It's Saturday morning. You’re three minutes deep into a viral cat video posted by one of your favorite YouTubers.
This video is EVERYTHING. You've laughed, cried and gotten all the feels. As the video fades to black, a small rectangular graphic appears. It reads, "Sponsored by Purina."
If this scenario sounds familiar, you've experienced the power of influencer marketing.
Interested in leveraging it in your own business? Here's what you need to know.
what are influencers?
Influencers are individuals who have built significant followings on social media and created niche communities around a shared interest.
They're seen by their communities as experts and thought leaders. The content they create is entertaining, engaging and makes people take action.
WHY YOU SHOULD USE INFLUENCERS FOR ECOMMERCE MARKETING
In recent years, ecommerce companies have started to take notice of influencers — reaching out to them for reviews and sponsored content.
Established global brands like Nordstrom, Target, Old Navy and Gap use them to stay relevant. New brands like Glossier and Boxed Water use them to expand their reach.
Influencer marketing works because it's all about word-of-mouth. According to Nielsen, "ninety-two percent of consumers say they trust 'earned media,' such as word of mouth and recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising."
How To execute your first influencer marketing campaign
The best part about influencer marketing is that it’s relatively inexpensive and easy to implement! Here are a few simple steps you can follow to execute your first influencer marketing campaign.
Step 1: Identify Your Target Audience
Before you reach out to influencers, identify who your target audience is. While there may be several buyer personas that benefit from your product or service, it’s best to choose one.
Describe who your target is and be specific. This will help you narrow down the list of influencers you want to reach out to.
Step 2: Figure Out What They Want
Once you determine who your target audience is, it’s time to get inside their head. Figure out what they read, listen to, watch and think about on a daily basis.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. What kind of content are they interested? Where do they get it from? Instagram for fashion advice? Beauty and cooking on YouTube? Think about where they would look for inspiration. What kinds of platforms would their influencers use to reach out to them?
Step 3: Conduct Research
Once you know where your audience is going for content, advice and inspiration, it's time to look for influencers. Scour social media channels for people who post frequently about interests related to your brand and have a substantial (but not enormous) following. For the best results, reach out to influencers with 2.5k - 25k followers.
In addition to traditional social platforms (YouTube, Instagram, etc.), look for user-specific platforms for even more direct audience access.
For example, one of our clients wanted to reach out to gamers, so we used Twitch, the world’s leading gamer community to find influencers.
During your search, be sure to record influencers’ names, emails and websites in an Excel spreadsheet. You should aim to collect as many qualified influencers as possible. WARNING: you will have to put in the hours for this. The more you reach out to, the better.
Here are some great places to start looking for ecommerce influencers and tips on how to search for them.
- Come up with a list of hashtags - Identify topics your audience would search for and come up with a list of hashtags. For example, if you’re selling a sweat proof undershirt and want to target hardcore fitness fanatics, search hashtags like #fitspo, #fitspiration, #bodybuilding, #crossfit, #fitswag or #fitnessmotivation. Type these into the search bar to get a list of photos posted by various users. Let the search for influencers begin!
- Look for influencers with 2.5K-25K followers - Influencers with this many followers will not charge high prices for collaborations. They will most likely agree to promote your ecommerce brand in exchange for free merchandise or service trials. Influencers with more than 25K followers can charge hundreds of dollars for one Instagram post, so it’s best to stay away from them if you’re on a budget. The 2.5k-25k rule applies to other social media platforms as well.
- Engage with influencer content - Once you’ve found a few people with interesting content that seem like a good fit, engage with them. Follow, like and comment on their posts. This gives them a chance to become familiar with your brand before you reach out to request collaboration. Make sure you don't spam them with comments and requests. One or two interactions per week will do the trick.
- Search for topics your audience would be interested in - Your searches can be a little more specific on YouTube than Instagram. Feel free to search longer tail keywords or phrases you think your audience is interested in. This will help you find influencers that connect with your brand.
- Read the comments - It's important to not only watch an influencer's videos, but also read the comments section. This will help you figure out if the influencer’s followers match your target audience. It is also a good way to vet out people that seem controversial or get an abnormal amount of hate from their followers.
Good Old Google
- Search for up-and-coming bloggers in your area - Bloggers are more likely to collaborate if they feel personally connected to your brand. Localizing your search is a good way to increase your chances. If you're company is based in Orange County instead of searching for "top fitness bloggers," search “top fitness bloggers in Orange County.”
- Set Google alerts that notify you when people are talking about your brand - Set up Google alerts on your computer to get notifications when people mention and post about your brand. If you think someone would be a good influencer, promptly reach out!
Other Online Tools
Tools like BuzzSumo and Klear can help you narrow your search for influencers. Both of these tools let you enter a keyword or topic and see the top influencers creating content about it across multiple social media channels. Klear also lets you measure influencer campaigns.
After you've collected a solid list of influencers, it's time to reach out.
Step 4: Write a Kick-Butt Email and Hit Send
Write an email that is attention grabbing. Aim to inspire influencers with your mission, but don’t go into too much detail — you don't want to bore them. Entice them by offering free products or services in exchange for a review.
Once you've perfected your pitch, hit send and wait for the responses to roll in. FYI: you're going to get mostly rejections at first. Don't pressure the "no's" or try to bribe them with money or more free products and services. If an influencer isn't genuinely excited about your offer, you don't want them to be an ambassador of your brand.
Step 5: Get Down to Business
Once you get a list of influencers interested in collaborating, it's time to get down to business.
There's no point in spending time and money on influencer marketing if you can't track how many sales result from their posts. Although social media platforms don't offer tracking for this KPI, there's still a way to see if your influencers are changing your bottom line: promo codes.
If an influencer responds to your kick-butt email with interest in reviewing your product or service, don't just send them free product and leave the rest up to chance! Create a unique promo code for them to publish or mention in their review.
This way, you can see exactly how many sales they're generating and alter your influencer marketing strategy accordingly.
I also recommend creating a collaboration agreement contract. Make it clear what you want from the influencer, and what you're giving them in exchange for their work. Use a template like this one to create it.
Once the collaboration agreement is signed and the promo code is in the influencer's hands, all you have to do is sit back and wait for the sales to roll in.
Want more information on how to improve your ecommerce business? Read our blog, How to Improve Your Ecommerce Product Page to Convert. If you would like more help with influencer marketing, or other inbound marketing strategies, reach out to us today!