Influencer marketing is no longer just a buzzword. It’s a growing industry and is becoming a marketing tactic that more and more companies are turning to. In fact, according to a study by Mediakix, $1.6 billion was spent on Instagram influencer marketing alone in 2018, and influencer marketing will become a $5-10 billion market by 2020.

What exactly is influencer marketing, and how do you know if it will be beneficial for your business? Read on for a 101 lesson in influencer marketing.

Why use influencer marketing?

The fight for consumers’ attention is a constant battle for marketers. Influencer marketing meets the customer where they are—scrolling on their phones on social media. Instead of bombarding consumers with an in-your-face ad, influencer marketing is more subtle, in the form of content from a person they already follow. Consumers trust this person’s opinion, and if the influencer authentically promotes your brand, that trust is very valuable.

What is an influencer?

An influencer is a person with a loyal following on social media. This can be anyone from Kim Kardashian with 134 million followers, to your local mommy blogger who has 1,000 followers.

There are few different levels of influencers. At the top of the list is mega influencers, AKA celebrities. They have millions of followers, they’ll be incredibly expensive to work with, and chances are, they won’t actually care about your product. Next are macro influencers. They typically have between 100,000-1,000,000 followers and can also be pricey to work with, although doable for larger companies. They will have a large reach and should have a pretty engaged audience. Then there are micro influencers, the sweet spot for a lot of smaller brands. Although they don’t have an enormous following (they typically have fewer than 100,000 followers), their fans are engaged, and they are usually more inexpensive to work with.

Then there are all of the different influencer niches. There are lifestyle influencers, fashion influencers, makeup influencers, fitness influencers, mommy influencers, healthy eating influencers, foodie influencers, interior design influencers, travel influencers, and the list goes on and on… If you have a specific product, chances are there’s an influencer that it would make sense for you to work with, with a target audience you’re trying to reach.

What are the opportunities?

Influencer marketing is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each influencer is different, and each campaign is different.

Instagram is the biggest platform for influencer marketing, but you can also utilize Facebook and Twitter. Video content on YouTube is another great influencer marketing tactic. A long form blog post is always great for SEO.

You can ask influencers to review a new product you’re launching, come eat at your new restaurant that’s opening, attend an exciting event you’re putting on, or try out a service you provide.

The most common influencer partnership is a sponsored post–an influencer posts about your brand, tags your account in the photo and/or caption, and can even use a hashtag that you specify. Don’t forget that influencers need to disclose that the post is sponsored content, usually with #spon or #ad.

You can also ask an influencer to include a swipe-up link in their Instagram stories or a link in their bio. This link can be to your homepage, a specific product page on your website, or even a custom landing page that you created just for the campaign. We recommending adding UTM parameters to the link so that you can track who came to the page from the influencer campaign in Google Analytics. More on that in another Zion & Zion article here.

Additionally, you could provide the influencer with a discount code to share with their followers. You can make this custom to each influencer, such as KIM20, so you can see how many purchases were made using a particular influencer’s code.

And, don’t forget about contests and giveaways that the influencer can host for their followers. This is a great way to grow your own page’s following too.

What is the cost?

Kendall Jenner was paid $275,000 to promote Fyre Fest on her Instagram, but that doesn’t mean that all influencer marketing costs are this outrageous. You can usually make an influencer campaign work with your budget. Some of the smaller micro influencers will work with brands for trade–for a free product, a free meal, a free stay at your hotel, etc.–but more commonly, cash payment will be required; a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for a post. You just need to work with the influencer to agree on terms and negotiate compensation that works for all involved.

What is the process?

First, you’ll want to do your research (or hire a company to do that for you). Search for influencers who will fit with your brand, and vice versa. Most influencers won’t partner with you if your product doesn’t fit with their overall brand and what they represent. Authenticity is key.

When identifying influencers you want to work with, look at more than just their follower count. Yes, this is important, but it doesn’t tell the full story. Some influencers buy a large number of followers, so the fake accounts that follow them aren’t engaged, and ultimately won’t engage with you, too. By looking at the engagement rate, you’ll have a more complete picture. Engagement rate is engagement divided by the total number of followers, and there are online tools such as this one that can easily calculate this number for you. We generally like to look for influencers with at least 2% engagement rate.

Next, reach out to the influencer to see if they’re interested in collaborating with your brand, product, or restaurant. If you’re working on a very specific campaign, then you will want to develop a creative brief for the influencer. It lays out all the information about your product or brand, what you’re asking the influencer to do, what social media profiles they need to tag, and what hashtags they need to use.

You can provide some creative direction, but typically it’s best practice to let the influencer have creative control. Their feed is often curated to look a certain way, so they will want the sponsored post to flow with the rest of their content. Plus, they know their audience best and what will resonate with them. Let the influencer do the driving, and you’ll see some creative, non-corporate lifestyle images and authentic engagement too.

After the influencer agrees to work with you and you negotiate the terms (you may even sign a contract), send the influencer the product and wait for them to post!

Once the influencer posts, you’ll want your social team ready to interact with them! Comment on the post thanking them, share/repost their post or story, and engage with their followers in the comments.

After the campaign wraps, look at the results. Which influencers performed best? Who had the best engagement? Did anyone’s followers visit the website or purchase your product? This will help you determine the influencers that you want to work with again. These are called brand ambassadors and bringing them on board to consistently post about your company will continue to get your product in front of their audience’s eyeballs on a regular basis.

Now what?

It’s clear that influencer marketing is here to stay, so don’t wait to start building relationships with influencers in your niche. With influencer marketing on your side, you can reach your target audience and grow your brand awareness, leading to more success for your company!