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Step-by-step guide to working with influencers

Learn how to navigate the world of social media influencers.

How should we choose an influencer for our eCommerce Store? Is Kim Kardashian the right choice? Read on to find out why Kim might not be your first choice!

While you may think that influencers with an established audience mean that you have to shell out millions for Kim Kardashian, luckily, this is not the case!

There are ‘micro-influencers’ – social media personalities with smaller followers counts – even a few thousand – who create content around a niche, passion or community on many different topics, not just beauty, health or fitness.

In many respects, these micro-influencers can be better for your eCommerce store – at least compared to the millions you would pay the Kardashians!

Micro-influencers are more cost-effective for eCommerce businesses as they are more likely to be authentic and representative of the shopper you are trying to target. Indeed, following the pandemic, there is more demand for influencers who are seen as ‘real’ people!

How to choose an influencer

The most crucial factor in choosing an influencer is to select someone who reflects your eCommerce store – the brand, the proposition and the customer segments that we addressed earlier in this ExpertTrack.

You have to find a fit with your eCommerce brand: an influencer who matches what your eCommerce store and your brand are offering with their followers.

The R-E-R of choosing an influencer – three criteria to help you choose:

  • Reach: total number of followers that the influencer has
  • Engagement: the number of likes and comments each promotional post has received divided by follower count
  • Relevance: relevance to your eCommerce store brand and proposition. Metrics are one thing. An influencer’s content – what they say and how they say it – is also important. And, if they discuss your competitor all the time, maybe they are not the best choice!

Reach or engagement?

When it comes to choosing an influencer, some people think reach is key to getting results – that is the more eyeballs you get on your content, the better.

However, engagement is just as important – quality content that gets your prospective target customers actively commenting and sharing your message might be worth a lot more to you. The issue is, reach and engagement are often two sides of the same coin.

Large influencers are accounts with larger follower counts, typically in excess of 100,000 with relatively high engagement rates. These are influencers who are great for brands who want to target large diverse audiences. The downside of the reach to these huge audiences is that they have limited engagement.

Micro-influencers are accounts with relatively small follower accounts, typically from the 5,000 to 50,000 range. Their audience has a much higher engagement rate. This is usually because they are within a niche and create content that is trusted by their followers. They ‘work’ their relationships through engaged discussions with followers by asking them what their questions are, for comments and for posts.

Budget and goals

The starting point – whether you are a new eCommerce store or an eCommerce store that has a growing customer base and wishes to try influencers for the first time – is the following:

  1. Have a budget in mind. What can you afford? £1000? £100? £10,000?
  2. Know your customer personas well so that you can use this to work out if the influencer is the right choice.
  3. Decide what you want to achieve: is it sales? Brand awareness of your store?

You should have certain goals in mind so that you match your budget with a certain ‘package’. With respect to budget, influencers know how much they are worth. If you cannot match their current budget, be explicit and say: “I have this budget of £x for this campaign. If I cannot offer your full range of services, what could you offer for that amount?”

How do you find the right influencer?

If you are just starting out on the influencer marketing journey, one option is to use an influencer platform that takes away some of the legwork. These platforms largely act as databases, allowing you to find and connect with influencers and look deeper into data and analytics.

Example of such platforms are:

  • BuzzSumo: shows you what is currently popular on social media. You can search according to niche and it will display which type of content was shared the most on social media about specific topics. You can also use it to see which content a business has shared the most or see whose content was shared the most to identify the most important influencers on social media in your niche.
  • Ninja Outreach: search for relevant influencers by topic and analyse their reach; has a dedicated Instagram Search module and automated outreach to influencers.
  • Whalar: allows you to search and manage multiple influencers. It’s particularly good for excellent product photos and user-generated content.

Whilst these are the big platforms, there are much simpler platforms where you can find influencers:

  • Famebit: you can post your campaign and receive proposals from influencers from Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter – you select the influencer and pay them. You can even choose the type of creative format you want to be pitched, which is great if you don’t have the money or skills to do them yourself.
  • Influence.co: a directory and portfolio site for influencers to promote their business. You can use it to reach out to influencers for free.
  • Shoutcart: does what it says on the tin – a website where you can buy shoutouts. It is cheap, and cheap does not always mean effective, so assess whether it is useful for you!

The simple way to find an influencer

The final way to find an influencer is the DIY method – build up relationships with influencers yourself.

If you already know your market, customer segment and customer persona, you will know where they spend their time online. Most influencers operate on social media, so the challenge is to find them.

You should be able to find relevant influencers in your category by searching on the social media platform (eg, Instagram, YouTube) using the right product name or keywords. When you do this, create a list of how many followers they have. Then examine who these influencers are, in turn, following, to find out how many of the influencers are following each one. Then you have a complete list to know who to reach out to!

Of course, if you find an influencer who lives around the corner, or is a friend of a friend, start with them – it’s the easiest way to learn!

Working with influencers

Once you’ve found your influencer, make sure you approach them correctly. Email is the best method of approaching influencers and their email address is usually included in their bio or on their contact page. Influencers are typically very open with their contact information. If you cannot find it, send them a direct message asking for it on the social media platform they seem most active on.

Don’t contact influencers on the comments section of any public post.

Many are independent entrepreneurs, managing their own profile and brand, so you should not expect a freebie. For many, their social channels are their career, so asking influencers to give products away in a competition might not be enough. See if there is anything you can offer that will satisfy both parties, but the recommended strategy is to set a budget at the start of your campaign and expect to spend it.

Before you start working with an influencer

Once you have decided to work with an influencer, you need to think through:

  • What is the message? What is the story you want the influencer to tell?
  • What is the creative angle?
  • What format is the content creation? Photography by the influencer with the product can take hours from shooting the products to editing. If it is a blog post, this can take hours of copywriting, editing and approval spread over multiple days.
  • Will there be a contract or agreement as to exactly what the influencer is supposed to do?

If an influencer has a huge follower list, things get a bit more complex. This is largely to do with the legal requirement to explicitly state whether content is sponsored or has involvement with a brand.

For example, what if you want to ‘own’ the content that is created (rather than the influencer themselves). Similarly, a licence agreement will also be required if the campaign involves music or any other form of content that is owned by a third party. Even with micro-influencers, the process of negotiation will require emailing back and forth or talking on the phone.

The future of influencers

Social media giants such as Facebook and YouTube are rapidly expanding their propositions and creating new business models and ways for influencers to tap into this explosive growth of eCommerce.

For example, Instagram recently rolled out new functionality for influencers to get paid directly on the platform for the first time through ads on Instagram Television (IGTV), digital badges through Instagram Live that followers can buy (ranging in price from $0.99 to $4.99) and product sales through Instagram Shopping. Brands like Sephora, Ikea, and Puma tested ads with partners in IGTV videos, with 55% of the ad revenue going to the influencer.

Over to you

The opportunities with influencers are endless. How do you think you can apply the world of influencers to your product?

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