Social media influencer making video
Using social media influencers has become a common practice, but there are several steps for businesses to take when finding and connecting with them. — Getty Images/g-stockstudio

Word-of-mouth marketing is nothing new, but these days social media has taken the strategy to a whole new level. Many businesses are seeking out social media “influencers” — or users with a large and loyal following — to advertise their brand through photos, videos, blog posts, Instagram stories and other creative methods. Influencers are considered to have credibility in a specific industry and their followers trust their opinions and endorsements of products and services.

According to a 2019 survey by Influencer Marketing Hub, the average return on investment for influencer marketing was $5.20 for every dollar spent, with some savvy businesses earning up to $18 per dollar spent.

If you’re new to influencer marketing, we’ve got you covered. Follow these insider tips to learn how to interact with influencers and get the most out of their services.

How to find influencers

“Start looking for influencers in the spot where your small business wants more publicity,” said influencer Carmen Varner (@carmenvarner), a social media/blogging coach who runs the travel and lifestyle blog It’s Carmen. If you’re looking for coverage on Instagram, try searching through hashtags relevant to your industry or location, such as #fashionblogger, #organicfoods, or #bloggerschicago. If you’re looking for backlinks, website coverage and longer features, consider searching for a blog influencer, Varner advised.

“One way to find blogs is to simply search Google for something like ‘Austin, TX food blogger’ or ‘San Diego travel blog,’” said influencer Chris Clemens (@explrupstate), who runs Exploring Upstate, a blog dedicated to upstate New York.

There are also several platforms available that help connect businesses and influencers, such as PeopleMap, Linqia, CLEVER, Blog Meets Brand, and Heartbeat.

Many micro-influencers create just as fantastic content as larger influencers and can be excellent for small businesses with limited budgets.

Carmen Varner, social media and blogging coach, It's Carmen

How to choose influencers

Once you’ve learned where to find influencers, it’s time to narrow down the list. There are a few general tips to keep in mind when deciding if an influencer is right for you:

Check engagement levels

Just because an influencer has a large number of followers doesn’t mean their audience is tuned in. Look through their posts to make sure they’re receiving a high number of likes and comments. “This can show how committed the followers are to the influencer,” said Kara Larkin (@karalarkinlifestyle), an influencer who runs beauty and lifestyle blog Kara Larkin Lifestyle.

Bigger isn’t always better

Don’t rule out micro-influencers, or influencers with a smaller number of followers (usually under 10,000), especially if it looks like their audience is engaged and they have the type of following your business wants to reach. “Many micro-influencers create just as fantastic content as larger influencers and can be excellent for small businesses with limited budgets,” said Varner.

Consider your brand’s image

Ask yourself what your brand stands for. “It’s important that the influencer reflects some of the brand’s core values,” said Varner. “If not, your business might not be speaking to the right audience at all.” Influencers often have media kits that describe who they are, what type of audience they target, past partnerships and other helpful information, so be sure to check those out.

How to engage with influencers

When you’re ready to reach out to an influencer, consider what form of communication would give your message the best shot at being read. “If they have a large following, you should reach out via e-mail or directly to their manager because they likely receive a lot of messages,” said Varner. “If they’re a smaller influencer, reach out via private message or e-mail.”

Try to start with a friendly conversation instead of immediately making an offer. “Let them know that you’re a fan of their work and maybe add a personal note about something they created that you were excited about,” said Larkin. “You can use that to lead into a conversation about working together.”

How to get the most from influencers

When you’ve found an influencer you’d like to work with, you should provide them with some general guidelines on what you need from them, such as the number and type of social media posts, key terms to include, deadlines and other important details. However, instead of giving them a script, allow them creative freedom to reach their audience. “People follow influencers because of their unique voice and ability to use digital media for storytelling,” said Clemens. “Let them use their skills and talents to find a way to represent your brand.”

When it comes to payment, be sure to hammer out all the details upfront. “Payment is always on a case-by-case basis,” said Clemens. “A contract should explicitly state for both parties what is expected.”

Sometimes influencers will accept free products or services instead of money in exchange for a review or social media post. “I worked with a company that gave me foldable flats for my entire wedding,” said Larkin. “I negotiated with them that I would do two blog posts, which is about equivalent to what the shoes would have cost.”

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published November 25, 2019