What Is An Influencer?
Influencers are consumers who promote products to their followers on social media. An influencer has the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of their authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with their audience.
What Is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is the collaboration between brands and online influencers to market products or services. Influencer marketing focuses on influential people rather than the target market; it leverages the influencer’s audience to disseminate the brand’s promotions and messages. Influencer marketing works because of the trust social influencers have built with their audience. Recommendations serve as social proof to the influencer’s audience, and your brand gains potential customers.
Influencer marketing strategies and campaigns are one aspect of a company's social media marketing strategy. Digital marketers work with select influencers on various social media platforms (e.g., Instagram influencers) to accomplish marketing objectives.
Influencer marketing is a critical component of social media strategy for many businesses. It focuses on key people who have built the audience you want to reach.
Benefits of Influencer Marketing:
- Build trust and authority
- Increase brand awareness
- Reach target audience
- Impact purchase decisions
- Reach specific demographics
- Generate engagement
- Create authentic content
- Show contextual consumption
- Increase word of mouth
- Shape customer opinions
The Three Approaches To Influencer Marketing
There are three approaches to influencer marketing that brands may consider: marketing through influencers, marketing to influencers, and marketing with influencers.
- Marketing through influencers uses the influencer to promote your product or service to their audience, which should overlap with your target market.
- Marketing to influencers focuses on promoting your brand to influencers, rather than their following, to raise awareness.
- Marketing with influencers turns influencers into advocates, producing better relationships and often reducing promotional costs.
This article focuses on marketing through influencers, which is the most common approach to influencer marketing.
The Current State Of The Influencer Marketing Landscape
Rising Social Commerce
Social commerce is on the rise: 34 percent of people say they have shopped on Instagram based on an influencer’s recommendation.
The Value Of A Niche
An influencer's authority and effect are often confined to their specific niche, a small segment of the larger market. A niche has needs that are distinct from the larger market. Therefore, to use influencer marketing effectively, there must be a tight alignment between the brand’s positioning, messaging, influencers’ platform, and the niche on which the influencer has built their credibility.
A niche is not a product category, such as coffee. Rather, a niche is a narrow subset of a category, such as ready-to-drink coffee aimed at high-income, fitness-orientated individuals aged 20 to 40 who practice a ketogenic diet. Influencers should be selected based on their clout and authority within a specific niche.
Trust: A Critical Success Factor
Trust is the foundation on which influence is built.
Trust is based on four components: positive relationships, good judgment, expertise, and consistency.
See how I can help your tea or coffee business sell more products.
- Strategy: Get a clear direction with insightful marketing and branding strategies.
- SEO: Get colossal amounts of SEO traffic. See actual results.
- Content Marketing: I create epic content that gets you traffic, shares, and links.
- Paid Media: effective paid advertising with clear ROI.
Positive relationships are built when influencers build trust with their audience. It hinges on their ability to give honest feedback to their followers in a helpful way, be attuned to the issues and concerns of their audience, as well as cooperate and connect with those who follow them.
Good judgment and expertise are demonstrated to the degree to which the influencer is well informed and knowledgeable within their specific niche. With this foundation in place, others trust their ideas and opinions, and seek them out.
Consistency spans beyond the promotion of consistent content from the influencer to their audience. True consistency is an influencer’s ability to set a strong example, demonstrate integrity to their community, and go above and beyond in service of their audience.
“Trust is the asset influencers possess; influence is the effect.”
When brands consider influencers with whom they may partner, they should assess three critical components: reach, relevance, and resonance.
- Reach denotes the number of people an influencer could potentially reach through their follower base.
- Resonance represents the engagement the influencer can generate with an audience.
- A relevant influencer shares content relevant to your business and industry. They need to have an audience that aligns with your targeted audience.
Reach and resonance have a nuanced relationship. Usually, the greater the reach, the lower the resonance; the engagement rate typically drops as follower count increases.
Based on a brand's marketing priority, reach or resonance may hold more value to a company. For example, if a brand is trying to significantly increase brand awareness to try and gain market share, reach may be the more valued metric. By contrast, if a brand is trying to build advocacy behaviors within their new and existing customers, resonance may be a more fitting metric to value. Marketing strategy and brand strategy inform a company's approach to influencer marketing, as well as the influencers with whom they work.
There are three methods by which influencers can be segmented: reach, content type, and social deference.
Segmenting Influencers By Reach
Influencers are broadly classified by the size of their audience. Those influencers with the smallest reach are known as micro-influencers or nano influencers. Influencers with a moderate reach are classified as mid or macro-influencers; they have followings between 100,000 and 1,000,000. Influencers with followers greater than 1,000,000 are called mega-macro influencers.
Mega Macro Influencers
Mega macro influencers have a vast number of followers on their social networks, usually more than one million followers on a single platform. These influencers have an incredibly high reach, high price points for advertisements, and agents working on their behalf negotiating brand deals.
Mega macro influencers are typically inaccessible to small businesses; they most often work with large brands. Mega macro-influencers are celebrities, most of whom gain fame offline (e.g., athletes, actors, and musicians). This type of influencer is most effective at increasing brand awareness at a mass-market level.
Macro influencers have between 500,000 and 1 million followers, and are slightly more accessible prospects for influencer marketing campaigns. This tier of influencers consists of lesser-known celebrities or online experts.
The latter is often more valuable to brands, as there is an opportunity to closely align expertise with a company's target market and brand image. This makes macro influencers effective for increasing awareness, and in some cases reflecting brand messaging.
Mid level influencers have a following between 100,000 to 500,000 people. Usually, such influencers have a clear topical focus on their content and are often viewed as credible within a specific category.
Micro influencers are ordinary individuals who have risen to prominence within a specific niche. They often have an authentic relationship with their followers and a clear, narrow topical focus. There's often a high level of trust between micro-influencers and their audience, which may increase the effectiveness of influencer marketing campaigns.
Nano influencers have a comparatively small following but have gained recognition as experts within a specialized topic. Such influencers often have highly engaged audiences that listen and act on the opinions of the nano influencer. For mass-market products, nano influencers may be of negligible value. However, for specialized products that highlight specific benefits, nano influencers can be incredibly powerful.
Segmenting Influencers By Content
Influencers can be segmented by the type of content they produce. This allows marketers to align influencer partnerships with the content building blocks (e.g., blogs, images, podcasts, video). This approach to defining and evaluating influencers, places an emphasis on content creation, rather than social clout, which may allow for a tighter relationship between influencer marketing and SEO.
Bloggers, and influencers on micro blogging platforms (e.g., Twitter), may have among the most authentic and active relationships with their audience. Essentially every product category has an influential blogger that is trusted and turned to by consumers.
Positive mentions from bloggers can encourage potential customers to purchase a product or service. Bloggers that rise to the highest levels of influence are often characterized by a deep respect for their readers. This respect that high-tier bloggers have for their audience necessitates having a quality product worth recommending.
One way of leveraging the influence of bloggers is guest posting, a tactic used within many brands' SEO strategy. Alternatively, brands can leverage the influence of bloggers through sponsored posts, which is a tactic that some use in digital PR.
Influencers who have built a strong audience on social media platforms, such as Instagram or Pinterest, leverage images as visual assets. Some product categories with aesthetic elements, such as food and beauty, benefit from image-based platforms for influencer marketing campaigns. When finding influencers on platforms such as Instagram, identifying individuals who fit the look, feel and values of your brand is important.
Podcasting is mainstream now. Podcasts are a unique form of content; they are consumed for greater periods of time than its video counterparts. Podcasts allow you to build a direct relationship with listeners and position your brand in an authentic way. Companies may choose to work with influential podcast hosts, within their specific market or industry, to gain exposure for their brand. Alternatively, brands may choose to create a podcast to discreetly promote or embody the brand.
Videos are a highly engaging and rapidly growing form of content. Brands may wish to partner with influencers who’ve gained prominence with an audience on video-based platforms, such as YouTube or Twitch. Aligning yourself with influencers on video voice platforms gives your content a degree of longevity and an SEO edge, much like blogs.
Segmenting Influencers By Social Deference
Customers feel more inclined to listen to someone they trust, relate to, or idolize. Marketers can leverage each of these tendencies by focusing on different levels of influence.
“There are different levels of influencers, and the smaller, more targeted influencers are often more successful, if less glamorous.”
Celebrity endorsements were the original form of influencer marketing.
Celebrity endorsement is an advertising strategy that uses a celebrity’s status and image to promote a brand, product, or service. Celebrities leverage their fame and status to expose a brand to a new or broader audience, providing the brand with increased awareness and recognition.
“Investments from celebrities can fuel your businesses' growth far more than just capital if structured right.”
The price of celebrity endorsements is anchored on fame; with influencers, the price is paid for the relationship. Such endorsements use pop culture icons to influence consumer perceptions and behavior.
“In my experience, most content marketers overvalue the benefits of social mentions from internet celebrities.”
“Sustained brand lift from A-list celebrity endorsements has faded over the years with the decentralization of media.”
Successful endorsements see a close alignment between the celebrity symbol and the product and brand image.
One limitation of using celebrity influencers in your marketing campaign, is the limited degree of relevance in the product’s consumer base, in some cases.
For example, Justin Bieber, an ultra-successful pop star and devout Christian, may have great influence in recommending products such as music editing software, or premium leather-bound bibles. Mr. Bieber may not have the ability to influence consumers' purchasing decisions for tractors, for example, because such a product is perceived as not being well aligned with Justin Bieber’s identity or expertise. Country music icon and ranch owner George Strait, however, may be perceived as better suited to endorse tractors.
“The good news is, there is still tremendous value in partnering with influential people. The bad news is, it's quite tricky, with many pitfalls that require focus and due diligence to create great alliances.”
There are several instances of companies successfully using brand endorsements in the execution of their marketing strategy. Successful examples of leveraging celebrity influence in marketing campaigns include the partnership between George Clooney and Nespresso, Jennifer Aniston and Aveeno, as well as Michael Jordan and Nike, which resulted in the Air Jordan product line.
The accessibility and impact of celebrity endorsements are influenced by a brand's size in the market and its budget.
“As an insurgent in an established category, such as coffee, you can't directly compete with legacy brands that spend millions on endorsements and national ad campaigns; however, if you're savvy, your celebrity partners can add value, through investment and awareness, to your brand.”
Press And Professional Bloggers
Journalists and professional bloggers are among the most valuable influencers companies can connect with. Both focus exclusively on content creation and distribution. Journalists or professional bloggers can gain influence and credibility because of their work, or the company they are associated with, or a combination thereof.
“The tea industry has been strongly shaped by Dan Bolton, a respected and admired tea media mogul. His publication of Tea Journey magazine, skill as a writer, and experience as an editor at World Tea News and Stir Magazine has made the name ‘Dan Bolton’ respected and highly influential globally, within the tea world.”
Press and professional bloggers have a unique combination of reach and credibility. A journalist’s mention of your product or service in an influential publication (e.g., Entrepreneur, Inc, Huffington Post), niche publication (e.g., Tea Journey Magazine, Tea Biz blog), or relevant blog (e.g., Tea for Me Please), can influence and affect brand awareness and consumer behavior.
Thought leaders gain influence between the merit of their ideas and the credibility of experience. Examples of thought leaders include academics, professional advisors, and industry experts.
“The tea industry in the Canadian market has been strongly shaped by thought leaders such as Shabnam Webber. She is a visionary and a pillar of the tea community, and also the president of the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada. Within the tea industry, her recommendations carry weight, particularly in North American markets.”
Micro influencers have built a reputation for being experts in a niche; they usually gain their reputation informally through their online activity. Micro influencers create their reputation through the quality of their content marketing, such as posts, blogs, podcasts, or videos on their YouTube channel.
“Harney & Sons, one of the world's most valuable luxury tea brands, chose to recognize Nicole Wilson as their tea influencer of the month in May 2021.”
“The American tea company, Harney & Sons, chose their influencer well as there is clear audience alignment.”
Nicole's valuable contribution to the tea community spans over a decade. Through her blog "Tea for Me Please," Nicole has a significant and genuine influence on the consumer behavior of tea drinkers.
Advocates are ordinary people with a moderate audience, who are trusted by their peer group within a specific topic. Such individuals are highly relatable, and their recommendations are impactful. Advocates gain credibility through experience.
“Within the product category of tea, advocates such as Kelly Miller hold influence on consumer behavior. At the time of writing Kelly has 11,342 tea reviews on the tea forum, Steepster, and 1,557 Instagram posts dedicated to tea.”
Creating An Influencer Marketing Strategy
Your marketing strategy is the single idea enabling the accomplishment of your objectives; marketing tactics are how you bring the idea to life. Brands can select from a wide range of strategic marketing objectives for their influencer marketing strategy. Such objectives may be increasing brand awareness, reaching a specific audience, customer advocacy behaviors, or reaching new segments.
Before constructing your influencer marketing campaign, your brand should have a clearly defined marketing plan, as well as a supporting digital marketing strategy and content marketing strategy in place. Influencer campaigns are a tactical execution of one element of a company's overarching marketing efforts, and should align with the strategy that your company is committed to.
An influencer marketing strategy requires you to understand your brand's target audience and speak to them with the right means and messaging. A strong understanding of your target audience is created through personas. A strong influencer marketing strategy leverages a single insight or idea, and brings it to life through tactics, across influencer campaigns.
- Mega influencers are best for awareness campaigns when you want to get your product or service in front of as many people as possible.
- Macro influencers can be popular bloggers, podcasters, vloggers, and social media stars. Macro influencers are best when you want to target a specific audience. They have a sizable following to help you increase brand awareness and reach.
- Micro influencers usually stick to one topic and build thought leadership in that niche. They are more effective in driving actions and helping your business reach its marketing campaign goals.
- Nano influencers are individuals with influence on specific topics, and who are trusted by their audience. They have an engaged following and their recommendations are highly trusted. As such, nano influencers can help you meet campaign goals.
Creating An Influencer Marketing Campaign
There are eight components to creating a successful influencer marketing campaign.
- Define Your Campaign Objective
- Select The Type of Influencer Campaign
- Set Your Budget
- Determine Your Messaging and Metrics
- Find Social Media Influencers
- Select the Most Relevant Influencer
- Create and Leverage Content
- Refine Your Tactics
Define Your Campaign Objective
Your campaign objective should reflect your strategic objective. You track progress toward your campaign objective with specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound (SMART) goals. SMART goals may assess the reach (e.g., post impressions), resonance (e.g., shares, comments, saves), and relevance (e.g., clickthrough rate, product views, product sales).
For example, your strategic marketing objective may be to increase customer advocacy behavior. You may build your influencer marketing campaign around nano influencers in your product category. These nano influencers can embody the desired advocacy behaviors themselves, and inspire others to replicate them.
Your campaign objective may be to insert yourself into your audience's consideration set. You may want to drive more product sales by increasing the clickthrough rate (CTR) on an influencer marketing campaign to 4% by the end of this month. Metrics you track for this smart goal include saves, product views, and product sales.
Select The Type Of Influencer Campaign
There are three common types of influencer marketing campaigns: those that focus on sales, buzz, or product positioning.
Sales focused campaigns typically use affiliate marketing techniques. Brands compensate influencers and track ROI with custom URLs and unique discount codes.
Buzz-building campaigns focus on building excitement around your brand. Such campaigns use tactics like competitions, giveaways, and contests. Engagement is a high priority, and likes, tags, comments, and shares are closely monitored.
- Product positioning shows items in their consumption context and highlights product value to consumers. Communicating quality (e.g., taste), benefits (e.g., energy), values (e.g., sustainability), or lifestyle (e.g., plant-based diet) are critical elements in positioning campaigns.
Set Your Budget
Your budget will set constraints for the size of the influencer you work with. For example, as a start-up with a small budget, you may work only with micro influencers. A medium sized company may work with a highly regarded opinion leader, while large brands may have the cash to secure partnerships with mega macro influencers.
The rate influencers charge varies by product category (e.g., health and fitness, food, and drink), platform (e.g., Instagram, YouTube), and content format (e.g., story vs post). Most businesses, almost 90%, cite Instagram as the most important channel for influencer marketing. The following broad price brackets give brands an idea of the price per post.
- Nano influencer: product gifts or, around up to $80 per post
- Micro influencer: $80-500 per piece of content
- Blog influencer: $400-$5,500 per blog post
- Celebrity influencer: $3,000-$500,000+ per piece of content
- Opinion leaders: $500-$5,000+ per piece of content
Determine Your Messaging And Metrics
Influencer marketing strategies must align with specific business goals, such as increasing brand awareness, or advocacy behaviors. A clear articulation of your business objectives informs the type of influencers you should use to promote your brand. Determining your goals also informs the metrics you monitor and the message you communicate throughout the influencer marketing campaign.
Select The Most Relevant Influencer
The ideal influencer should have an authentic and active connection to their audience (e.g., strong engagement rate), and align closely with the category (e.g., health and fitness), brand values and personality (e.g., sophistication or ruggedness), and ideally, have a sincere interest in the product (e.g., tea).
“It's not the size of the following but the quality of relationships that matter.”
Create And Leverage Content
When working with influencers you must relinquish a degree of creative control, allowing the influencer to create and publish content that resonates with their unique audience. However, you must also ensure the creative output is on brand. For this reason, companies may provide communication guidelines to influencers which highlight themes and messaging elements that reflect their brand.
The influencer creates content and uses their influence to promote your brand to their audience - your potential customers. Influencer marketing campaigns are inherently rich in social proof, as the influencer’s name, authority and credibility stand behind the brand.
Influencer marketing strategies should directly connect to your content marketing strategies. You can scale the effectiveness by incorporating the creative output (e.g., captions and photos) on your website as enduring examples of social proof.
Refine Your Tactics
Influencer marketing strategies should not be static; use the learning from each campaign to refine how you construct future influencer programs.
10 Influencer Marketing Tips And Tricks For Better Execution
1. Be Compliant
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) treats influencer marketing as a form of paid endorsement; it has rules regulating the disclosure of influencer brand relationships.
Content must be identified as an ad if there is a “material connection” between an endorser (i.e., influencer) and an advertiser (e.g., brand). The Endorsement Guides apply to both marketers and endorsers; both parties are ultimately responsible for information disclosure, not the platform on which the content is published.
A “material connection” is an aspect that might affect the weight or credibility that consumers give the brand endorsement. A material connection could be a business or family relationship, monetary payment, or the gift of a free product. Such connections should be clearly and conspicuously disclosed.
2. Distinguish Authentic And Fake Influencers
Differentiating between authentic and fake influencers is vital for businesses. Some influencers act unethically, purchasing likes and comments, and employ ill-advised tactics, such as engagement pods. Distinguishing between real and fake influencers is best achieved through paid tools that use proprietary algorithms to identify what percentage of an influencer’s following is authentic.
3. Watch For Sponsorship Saturation
The value influencers bring to brands is chiefly the influencer’s authentic and engaged audience. As an influencer gains clout and reach, they have greater partnership opportunities. Yet partnering with influencers who over-saturate their audience with ads diminishes the value created for the brand.
Saturation rate is the ratio between an influencer’s total content and the quantity of sponsored posts. Research has found an inverse relationship between engagement rates and saturation rates; as the saturation rate increases, the engagement rate decreases, usually.
Often brands consider influencer feeds with more than 44% sponsored content as oversaturated.
4. Value Consistency
Companies invest intention and resources in developing brand identity guidelines and crafting their brand strategy. In influencer marketing, brands relinquish much creative control to the influencer they work with. To ensure the content created closely aligns with a company's brand, consider partnering with influencers with a consistent look, feel, tone, and values.
5. Use Protection (Contracts)
In some cases companies don’t formalize contracts when working with influencers. This is most often true for startups or small businesses, new to influencer marketing who choose to partner with small nano influencers. Failing to outline deliverables (e.g., payment, post format) can quickly sour relationships, and expose both parties to risk.
6. Do Collaborate, Don’t Dictate
Brands should be willing to give up some creative control. Influencers often know what content resonates best with their audience and should be given much autonomy in content creation and copywriting.
However, this collaboration should align with your branding; this can be accomplished by providing influencers with brand communication guidelines, and in some cases, formalizing messaging elements in the contract between the brand and influencer.
7. Connect Privately, Promote Publicly
Independent influencers are best contacted directly, while managed influencers are contacted through the marketing agency that manages them. It’s best practice for brands to connect, contract, and compensate influencers privately, and publicly promote the published content. Your brand can increase your credibility by leveraging influencer messaging on your own channels.
8. Dovetail Into Email Marketing
Email marketing is more effective in converting prospects to customers than social media. Use customer and influencer testimonials within your email marketing efforts; doing so provides social proof that influences those on your email list to purchase your goods and services.
9. Remain Empirical
It’s tempting to become enamored with the prestige of the influencer your brand partners with, but fame doesn't necessarily equate to influence. Focus first on the profitability of your influencer campaigns, then monitor performance. Use tactics like affiliate marketing, unique discount codes, and UTM parameters to clearly track the performance of your influencer marketing endeavors.
10. Think Long Term
There are often long-term benefits of influencer partnerships (e.g., content acquisition), and short-term (e.g., follower growth, website traffic). Viewing influencer collaborations as suppliers of long-term content assets helps recognize a key benefit of such partnerships, and underscores the importance of firmly linking influencer marketing with content marketing efforts, allowing your brand to connect with consumers on multiple channels.
Get Your Quote Featured
If you're in the tea or coffee industry or a subject matter expert, I invite you to share a quote about influencer marketing.