Influencer marketing campaigns have become one of the mainstays of social commerce, and they can reap good results for online businesses of all sizes and niches. This guide will explain what influencer marketing is, how it works and how you can find the right influencer for your brand.
It wasn’t that long ago that the advertising game had only a handful of options when it came to placing products in front of potential customers.
If you grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, you’ll likely remember the endless stream of jingles and commercials that would pop in and out of the TV set and the radio station―ads for new toys, snacks, clothes, gadgets and whatnot. You’ll probably also remember those printed ads that came in the Sunday newspapers and in the teen magazines that you made your mom buy whenever you guys went out.
There were also those gigantic and shiny billboards that would illuminate buildings and some of the streets downtown where you lived, right?
But other than that, there weren’t really a lot of other options available in terms of “ad real estate” ― that is, actual placements and spaces where brands could advertise their products.
This meant that the competition was mainly concentrated among big brands that could afford to spend a lot of money on huge, nation-wide campaigns. The little guys, for their part, usually had to rely either on their city newspapers or on the word-of-mouth of customers.
But ecommerce and social media have changed all of that. Nowadays, there are plenty of other strategies and avenues a brand can pursue when it comes to advertising—and influencer marketing is, very likely, the most diverse solution in terms of pricing and reach.
So keep on reading to find out more about influencer marketing and how to discover and approach social media influencers!
What is influencer marketing?
As the name implies, influencer marketing is a marketing strategy where a brand reaches out to a person (i.e., the influencer) and asks that person to create content to promote a product or a brand.
This content is usually published on social media: more specifically, on the influencer’s profile.
This means that influencer campaigns are both partnerships and business transactions—two important concepts for you to keep in mind as you start taking your first steps in the influencer marketing industry.
Here’s what we mean by this: Working with an influencer on social media platforms is a partnership because it can be mutually beneficial to both the brand and the influencer in terms of reach and popularity. However, it is also a business transaction because you are paying an influencer to deliver content that should generate concrete results in terms of engagement, follower count or even sales.
Traditional ads vs. Influencer content
Before we go any further on the topic of how to create an influencer marketing strategy, it’s important that we draw a line between traditional ads and influencer content. After all, there are some forms of paid traffic ads that only an influencer can do―while there are others that are best done when crafted by the brand itself.
Take a look at the video below, by Dickinson’s Original Witch Hazel.
You can see that this is a traditional video ad created by and published by the brand itself. It even has that almost “vintage” feel to it, like those traditional TV ads we saw back in the day: a model applying the product on her face, and a voiceover that describes in concise words what the product is all about.
It also has a short mention as to where people can find the product, listing the major retailers right at the end.
It’s great, right? But it’s also a traditional ad, which means it is more corporate-y and even kinda serious.
Now take a look at the TikTok below. While it was posted on Dickinson’s Original Witch Hazel official account, it’s a video created by an influencer, using a format that is pretty well-known to her followers: the “unwind with me” video.
Did you notice how the whole look and feel of the content is different? First, there’s no corporate-y tone to it ― in fact, there’s no one talking over the video. Instead, there's upbeat music and some captions highlighting everything the influencer likes about the product.
And this is exactly the key difference between influencer marketing and traditional advertisements: an influencer campaign holds the influencer’s branding and visual identity. It’s made by that person, and aimed at their followers.
What is an influencer?
An influencer is someone who is famous or well-known by their work or by the content they post online and has the power to influence fans and followers into buying a product or engaging with a particular topic.
This also means that influencers normally work with niched segments in terms of both audience and content: there are lifestyle and fashion influencers, make-up influencers, fitness influencers, travel influencers, food and coffee influencers… The list is endless.
Basically, if there’s a niche, there are likely multiple influencers working on creating content for that audience.
Style Feen, who was featured on Dickison’s Original Witch Hazel official account, is a lifestyle influencer that regularly puts out paid posts and videos on her social media:
@stylefeen Join me as I share my shower routine using some of my new favorites from @hairitagebymindy! Their Now & Lather Cedarwood & Neroli Scented Body Wash smells so good and it helps wash away all impurities while leaving your skin feeling soft and refreshed! I love that their products are clean with naturally-derived ingredients and super affordable! #HairitagePartner #HairitageHairTok ♬ original sound - Stylefeen
What is a celebrity influencer?
Traditionally, influencers were almost always celebrities, because they were the ones that had a higher reach on social media. This has changed significantly in the past few years, but a lot of people still associate the idea of influencer marketing campaigns with a celebrity influencer and with celebrity endorsements.
A great example of this is the sponsored post below, which features Khloé Kardashian, momager Kris and part of the family’s next generation:
This is a clear celebrity endorsement: first, Instagram itself has already marked the post as paid content. Not only that, Khloé has used branded hashtags like #countrycrockpartner, which indicates to followers that she has partnered with the brand; and, third, because the content is highly focused on promoting the product, with specific shots of the product packaging.
How does influencer marketing work?
Many entrepreneurs tend to balk at the mere mention of influencer campaigns and social media influencers, not least because these terms are often associated with high-profile celebrities, well-known brands and hefty price tags.
It’s like the example we showed above, with part of the Kardashian clan. The Kar-sisters are famous for being famous and notorious for the many paid influencer posts they usually do. Style Feen, for her part, has about 101k followers on TikTok―which also means that the price she charges to do an influencer campaign will likely be on the higher end.
And that’s exactly what discourages small and medium-sized brands. After all, how can the little guys afford to spend money on such a pricey influencer marketing strategy?
Well, here’s the thing: working with well-known celebrities like the Kardashians is only a very small slice of what influencer campaigns are actually about.
The truth of the matter is that influencer marketing is a whole world in and out of itself, and there are tons of options you can pursue when the time comes to craft your own influencer marketing strategy.
Generally speaking, though, an influencer marketing campaign will revolve around two main elements: the influencer and your goals.
This person will not just be the face of your brand’s influencer marketing campaign; they will be the campaign itself. Social media influencers are, first and foremost, people that influence other people by showing off their lifestyle and specific parts of their lives.
This allows for pretty unique levels of engagement, and both followers and fans alike are especially prone to listen to what an influencer has to say. This is why they are also more prone to buy the products that an influencer recommends.
Case in point: Influencer Katiana Bonifacio’s content on TikTok. Her videos are a great example of social media marketing done right, because not only does she deliver a lot in terms of quality content, but she also engages with her followers and inspires them to actually buy that product.
Check out the content she put out for a paid partnership with Bioré:
The video itself is short, sweet and informative, a perfect fit for the type of marketing efforts that the TikTok algorithm tends to favor. But her comments section is also pretty good, as we can see in this interaction with a follower:
It’s no use spending your time creating an influencer marketing strategy without first setting your goals. So, what exactly is it that you wish to achieve when partnering with an influencer?
There are tons of possibilities that you can explore. Maybe you want to increase sales, get more followers on social media, amplify your traffic options, increase your conversion metrics or get more people to join your mailing list.
All of those can be accomplished with influencer marketing, but first you’ll need to understand what your end goal is and then backtrack a bit, crafting the perfect influencer strategy to get you there.
The 5 different types of influencers
Not a lot of people get this, but the truth is that a successful influencer marketing campaign is not about how famous the influencer is or how many followers they have. In fact, influencer marketing is about finding the right influencers for your target audience.
Suppose you have a small online jewelry store that specializes in selling vintage and handmade pieces. In all likelihood, your target audience will have very tightly-knit interests, like second-hand goods and locally sourced products―and they’ll probably turn to influencers who have a very specific reach and share those same interests.
So, in other words, an influencer like a Kardashian will probably not be a good fit for a brand like yours, even if you did have the money to book her.
Mind you, we’re not saying that to discourage you! In fact, we’re just trying to broaden your horizons so you can find the right influencer for your brand.
With that in mind, check out the different types of social media influencer you’ll find online:
- Celebrity influencers: These are the Kardashians, Hollywood actresses and Netflix stars that boast 1 million or more followers on social media. They are more likely to partner with big brands that have the budget to create a robust (and sometimes even international) influencer marketing strategy.
- Mega influencers: Right below the celebrities are the well-known influencers, who have been around sometime and have since built a strong community of followers. They usually have around 500,000 and 1 million followers, which means they’re also a great fit for established brands that are interested in pursuing a broader influencer campaign.
- Macro influencers: With anywhere between 10,000 and 500,000 followers, macro influencers are the first category that is more attainable for small and medium-sized entrepreneurs who want to invest their money in influencer marketing campaigns. They tend to be on at least two different social media platforms and are likely to engage more directly with followers, whereas mega influencers and celebrities are highly unlikely to engage with each and every comment left on their posts.
The best type of influencers for small businesses
There are, however, two types of influencers that can bring great results for small businesses: micro influencers and nano influencers.
- Micro influencers: These are the influencers that have between 1,000 and 10,000 followers and are very niche-oriented. A micro influencer usually has a very engaged community of followers, which is great news for entrepreneurs that are interested in using influencer marketing to generate more sales or gain more followers.
- Nano influencers: Small but mighty, nano influencers can have 1,000 followers or even less―but that does not mean that they aren’t capable of bringing the results you wish to achieve. In fact, a nano influencer can be a great fit for local shops that want to expand their brands and start selling to different cities and/or provinces, because they tend to be extremely vocal within their own local communities.
Natasha Pickowicz is a NY-based chef and author, and an influencer in her own right with almost 43k followers. This puts her in the macro influencers category.
💭 Did that jewelry business idea spark your interest? Here are some other topics that you might want to explore:
Influencer marketing examples
We’ve already covered a lot of ground, but there’s still a lot of important stuff missing, like some actual examples of influencer marketing on social media.
Well, now’s the time to correct that. Below are 7 examples of influencer marketing out in the wild, made by influencers both big and small.
1. Promo code
This is one of the most traditional and widely implemented influencer marketing campaigns. It’s also a strategy that’s pretty well-known within ecommerce’s customer acquisition techniques: the promo code.
Content-wise, this type of campaign normally involves a photo reel or a video of the influencer showing off what they were able to accomplish with the product. The tone should be informative and upbeat, and the closing stance needs to work as a call to action to encourage followers to buy.
The special promo code comes at the end of the caption or in the video itself, if you’re working with TikTok.
✒️ This type of influencer marketing strategy is great for products that have a “before and after” comparison effect, like skincare treatments, cleaning products and athletic gear.
2. Brand story
This type of influencer marketing is great for brands and influencers who have already established a good working relationship, mainly because it allows them to go back to old content and highlight to followers just how that brand has always been aligned with the influencers’ opinions and beliefs.
The idea behind this type of social media marketing strategy is not to sell a product per se, but rather to establish credibility, increase brand awareness and start cultivating a loyal following.
✒️ This type of influencer marketing strategy is great for products of all sorts: electronics, domestic appliances, subscription businesses and even traditional items, like clothes and shoes.
3. Product pitch
A product pitch is a solid marketing tactic for any kind of influencer marketing strategy, not least because it’s also one of the most widely used formats out there.
What makes it so great is that it’s simple and it goes right to the point: get the brand’s message and product across and convince followers to buy.
✒️ This type of influencer marketing strategy works even better when the influencer plays on their own personal brand and/or running gags or themes. In the example above, Eagle Blackbird’s punchline―the fact that he can finally “sleep indigenously”―connects with all of his other content and is extremely on-brand.
4. Product review
Product reviews are everywhere on YouTube, but they also work extremely well in the short video format that has taken over TikTok and Instagram. It’s also a pretty simple and efficient influencer marketing strategy, since it revolves around the influencer trying out the product and then explaining why they’re excited about that item.
However, to get the most out of this type of campaign, you’ll need to work with the influencer to aim at a two-minute video. Anything over that will likely discourage viewers―and anything shorter than that won’t give a lot of time for the influencer to actually review your items.
✒️ This type of influencer marketing strategy works especially well with nano and micro influencers, since their audiences tend to have a higher level of engagement.
5. Trying out different products
If you like the product review idea but think your brand can benefit from wider exposure, consider influencer marketing campaigns where the influencer tries out different kinds of products all at once.
Mind you, this is slightly different from a product review, since the influencer won’t be listing the pros and cons of your product but rather showing them off to viewers and followers. The idea here is to show how diverse your product catalog is and how your items look like in real life.
✒️ This type of influencer marketing strategy is great for brands that sell clothes, altheisure, makeup, skincare, gadgets and anything fashion-related.
6. Giveaways and contests
Giveaways and contests are nothing new for online store owners, especially those that have been roaming around social media for quite some time now.
After all, these are excellent strategies to boost engagement and gain more followers, not least because they generally revolve around encouraging users to follow the store’s account and leave a comment.
The great thing about this format is that it can work inside an influencer marketing campaign, too. To make it even more appealing, the influencer can blend the giveaway with a product review:
7. Affiliate or special link
You know the age-old “link in bio” that we so often hear and/or read on social media?
Influencers tend to use that phrase a lot when they advertise a product, and usually they mean that:
- The brand has created a special landing page for customers to access
- The influencer is likely getting a commission for each sale made via that link
- The brand is tracking how many access that link is getting and what kind of traffic it’s generating for the store
5 places to find social media influencers
How exactly do you go about searching for an influencer, anyhow? Do you just scroll through social media endlessly until you find the right fit? Do you ask around? Go through competitors’ pages?
Well, you can do all of that. But you can also go to an influencer marketing platform, like the ones listed below. These are pretty robust solutions to help you not just identify influencers that might be a good fit for your brand but also track and monitor the outcomes of each campaign.
Creator.co is probably one of the most well-known platforms for influencers and brands interested in influencer marketing.
It boasts an amazing database of over 300 million influencer profiles across multiple social platforms, like Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, Twitch and even Pinterest. It also offers an all-in-one dashboard where brands can track campaigns, payments and metrics.
The downside is that the pricing can be a little high, especially if you’re working with a tight budget.
Upfluence is another great influencer marketing hub worth checking out.
Not only is it a powerhouse when it comes to affiliate marketing and influencer marketing, Upfluence also offers some amazing tools for tracking results, calculating commissions, generating promo codes and even running competitive audits.
To get the exact pricing, though, you’ll need to reach out to their sales team.
If you’re more inclined to work exclusively with a micro influencer, then Heepsy is definitely the way to go. It has a specific database with micro influencers from all over the world and some top-notch filters so you can search by location, engagement rate, niche and a lot more.
And the best part is that they offer a free trial, so you can get started without having to pay anything upfront!
GRIN is a great platform for brands willing to pair with strong influencers in their marketing efforts. They offer great tools for analytics and even help out with the product seeding process, which means your influencers will have a ton of liberty to pick out the products they want to review.
You can also get a demo from GRIN, but you’ll need to reach out to their team directly to do that.
Last but not least, Moonio: an influencer marketing platform that actually offers a free subscription plan. You can start using it today to search for influencers, reach out to them and get your collaboration started.
How to build an influencer marketing strategy
You already know the basics of what influencer marketing is, so let’s just briefly go over the how. That way, you can take it step by step when the time comes.
- Research influencers: Try out all of the search options inside the platform you chose and make sure to do a thorough check on the influencer’s accounts and previous partnerships.
- Reach out to them: Reach out privately, using the email address and/or contact form that the influencer has shared as their preferred form of contact. Take this opportunity to present your brand and sketch out the general idea of the project.
- Agree on rates, content format and frequency: Before you close the deal, make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to payment and that the content format and frequency is well-defined. Are you paying for five posts spread out over two months? For both Instagram Stories and YouTube videos? All of that needs to be addressed.
- Give creative control: Influencer marketing is more about the influencer than about your brand, so don’t forget to give your influencer creative control to run the campaign. After all, they’re the ones who know their audience and what will make them engage the most. The more organic the content, the better the results.
- Monitor the results: Track the progress of the campaign to assess whether or not the influencer campaign is generating the results you’ve wanted.
Give influencer marketing campaigns a go
A good influencer marketing strategy can reap your brand tons of benefits in the long run. Not only will it give you content that can be reused and republished in different platforms, it’ll also serve as a window for you to collect user-generated content and engage with more followers.
But the best part of it is that it’ll allow you to build a strong community of fans and customers, and form strategic partnerships that will unquestionably help your brand expand.
Lastly, here are some extra content that can help you step up your social media game: