As an entrepreneur, I know that you’ll agree with me when I say that social media marketing has radically evolved and impacted every facet of our lives in the past few years.
Circa 2009, it was considered to be one tool in a vast marketing tool kit, but now in 2016 it has literally become the foundation of a successful marketing strategy. Brands tap into social media to get the visibility they need to grow profitably.
One of the most unprecedented and exciting effects of social media has been the meteoric rise of content creators (i.e., bloggers and vloggers) that have created a personal brand and subsequently their own sub-culture of of engaged fans that faithfully follow everything that they say and do.
The industry has coined these content creators, influencers.
Do you know why influencers are so influential? It’s simple: they have fans and fans buy products. Fans also want to feel connected to whoever is talking about a product or service and not feel like they are being sold to (even if they are).
The business of influence
In this day and age, fans want the human touch. They are not moved by a celebrity endorsement like they once were, and furthermore, they are not watching as many commercials since Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu hit the market.
In fact, this very concept of human touch is being embraced by much larger brands in their own brand strategy and marketing, as they themselves are incorporating the use of influencers into their overall marketing strategy.
But, I don’t want to talk about big brands and their marketing. I want to talk about how you, as an entrepreneur or small business owner, can utilize influencers to drive brand awareness and sales. (Because at the end of the day your bottom line really does matter.)
Here are 3 influencer marketing strategies every entrepreneur can leverage:
1. Create your own influencer strategy
First create your own influencer strategy. Start with asking the question, “What’s the point of having influencers promoting my brand?” This cannot be a fluff-filled answer either, you must get to the core of why partnering with influencers will push your brand forward.
After all, influencer marketing is serious business and you don’t want to come across as lackadaisical about your core objectives. The two other very important questions to consider are:
- What messaging do I want influencers to communicate about my brand?
- What type of content do I want influencers to use to communicate it?
2. Research influencers and create a short list
Remember that influencers are your prospects and they should tie into your overall brand strategy and sales goals. Hence, they need to be vetted just like you vet your ideal clients.
In my experience, Instagram is the best place to research using hashtags related to your industry. For example, if you are a fashion designer, hashtags that you may want in your research include: #fashion, #fashionblogger, #fashiondaily, #styleblogger, etc.
Start digging into the people and brands that are posting pictures using this hashtag, and see if they reflect your buyer persona and your brand. (By the way, I’m 99.9% sure that Kim Kardashian will not tie into your brand and therefore, you should not include her as a target influencer. It’s obvious she has never used most of the products she promotes a day in her life.)
Here’s a secret to use in your research: Influencers tend to have contact information in their profile bio, so make a note of that information too. Also, some may even say “influencer” in their bio.
Keep in mind that influence is more than follower counts (as you probably know, followers can easily be bought these days). Do your research and discover if they have true influence in their industry. Sift through press hits, their personal website and find out what people are saying about their brand.
3. Set the terms and launch
Here’s where the rubber meets the road with your influencer of choice. It’s time to set terms and come to an agreement for your partnership. Just so we are clear, no assumptions allowed.
Everything must be on paper and signed off by both parties. As the brand, by this stage you should be aware of the payment terms of an influencer in your niche or request their standard rates.
Here’s a quick look at key deliverables that should be included in your influencer marketing agreement:
- Will the influencer agree to incorporate your brand messaging in their content?
- What type of content will you ask the influencer produce?
- Where will the content be distributed?
- When should the content be published and how often?
- Who will provide the media and assets that should accompany the content?
You may even want to consider final review and approval before content is published. Whatever your terms are, set them and don’t be presumptive. It’s unwise to leave anything out that you think they will automatically know or do, every brand partnership is different.
As you can see, influencer marketing is not just for big brands like Dove and Nike. You can leverage up and coming and established niche influencers too, right now! Influencer marketing, when done correctly, can undoubtedly help you take a quantum leap in brand equity, awareness, and most importantly, sales.
After all, it’s all about the results a partnership can create for both you and the influencer.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Nicole K. Lundy, founder of Pretty and Profiting, is the gutsiest entrepreneur, copywriter and brand strategist on the block. She speaks to sold out crowds on how to build a stand-out brand that makes money, shares the cold hard truth on what it takes to build a money-making business on her blog, and works privately with entrepreneurs and lifestyle brands who are looking to grow their business by using profitable strategies to increase their revenue. She is also a paper cut survivor and has encountered three sharks up close and personal without getting a single bite. Connect with @nicoleklundy on Twitter.