Influencer marketing has been a colossal disruptor in the digital marketing world. Content creators successfully monetized their blogs and social media accounts, turning what was once a hobby into a full-blown lucrative career. The most famous influencers have social media and YouTube followings that rival the sizes of high-profile celebrities. They've also become celebrities in their own rights, with very loyal fanbases who consume their content, support their sponsored posts, and become customers of their brand collaborations and product lines. The influencer world has become a multi-billion dollar industry that many businesses are tapping into. Today's crash course will walk you through the basics of influencer marketing - what it is, the pros, and how it works.
But before we begin, what's an influencer and what's influencer marketing?
An influencer is a social media content creator considered an expert in their niche. They have sway over their audience (hence why we call them influencers). Influencer marketing is leveraging a creator's digital presence and authority to promote your business.
Benefits of influencer marketing
There's a reason why both global companies and smaller brands are opting for influencer marketing. It's because of the slew of benefits, and these are the most salient ones.
Higher engagement rates: What's more impressive than having millions of social media followers? Having a high engagement rate. Many influencers receive higher engagement rates on their content than celebrities and brands. Data shows that influencers with 5,000 followers or less get as much as four times more engagement than accounts with 1M-plus followers. Working with an influencer can help posts about your brand receive more engagement than they typically would.
Loyal followings: Besides creating entertaining and informative content, influencers create something else that's very powerful: a dedicated community of followers. Influencers manage to hold onto their relatability, even if they go on to launch product lines or ink six-figure brand deals. Most creators were "normal" people before becoming internet famous, which helps endear them to their followers. Many even answer DMs and reply to comments. These fan communities watch as their favorite influencers grow their accounts, reach major milestones, and root for them along the way. They care about these creators and want them to succeed, which leads to our next point…
Trusted opinions: These follower communities respect and trust influencers' opinions. Many creators start their online careers by reviewing and recommending brands and products long before getting paid or receiving freebies. They build careers off the quality of their recommendations, which is how they earn such strong trust and loyalty from their followers.
Approaching customers seamlessly: Influencer marketing helps you meet your audience where they are. Your target audience is already consuming an influencer's content. By sponsoring posts or working with influencers, you appear in your audience's life in what feels like a more organic way than a traditional ad.
Tried and true content: Influencers are master content creators. They know what their audience likes to see and what types of posts they like best. Their posts get great engagement. They'll be able to post about your brand in a way that resonates with their followers and brings better results.
Types of influencers and marketing
It's important to understand that the influencer world is nuanced. There are different types of influencers, and your budget, industry, and goals will determine who you can and should work with.
"Nano-influencer" typically refers to creators with under 10,000 followers. As we've already established, their content often yields high engagement rates. They may be greener in their content creation careers and tend to have a more focused niche than influencers with larger followings. The drawback is that they can't give you the farther-reaching exposure you would receive from a more prominent influencer. However, the smaller audience size generally makes them more affordable. They can't charge the same rates as creators with higher follower counts. Working with a nano-influencer is a smart move for companies with lower budgets or in an industry with a highly targeted niche.
The next tier is micro-influencers, followed by mid-level. With 10 - 50,000 followers, micro-influencers still achieve attractive engagement rates on their posts. They have a farther reach than nano-influencers, and because of it, they'll have a higher price tag. Similarly, mid-level influencers have 50,000 - 500,000 followers and therefore charge even more. Most mid-level influencers have been creating content for a few years, garnering a devoted following along the way.
Lastly, there are macro-influencers. These are usually the creators that come to mind when you think of influencer marketing. Macro-influencers have been creating content for years and are well-established in their niches. Many leverage their 500,000+ followers to land opportunities like big brand deals, hosting/attending major events, being the face of a company, and launching businesses. They've been in the game long enough
that they can negotiate higher rates. Companies have to be willing to sign a hefty check to work with macro-influencers. Their content receives a lower engagement rate than other levels of influencers, but they do generate a lot of brand awareness for their sponsors.
There are a couple of directions you can go for your influencer marketing campaigns but these are the most common practices.
Sponsored posts: Paying for a social media post, video, or blog post about your business/product
Reviews: Sending influencers some of your products in exchange for a post reviewing them (some creators will only do reviews if paid)
Affiliate marketing: Giving influencers an affiliate link or promo code to share with their followers; they receive a commission on the sales they generate
Brand ambassador: Paying for a longer-term promotion of your brand by having a creator consistently post about your business across their social channels for a set period
Product collaboration: Collaborating with an influencer to create, brand, and design a product
Consider your goals as you plan your campaign. Sponsored posts, affiliate marketing, and reviews all work well for driving sales. Bringing on a brand ambassador is effective for driving awareness, while collaborations are an innovative way to launch new products. You can also mix and match campaigns, such as sponsoring a creator's post and giving them an affiliate link too.
Set realistic expectations for your campaigns and be aware of a creator's business parameters. For example, nano-influencers might be interested in doing a review in exchange for free product. Those with bigger followings probably won't do any unpaid partnerships. Brand ambassadorships and product collaborations work best if the creator is well-known. This means working with a nano- or micro-influencer won't be as effective for these partnerships.
Ending notes on influencer marketing
Influencer marketing is only getting more powerful with time, especially as social media platforms continue adopting new features and new apps emerge. There's a reason why influencer marketing is a multi-billion dollar industry and there are many wealthy content creators. Influencer marketing works in many ways: creating brand awareness, giving a company credibility, driving sales, and helping brands better understand the wants and pain points of their target audiences.
You can start small by sponsoring content for a nano-influencer in your community or finding creators interested in being affiliate partners. You don't need millions of dollars or to land a big name to have a successful campaign. In fact, you'll probably see surprisingly impactful results from sponsoring a nano- or micro-creator. If you're looking for new ways to reach your target audience and branch out of your regular marketing practices, influencer marketing is a great place to start.