You’ve likely heard the term “influencer” thrown around a lot the last few years. It generates mental images of YouTube stars promoting energy drinks and Instagram stars raving about weight loss supplements.
This is called influencer marketing, and it can be a very successful strategy if you execute your campaign correctly. Let’s find out if you should try this strategy yourself.
What Is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is the process by which brands leverage well-known figures who have influence over their target markets to promote their brands.
This doesn’t mean you need to be able to afford to pay Michael Jordan to promote your new athletic wear line.
In fact, many of the most successful influencer marketers are not extremely famous.
Take, for example, Murad and Nataly Osmann. There is a good chance you recognize the style of their photos:
One simple photograph of Nataly leading her boyfriend by the hand has morphed into a massive online following — and a branding empire.
According to Adweek, “They’re working with top marketers like Macy’s and Napa Valley Beringer Vineyards to create compelling ads, and they’re launching a platform to match brands with bloggers.”
The #Followmeto project has also morphed into TV and book deals. The couple hosts a 20-minute travel TV show on Channel One Russia that takes viewers behind the scenes of their online photos.”
Sometimes, the best influencers aren’t people at all. Toast, a well know dog, uses her Internet fame to promote a variety of brands, including coffee, bottled water, and even thigh chafing sticks.
Instagram isn’t the only place you can find influencers.
Lance Stewart, a well-known influencer, has more than 50 thousand followers on Facebook alone:
He is also active on Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter.
Finding influencers isn’t necessarily about finding the most famous person.
Instead, it’s about finding a person your audience trusts and leveraging that influence to promote your brand.
Outline the Goals of Your Influencer Marketing Campaign
I’ve discovered that influencer marketing works well for brands that don’t have much of a following.
You’re leveraging someone else’s platform for your own gain.
However, before you create the content, before you find an influencer, and before you do anything else, you need to outline the goals of your influencer campaign.
It’s simple: Every decision you make is informed by your goal.
The platform you choose, the influencer you partner with, the type of content they create; all of these factors come into play.
Let’s work from an example to make this easier to illustrate.
Say you’re working with a client (let’s call them Client A) in the gaming industry — specifically in the smartphone app gaming industry.
Mobile gaming is a pretty competitive industry. iTunes offers 18 categories of games and hundreds of popular puzzle games.
Company A has been in business for five years and has a solid portfolio of games of medium success, including one highly popular game that was downloaded 25 million times.
They have a new puzzle game coming out, and they want to leverage influencer marketing to get tons of downloads and create buzz around the new launch. Ideally, this buzz would extend to their brand and give their entire game portfolio a good boost.
How can you help them get the most out of influencer marketing?
First, let’s outline the goal.
The goal should have three parts:
- find out the influencer’s demographic data
- determine what the influencer will help you do
- plan how the influencer will help you do it
Example Goal for Company A’s Influencer Marketing Campaign:
There are a plethora of formats to outline your goals. In this example, Company A has written the goals of the campaign in paragraph form:
This campaign will partner with a young, highly connected influencer with access to the tech-savvy millennial group. Ideally, they will be into technology and use an iPhone because downloads from the Apple Store exceed those on Android.
Through this campaign, we will exceed the download numbers of our last game by 45% in the first 30 days.
The campaign will include at least 1 video of 30+ seconds to showcase how the game is played, and two or three other social posts on Instagram and Snapchat where our demographic is most active.
This goal is detailed. It includes specific numbers and platforms. There is a chance that some of these factors will shift.
For example, you might find out that YouTube is a more effective platform for your video game company to use for influencer marketing.
Changing the details of your goal is fine, but the outline should serve as a starting point for all the other decisions.
This template will help you outline your goal:
Influencer marketing campaign goal plan
Who is the influencer?
Popular on what platforms?
Campaign end goal:
Number of posts:
Now that you have your goal outlined, it’s time to move on to finding your influencer.
How to Find Effective Influencers for Your Brand
Choosing the right influencer is vital to the success of a killer influencer marketing campaign, but it is far from easy. Ryan Schneider, Chief Brand Manager at Insomniac Games, says this:
[A] lot of leg work goes into finding the right influencer…If I were a PR person, and I was trying to find the right reporter at The Wall Street Journal, I could do that … probably within one Google search or two mouse clicks. Targeting the right influencers can be a lot more complex.
According to Tap Influence, there are four main ways to find influencers: searching manually, using databases, tapping networks, or exploring marketplaces.
This method requires conducting individual searches, scanning web pages for information, and then adding the information to a spreadsheet. It’s extremely time-consuming and not very effective.
Start by creating a spreadsheet in Google Docs or Excel, then create a column for each piece of information you want to pull about each individual influencer.
Column names will likely include:
- Industry of influence, including the specific niche (for example, if a gaming influencer’s audience is mostly female, or under the age of 16)
- Total followers (combination of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, or the top platforms your audience uses)
- Facebook link
- Instagram link
- Twitter link
- Snapchat link
- Email/contact info
- Special notes: Do you already have a relationship with them, or do they regularly post about topics closely related to your brand? Add any other information you want to include here.
Next, search Google and relevant social platforms for keywords, mentions of your brand, and related hashtags.
In a highly competitive industry like mobile gaming, you should go after high-tier influencers so you’ll have the most reach. Compile a list of these people.
The next step is to search on the most popular platform for our target audience. In this case, I head to YouTube.
The most effective strategy is to look at videos with the highest engagement, either from my brand or my competitors’, and then look at who shared or engaged with those posts.
From there, I would be able to find the top influencers.
I am using a fictitious example, so I can’t search for our brand.
Since we are in mobile gaming, I am going to search for Two Dots, a popular puzzle game. Based on a quick search of the brand name, I see a possible influencer:
The top video is old and won’t be a good fit for our gaming site.
The second video is from the actual brand Dots. It’s also not a good fit.
The third, from ZoeTwoDots, might represent a good fit. Her videos showcase strategies for different games, her channel is active, and the channel has more than 200,000 followers. Looks promising!
I would add her to the spreadsheet and keep going.
Keep in mind, all this research garnered me just one possible influencer to target.
Manual research is extremely labor intensive. However, for smaller brands looking for very niche influencers, this is likely the best choice.
These are tools that will do the site-scraping for you by pulling publicly available data. These can be good places to start, but vetting each influencer can prove time-consuming.
Basically, instead of manually doing the searches, databases do the heavy lifting. They’re less time-intensive than manually searching and are cheaper than other options.
One example is Inpowered.
Inpowered has a list of clients it has worked with in the past, including case studies:
For our mobile gaming company, this doesn’t seem to be a good fit. A more traditional brand might find this database useful.
Lean on Your Networks
This method of connecting with influencers sits in between databases and marketplaces. A network has built relationships with influencers, but you have to go through their profiles to reach out.
Networks tend to focus on specific genres, such as Dad bloggers, lifestyle influencers, or food enthusiasts. Examples of popular influencer networks include Activate.
After a little research, I come across a good fit for our mobile gaming company: MatchMade.
They make it super simple to search for exactly the type of influencer I want, including allowing me to sort my options based on reach, location, subscribers, and engagement.
Another benefit of networks is that they often offer more tracking and analytics. Matchmade offers a full dashboard:
There are a lot of pros to choosing a network — you are able to select exactly the type of influencer you want based on many different factors. Tracking is included, making it easy to see if you are reaching your goals.
However, this also tends to be the most expensive option.
A marketplace offers the best features of a database by pulling in real-time information, but it allows you to avoid middle men. Marketplaces tend to offer less tracking, but they are also more affordable.
Examples of market places include Tribe, HYPR, and Brand Snob. Much like dating sites, marketplaces allow you to look at hundreds of profiles of different influencers.
Here is an example of an influencer profile on Tribe:
I can easily see her reach and an example of her work. This is much easier than sorting through thousands of Google search results.
Choosing the best method for finding an influencer that fits your needs can be complicated. Ultimately, you are looking for a partner, and just like any partnership, you need to take your time and consider all the options.
The final decision is likely going to be based on what resource you want to spend — time or money.
Getting the Most Out of Your Influencer Marketing Campaign
You have outlined your goals, chosen an influencer, and started to build a relationship with them.
Now it is time to create your actual campaign. Here are tips for getting the most out of your killer influencer marketing campaign.
First, be authentic. The reason traditional ads aren’t as effective today is that people crave authentic connections.
Even though you are paying for the influencer to talk about your brand, you must keep authenticity in mind to be effective.
Shannon Fure of Convince and Convert says it best:
If an influencer doesn’t fit a brand’s ethos, the authenticity factor is going to plummet. Choosing the right influencer is the first step toward maintaining authenticity.
Second, choose the platform you use carefully.
Pay attention not only to where your audience is most active but also what type of content performs best on each platform.
Take, for example, this video created by Harry’s Razors:
On Facebook, the video got three thousand views.
On Instagram, Harry’s chose to post a screenshot of the same video:
Even though Instagram supports video, they tend to perform better on Facebook.
According to Murray Newlands, “different platforms are used to reach different audiences and demographics, and the same goes for what product or service you’re marketing: beautiful photos of your product belong on Instagram, while eye-catching videos will perform better on Facebook.”
Take the time to build a real relationship with the influencer. This gives you and the influencer a chance to see if you are a good fit and increases authenticity.
Angela Stringfellow of CODA Concepts suggests:
Start slowly by following them on social media, sharing their content, commenting on their blogs, and engaging them in relevant conversations whenever possible. Establishing a relationship of mutual trust is the key to successfully engaging your market’s thought leaders as brand advocates.
Empower your influencer through information and access to your brand, but don’t take creative control. Ideally, you’ve chosen an influencer who is already engaged with your brand.
If not, make sure they truly understand your brand’s voice and what you stand for.
Invite them to your offices, offer tickets to your events, and share interesting stories about your brand and the people you help.
But remember, they are popular with your target audience for a reason. To keep the interaction authentic, you need to relinquish creative control.
Influencer Marketing Conclusion
Influencer marketing might seem like just another buzzword born of a generation obsessed with smartphones. However, the practice is nothing new.
Put simply, people trust people more than they trust brands. Influencer marketing allows you to leverage that trust to create goodwill towards your brand.
The steps I outlined above will help you find the best influencer and get the most out of your partnership.
Have you implemented an influencer marketing campaign? What were your results?