A Guide to Influencer Marketing

Dhiraj Nallapaneni

13 min read Last Updated Mar 22, 2020

Influencer marketing is a great way to get your business and product in front of new audiences. Luckily, you don’t need to have a huge budget to get more customers with influencer marketing. Let’s talk about how you can start leveraging the power of authentic social proof. 

What is Influencer Marketing and How Does it Work? 

Influencer marketing is a type of marketing that leverages the relationship of key leaders to drive a brand’s message to the larger market. These influencers can be inspired, or hired to promote your brand or product to their audience who follow them. 

Let’s say a new makeup brand wants to reach out to women from a certain demographic. They can scout for personal stylists and grooming specialists with a large fan following from a similar demographic. When these people (who are considered as an authority in their field) promote your brand, to their audience, the acceptance is higher. Actually much higher than if you were to try and reach this same audience through any other means. We’ll share some cool stats below. 

Why does Influencer Marketing work? Prospective customers have learned to trust influencers over a period of time. The endorsements from these influencers, therefore, serve as social proof. When an influencer that you respect says that a product is great, chances are that you will listen. 

Social proof is important because we imitate the behaviour of those around us, especially the behaviour of people we respect. Influencers work hard to grow their followers and earn their trust. When an influencer we trust says that they have tried a restaurant and found it to be fabulous, their fans are likely to give it a try. 

Why Do You Need Influencer Marketing?

You might be wondering if there’s really a need for influencer marketing at all. Maybe your current marketing strategy is working great for you. 

Let’s take the example of social media marketing. While social media is a great way to spread awareness about your business, the fact is, – sites like Facebook limit the reach that you can get through your business posts. 

A couple of years ago, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would be prioritizing content from friends over those from businesses. While Zuckerberg claimed that this was a way to help focus user’s feeds on what really mattered, some people said it was just a cynical ploy to sell ads. 

Whatever you might think, it’s undeniable a post that you publish on social media isn’t actually seen by many of your followers. It’s estimated that when you make a post, it only goes out to around 6% of the people who like your business on Facebook. 

Influencer marketing provides you with a unique opportunity to reach your target audiences more efficiently. 

Now the question is, are there enough influencers in your industry that you can tap? The answer is yes. There are influencers in every industry. Here are some examples of influencer marketing that you may have encountered. 

DJ Khaled – The Hip-hop artist and Snapchat superstar promoted ‘Mad Intense’ selection of ‘Stride’ Gum to his followers. 

Kate La Vie – Lifestyle blogger shared sponsored posts promoting ‘Naked’ juice – the bottled smoothie brand

Alex Rodriguez – The New York Yankee retiree helped Old Navy raise $1 million for the Boys & Girls Club of America (BGCA) as part of sales during ‘Black Friday’

Influencer Marketing Stats

Still don’t believe that influencer marketing works? 

It’s clear that there’s a reason why big money invested in influencer marketing: it works. So let’s talk about how you can get started with influencer marketing. 

What to Expect from Influencer Marketing

Don’t expect influencer marketing to produce immediate results. Chances are that influencers built their audiences on social media slowly and surely. They aren’t looking for an instant payout and neither should you. 

 Try to build a relationship with relevant influencers. Comment on their posts and try to get to know them on some level before hard-selling your business to them. Influencers will be more likely to work with you once you have an authentic relationship with them. 

Influencer Marketing vs Brand Ambassadors 

Two commonly confused techniques are influencer marketing and the use of brand ambassadors. Let’s talk about the difference between the two. 

According to Wikipedia, “A brand ambassador (sometimes also called a corporate ambassador) is a person who is hired by an organization or company to represent a brand in a positive light and by doing so help to increase brand awareness and sales.” 

These ambassador relationships are typically long-term. Ambassadors typically aim to spread the word about your product through word-of-mouth. It’s common for companies to hire college brand ambassadors to spread the word about their product through a campus. 

An influencer is someone who promotes your product, usually by showing how they use it on social media. These relationships tend to be much shorter-term. Sometimes, an influencer relationship only lasts for a single post or video. 

Different Categories of Influencers 

Not every influencer is created equal. Let’s talk about some different categories of influencers. 

Mega Influencers 

A mega influencer is someone with more than a million followers. A mega influencer is typically The Rock or The Weeknd. While they typically won’t be experts in your industry, they will have a massive following. Working with a mega influencer is going to cost a pretty large sum of money. 

Macro-Influencers 

A macro influencer is someone with more than 100000 followers but less than a million. These influencers might have fewer followers than a mega influencer, but you typically can find some macro-influencers in your industry. 

Micro-Influencers 

A micro-influencer is someone with 1000 to 100000 followers. While they might not have as many followers as a macro influencer, most of the time micro-influencers have much closer relationships with their followers. We’ll talk about how small businesses can use micro-influencers later in the article. 

Nano-Influencers 

Nano influencers typically have less than a thousand followers on Instagram. While this isn’t a lot (that’s how many Instagram followers I have), building relationships with nano-influencers can be worth it. After all, these followers are usually friends and family. 

Which Kinds of Influencers Work the Best? 

Before we go any further in this article, I want to take a second to ask, which influencers do you think get the highest ROI? 

The answer might surprise you. It’s not the Mega Influencers that bring businesses the most profit. As Influencer Marketing Hub put it, “the larger the influencer, the lower the ROI”. Again, these smaller influencers are often cheaper and have more engaged follower bases. 

Platforms for Influencer Marketing 

Influencers exist on several different platforms. You can find influencers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn and now TikTok. 

So what platform should you be using? The answer is that it totally depends on your business. Influencer Marketing Hub says that the best platform for influencer marketing is Instagram. It’s true that Instagram is one of the most popular social platforms out there. However, you should take this with a grain of salt. 

Instagram influencers may not work great for every company. For example, think about a company like BirdEye. We’re a B2B SaaS company. While looking at a beautiful hotel room on Instagram is great, looking at our dashboard might not be exciting (even though we do have a world-class dashboard designed by the world-class product design team). Figure out what medium works the best for your business. 

Influencer Outreach 

If you want to start working with an influencer in your industry, it’s good to think about how you can reach out to them. Here’s a couple of tips. 

  • Find relevant influencers with relevant audiences 

Be sure that you’re happy with the engagement that the influencer gets on their typical posts. Relevance is everything. Having a post featuring your business that gets a million likes doesn’t mean anything if nobody who sees it will ever become your customer. Take a look at the influencer’s comments to see what kind of audience they have.

  • Personalize your email 

Make it clear that you’re a fan of the influencer and their content. Nobody wants to reply to an email that sounds generic. Include a genuine compliment of their work. 

  • Emphasize why your business makes sense to promote 

Influencers don’t want to hurt their own reputation by promoting a bad product. They also don’t want to promote something that’s in a completely different space. Emphasize recognitions that your business has received and let them know how you can serve their audience. 

Don’t have the time to do influencer marketing outreach? It might be worth working with an influencer marketing agency that has preexisting relationships with these influencers. 

What are the Key Components of Influencer Marketing?

Before you launch your influencer marketing strategy, here are a few things to keep in mind to increase your chances of success. 

  • Plan Your Strategy 

You should take some time and figure out what you’re trying to get from influencer marketing. Maybe you’re trying to increase brand awareness or maybe you’re trying to close more deals. Figure out the aspects of the business that you want to highlight. Is there a new product or service that you want to highlight? 

  • Find the Metrics to Measure Success

If you’re running a campaign to raise brand awareness, success can be measured based on how many people viewed or engaged with the influencer’s post. However, if you’re trying to increase sales, it’s important to measure how many deals came from the influencer’s post. You can do this by setting up UTM tags. 

  • Consider Your Budget 

Before you start reaching out to A-list celebrities, think about your budget and how much you’re willing to spend. If you have a few hundred dollars, it’s probably best to think about how you can start building relationships with nano-influencers. 

What We Can Learn from Bad Influencer Marketing Examples

Now that we’ve talked about some of the positives of influencer marketing, let’s share a couple of negative stories with you. 

Fyre Festival 

If you’ve seen the Netflix or Hulu documentary about the ill-fated Fyre Festival, you probably know the story. If you don’t know yet, here’s the short story: The company Fyre contracted some of the most-followed Instagram accounts to promote it’s upcoming Fyre Festival, a music festival featuring artists like Blink-182. The event was supposed to take place on a private island in the Caribbean. 

The beautiful scenes that were displayed on social media helped to build up hype. While millions of people saw posts about the Fyre Festival, it all ended terribly when ticket holders showed up. Instead of the beautiful paradise catered by gourmet chefs that were promised on social media, festival-goers got a poorly organized event with food that looked like it came from an elementary school’s cafeteria

The Fyre Festival fiasco actually led to the Federal Trade Commission regulating influencer marketing much more strictly. Many of the influencers who promoted Fyre did not disclose that they were getting paid to do so. 

So what’s the lesson here? The best influencers in the world can’t save a bad product. While influencers can help you spread your word, the burden is on you to deliver your business’s promise. 

Kendall Jenner- Pepsi Commercial 

Perhaps you remember this Pepsi commercial featuring Kendall Jenner from a few years ago. It featured an undefined political protest and Jenner bringing everyone together with a can of Pepsi. 

The commercial sparked outrage on social platforms. It seemed like Pepsi was cheapening political protests for their own gain. 

The biggest reason this commercial failed, is because of a complete lack of alignment. What does Kendall Jenner and Pepsi have to do with protests? The lesson here is to make sure that your influencer’s audience makes sense for you to target, and that the content that you put out together actually meshes with your overall business vision. 

The Future of Influencer Marketing

You might have heard that Facebook and Instagram are exploring removing likes from public view. Some people believe that this will limit influencers’ power, as the brands they work with will not be able to see engagement metrics upfront. 

Regardless of what happens, influencers will still have power. People are always happy to take recommendations from people they trust. Besides, Facebook and Instagram are not the only social platforms out there. 

Influencer marketing can take place on YouTube, Twitter, or even an influencer’s personal blog. The rise of new social platforms like TikTok shows that the opportunity to grow with influencers is just beginning. 

Influencer Marketing and Online Reviews 

If you are pursuing an influencer marketing strategy, we also heavily recommend that you invest in online reviews. While they might seem separate, online reviews provide social proof just like influencer marketing does. 

First off, they both leverage the power of social proof. While influencer marketing displays social proof with the endorsement from someone with a lot of followers, online reviews display social proof through sheer numbers. If 500 people say that a restaurant provides a 5-star experience, chances are that you’ll believe them. 

So when you’re making investments into influencer marketing, don’t neglect online reviews. Customers want to do business with people they trust. Influencer marketing and online reviews are two ways that your business can work to build this trust. 

How Local Businesses Can Use Influencer Marketing

If you’re a local business, you might be wondering if you can use influencer marketing. Fees for prominent influencers can cost thousands of dollars, and this might be out of your marketing budget. Later estimates that the cost of a travel package for an Instagram influencer can be $342,000. 

If you’re a small business that can afford that, congratulations. If you’re a normal business, here are some affordable alternatives that you should consider. 

Work with Micro-Influencers

Maybe it’s not possible to work with someone who has 500,000 followers. But it might be possible to work with someone with thousands of followers in your area. 

Another benefit is that these micro-influencers are significantly more affordable. With micro-influencers, it might not be necessary to offer money. Instead, you can offer free products and services in exchange for a social share. 

Incentivize Social Sharing 

Think about how you can incentivize your customers to share your product and services on Instagram. For example, you can offer a discount to customers who share a picture on Instagram that tags your business. If you have a physical location, you can make sure that you have a certain section that’s set up so that customers can take a picture. 

Leverage Reviews 

Online reviews help your business get credibility as well. Studies show that customers trust online reviews just as much as they trust recommendations from friends and family. We recommend collecting reviews on platforms like Facebook and Google and then sharing them on social media.  

How BirdEye Can Help You 

While we don’t offer services to help you find relevant influencers, we can help you build social proof for your business with online reviews. We’ve been named the #1 company in reputation management by G2 based on the data from thousands of customer reviews.