Influencer marketing, in which a company pays someone with a high-profile or following to endorse their brand, has been around for decades. But with the uptick of social media, companies have learned a cheaper way to have influencers promote their products. Influencer (a.k.a. creators) are the “popular kids” every high schooler wants to befriend and be. They command the respect and attention of their followers. There have always been influencers, only these days, it’s gotten easier to identify and work with them from a marketing perspective.
1. Why is influencer marketing so popular these days?
Thanks to the skyrocketing fees associated with Google Adwords and Facebook CPCs, companies are seeking more cost effective channels to reach their target audience. Working with an influencer can get the same reach at the fraction of the cost of a traditional ad — especially when you’re paying someone to post a photo with your product on Instagram, rather than a T.V. network for a thirty-second commercial slot.
But why has it received such positive feedback from consumers? For one thing, consumers are sick of being sold and marketed to. They prefer to ingest content on their terms and in their own time. When nearly a quarter of U.S. Internet users are using Adblock, embedded content and paid promotions are a more effective way to get customers’ attention.
Through influencer partnerships, companies can harness the creativity of dozens or even hundreds of creators as a source of a creative generation and maximize influencer campaigns by stretching them across other marketing materials.
With consumers increasingly spending more time watching Youtube videos and hearting Instagram images, it makes sense for brands to be a part of these conversations.
Finally, influencer marketing can be both direct response and simple branding. While not as attributable as an SEM click, one can still tag sales from specific channels, particularly when influencer promotions are running. Regardless of whether you’re employing a direct response call-to-action or a branding campaign to increase your visibility, running campaigns across influencer social media channels has the potential to achieve great ROI.
As influencer marketing grows in popularity, there are industry challenges to be aware of. The FTC, for example, is now investigating instances when promotional arrangements are not fully disclosed and leveraging associated fines. In a recent FTC case involving Instagram, Lord & Taylor was prohibited from paying influencers without disclosing endorsements, meanwhile YouTube gaming network Machinima was charged for failing to disclose payments in an Xbox promotion.
2. What types of products or services work best for influencer marketing?
Because influencer marketing tends to be centered around Instagram, Vine, Youtube and Pinterest, influencer marketing is most popular for e-commerce-based industries like fashion, beauty, products, and food, rather than finance, etc.
- Instagram — Popular with lifestyle and beauty brands and more “viral” and visual.
- Youtube — Famous for unboxing and haul videos beauty and fashion.
- Twitter — Less engagement on this channel these days. Better for short notes and shares of articles.
- Facebook — More challenges with privacy and less reach due to FB algorithm only showing certain posts to followers.
- Blogs — Better for longer form and targeted audiences. Good for longer term SEO if you are patient.
- Vine — Younger audience.
- Snapchat — Still a bit of the Wild West. Can be very effective esp to younger millennials as relatively “new” channel.
3. How do I connect with influencers?
There are two major ways to find an influencer: direct outreach or via an influencer platform. If you have the time, the best way to find an influencer is to take a deep dive in social media channels, scouring for relevant hashtags and poking around your customer lists, to find potential influencers who are already talking about you. Many times, these “undiscovered influencers” charge lower rates and provide better ROI. If you have the budget, however, but not the time, then there is a plethora of influencer platforms that will happily match you with an influencer.
4. How do I find an influencer on my own?
First, develop a clear idea of who works for you (profile, type of influencers, age). You’ll want someone who is on brand (not worth it if purely for compensation). One easy way to start is to find people based on what they are talking about already social media. Go through Twitter feeds for hashtag and handles.
You can use software such as Iconosquare to find top users on Instagram. BuzzSumo is good for content and Twitter influencers. Or search through Youtube, look at related channels, friends lists and related lists. You can even ask your first influencers for recommendations on other influencers to work with (as they typically follow each other).
Before you approach these influencers, check not only how many followers they have but how engaged those followers are (# of views, # of likes, and read the comments to get a sense of sentiment). Also see where the followership is based. If the followers are majority international and you are a domestic brand, then their reach may not be as useful.
Next, look for their contact information. About ~60% of times, influencers will list their contact on their profile so it’s easy to reach out. Otherwise, you can do a little sleuthing across their Twitter profiles, Instagram, Youtube and or their personal website. Sometimes, it’s via a contact page on their website.
This process is time consuming may be outsourced to interns or contractors (e.g. from Upwork or Freelancer.com). To help organize this outreach, create a spreadsheet with influencer name, handles, contact information, detail notes, contact status, etc.
Then send an email to them and ask them if they’d be open to working with you. If you can’t find a contact email, you can begin following them, try to DM them, etc. Get creative!
5. How do I use an influencer platform?
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of searching for your own influencers, you can use influencer platforms help connect you with influencers. They usually take a 15–30% cut of the fee for serving as the broker. Some of the platforms are more self-serve while others are more of a white-glove service. They all connect you with influencers, have a messaging platform and payment processing.
The majority of influencer platforms focus on Instagram and Youtube, with some also supporting Vine, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Facebook. Twitter Tweets are cheap to do, but engagement is typically lower. Tumblers are for longer blog posts. Many times, it may be easier to find Tumbler bloggers individually and reach out to them. Pinterest influencers have boards that people follow and can be nice evergreen board content. Due to Facebook’s privacy policies and algorithms, it’s harder to measure performance and reach.
Even if you work with a platform, be sure to also follow the steps in the above question to validate the influencers you partner with. Here are some of the popular ones and their niches.
- Revfluence — Instagram. $800 monthly platform fee + campaign fee.
- Popular Pays — Instagram. $25,000 campaign minimum.
- Famebit — All channels. Only $100 campaign minimum.
- BoostInsider — Has the option to pay by CPI. $1,000 Minimum.
- HelloSociety — Focused on Pinterest. Acquired by NYTimes in 2016.
- Niche — Acquired by Twitter in Feb 2015. Minimums of $50,000, so you’re playing here only if you’re a large advertiser.
- Reelio — Youtube and other video-focused platform.
- Grapevine — Youtube-focused platform.
- Kin Community — Women-focused video network.
6. How do I negotiate an influencer contract?
When you start working with the influencer, be sure work with your legal team to establish Terms and Agreements immediately. If you’re a startup, reach out to friends who may have one already drafted to avoid legal costs. Negotiate aggressively: Push them to cut their rate by 50 percent and work up from there.
Stipulate that your influencer uses only relevant hashtags and abides by your brand guidelines; if hyperlinks are included, make sure that they use trackable short links only and, if possible, include the link in the about section (ideally above the fold) as this helps with longer term SEO, especially on Youtube. Also ensure that they agree to respond to messages or comments in a timely fashion and maintain the post for a certain number of days before removing should they choose to do so. Other stipulations you should discuss include posting times, posting frequency, and other brand mentions within the same post.
7. How much does a view cost?
Metrics vary across the board. Here are some stats shared by the teams at the influencer platforms:
- Youtube — $0.04 to $0.15 per view. Niche channels such as family, moms, tech and fitness may be on the higher end with rates of $0.08 to $0.15 per view.
- Instagram — CPMs of $10 to $12; 2% engagement (likes) are good
BoostInsider recently shared stats on pricing as well. They are significantly lower than what was quoted by other influencer platforms above, so pricing definitely ranges the gamut. Again, negotiate.
Influencers with 25,000 to 100,000 follower counts
Produce between 500 to 5,000 likes per post
Produce between 20 to 100 comments per post
Cost: $50 to $150 per post
Influencers with 100,000 to 500,000 follower counts
Produce between 5,000 and 25,000 likes per post
Produce between 50 to 200 comments per post
Cost: $100 to $400 per post
Influencers with 500,000 to 1,000,000 follower counts
Produce between 15,000 and 30,000 likes per post
Produce between 100 and 500 comments
Cost: $400 to $1,000 per post
8. How do I spot any red flags?
Influencers are typically paid by their following, so be careful of influencers who artificially buy followers or likes to increase their marketability. There is a whole industry of companies who will sell you fake Instagram or Twitter followers.
Spot fake followers by tracking sudden spikes in follower counts (though some may be natural), or high follower counts but really low engagements (i.e. a low re-tweet-to-follower ratio), strange comments (some people pay for bots to engage with posts but these bots tend to react awkwardly), and low quality posts. (Are there misspellings? Use of profanity? Random posts?)
9. What do I provide to the influencer?
Help the influencer stay on-brand by outlining very clear “talking points” to deliver your message clearly. In instances where creativity is desired, provide space to brainstorm ideas with them, sharing examples of successful campaigns that exemplify your goals.
Armed with these insights, you’re on your way to a successful influencer campaign. As with any marketing campaign, test, test and test. Try different influencers, different channels and see what works for your brand.
Thanks to Seth Berman, David Mazza, Lisa Bari, Josh Elman, Hugo Angelmar, Alanna Gregory (Vive) and other members of Greylock Growth Community for their insights, as well as the teams at the various influencer platforms for their perspectives.
*Originally published on Adelyn’s LinkedIn profile.