Influencer marketing has been one of the most effective ways to build a brand for your business. According to some studies, influencer marketing is nearly eleven times more effective than traditional digital marketing channels. Also, an overwhelming 94% of marketers who have used the strategy find it to be extremely effective in meeting its objectives.
It is not hard to see why. Influencer marketing is a little tweak on the traditional word-of-mouth marketing. Customers buy products that have been recommended to them by someone they trust. Toothbrush makers like Oral B and Colgate have used models dressed like doctors for a long time to great effect. The conversion rate is even higher when a product is recommended to a customer by a person within their immediate social circle.
With internet, this social circle has now come to include people who are separated from your target customer by more than a couple of degrees. Users of Instagram and Facebook can follow the lives of celebrities they trust much in the same way as someone from their immediate social circles. A health product endorsed by fitness guru carries a lot more credibility than one endorsed by a layman. Social media platforms have made it easy to get such endorsements reach thousands or even millions of target customers with minimal marketing budgets as little as $500.
Influencer marketing requires a lot of oversight though. While follower count is one of the most critical metrics required to assess the quality of a social media account, it is not the only thing. There are additional concerns beyond bots and fake followers.
Authority: A social media user does not become an influencer simply because they have a large following. What is more important is to know if these followers trust the user enough to potentially buy their recommendation.
Engagement: Engagement dictates the likelihood for a target customer to act on the influencer’s message. If a social media user does not invite a high level of comments and discussions (proportionate to their follower count), then their followers may not be engaging enough. A recommendation from such an influencer might potentially be falling on deaf ears.
Endorsement Frequency: Influencer marketing is similar to celebrity endorsements in that a celebrity who endorses too many products ends up bringing down the value of their association with any particular brand. If an influencer endorses too many products, it is likely that the users have grown used to ignoring these sponsored messages. The value your brand receives from such an endorsement may be minimal.
Follower Profile: Knowing the profile of the followers can sometimes be useful in filtering low ROI influencers. A celebrity chef like Gordon Ramsay is not just followed by people who love to cook, but also by others who have watched his reality shows on TV. Using an influencer like Ramsay to endorse your cooking products may only work if his followers are target buyers. You may otherwise end up spending money to reach thousands of users who are not your target buyers.
Brand Alignment: As a brand, you should also be particular about the specific messaging and positioning used in the promotion. As part of your initial conversations, it is a good idea to share a brief and mood boards with your influencer partner. This could give them an idea of your specific expectations from the messaging.
It is worth pointing out that endorsements from influencers like Gordon Ramsay go beyond conversions and also helps with brand exposure. The need to assess follower profile thus depends on your brand’s specific marketing objectives.
The classic strategy to find influencers is to start with a high authority user and checking out the list of people they follow. You could then view the profile of each of these users and continue the process till you find accounts that meet your profile and budget considerations. This is however extremely time consuming and fairly inefficient since you may end up with a lot of false positives. False positives are accounts that meet all your considerations but may not necessarily be open to endorsing products.
A quick and easy way to find a list of influencers is to use Google Search. Many social media users open to endorsements tend to openly state that they accept sponsorships. So a simple Google query like site:instagram.com “sponsorships contact” or site:instagram.com sponsorships could connect you with hundreds of Instagram accounts that are open to solicitations.
DISCLAIMER: The account above and all the others I have showcased here in this article are merely examples of potential influencers. I do not wish to imply that these accounts do get paid to showcase products on their social media pages
You may choose to further filter the Google Search query to find users from specific niches. For instance, if you are a fitness brand, you could tweak the Google search query to something like site:instagram.com “fitness trainer” sponsorships
Reaching out to these users should give you an idea of the kind of endorsements campaigns that they are willing to offer and also the approximate advertising spend necessary from your side.
You may also bypass this step with the help of third party tools like LittleBird or Netbase that have a curated list of influencers. The challenge with both these strategies however is that such social media accounts with explicit invitation for endorsements are highly sought after. This would mean that you may come across many accounts that have done dozens of endorsement campaigns. This brings down the value of such a deal. Also, you must be aware of accounts that are built solely for the purpose of sponsorship. These are accounts with a high volume of bots or fake followers and must be strictly avoided.
You could avoid this by searching for specific campaigns that have been executed by such influencers. Again, a Google Search query should help. Influencers tend to thank their sponsors or spread a word about their products alongside their post. Searching for the most common phrases (like “shout out to” or “check out their new”) that are used here should help you find targeted submissions.
Going back to the example of a fitness brand looking for influencers, a good search query would be site:instagram.com/p/ “check out this” + workout
Notice that the search query is now looking for specific Instagram posts and not the Instagram user account page. Using a search query like the one above should help you build a list of niche Instagram users who may be open to a partnership.
Once you build a list of influencers, the next step is to know how effective they have been with their campaigns. The most obvious way to do this is by asking for any analytics data they have from past campaigns. You may also check out specific campaigns with a click-through URL in the submission. A lot of such campaigns use URL shorteners like bit.ly or goo.gl to measure clicks and this data is public information.
Here is an example of a campaign I found using the Google Search query site:instagram.com/p/ bit.ly “check out their”
At the outset, this looks like a decent campaign with a good number of likes. However, visiting the metrics page of the bit.ly URL shows that the campaign has only produced nine clicks. That is not very encouraging if you are a brand with a very limited budget.
Finding the right influencer can be a really tough job. But the tips provided above should help you get down to business in the most efficient way. Have you worked on an influencer marketing campaign before? Share your experiences in the comments.
Author Bio: Anand Srinivasan is the founder of Hubbion, a suite of free business apps and resources. Launch your own course on social media marketing from the course creator comparison section.