If you’ve heard of the ‘influencer’ buzzword, but aren’t quite sure how to proceed, this could be the time to dig a little deeper. In times of crisis, it can be useful to think about new ways to increase your brand visibility.
Firstly, why would your startup want to try influencer marketing? Far from being your main marketing activity, influencer marketing can be a useful ‘add on’ to your online campaigns. Being recommended or mentioned by these trusted online figures is a way to get seen by new audiences, as well as circumvent traditional ad blockers. Plus, if done right, your startup can stand out as more authentic, human, and trustworthy.
Secondly, it’s important to note that influencer marketing is not only for the stereotypical ‘instagram’ lifestyle B2C brands. It can also be leveraged by B2B startups, working in more academic, scientific or technological sectors. For example, there are many industry thought-leaders, researchers, and tech journalists that could successfully get the word out about your product on a more professional platform like LinkedIn, or in R&D circles. It just requires a little lateral thinking around which communities you want to be heard in.
Thirdly, there are 4 types of influencer: mega, macro, micro and nano. It’s not an exact science, but there are a few main differences your startup should take into consideration when deciding who to work with, and how to approach them.
To help you get started with your first influencer marketing campaign, we’ve put together some practical steps to get you on track.
- Define your audience: As with all marketing campaigns, the first step is defining who you want to target and ‘influence’. This could be the same profile as for your routine marketing campaigns, or a new sub-set. For example, if you’re a B2B startup in the automotive sector, maybe instead of your typical corporate client, with this campaign you could look to target the professionals working at said corporates, only on LinkedIn.
- Set goals: What do you want to achieve with an influencer marketing campaign? Set out your objectives, for example increasing your brand awareness with more social media followers, or directly converting already warmed-up leads into paid customers. Be aware that you may need repeated campaigns to achieve high impact, just like any other marketing activity, so keep your KPI numbers realistic.
- Define your budget/offering: What will you offer influencers in exchange for their services? Define a budget suitable for their ‘level’ of influencer (as mentioned above: mega, macro, micro or nano), as well as whether you intend to gift your product/service to test, or any discounts for their followers. Weigh this up with your KPIs and what you intend to gain from the campaign, so that you don’t end up with a loss.
- Profile your dream influencer: Hopefully by now you have mostly defined your dream influencer profile (e.g. micro influencer, AI expert, on LinkedIn). Keep in mind that a macro influencer is likely to reach more people, but a micro or nano influencer will come across as more authentic.
- Make a shortlist: Draw up a list of 30 – 50 potential individuals to work with. Keep an eye out for fake accounts, by checking whether comments on their posts are real, the status of their engagement rate and whether they received a sudden spike in followers. The latter could suggest having purchased fake or ‘bot’ followers, and can be checked out on websites like Influencer Marketing Hub’s checker. It’s also worth checking the ‘sentiment’ of comments and reactions with their posts: are they mostly positive, neutral or negative?
- Create your campaign: Forget the perfect commercial photographs and videos that you’re used to. Influencer marketing is all about showing the real human story and personal experience behind using a product or service. Most influencer marketing content involves positively reviewing your product or service, so think about how you want to present that for your audience (blog post, social media post, live story, a discount code, etc.), and how much control you want over the content/language they use.
- Pitch and negotiate: Make first contact with your influencer shortlist, laying out very clearly the terms of your proposal: who you are, what you’re offering, timeline, type and number of posts, hashtags to use, tags, who owns the final content, and compensation. It’s likely that the influencer will try to negotiate a little, but make sure you are clear on what is not compromisable. Don’t forget to draw up a short contract to sign.
- Check pre-campaign metrics: Before you start a campaign, record all your current metrics (number of followers, website visitors, number of weekly sales etc.) so you know where you started. Similarly, set up tracking links (if you’ve never done this before, Google has some resources), or unique discount codes for each influencer, so you know which influencers brought you most traffic.
- Re-share, re-share, re-share: When your campaigns are running, make sure to give them more visibility by re-sharing on your online channels. This will, if done right, allow your current community to see you are being recommended, overall increasing levels of trust and brand loyalty.
- Wrap it up: After your campaign is over, thank your collaborators and ask for metrics on their side. Be aware that some may overestimate, so keep a keen eye on your own data to compare. Hopefully you will have gathered some potential long-term collaborations, and increased awareness of your brand sentiment.
If you’re thinking about how to optimise your social media strategy in general, you might want to take a look at our guide: 10 useful social media tips for early-stage startups.