An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Influencer Marketing

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In 2017, Walmart launched the marketing campaign “Fight Hunger. Spark Change.” using a combination of influencers including professional athletes, actors, reality TV stars, and social media influencers.

Walmart’s goal was to use these influencers to create and promote sponsored content on Instagram to help drive social awareness for their cause. As part of their #FightHunger initiative, The Walmart Foundation would donate 90 cents to Feeding America for every comment, share, or like on their influencers’ Instagram posts.

Logan Paul, a social media personality with 16.1 million Instagram followers, was one of the influencers Walmart enlisted for this project. He posted about the campaign with a call to action for 1 million likes on his post and was able to generate more than 1.3 million likes.

Walmart’s donation cap for the initiative was $1.5 million which it hoped to reach over the 30-day campaign window. However, it reached the $1.5 million in the first day.

In fact, across all the influencers’ Instagram posts, Walmart generated more than 3 million likes and 216,000 comments. This example is the epitome of a well-executed influencer marketing campaign.

Influencer marketing has gained a lot of recognition recently, and many entrepreneurs are looking for ways to use influencers to help increase brand awareness and drive sales. While you may not be able to land the top social media influencers like Logan Paul, you can still find creative ways to add influencers into your digital marketing mix. Below is a guide for entrepreneurs who want to try influencer marketing.

Who Are Influencers?

Consumers trust people and brands they know and respect; this is the main reason celebrity endorsements are so popular. When Beyoncé mentioned Red Lobster in her song “Formation,” the seafood company started trending on social media and saw a temporary increase of 33 percent in sales.

Celebrities are influencers because they have reach and popularity. However, you don’t need to be a professional athlete or movie star to be an influencer. Companies can be influencers, websites and bloggers can have authority, even your customers can impact another person’s opinion of your brand.

Glossier does a great job at empowering every single customer to advocate the brand. When they have a new product release, they send free samples to their loyal customers and other digital influencers in the space. The results are organic social media posts, blog articles, reviews, and genuine excitement about the new release.

Glossier also launched a referral program where they offer incentives to people who promote their brand online. Glossier shows that there is power in numbers when it comes to influencer marketing and that you can be equally successful by using a community of advocates instead of one high-profile influencer. 

Therefore, the best way to think of an influencer is as someone or something that can reach and influence the perception and activities of others.

What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is a digital strategy that involves an organization and influencer collaborating to promote a brand, product, initiative, or idea. The term itself is the tip of the iceberg. There are several activities that fall under the influencer marketing umbrella like:

  • Sponsorships
  • Product placements
  • Referral programs
  • Celebrity endorsements
  • Guest blogging

The ultimate goal of influencer marketing is to use another entity’s reach and influence to share or promote your brand. You’re trying to create and publish branded content that naturally aligns with the influencer’s voice and fits organically within the context of their communication channel.

For instance, if you have a fashion line, you might work with a beauty/fashion vlogger from YouTube to create a video trying on your latest collection. The video matches what the influencer’s audience expects from the channel while also showcasing your new line.

Rather than investing money to build your own communication channels, you find a platform your customers are actively using and work with an influencer on that channel to immediately increase your reach and communicate to a highly-targeted audience.

Why does Influencer Marketing work? 

94% of marketers who used influencer marketing find it effective. Influencer marketing follows the logic that an influencer’s audience has shared values, similar opinions, and some level of trust in what that person says or does. When they mention a brand in a positive light, the trust and interest are transferred from the influencer to the product.

When Lincoln hired Matthew McConaughey to market their new SUV, sales spiked 25% in one month. Even if you’ve never driven a Lincoln before, you trust that it’s a valuable product because an award-winning actor is endorsing it.

When Dunkin’ Donuts hired a team of eight social media influencers to take over its Snapchat account on National Donut Day, it received millions of social impressions, more than 40,000 elements of engagement, and Dunkin’ Donuts’ Snapchat fanbase grew by 1,000% in one day.

These examples reveal a social reaction known as the herd mentality, which is the idea that people are influenced to adopt certain behaviors based largely on emotion or feelings. A Leeds University study revealed that in a crowd, it takes five percent of people to influence the other 95 percent, without the majority realizing they are being influenced.

Influencer marketing is so successful because it breaks the barrier between consumers and traditional digital ads. The more consumers become aware of advertisements, the less successful the tactic becomes. For instance, display ads in sidebars, headers, or other areas of a web page see an average click-through-rate of .05 percent. 

However, influencer marketing isn’t met with this same disdain (yet) because consumers are genuinely interested in and engaged with the content produced by the influencers they follow. Within the chaos of the digital landscape, influencer marketing removes the clutter and helps you communicate directly with a targeted audience.

Considerations for an Influencer Marketing Campaign

While there is certainly value to adding influencer marketing into your digital marketing mix, there are some considerations to make before you start designing a program or outreaching to influencers. Try answering these three questions before you get started with influencer marketing.

  • Where does your audience spend its time online?
    You should be using influencer marketing to reach a highly-targeted and engaged community of potential customers. Therefore, to get the results you want from this strategy, you need to make sure you pick a platform that your audience uses.
    For example, if you run an interior design firm, you may realize that your audience spends most its time on visual mediums like Instagram or Pinterest. Therefore, you might not get as much engagement on a text-based platform like Twitter.
  • How do you pick the right influencer?
    After you decide on the platform, start looking for the right types of influencers. Most entrepreneurs will not be able to land a big whale like Ashton Kutcher or Kim Kardashian. Therefore, you should scale back your expectations, and focus on finding micro-influencers in your niche that can generate buzz on a smaller scale. This quantity over quality approach is the best place to start for businesses that are new to influencer marketing.
    Find a blogger who writes about topics relevant to your industry or look for a podcaster whose audience overlaps with your customers. While their reach may be smaller, their audience is still engaged and relevant to your brand.
  • What is the value to the influencer?
    When an influencer shares your brand, you are getting increased recognition, website traffic, and sales growth. But, what does the influencer get in return?
    Maybe they are sharing a piece of content or product they genuinely love – or maybe they are being compensated. Regardless, there needs to be an exchange of value between you and the influencer. That exchange doesn’t always need to be monetary, but it does need to be obvious and communicated beforehand.
    Whether it’s sponsorships, free products, exclusive interviews, cross-promotion, or any number of incentive options, the influencer needs to receive something in return for promoting your brand. The relationship also needs to follow the FTC’s guidelines for endorsements.  

    Time to Start Influencing

    Influencer marketing isn’t going away, and if you’re an entrepreneur trying to grow a new venture, it can be one of the most effective methods to market your brand. In fact, it’s estimated that influencer marketing yields an ROI of $6.50 for every dollar spent.

    Remember, find the best platform, look for influencers with relevant and engaged audiences, and start a mutually beneficial relationship. That is the core of influencer marketing and the best way for entrepreneurs to generate an immediate return on their investment.