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We recently touched on working with social media, or "digital," influencers in our post on marketing to Generation Z. It's no doubt one of the most effective methods for connecting with the demographic, which is glued to the screens of their smartphones, laptops and tablets almost 24/7.
As rapid consumers of media, Generation Z has been bombarded with advertisements over the course of their lifetimes. Even more so than the generations before them. As a result, Gen Z has smartened up on when they're being "pitched to." The more traditional methods of advertising are often lost on them.
What does resonate with Generation Z, however, is influencer marketing. "What exactly is an influencer?," you might ask. Plain and simple, it's someone with a large amount of followers on social media, or readers of a blog. Whether it's a YouTuber who makes funny videos, an Instagram fashionista, or a "do-it-yourself" blogger, influencers provide genuine value to their peers. And because they "sound" exactly like the people who follow them, their advertisements come off as organic, genuine endorsements.
What Exactly do Influencers Market?
Influencers pitch every product and service under the sun. From a local hair salon all the way up to a Fortune 500 company like American Express, businesses small and large are now working with influencers. Clothing, cosmetics, workout supplements, health foods and video games are just a few examples of the items influencers pitch.
In case you're still not fully grasping the concept, here's an example from a popular YouTube influencer promoting a subscription-based website that ships Korean snack foods to customers around the globe.
Popular YouTuber Coco Chanou promotes Korean snacks from SnackFever in a recent video.
Hopefully this overview gives you a better idea of the value of influencer marketing. Now that we've covered the basics, let's take a look at how to get your influencer program up-and-running.
Find Your Influencers
Method 1: Start from Scratch
The "from-scratch" approach can be time-consuming, but the return on your investment is worth it. So get that spreadsheet ready and start digging!
The two best social media channels for working with digital influencers, based on our experience, are Instagram and YouTube. So let's keep our focus there. Identify other top players in your industry (you probably already know who they are) and then check out who's posting about them online.
On Instagram, the best way to do this is by searching the brands' hashtags. For example, if you're marketing for a fitness brand, start by searching "#adidas" or "#nike." The most popular brands might even have sub-tags, such as "#nikeshoes" or "#nikewomen." Be on the lookout, too, for tags that encompass entire industries. A hashtag like "#sneakerhead" is extremely valuable if you're marketing shoes as part of your fitness brand.
The discovery process is essentially the same on YouTube. Just search the names of your competitors or even their specific products, along with the word "review," and you'll find a seemingly endless list of videos in your search results. YouTube even recommends related review videos, which really allows the process to snowball.
Once you get a feel for the process, start filling up that spreadsheet with your prospective influencers' essential information. Some important things to take note of are their follower counts, preferred social channels, home cities (or even countries) and of course, contact information. Most influencers have their business-inquiry emails displayed prominently at the top of their profiles.
Method 2: Influencer Marketing Platforms
If you're not up for the "dirty" work yourself—and you've got the budget for it—there are a number of platforms that exist to help connect your brand with influencers. These services are great because they provide a wealth of data that help you measure exactly how effective your influencers are. The website Influencer Marketing Hub offers an extensive list of the most popular influencer management platforms out there.
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Marketing with digital influencers is relatively affordable, in most cases. So-called "macro-influencers" such as Kim Kardashian West are said to command $300,000 per single Instagram post. For better or worse, "celebrities" like Kardashian West are household names in this day-and-age. As a result, they have massive reaches online. Kardashian West currently has a staggering 107 million followers on her Instagram account.
But forget about the Kardashians. On the other end of the spectrum, we have "micro-influencers." These people have significant, yet less extensive followings. They're early-adopters and trendsetters among their peers, but they're not in the mainstream public eye. Micro-influencers typically have from a few thousand to tens of thousands of followers on Instagram. On YouTube, they often have tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of subscribers.
Assuming you'll be working exclusively with micro-influencers, let's get familiar with how, and how much, your collaborators will be compensated.
Method 1: Pay Per-Post
More experienced micro-influencers are likely to have advertising kits prepared for brands like yours. Such kits offer a variety of packages along with set prices. What you pay will be determined by your influencer's reach, and the amount of content they produce for you. Be warned, these types of folks generally won't budge on their prices.
For other "micros," there's going to be some room for negotiation. Ultimately, it's up to you and your collaborator to come to an agreement. As a ballpark estimate, sponsored posts or videos from most micro-influencers range between $50 and $500. In return, you'll generally get your product in front of the eyeballs of tens-of-thousands of target audience members.
Influencer Marketing Hub has a fantastic tool that provides estimates for sponsored Instagram posts. The estimates are determined by metrics such as followers, likes and engagement rates, among other things. This can be a great reference point for determining the going rate for your collaborators.
Method 2: Gifted Product
In some cases, micro-influencers with smaller followings (nano-influencers, perhaps? 🤔) will be open to collaborating with your brand for nothing more than gifted product. Just distribute your product and let them get to work.
This approach is a great way to complement collaborations with your influencers with larger reaches. So depending on your marketing budget, you can fine-tune the amount of paid and gifted influencers you work with to find the right balance.
Although it could strike you as futile, the presence of your brand among social media users with even just hundreds to a couple thousand followers can be powerful. The number of such influencers out there is staggering. Most have very creative content on their profiles, too, and they're just waiting to work with you!
Method 3: Affiliate Marketing
Yet another method for influencer compensation is affiliate marketing. Under this approach, influencers are compensated on commission. Affiliate marketing is restricted to e-commerce brands, because, to track their referrals, sales must be completed online. The approach is favorable because your business can see exactly how many sales are made as a result of any particular influencer.
For the DIY method, your tech team will generate unique URLs that your influencers incorporate into their advertisements. When your influencers' followers click through to your website and complete a purchase, you'll have the data to know they're responsible for the sale. Affiliate marketers are then generally paid their commissions on a monthly basis.
There are also dozens—if not hundreds—of affiliate-marketing platforms that will run the whole process for your business. Entrepreneur has rounded-up 10 of the most popular services.
Method 4: Promo codes
Similar to affiliate marketing, promo codes allow you to compensate your influencers on commission.
Under the promo code system, each influencer is given a unique code—let's say, for instance, "AWP2018." Your influencers will share their unique codes on their social media channels or blog, just like they would an affiliate-marketing link. When their followers make a purchase on your site, they simply enter the promo code at checkout to give your influencer credit. This approach usually includes a small discount that incentivizes your customer to use your influencer's promo code.
Create Your Content
New-York based fashion blogger Camila Coehlo promoting
Ralph Lauren, as well as other brands, in a recent Instagram post.
Apart from being affordable, there's another beautiful aspect of working with influencers—they're built-in creatives. Not only are they the face of your brand, but also your creative director, copywriter, video editor and photographer.
So maybe when we say, "Create your content," it should be, "Let your influencers do it for you." The level of involvement you'll have in the creative process is up to you. If you want to weigh in, that's fine. You'll find that most influencers are easy to work with and want to ensure that you're happy. But they're more than comfortable taking charge themselves.
In most cases a simple list of "talking points" and the required calls-to-action are all your influencers will need from you. Beyond that, they've got it covered.
Refine Your Influencer Program
Once you've launched your first couple of influencer campaigns, you'll begin to get a better sense of how the whole process works. From there, it's time to start scaling.
Find out which of your influencers are making an impact, as well as the other who are... not so much. If you're running an affiliate program, the data from your influencers' unique links will speak for itself. For pay per-post and gifted-product campaigns, you can simply monitor the amount of "likes," "comments" or "views" coming in on your influencers' social profiles.
After you've identified your effective influencers, it's important to nurture your relationships with them. Keep in contact, let them know they're doing a great job, and that you're interested in continuing to work with them. For those who aren't getting the job done, you can simply thank them for their involvement and let them know that you'll get in touch if you're interested in collaborating again in the future.
As you continue to launch new campaigns, simply rinse and repeat this process. Before you know it you'll have a robust and ever-growing roster of influencers.
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