Influencer Marketing: A Vital Part of Your Marketing Strategy

Working with influencers isn’t a new concept. According to Sprout Social, over half of purchases are made due to social influence. Influencer marketing involves working with key individuals that have influence over potential buyers to broadcast your brand’s message or product. Instead of paying for an ad to those potential buyers, you pay or trade with an influencer to get the word out for you.

Influencer marketing has been slowly shifting from a PR method to a media channel, sneaking its way into marketing strategies and budgets. Influencer marketing works hand in hand with content marketing since your brand needs to create content for the influencer to share. Research has found that conversions can increase from three to ten times when brands share content through influencers in their industry.

In the old days of influencer marketing, brands could give free products to influencers to evaluate and promote the brand. You’ve seen this tactic used through YouTube reviews, tips and tutorials for makeup, technology and more. But GroupHigh, a blogger and influencer marketing firm, surveyed influencers in 2015 and 69.7% of those surveyed preferred monetary compensation for each post, compared to 11.5% who said they would still prefer free products.

Who are influencers? While you mainly think of them as celebrities, don’t forget people like mom bloggers and emerging internet sensations because they can have a large buying influence on their audience. Look past the numbers. Sometimes a page will have 500,000 fans but no engagement, while another page has 5,000 fans that are extremely engaged by liking, sharing and commenting on the influencer’s content. The numbers aren’t always cut and dry; smaller niche influencers can have more value to your brand. You need to dig a little deeper to find out where the most beneficial relationships are for your business.

Interacting with key players in your industry and building strong, organic relationships is still important. Personal connections that are built over time are always the strongest, which will ultimately convert into long-term advocates of your brand. Pick a small handful of influencers so that you don’t create an oversaturated marketing environment. Your small set of influencers can produce big results if you choose them wisely and focus on cultivating those relationships.

So should you drop your paid advertising in lieu of influencer marketing? No, but you should evaluate your advertising dollars and migrate some towards buying an audience of influencers, especially if you are trying to connect with millennials. A study from PageFair found that as many as 22.7% of browsers are using ad-blocking software, and even if your ad gets past that software, millennials want more depth and authenticity. 53% of millennials surveyed said that user-generated content has an influence on their purchase decisions, meaning that they are more likely to trust peer recommendations than brand advertising. Add influencer marketing into your strategy for a more robust marketing plan.

Finding your influencers. Most brands already have some knowledge of who influencers are in their industry. What pieces of content are you already sharing that is relevant to your brand? The writers of that content could be your influencers. Do you know of influential people already posting about your brand? It’s time to connect with them on a deeper level. Use your social media tools to search for influencers, such as hashtags and keywords.

Once you’ve found your influencers, it’s time to connect. Start by following them on social media. Retweet their content on Twitter or share it on Facebook. Add in your comments about why you think what they’re doing is great. Comment on their Instagram posts and follow their blog. Participate in same conversation circles.

Make yourself known to your influencers and perhaps an organic relationship can be formed and they will be intrigued by your product. After you’ve taken the initial steps in connecting, reach out via social media or email and explain the marketing connection you’d like to make.

People don’t trust marketers, but they trust influencers. Influencers can help open up your potential customers’ minds to your brand and let you in. The question is no longer “do we need an influencer marketing strategy” but “what is our influencer marketing strategy?”