Influencer marketing is a relatively new way for companies of all sizes to market their products. Today, we are going to dive into all things influencer marketing. We’ll answer questions like:

  • What is influencer marketing?
  • How to find and hire influencers?
  • What influencers can do to help you sell your products?
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What is Influencer Marketing? 

Before explaining influencer marketing, let’s define the term “influencer.”

[Influencers are] people who have built a reputation for their knowledge and expertise on a specific topic. They make regular posts about that topic on their preferred social media channels and generate large followings of enthusiastic, engaged people who pay close attention to their views.

What is an Influencer? – Influencer Marketing Hub

So What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is the process of partnering with influencers to help sell products or services through sponsored content. You could consider the early days of monetized blogs to be the early forms of influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing is not solely confined to blogs. In fact, nearly every social media platform can be used for influencer marketing. All you need is an engaged community, a good way to share content, and monetization opportunities. 

Instagram

Owned by social media giant, Facebook, Instagram is more focused on photo and video sharing than linking articles or writing long prose. According to OmniCore Agency, “73% of US teens say that Instagram is the best way for brands to reach them about new products or promotions.” Additionally, there are more than 500,000 active influencers on Instagram currently, with 81% having between 15k and 100k followers. 

TikTok

Newer to the social media scene, TikTok has quickly grown to being the most downloaded app on the Apple App Store, and in less than 18 months US adult users grew 5.5 times. Currently, many users of Instagram also have a TikTok account, however, time will tell how long TikTok will stick around. It has been 6 months since Instagram released their Reels feature and it does not appear to be taking over TikTok as quickly as Instagram developers had hoped. 

YouTube

YouTube has been a tried and true method for selling products. Bloggers went from writing about products to posting videos of the products in action. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, the technology sector outspent other industries in influencer marketing. It took a whopping 43.7% of Influencer Media Value. Gaming and Food & Drink came in second and third, with Beauty & Fashion trailing behind. This platform is particularly great for longer product discussions like makeup tutorials or unboxing videos. 

Screenshot from Influencer Marketing Hub
Facebook

The other tried and true platform. Facebook has been around since 2004 and has gathered quite an arsenal of marketing tools, including a top tier ad program, link accessibility, and post scheduling integration. Additionally, according to OmniCore Agency, “75% of online users with an income more than $75k are on Facebook.” What’s more, “Facebook’s potential reach of advertising is 1.9 billion.” 

If you want to learn more about how the different social media platforms have grown over the last few years, check out this article by Pew Research’s October 2020 Fact Tank

Understanding the different platforms and influencer opportunities will be important when you go to select which influencers to contact regarding the promotion of your product or service (see Choosing an Influencer). 

The Influencer Food Chain

When it comes to influencers, they can be sorted into 3 main categories based on followership size: 

  • Micro Influencers: Anywhere from 1,000 followers to just shy of 50k followers
  • Macro Influencers: 50k to under 1 Million followers
  • Mega Influencer: 1 Million followers or more 

These categories are widely accepted, but as you can see they can be pretty broad. So I’m going to add in two more categories. The numbers won’t quite line up, but I still think it will be helpful for you when reviewing the influencer marketplace for your promotional needs.

Nano Influencers

Around 800 to 2k followers. Very small accounts, but can be very powerful if they have a highly engaged community and/or focus on a niche market

Swipe-Up Capable

This applies to Instagram, but might soon apply to Facebook as well. Has a minimum of 10,000 followers as that is the lowest number an account needs to secure the “swipe-up” feature. This is important for you to know as those who have access to this feature are more able to share information about your product (especially on Instagram). Personally, I would put this category as 10k to 100k followers. 


It is important to be aware of the entire influencer food chain as each plays an important role in the marketing of products. A smaller account (Nano/Micro) will have smaller reach, but if their engagement is good then it is more likely for their posts/stories to be shared. Those shared posts/stories then might circulate to a larger account and get shared by a Swipe-Up Capable account, which has even further reach. And so it goes. 

Lastly, one item to note is if an account is verified. Being verified means that the account does in fact belong to that person and the social media platform has done their due diligence to confirm as much. When verified platforms first came around, this was primarily for users to determine if a celebrity page was in fact the celebrity and not a fake account. Every platform has a slightly different symbol, but often can be referred to as “blue check.”

How an account becomes verified and the power that the verification holds is a complicated process, so if you would like to learn more about it then you can check out this article to learn more. 

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How does Influencer Marketing benefit businesses? 

If more people interact with your product/service, then you will have a higher probability of making a sale, all else equal. Your conversion rate might not necessarily improve, but still consider the following. You are more likely to make a sale if 100 people see your product/service than if 1 person sees it. 

Influencer marketing leans into this idea by showing your products and services to a crowd. Put in more technical terms, influencer marketing increases your reach

There’s another piece to this puzzle, too. Look at online spending and how it has increased over the last few years.

Consumers spent $861.12 billion online with U.S. merchants in 2020, up an incredible 44.0% year over year, according to Digital Commerce 360 estimates. That’s the highest annual U.S. ecommerce growth in at least two decades. It’s also nearly triple the 15.1% jump in 2019.

US ecommerce grows 44.0% in 2020, Digital Commerce 360

I think it is safe to say that online shopping is not only here to stay, but will continue to grow. This is why you should consider influencer marketing. If it fits within your product, service, budget, and company culture, then you should give it a try. 

An Example

Take Verb Energy as an example. Very Energy Bars can only be purchased online, and the business itself is run by a small number of people. But if you look on their social media platforms, or watch home décor/lifestyle influencers – you would think they are a much larger operation. Personally, of the roughly 15 lifestyle Instagram influencers I follow, easily 8-10 of them mention VERB bars and many of them on a regular basis. One influencer even collaborated with them and created one of VERB’s biggest and best selling bars. So how has VERB been able to be so successful?

Because they have a great product and they are marketing it where their ideal customers are spending their day – on social media. 

Even large, well-established companies use influencer marketing. With traditional brick-and-mortar stores closing, and more customers cutting the cable cord, large clothing establishments like Old Navy, American Eagle, and even Adidas are partnering with influencers to stay relevant with their consumer base and spread the word about sales and other customer-enticing programs.

Not everyone is signed up on every store mailing list, and sometimes even regular purchasers of certain brands will still unsubscribe from mailing lists to save their inbox from the clutter. So by running social media ad campaigns with influencers, large companies are reminding customers of their products. 

Whether you are a small two-person operation, or a large company looking for how to freshen up your marketing campaign, influencer marketing is worth considering.

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Choosing an Influencer 

There are many aspects to consider before you can choose an influencer. There are literally millions of influencers in the world, especially when anyone who is able to monetize their platform is considered an influencer. This section will outline the biggest qualities you need to consider before contacting an influencer, if you want to start off on the right foot. 

Look at your audience

Who are you wanting to advertise to? Who is your “ideal customer” and what is their demographic? If you are targeting Generation Z, then focus on TikTok and possibly Instagram. If your demographic is over age 35, then go for bloggers or Facebook. 

Another way to consider your demographic is considering your product and how it best performs. If you are selling a makeup product, then seeing how the product is used will come across better than in print. So YouTube makeup tutorials and Instagram would be the best platforms. 

Bottom line, look at your product and determine either what platform will best showcase your product or where your ideal customer is located on social media.

Now that you have your platform, let’s look at how to choose an influencer from that platform. Items to take into account are: Budget, Community Engagement, and Type of Ad. 

Budget

Not the most interesting of topics, but a very important step. First consider how much money you have set aside for your ad campaign. Like with any large project, selecting a firm budget is the best place to start when it comes to selecting an Influencer. You can choose to put all of your budget into 1 sponsored ad with a Mega Influencer, or you can spread it across several Micro and Macro Influencers to get a variety of reach.

Micro-influencers (with followings of between 10,000 and 100,000) are often seen as more effective at delivering a message. This means that although the IMV of a mega-influencer may be higher than many micro-influencers, the difference in IMV will be much less than their difference in follower numbers.

Influencer Marketing Hub
Important Qualities in Community

Now that you have your budget determined, the next step is to look at the communities of the influencers. This is where you will use both your “ideal customer” and your budget to narrow down the world of influencers to a much more manageable number. There are three important elements you will want to consider when you are researching influencers to contact. 

  1. Is your product a good fit for the influencer’s values
  2. Would your “ideal customer” be a member of this influencer’s community? 
  3. How engaged is the community? 

The first two items go hand in hand. First, you need to ask yourself if your product or service is something that would fit within the influencer’s values. Don’t ask a vegan to promote jerky. Don’t ask a small coffee-shop owner to promote a Starbucks product.

If your product is a good fit for the influencer, then they will be more likely to share it with their community of like-minded followers. 

So is your ideal customer likely to be a follower of this influencer? You are looking to run an ad campaign with various influencers, so you want to make sure that your ideal customer is going to see it. 

Engagement is important

Now let’s talk engagement. How engaged is the community with the influencer? The posts? What are the influencer’s metrics? How much time does the influencer spend interacting with their audience? 

This is where the influencer food chain is important to consider. A mega influencer might have over a million followers, but if the followers are not within an engaged community, then the influencer might not actually be able to sell products. 

Take the example of an Instagram influencer with over 2 million followers who was unable to sell 36 T-Shirts for a minimum dropshipping requirement: 

You can certainly read Rachel Hosie’s Insider article that breaks down all the reasons why, but the short version is simple. It comes down to a lack of engagement between the influencer and her community. If a smaller influencer (macro or even micro) were given the opportunity, there is a higher likelihood that they could have sold the shirts due to engagement alone. 

So the bottom line is: an account can have over a million followers, but if they are not an engaged community then it does not matter. Consider looking at some smaller influencers when you are planning out an influencer marketing campaign, because though they are smaller they might be mightier. Followers of a tight-knit community will see the influencer as a friend, and will therefore be more likely to show their support through purchasing products. 

Unless you have your mind made up on a specific influencer size, look at a variety of influencer sizes. Micro (or even nano, less than 1k) influencers might have a small community, but if the community is highly engaged then it will have a higher likelihood of producing a successful campaign than a macro influencer with an unengaged audience.

Reaching Out to an Influencer

Ok, now you have decided you want to hire an influencer, you’ve narrowed down your budget, and you have picked out a “short list” of influencers to contact. We’ve now reached the part where you contact them. There are plenty of ways to connect with Influencers, but below are each an example of different conversational categories. 

Here are some tips on what you can say when you are reaching out: 

Cold email/DM

The plain and simple way to contact an influencer is to do just that – reach out to them via email or DM. This is an effective method, but do so with the best intentions. Research who you are contacting, make sure the partnership is mutually beneficial, and include partnership examples if you are trying to land a particularly large influencer. 

Send them products

If you are requesting an influencer to promote your product, they will need a sample of your product to use in sponsored ads or stories. If you have enough stock to send a sample with the request, that is absolutely an option and will potentially improve your chances of working together.

Keep in mind, however, that influencers receive free samples frequently and the products are often passed along to a family member, friend, charity, or even included in a follower giveaway. 

Connect with other businesses working with them

Lastly, you can connect with other businesses who have an established partnership with the influencer and leverage that connection as a warm introduction. 


No matter how you choose to contact influencers, be sure to do your research on them. Just recently an OB/GYN influencer was sent a cold email offering a collaboration partnership. Unfortunately for the company, their automated system bungled it and I highly doubt they will ever get a second chance with that particular influencer.

The email not only addressed the influencer purely by her first name (hint: if you are reaching out to a doctor, address them as Dr.), but the product was also a poor fit as it did not connect well with the influencer’s core values. So while an automated scattershot approach to contacting influencers is technically a way to reach out to potential partners, it is more likely to burn bridges with macro+ influencers than land them.

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How do you want your product advertised? 

When you are crafting your messaging to an influencer offering to hire them for their services, you can also include what advertisement options you are interested in as this will help them determine their capacity. If you have a specific window you need your product or service promoted, be sure to ask well ahead of time as influencer’s space out sponsored content and their calendars might fill up fast. A good rule of thumb here is the larger the account you are contacting, the longer window of time you should give them (if you are really pressed for time and have a large enough budget, you can always pay for “rush delivery”). 

Promos

Everyone loves a deal. Influencers are not immune to the powers of a sale and they also know the bigger the promo the more conversions they will make. Many influencers will not even share a product if they cannot secure some sort of Promo Code. Be prepared to offer at least 15% off of a product or some form of free trial if customers use the influencer’s promo code/link. 

Sponsored Stories

Stories are a great option for products that need to be shown being used, such as a facial serum or makeup palette. Pricing will vary for this service as it will depend on if the influencer provides a full tutorial (time and effort) or a mere 2-3 slides discussing the product (minimal effort).

Sponsored Ads

These are scheduled posts where the influencer will stage a photo of them with the product and post it to their feed. These can be pricier, but the photo will stay on the influencer’s feed. 

Spokesperson/Ambassador

The last influencer advertisement option we are going to discuss today is if you request them to become a spokesperson or ambassador of your product. This is a much larger topic to be discussed, but you can read more about it here. An example of a brand ambassador is Fabletics or Amaryllis Apparel

Payment

I can’t have a post sharing with you all how to use influencer marketing to help grow your business if I left out the payment process. 

The payment method of choice will depend on the influencer, the company, and how the influencer will be showing the products. The advertisement options listed above are listed from least expensive to most expensive, generally speaking. 

Many factors impact how much and when you pay an influencer, but it is safe to assume that the larger the account goes the more likely you will be paying a fee on top of commission based compensation. 

Micro and even macro influencers will receive compensation similarly to a commission-based system. They are provided a promo code or affiliate link which tracks sales made and they receive a certain percentage of the sale. When you are working with larger accounts (macro to mega), expect to pay an additional fee to cover expenses (photography) and advertising space (either a permanent place on their feed or even slides in their stories). Also consider if the account is verified as their pricing might be higher than a similar influencer who is not verified. 

Of the previously mentioned ads, a sponsored post will cost more than a sponsored story because the post stays in the influencer’s feed whereas a story will disappear after 24 hours. 

Mega-Influencers

There are also top-tier influencers (particularly celebrities) who charge a hefty fee for their services. As I’m sure if comes to no surprise, but currently Kylie Jenner reigns Queen of being the highest paid social media influencer, sitting on a diamond throne of one million dollars per post. The highest I have seen on Instagram, as of October 2020, is world-renowned soccer player Christiano Ronaldo. If you want him touting your product then you need to be willing to pay upwards of $775k. 

A common way for influencers to earn a wage is through affiliate links and promo codes, where they receive a percentage of sales through their link. This is a great option for small business owners because the up front costs are limited. If the product is sold out, sure your profit margin will be smaller, but you also would have just sold far more product than if you used traditional advertisement methods.

Conclusion

I hope this article has been helpful should you be considering influencer marketing for your business. Keep in mind that you do not have to be a large business to hire an influencer, and you also do not have to allocate a large portion of your marketing budget to pay for a mega, macro, or even micro influencer.

What is most important is if you choose to engage in influencer marketing, then find an influencer that meets your core values, has an engaged community (regardless of size) within your ideal customer’s demographics, and that you contact them in a meaningful way. 

If you want a deeper dive on a great example of a top-tier influencer, check out the upcoming Weird Marketing Post where I look at how Jennifer Todryk (The Rambling Redhead) applies influencer marketing tactics possibly without even realizing it. (Coming March 22, 2021).

First time marketing your small business?
We know marketing can be confusing. Download our free marketing checklist for advice.

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