Influencer Marketing Emerges Stronger Than Ever After a Difficult Year

Not even a global pandemic can stop the trajectory of influencer marketing. After a slight downturn during the first two quarters of 2020, spending attributed to influencer marketing took off in the second half of that year. It’s now estimated that the industry will grow to $13.8 billion in 2021.[1]

If your company is still on the sidelines, catch up on the current state of influencer marketing and make note of the strategies that will help you to achieve maximum exposure for your online business.

The State of Influencer Marketing in 2021

In a follow-up to its 2017 benchmark report on the Influencer Marketing industry, Influencer Marketing Hub just published its 2021 findings. 

After surveying over 5,000 brand representatives, marketing and public relations professionals, and others associated with the industry, these are some of the key takeaways from the report:[1]

  • 75% of those surveyed have set aside funding for influencer marketing, an expense that’s typically taken out of the marketing budget.
  • More than two-thirds use Instagram as a social media platform for influencer marketing, but TikTok is challenging Instagram for the top spot.
  • Finding the right influencers is the biggest challenge for influencer marketing professionals.
  • 9 out of 10 survey respondents consider influencer marketing to be effective.

If you’re wary about using influencer marketing because you think it’s too late to get started, know that there are unlimited opportunities for finding influencers who are a perfect fit for your brand. 

Consumers naturally enjoy talking about the brands they love and sharing their experiences with their followers and fans. But brand affinity aside, 86% of people between the ages of 13 and 38 say they aspire to be influencers.[2] With the right strategies in place, you can maximize brand exposure for your online business and put your products and services in front of a highly receptive audience.

Top Influencer Marketing Strategies for Your Online Business

From starting with a solid plan to selecting the right people and programs, these actions will position your online business for maximum exposure.

Set Goals and Determine Key Performance Indicators

Build the foundation for a successful influencer marketing plan by evaluating what you want to achieve with this marketing effort. By setting goals in advance, you’ll have an easier time determining strategies to meet those objectives. And at the end of the campaign, you’ll be able to assess if the effort worked or needs tweaking.

Influencer marketing is an ideal way to maximize your brand’s reach in a way that’s more personal and authentic than running ads. Fans and followers trust the influencers’ recommendations and are more likely to be persuaded to check out a product or service based on the endorsement. 

If your primary goal is to increase your awareness among your current demographic or expand to a new one, these are the specific key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure:

    • Reach – The total number of unique people who have seen the content
    • Impressions – The overall number of times your content was displayed in someone’s social media feed, regardless of whether or not they clicked on it
    • Social Media Mentions The number of times your brand’s name or a brand/campaign hashtag was mentioned
    • Follower Count – How much your follower count grew during the campaign period
    • Website traffic – The increase in website traffic during the campaign period. Note that you won’t be tracking click-through-rate, but just an overall change in the number of people who visited your website

Select Appropriate Social Media Channels

It’s interesting to know that Instagram is the most often used social media channel or that YouTube is right behind it. But when it comes to choosing social media channels for your brand’s influencer marketing campaign, those stats don’t really matter. The social media channels you select should be based on where your target audience congregates and which are best for showcasing your products or services. You’ll also find that there’s a very close overlap between your ideal influencers and the best social media channels for your brand. 

Choose Your Influencers

You can either do the work yourself to find influencers or rely on one of the many platforms that will streamline the process.

DIY Influencer Search

To do your own recruitment, start by searching social media channels to see who’s having conversations about trends in your industry. Also, make note of those accounts who are mentioning your products or services. Social media listening tools like AgoraPulse, BuzzSumo, Sprout Social, HootSuite Insights, or Brandwatch will help you keep track of your social mentions.

When you identify potential influencers, review their social media posts to ensure their content aligns with your brand’s identity and values. Then, check to see if they’re currently collaborating with a similar brand or have in the past. If so, there are tools that allow you to research the competitor’s campaign performance to see whether or not the influencer was a good investment.

Next, divide the number of interactions (likes and comments) by their total number of followers to calculate an engagement rate. Each social media platform has a different engagement rate, so use their average figures to evaluate your potential influencer partners.

Influencer Marketing Platforms and Agencies

An influencer marketing platform will do a lot of the heavy lifting for you when it comes to choosing influencers. These platforms are software solutions that provide large databases of influencers where brands can find all kinds of information about potential matches. Some of these software solutions even make it possible for you to collaborate with your influencers on the platform itself and to execute entire campaigns.

But if you don’t have any experience running an influencer marketing campaign, you may feel lost and unprepared to manage one. An influencer marketing agency is staffed by seasoned experts who will guide you through the process from beginning to end. If you’re unsure about how to vet influencers, define campaign objectives, develop programs, or understand analytics, an influencer marketing agency will be the best choice for you.

How Many Followers Should an Influencer Have?

If you’re thinking you won’t be able to fund an influencer campaign because the talent costs will be too high, know that you don’t have to hire someone with a massive follower count.

 

In fact, your specific reach goals may lead you toward a higher tier, but online businesses might have more success with nano- or micro-influencers:

  • Followers are more likely to view nano- and micro-influences as “regular” people who are similar to them and more relatable.
  • Influencers with smaller followings may be better suited for niche audiences because larger celebrity accounts appeal to a much wider fan base. 
  • Lower-tier influencers average an engagement rate that’s twice that of the average engagement rate for all influencer tiers (5.0% engagement vs. 2.2% engagement).
  • Lower-tier influencers earn trust more easily than bigger names since most people are aware that celebrities are paid a large sum to endorse products. 
  • Lower-tier influencers are more affordable than influencers with higher follower counts.

A study published by the International Journal of Advertising concluded that influencer endorsements are more effective than celebrity endorsements because consumers find influencers more relatable and trustworthy.[3] This is especially true for younger consumers, as 70% of Millennials prefer non-celebrity endorsements.[4]

Give Your Influencers Creative Freedom, But First Set Guidelines

For the most part, you should allow your influencers to have creative freedom. After all, they’ve amassed a large following due to the content they’ve created. Too much interference from the brand may come off as inauthentic and turn off followers.

However, it’s imperative to issue a creative brief that clearly states what message you want the influencer to communicate and any sensitive words or topics the influencer should avoid. 

It’s also critical that your influencers adhere to FTC endorsement guidelines:

  • Brands (and the influencers who promote them) should clearly state that the post is sponsored. 
  • This statement or label (or hashtag) must be near the beginning of the post and well above the fold.
  • The statement must be easy to see and not obstructed by color, font, or image. It should not fade into the background.
  • Video content should display the statement from beginning to end.

The brand and the influencer should be on the same page and influencers must be privy to the information that will make the campaign successful. Otherwise, you could potentially destroy the relationship with the influencer or alienate the followers you’re trying to attract.

Nurture Your Influencer Relationships

Influencers who make positive contributions to your brand are valuable marketing assets. Nurturing relationships with influencers who deliver for you can make future campaigns easier to manage and save you the time and expense of finding new people to represent your business. And, just as with any marketing effort, it makes sense to repeat what has worked in the past.

Of course, it’s wise to continue to monitor your influencers’ stats to look for steep follower declines or content that doesn’t align with your brand. Those are rare occurrences, but it’s best to be vigilant when it comes to protecting your brand.

Influencer Marketing Tactics for Online Businesses

Online businesses can increase their exposure and brand awareness with these techniques and initiatives.

Repurpose Influencers’ Content 

Using influencer-created content on your social media pages, in emails or newsletters, or for testimonials on your website offers the following benefits:

  • Repurposing influencer content saves time and money that you would spend creating your own content.
  • Influencer content has already been “tested” since you can see how many likes and comments it has generated.
  • Because influencers are subject matter experts and considered authorities in their niche, their association with your brand is an ideal way to establish social proof. 

Use Contests and Giveaways

Who doesn’t love free products? 

And when a respected authority backs up those products with an endorsement, followers will be especially excited about the opportunity to sample or win your wares. This tactic is as easy as sending products to your influencers and letting them create social posts that highlight the personal benefits of using them. 

In addition to boosting awareness for your brand and products, contests and giveaways can also allow you the opportunity to collect leads. For example, conditions for the promotion may require the influencer’s followers to follow your social media account or register on your website.

For best results, communicate with your influencers to learn which products or services will be most valuable to their followers.

Unboxing and Tutorials

According to Statista, 85% of U.S. internet users access YouTube at least once a week.[5] And YouTube is popular among all age groups. What are they watching? The most popular types of content include tutorials and product recommendations, and 90% of people say they turn to YouTube to discover new brands or products.[6]

Unboxing

Unboxing videos have captured the attention of YouTube users, and interest in them continues to grow.  The anticipation of watching someone open a package taps into the feeling we get on Christmas Day or when that Amazon package arrives on our doorstep.

And when popular social media accounts unbox a product they’re excited about, those emotions spill over onto their audience. The unboxing process also shows an authentic, unfiltered view of products that are in stark contrast to carefully produced ads.

Tutorials 

People would much rather watch a video than read product instructions. And if someone they trust and respect demonstrates the efficacy of a product or service, they’ll feel more confident that the purchase is a good investment.

Beauty is the most popular tutorial topic on YouTube, with one-third of women reporting they watch at least one beauty tutorial video per week. But other popular topics include gaming, cooking, and technology.

Social Media Takeovers

A social media takeover can give your brand instant credibility and social proof right there on your own social media pages. You give permission to your influencer to step in and post content that showcases your product or service in the best possible light.

Some examples of social media takeovers include simple Instagram-like photo stills (popular for clothing, cosmetics, and travel). Or an influencer can take his software tutorial over to your brand’s LinkedIn account to demonstrate how to perform a specific task. If there’s something you wish to emphasize about your product or brand, an influencer can present it in a way that adds credibility and makes it appear less “corporate” or “sales-y.”

Brand-Sponsored Events

Companies can invite influencers to host brand-sponsored events. A popular niche influencer can serve as a big draw for a specialty product or service since followers will get the chance to actually interact with the personality.

Depending on the nature of the product, the influencer could provide a product demonstration or answer questions. But often, brands just want to be immersed in environments that are a good fit for their products. Fitness apparel company, GymShark, hosted an event that mixed influencers and their fans to participate in challenges, and Lululemon has sponsored classes at participating yoga studios.

In order to persuade influencers to participate in your event, collaborate with them to decide how they’ll best be used during the event and what they’ll receive in exchange for showing up. Since promoting their own brand is top-of-mind, they’ll want to be able to use photos or videos from the event to post on their own social media pages.

Look at What Competitors are Doing to Get More Ideas

Use available software tools to see how your closest competitors are using influencer marketing for brand awareness. Even companies that aren’t competitors but who target similar audiences could be a source of inspiration for your brand’s campaigns.

Monitor Your Influencer Campaign Performance

Following a campaign, you’ll want to measure its performance against your goals. You can track campaigns on your own using an influencer marketing platform, but an influencer marketing agency is better equipped to help you make sense of the data. 

It’s important to fully understand the results of the tracking data because they will set the stage for future influencer efforts. Data-substantiated results are key to getting buy-in from management, and correct interpretation of the results will provide insights as to what worked well and where you may want to implement changes. 

Are You Looking for a Start-To-Finish Influencer Marketing Solution?

Influencer marketing isn’t just an offshoot of social media marketing. Planning and executing a successful campaign requires knowledge and expertise that can only come from experience. 

The experts at HireInfluence have built an award-winning agency that has focused solely on influencer marketing since 2011. The biggest brands trust us to develop breakthrough concepts, source exceptional talent, provide seamless execution of their campaigns, and use custom analytics to offer unique insights into their businesses. 

We create innovative and forward-thinking campaigns that deliver results.

Why take chances with your marketing dollars? Get in touch with HireInfluence to learn more about how we can create a stand-out influencer campaign for your brand. 

 

Sources:

[1] https://influencermarketinghub.com/influencer-marketing-benchmark-report-2021/

[2]https://morningconsult.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/The-Influencer-Report-Engaging-Gen-Z-and-Millennials.pdf

[3]Celebrity vs. Influencer endorsements in advertising: the role of identification, credibility, and Product-Endorser Fit: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02650487.2019.1634898?scroll=top&needAccess=true

[4]https://digitalmarketinginstitute.com/blog/20-influencer-marketing-statistics-that-will-surprise-you

[5]https://www.semrush.com/blog/youtube-stats/

[6]https://www.oberlo.com/blog/youtube-statistics