 50% among the general public.
"Social has eroded the traditional media’s influence over audiences, and attracts an increasing proportion of brands’ marketing spend," says Guthrie.
The content that brands and influencers create varies from quick product placements with flash-in-the-pan stars (think Instagram personalities endorsing products on social posts) to more valuable, long-term partnerships that benefit the influencers, brand, and – more importantly – the audiences.
Why is influencer marketing effective for my small business?
According to research by Onalytica and Smart Insights, 58% of brands have seen improved brand awareness and perception and 54% of brands saw an increase in leads and sales by working with influencers.
Are you worried about the cost of working with influencers? Don't be. Only 14% of influencers said being paid well was the most important reason for partnering with a brand. But don't expect them to work for free – after all, they've worked hard to build up the communities you want to reach. Good business relationships are based on a fair exchange of value, so be prepared to negotiate on fees. Some influencers are happy to be paid in product for reviews, for example.
How do I find influencers?
“Start by looking at your own social media presence to see who’s talking about you,” says Guthrie. "Also check which other accounts move in the same circles as your brand and audience." Consider using influencer marketing agencies and their custom digital tools, which help you identify and connect with influencers then track and measure the success of your campaigns.
Influencers don’t have to be celebrities. In fact, for small businesses, they almost certainly won’t be. They don't even have to be an advocate for your brand. You could look for critics and reach out to try and get them on board – a tactic that Lidl used to its advantage for its Christmas ad campaign in 2016.
Once you’ve drawn up a list of influencers you’d like to work with, you might be tempted to drop them a direct message (that’s known simply as a ‘DM’ to the cool kids), but some find that good old-fashioned email was the best way to start a conversation. Some influencers use agents, but they should have contact information on their profile pages.
How do I run an influencer marketing program?
Running successful influencer marketing campaigns is about audiences, authenticity, and commitment.
“If you want serious, long-term audience engagement, forget about paying flashy influencers to endorse your products,” says Guthrie. “For one thing, influencers themselves don’t want to work like that. And second, audiences don't buy it. We're fed up of stylised Instagram models. We want to see real people doing extraordinary things.”
According to Onalytica's research, 52% of influencers said that growing their influence on key topics is the most important reason for partnering with a brand. This requires collaboration on the content you produce together. Both influencers and brands want creative control of the process here, so you’ll have to find a balance that works.
“As your relationship deepens, trust will grow that the influencer will create content on behalf of a brand that suits both parties, and you'll move beyond the straight-jacket guidelines you might have had at the start,” says Guthrie.
The final word
Influencer marketing is a great way for small businesses to reach their audiences. Finding and working with influencers means taking a long-term view and building relationships that work for everyone. If you nail this, your reach, sales and reputation all stand to benefit.
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