Influencer Marketing is a specific type of marketing whereby an influencer promotes a brand’s products or services through various media outlets. These outlets can be online, as in social media, or through traditional advertisements. While the reader may be thinking that the influencer must be in the industry the product or service is in, this is not always the case. A classic example of influencer marketing is Tiger Woods displaying a TAG Heuer luxury watch. Generally speaking, golf and watches do not necessarily go together, but since Tiger Woods is a celebrity, TAG Heuer can increase their exposure through him. So, what do Tiger Woods and TAG Heuer have in common? Well, the watch company knows perfectly well that their product is on the expensive side, with the cheapest watches setting the buyer back around $ 1000. Furthermore, TAG Heuer understands that golf is a ‘richer’ sport, so to speak, as generally wealthier folks prefer to play golf. This means that there is an overlap between their product and Tiger Woods. As we can see, even though the overlap between product and influencer is spurious, it is enough to generate an increase in TAG Heuer’s ROI over time.
Let’s be clear; you do not need a celebrity to influence the marketing of your product. While celebrity endorsements are beneficial, they rarely care to be endorsed by smaller-scale companies. While Nike, Rolex, and Gatorade can afford to spend millions on celebrity endorsements, fictional Jorge and Sophia cannot. Rather, influencer marketing requires the support of an expert in a niche market. Let’s suppose that Sophia would like to use influencer marketing to support her nascent soy candle business. She clearly does not have the capital to pay for Martha Stewart to display her candles. However, Sophia can team up with wick producers and explain to their customers the difference between Sophia’s wicks and other varieties. She can also contact wax producers that she can use to describe what their process is to produce the best smelling soy candle waxes. Again, she can even contact soy farmers and describe the process the soybeans take from being harvested to ending up in candles. Common to all influencers is that they are seen as experts in the field they are talking about. This is in stark contrast to celebrity endorsements, who may know a lot about a specific topic, such as Tiger Woods knowing a lot about golf, but may lack knowledge about the product itself. Tiger Woods likely isn’t a closet horologist (watchmaker), though he may appreciate the luxury watches TAG Heuer produces.
Let’s look at how Jorge can use influencer marketing to boost his artwork in Chicago. Of course, he would benefit from a celebrity endorsement, such as the mayor of Chicago or the case from Chicago Fire, but he probably doesn’t have these contacts readily available. However, he can use local art stores to describe how their paints blend really well in his artwork and describe how Jorge’s vintage Chicago prints hang in their studios. Since Jorge likely has many cameras and lenses to capture specific angles of Chicago, he probably has a good relationship with several camera shops in his neighborhood. He may do blogs and videos sponsoring specific lenses and cameras for them. These types of reviews can be found in social media and in e-newsletters. In return, they can feature his artwork in email blasts, their social media pages, and so on. This type of symbiotic relationship helps both Jorge with his artwork, and the camera shops sell cameras and lenses.
Electing an influencer is an important decision for your website, as your product is featured by them. Professionalism and integrity are key here, and poor influencers with low levels of maturity or experience can hurt your business. Along this vein, there are a plethora of fake followers online. Perhaps one of the most frustrating parts of SEO marketing is the multitude of fake accounts pretending to be influencers. These accounts may exist in social media sites, such as Facebook or Instagram, with followers that have been bought out to increase their supposed exposure.
A clever app called InstaCheck tracks followers blocked users, and new followers on Instagram. This can help the budding entrepreneur know if an account is a bona fide influencer or a fake account with bought Instagram profiles. If the reader is interested in securing solid influencers, some websites, such as Klear and Traackr, are useful social media intelligence sites designed to weed out fake accounts and faux influencers. However, if the reader wants a simple and easy to use formula, here it is below.
When looking for an influencer, check out all of their social media accounts and their number of followers. If an influencer has an account with tens of thousands of followers, you want to look for the average number of likes, thumbs up, or retweets they receive from their posts. An ‘influencer’ with fifty thousand followers and seventy ‘likes’ has probably bought many of those accounts, meaning that their organic traffic is much lower than what it appears to be online. The ratio is simple: find out what the average number of likes is per post and divide that number by the number of followers. Real influencers can expect from 5 to 10 percent of their fan base to like, retweet, share, or comment on a specific post depending on the type and quality of the post. Readers should be wary of accounts where less than one percent of their followers engage with their social media posts. Because building trust in influencer marketing is crucial, it is very important for entrepreneurs not to be associated with fake accounts and faux influencers. With this dire warning out of the way, let’s take a look at another type of influencer marketing that is popularly used by many small and large businesses.
Another type of influencer marketing is called customer marketing. As the name suggests, customer marketing is a type of influencer marketing whereby the customer leaves a valid testimonial and solid review of the product in question. Think of buying a television on Amazon. Before you drop $ 600 (or more) on a TV, you are likely to do some research beforehand. While part of this research involves comparing and contrasting different television prices online, a solid aspect of determining which TV you want is seeing the quality differences between each product. While looking at the specs may be a way to do this, many of us go on Amazon and read the reviews left by customers associated with the products themselves. Naturally, the better the reviews are, the better the outcome for the producer. Amazon has recently done a good job of allowing reviewers to post pictures of the product as part of their reviews. Furthermore, Amazon automatically compares five-star reviews with one-star reviews to allow the consumer to compare and contrast the opinions of the buyers of a specific product. Sometimes, one-star reviews have nothing to do with the product itself, but rather the shipping or quality of customer service associated with the product.
Customer marketing goes beyond simple posts on Amazon. Jorge and Sophia can increase their brand exposure of Curious Jorge and Sophia’s Candles by creating hashtags on social media meant to increase their audience. With every candle that Sophia sells, she can add a note asking the customer to follow them on Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag #soyphiascandles. Obviously, not every customer will follow Sophia online, and many will not post, but some will. This can increase her brand exposure through independent influencer marketing by customers. Influencers, then, can be anybody who has bought the product and wants to review it online. Because they generally have no stake in the game, their opinions are treated as honest and valuable by future consumers. The beauty of customer marketing is that anybody can be a customer marketer, by leaving a review on Amazon, posting a photo with the hashtag #soyphiascandles, or doing a review of the product on YouTube. According to Forbes magazine, influencers can also gain traction on their social media accounts through reviewing your product. For example, the monetary value “of an influencer is typically calculated by the size of their social following as well as the platform they are using. Customer marketing can be a win-win for both the producer and consumer of the product.
Plenty of customers make a living off of reviewing different types of products online (or even playing a video game on camera). This means that Jorge and Sophia likely do not know who is an influencer when they sell them a product, meaning that customer service is always important, as a bad review from a notable influencer can really hurt their business. Naturally, not every business strategy can incorporate customer marketing as a viable means of influencer marketing. In our two examples, it clearly makes much more sense for Sophia to generate exposure and a larger audience through customer marketing than Jorge. This is due to multiple factors, and the reader will have to determine whether or not customer marketing makes sense for their business. Jorge’s products are all unique, as the artwork is painted once. Naturally, Jorge can duplicate his artwork, but as his industry is dependent on the effort he put into the paintings and pictures, the dynamic doesn’t work too smoothly with customer marketing. An art patron may honestly appreciate Jorge’s talent, but since every artwork is different, it makes little sense to review his work online. Sophia, on the other hand, has a relatively simple, common, and inexpensive product. These types of products lend themselves to customer marketing, especially since candles are a consumption product (they run out, and you have to buy more). In contrast to artwork, which is not consumed, Sophia is more or less guaranteed to have repeat customers if she plays her cards right and provides a solid product with good customer service. Jorge likely doesn’t have too many repeat customers, meaning that his marketing strategy would be different than Sophia’s.
While customer marketing is an aspect of influencer marketing, it is a much more informal (and potentially risky) approach to online marketing. Influencers, such as camera shops for Jorge, can sign a legal contract not to post negative campaigns about Curious Jorge on their website. However, this is not the case for consumer marketing. One bad review by a trusted consumer with thousands of Instagram and YouTube followers can absolutely destroy your business. In this sense, consumer marketing is a much more risky endeavor than traditional influencer marketing. The reader will have to decide for themselves if they wish to promote consumer marketing by the use of hashtags, customer service pitches to leave reviews on Amazon, and the like. Again, as with other types of influencer marketing, consumer marketing is subject to the same SEO rules and strategies as before. That means that it is in Sophia’s best interest to pick an already popular keyword or phrase and get customers to write about it. This will drive stronger organic traffic to her website and products.
Given the information above, the reader should be able to determine what type of influencer marketing works best for their specific type of business. In order to leverage their influencer marketing strategies, entrepreneurs can focus on developing certain traits. We have already touched upon two types of traits, but they are worth revisiting. The first trait is business-to-business (B2B) influencer marketing. B2B is a popular type of influencer marketing whereby experts in different industries market each other’s products. This allows exposure from other industries to penetrate your activities and ultimately contribute to higher sales. Conversely, business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing strategies are a type of influencer marketing whereby the consumer describes the product a business is selling. Many brands use this as a viable option to increase their consumer base.
If done correctly, both types of influencer marketing are beneficial to Jorge and Sophia’s businesses, but studies show that referrals work differently in B2B and B2C. Marketing and advertisement companies, such as Nielson, have reported that 83% of consumers “trusted the recommendations made by their inner circle of family and friends. But more importantly, an incredible two-thirds of survey respondents (66%) stated they trusted consumer opinions posted online” (Meyer 2018). Naturally, a family member giving a referral to someone holds a lot of weight— 83 percent by the looks of it. But interestingly enough, two-thirds of consumers believe the reviews by a complete stranger. Jorge, Sophia, and you have to try to pick these strangers very carefully, as B2C referrals account for a high percentage of the trust.
Jorge and Sophia would have to develop their own strategies contingent upon the products they sell to seek out and approach valuable influencers. Let’s suppose that Jessie is an influencer when it comes to candles. She has her own YouTube channel, a Facebook account, an Instagram, and a small website where she blogs about different types of candles. Her blog online probably gets some coverage, and she can make some money off advertisements. Sophia surely has a way to get in contact with Jessie (privately ideally) through email or with a telephone number. Sophia may approach Jessie via email complimenting her on her reviews of Yankee Candle, Soy Candela, and other types of candles. She can additionally inform her that she is a soy candle vendor and would like to know what Jessie thinks of her products. Again, this should be initially done in private as influencers do not like to be ambushed by public queries on Facebook or Instagram. In her private messages or emails to Jessie, Sophia can additionally request for her opinion of Sophia’s Candles first, and then, if the review is favorable, blast it online. Sophia must remember that reviews that are completely positive are not as trustworthy as those who have some slightly negative comments about them.
For example, if Jessie conducts an online review of Sophia’s Candles whereby she takes a video of herself describing the candle’s structure, scent, and appearance wholeheartedly raving about how beautiful the candle is, viewers are likely not to trust her influence too much. However, if Jessie describes how she likes the scent of Sophia’s Candles, but laments that the wax runs out too quickly, or that the wick is too thick, viewers are more likely to trust her as an honest influencer. Sophia can hedge against overly favorable influencers by studying their reviews of other products. If she sees that an influencer only raves about certain products, then it is in Sophia’s interest to not approach them as an influencer. That said, they may still buy her candles online and review them, but if Sophia can avoid these types of influencers, in the long run, she will be better off.
Here are some more tips on how to find good influencers. As always, when searching for influencers, check the ratio of ‘likes’ to ‘followers’ as many of these followers can be bought. A good influencer, just like a good entrepreneur, specializes in a certain type of product. Influencers can be film buffs, such as Ebert and Roper, whose commentary on films is both acute and noteworthy. However, if they suddenly started reviewing cars instead of movies, they would lose their credibility. Sophia does not want an influencer who reviews candles, cell phones, tractors, and jewelry. These industries have little to do with each other, and the influencer’s audience is so diverse that they cannot crystalize into one coherent group. On the other hand, Sophia is probably fine if an influencer reviews candles, tea, and books. Those they may pair well together (reading a book by candlelight while sipping on tea) and may have overlapping audiences, though the influencer may not specialize in a specific industry. This is especially true if the influencer is creating an audience around a certain lifestyle of cozy fireside reading.
Sophia should also determine the type of persona she wants to influence her products. While a tough and bearded man in a flannel shirt and muddy boots with a country accent may be perfect to review John Deere tractors, that same man is likely not going to develop a solid audience reviewing Soyphia’s Candles, talented though he may be. Personas are often hard to define, but you know it when you see it. Influencers often exaggerate their personas online to appeal to a certain audience anyway, so much of this work may be done for you, but it is good practice to be able to perfectly describe an influencer’s persona before approaching them. On a general note, always avoid personas that curse, use slurs, or profanity in any way, as these influencers ultimately hurt your business. Unless you are running a raunchy comedy club or work for WrestleMania, these personas should be avoided.
Another rather unique trait that is hard to find is an influencer who uses colorful and descriptive language when describing your product. Let’s imagine that there are two influencers that Sophia is looking to approach. The first influencer described another candle by saying the following: “This candle is very pretty, and I like the orange color it has. The wick is a good size, and I tested the candle – it lasts for about five hours. The smell of the candle was pumpkin spice, which is good for October and November. I also liked the casing of the candle because it is clear and it did not get burned when the candle went down.” Its pumpkin spice scent makes you want to read a book by the fireplace while sipping on a pumpkin spice latte and enjoying this candle’s aroma. Since this candle is made of soy, it is not only beneficial to the environment, it leaves no residue on its casing or in your home, allowing you to enjoy its scent while keeping your air clean and purified.” If Sophia has to choose between these two influencers, it is in her best interest to go for the latter option, as the language they choose to describe the products far outweighs the first option.
Another trait to look for in your search for influencers is the number of comments that their followers leave on their blogs, YouTube videos, and the like. This shows the entrepreneur a few things. First, it tells the entrepreneur that viewers are engaging with the influencer in a meaningful way. Are they asking the influencer more questions? Do they tend to agree with the influencer’s opinions about a certain product, or are they offering a different perspective? These types of comments generate organic traffic around a product and expand the fan base of both the influencer and the seller of the product. If you are lucky, comments on a blog or video are in line with popular SEO searches. Second, when looking at comments, the small business owner should see if the influencer is responding in an efficient or professional manner. Do they seem knowledgeable about the subject both in the video and in writing? Are there consistent grammatical mistakes in their responses? Are the influencers pushing a certain product or are they guiding viewers in the right direction regarding their products? Generally, good influencers thank viewers for leaving comments and then provide more information rather than reiterating what was in the video or blog. Finally, look for influencers that engage with a wide audience and can pinpoint their industries very well. They may use hashtags, but may also embed different backlinks to other influencers and websites. Remember, these backlinks are extremely helpful when it comes to SEO, especially with Google constantly tinkering their algorithm to provide a better service for their users.
There are three primary and widely accepted manners in which influencers can tap into your target audience. In Sophia’s case, her target audience is probably middle-class women interested in soy candles that have some expenses set out for luxuries such as these. Sophia knows perfectly well that targeting the ultra-rich likely will not work as a strategy for her business, with the same being true regarding potential customers living paycheck to paycheck and barely making ends meet. By the same token, most men cannot distinguish between soy candles and regular ones (for those men reading, soy candles don’t leave a black residue on the candle’s glass casing).
Now that Sophia’s target audience is defined, she can network with her influencer to determine the best strategy for selling her product. The primary way that influencers can boost Sophia’s ROI is through social media marketing. If Jessie has her own Facebook page rating candles, she can tag Sophia asking her a poignant question about one of her products. Sophia can then wait for some commentators and likes before responding. The same can be said for blogs and YouTube videos. These social media strategies may be a useful way of increasing brand exposure to previously unknown contacts. A caveat is in order here though: social media branding works beautifully if you have a product that is easy to ship and is the same every time you produce it. Your product or service must additionally not be locally based. For example, a wedding photographer in Toronto has little to gain from an influencer with a large presence in the United States. The same holds true for Jorge, whose product cannot be easily replicated, as all artwork is unique.
The second way an influencer can increase your brand exposure is through their own e-newsletters and physical newsletters. In our examples, Sophia can determine if Jessie has an e-newsletter by signing up for it when she goes on her website. While it is difficult to gauge how many members an influencer has in their newsletter, there are multiple ways to determine its strength as a marketing tool. Does the newsletter have hyperlinks connected to similar products? Is only one product featured per newsletter? How often are people receiving these newsletters in their email? If the answer is twice a day, most viewers are probably ignoring it, as they do not need that many soy candles! The opposite of influencer newsletters is also the case – Sophia does not need Jessie to send out newsletters on her behalf if she can quote Jessie in her own newsletters. Sophia can add links to the influencer’s website, Facebook, and Instagram in order to help out the influencer while increasing the exposure of her brand.
Finally, the third way an influencer can help market a product is by sharing marketable content. This may include brief snippets of the product itself, combined with infographics and shareable blogs that boost the exposure of a brand. While these may include hashtags, Sophia should make sure to check Google Analytics for the best keywords to use when tagging her content. A simple keyword, such as #soycandle may not do the trick, as it is likely that other soy candle makers are producing a similar product, and Sophia may inadvertently lead them to other producers. When creating these infographics to be shared by influencers, the budding entrepreneur can ask the audience general questions about what they like most about a product or how often they use a certain service. Feel free to get creative with your audience along this line, as they will be able to put a face behind the product. Remember, with all types of influencer marketing strategies, you want viewers to have an emotional response (ideally a good one) to your product. These emotional responses are what they will remember, and if it’s good, you will have repeat and loyal buyers, which is the backbone of any small business.
The future of marketing is clearly on the Internet. Because of this, it is in the entrepreneur’s best interest to engage in different types of marketing strategies. If you want your company to grow fast, you need to engage with others as well. This can be in the form of content marketing or influencer marketing. Depending on the industry that you are in, you may benefit from one type of marketing over another.