In 1960, if you wanted to advertise your products or business, you’d hire an advertising firm. In 2021, you should probably hire an influencer. This year, the influencer marketing industry is projected to hit close to $10 billion as it becomes the fastest growing online customer-acquisition method. In fact, 17% of companies are betting so big on influencer marketing that they are planning to spend over half of their overall marketing budget on influencers alone.

Why are these companies putting so many of their eggs into the proverbial influencer basket?

It all boils down to a higher ROI on marketing dollars. A whopping 89% of marketers believe that the ROI on influencer marketing is as good or better than traditional marketing methods. Indeed, marketers report an average of $5.20 to $6.50 in earned media value per $1 spent.

What is driving these numbers?

Influencer marketing capitalizes on old school tactics such as word of mouth marketing and social proof while modernizing them for the digital world. In the same way that someone may use a particular soap brand because that’s what their mom and grandmother always used, 49% of today’s consumers have reported that they depend on recommendations from trusted influencers. Taking it further, 40% have specifically reported purchasing an item after seeing it on Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube. Plain and simple, customers inherently trust the opinions of those they know, even if only online, and admire.

By building trust and expanding a brand’s reach, influencer marketing is able to help brands achieve key KPIs including social reach, engagement, brand lift, social sentiment, as well as directly affect sales, sign-ups, downloads, and click through rates.

Okay, but what exactly is an influencer?

An influencer is a person or group that has established a reputation and credibility within an industry or niche through their online presence. There are four primary types though they can often blur between the categories: a micro-influencer, a celebrity influencer, a blog influencer, and a social media influencer.

Micro-influencers typically have more modest followings as they tend to be more focused in content. They often have a specific niche such as healthy recipes or travel advice and their followers know exactly what type of content to expect from them. While their overall follower count may be less than larger social media influencers, they can be very appealing to businesses because not only are they topic-focused, but their engagement tends to skew higher as a result of their carefully curated follower list.

Social Media Influencers can have thousands or millions of followers and are well recognized across a variety of platforms. They are often broader in scope and cover a variety of topics.

Celebrity Influencers are simply famous people who have turned their celebrity into large followings on social media. Because they are so well-known, they can reach a broad range of people across platforms.

Blog Influencers are perhaps the most blurred as many bloggers have parlayed their success in the blogosphere into the social media realm. That being said, there is still additional opportunities to work with these types of bloggers on longer form materials including blog posts or product reviews.

How do I get started?

Influencer marketing takes more than simply sending a free item to someone on Instagram. In fact, most influencers will expect to be paid in addition to the free merchandise. Rates can range anywhere from $80 per piece for a smaller micro-influencer to $550,000 per piece for someone like Selena Gomez. Think those dogs on Instagram are cute? At upwards of $15,000 per piece, they may be raking in more than college graduates annually.

The first step in influencer marketing is to establish SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Once you know what you’re hoping to achieve you’ll have a better understanding of what to look for in terms of influencer collaboration.

When researching influencers, it’s important to evaluate their reach, relevance, and resonance. A good influencer campaign is thoughtfully planned out and integrates relatively authentically into their content without appearing as a blatant paid product placement.

Where do I find influencers?

There are a few ways to find influencers but the most obvious one is on the various social media platforms. You can start by sending them a direct message or many will often link to an email address or blog website.

Major social media influencers as well as celebrity influencers will usually require the use of a talent agent as they are unlikely to respond to your direct messages. Additionally, public relations and marketing firms can often provide a list of vetted influencers for clients.

In some cities and industries, you can often tap into an influencer network that will usually have some kind of organizer or leader who will help facilitate collaborations. Lastly, there are a variety of software programs popping up that are designed to help evaluate the effectiveness of influencers.

Once you’ve identified an influencer for a possible collaboration, it’s important to ask a few questions:

  1. Who is their audience?
  2. Have they worked with my competitor?
  3. Does their lifestyle fit my brand image?

Last words of wisdom…

Before embarking on an influencer campaign it is imperative that you establish a mutually agreed upon agreement with your influencer. Some things that need to be included in your agreement:

  1. Compensation: What, how, and when will compensation occur
  2. Content Development: What platforms will you use? Who will craft the messages? Will you provide talking points and allow the influencer creative control or do you want a specific message used in the content?
  3. Analytics: What kind of analytics do you want to see from the influencer at the conclusion of the campaign?
  4. Timing: Establish a clearly defined timeline for all activities.

Here’s a link to a sample influencer agreement to get you started!