The Ultimate Guide to
Influencer Marketing

To find success in today’s marketing climate, it’s essential to present advertising content in a more trustworthy, authentic way.

influencer marketing woman phone peace selfie glasses

Consumers don’t appreciate the feeling that they’re being sold something, or that they don’t have agency over their purchasing decisions. They want to be active participants in the purchasing process, researching products and arriving at their own conclusions with a genuine helping hand.

Enter influencer marketing. This marketing strategy utilizes well-known, trusted individuals with significant online presence to endorse products and services. The information and recommendations influencers provide feel authentic to consumers, ultimately shaping their purchase decisions without feeling coercive. It’s a valuable strategy for marketers and one that can effectively drive sales while building consumer trust in a brand.

In this guide, you’ll learn the basics of creating your strategy, from choosing a campaign type to finding influencers to tracking your strategy results. Armed with a thorough command of influencer marketing campaigns, you’ll be well on your way to creating a successful strategy.

Consumers don’t appreciate the feeling that they’re being sold something, or that they don’t have agency over their purchasing decisions. They want to be active participants in the purchasing process, researching products and arriving at their own conclusions with a genuine helping hand.

Enter influencer marketing. This marketing strategy utilizes well-known, trusted individuals with significant online presence to endorse products and services. The information and recommendations influencers provide feel authentic to consumers, ultimately shaping their purchase decisions without feeling coercive. It’s a valuable strategy for marketers and one that can effectively drive sales while building consumer trust in a brand.

In this guide, you’ll learn the basics of creating your strategy, from choosing a campaign type to finding influencers to tracking your strategy results. Armed with a thorough command of influencer marketing campaigns, you’ll be well on your way to creating a successful strategy.

influencer marketing woman phone peace selfie glasses

Influencer marketing uses influencers to deliver brand messages and product information to their target audiences. Influencers, who are typically found on social media, create content to build a following of loyal fans. They may post about topics in a specific niche, such as beauty or travel, and spread knowledge about these topics with their followers. By sharing information on a deeper level and ultimately becoming helpful resources for followers, influencers position themselves as go-to sources in their respective niches.

Have you ever caught yourself watching a favorite YouTuber discuss their experience with a product and found yourself imagining how that product could help you? If so, you’ve seen an influencer in action.

Brands capitalize on this relationship instead of marketing directly to consumers specifically because they want to associate with that authenticity. Because influencers build trust by sharing their expertise with followers, influencers are also better equipped to affect consumer purchasing decisions. Instead of overtly discussing a product’s benefits like a traditional ad, an influencer uses the product and determines what they like about it. They then share this assessment with followers, which feels like a friend sharing an authentic, helpful recommendation. 

Understanding the Value of Influencer Marketing

If you’re still wondering whether or not to move forward with formulating an influencer marketing strategy, consider this. Influencer marketing has completely reshaped how people shop and how they digest advertising. Because consumers are becoming increasingly suspicious and skeptical of traditional advertising formats, influencer marketing is critical for brands that want to stay relevant.

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The Numbers Don't Lie

According to statistics from Digital Marketing Institute:

  • Influencer campaigns have a 650% return on investment (ROI), earning $6.50 for every dollar spent on a campaign. That’s much higher than the ROI for traditional advertising mediums.
  • Eighty-six percent of women say they turn to social media for advice on making purchases. Over half of all women have made purchases based on influencer posts. 
  • Overall, 49 percent of consumers base purchasing decisions on influencer posts.
  • Just 3 percent of consumers would buy a product in-store based on a celebrity endorsement. That number jumps to 60 percent when it’s an influencer promotion.
  • Seventy-four percent of consumers trust the opinions they find on social media to help them make purchasing decisions.

Understanding What Influencers Are and What They Do

You might have some ideas crystallizing about why it’s a great idea to work with them. The benefits to influencer marketing are numerous and include the following standout aspects:

  • It builds trust in your brand. You’re associating your brand with a person whose audience already trusts them. By extension, that audience will begin to trust your brand based on the opinions of an influencer they respect.
  • It boosts brand awareness. Partnering with an influencer helps you tap into audiences you might not have reached otherwise.
  • It helps you reach new, defined target audiences. You won’t just reach new audiences you weren’t anticipating, though. You’ll also have a better chance of reaching the audiences you already wanted to connect with. This is one reason why it’s important to find influencers in the right niche.
  • It provides value to your existing audience by offering content that helps them and provides new perspectives. In turn, this helps solidify their trust in your brand.
  • It creates relationships that may lead to more interesting campaigns in the future. Building a partnership with an influencer can open the door to potential opportunities you may not have otherwise enjoyed.
  • It’s not pushy. There’s a level of subtlety to influencer marketing that keeps it feeling natural, almost organic, to audiences. They don’t feel like they’re being held captive or inconvenienced, which removes some of the frustration they feel with pop-up and display ads.
  • It builds credibility in multiple arenas. Influencer marketing doesn’t just foster trust in your brand among consumers. It also boosts your domain authority, which impacts how your site appears in search engine results. Better domain authority makes it easier for new consumers to find your brand.
  • It improves overall content strategy. You diversify the types of content your brand creates and get fresh ideas. Your influencers also create content you can repurpose later on.

Influencer marketing has the potential to help brands reach new heights in terms of earnings and reputation. It’s the fastest-growing method of online customer acquisition — one your brand can no longer afford to ignore.

How to Create an Influencer Marketing Strategy

Your influencer marketing strategy is sort of like a recipe. It’s not a boxed cake mix though; it’s more like a souffle. You’ll need some specific ingredients and precise steps to follow. You’ll need to pay close attention to it. And the end result will be something impressive and worth the effort.

Use the following steps to help your strategy and future campaign take shape. Keep in mind that your objectives may change slightly during the course of the campaign. It’s okay to go back and recalibrate, but it helps to follow these steps as a road map.

Set Goals

Like many business endeavors, creating your marketing strategy starts with setting goals. Begin by determining your intentions for this latest campaign. Doing so helps build an overall structure that helps you maintain focus on the outcome. When you know what you’re working for, it’s also easier to determine the metrics you’ll use to judge how successful the campaign is.

You might’ve already heard of the SMART technique for setting goals, and you can easily apply this to your campaign.

Goals also help influencers get a better idea about what you need from them. Different types of influencer campaigns result in different outcomes. The list that follows outlines the primary positive results influencer marketing can produce for your brand. Keep in mind that, depending on the length of your campaign, you may opt to choose some or all of these as your goals:

  • Driving site traffic: This is the number of visitors the brand’s site gets. The more visitors your site has, the more chances you have to connect with potential customers. Getting more traffic means you’re making more impressions on people who may make immediate purchases or return in the future to do so. The higher earnings associated with increases in site traffic can help your brand expand its offerings. This is both a short- and long-term goal.
  • Generating leads or building a database: Lead generation relates to traffic in that it’s also about reaching potential customers and making them aware of the brand. However, it’s also about making sure the right people — your target market — gets exposure to the company. It allows you to build a continuous relationship with consumers because they begin to identify with the brand. This is usually a short-term goal.
  • Increasing engagement levels: Engagement is the combined types of interactions that brands and influencers have with followers online. It can include things like shares, likes, comments and conversations. Engagement is important because it increases brand reach, and it also humanizes your brand. Followers see that someone at the company cares enough to interact with them on a one-on-one level, which fosters loyalty. This is usually a short-term goal.
  • Boosting brand awareness: This is almost exactly what it sounds like. A consumer with brand awareness recognizes your company and remembers it when they’re thinking about making a purchase. It can influence customer decisions and help them make repeat purchases. This is usually a long-term goal.
  • Increase conversions: Your conversion rate is the ratio of people who’ve visited your site compared to those who’ve taken a desired action. That action might be signing up for your email list, or it might be making a purchase. Influencer marketing can encourage those conversions to produce your desired outcome. This typically boosts ROI. This is both a short- and long-term goal.

Define Your Target Market

Your target audience is simply the group at which your campaign is aimed towards. They’re the people you want your marketing messages to reach. Target audiences are often segmented by different demographic factors, like age, gender, income and location. You can also divide them by their interests or purchase intentions. And you don’t have to stick to one category — you can blend several to create a more carefully defined group.

If you don’t already have buyer personas or target markets defined, now’s the time to do that. Take a look at who’s in your current customer base and try to answer the following questions:

  • What’s their typical age range and gender?
  • Where do they live?
  • What are the more common occupations they have?
  • What’s their average income? How do they usually spend it?
  • What’s their highest level of education?
  • Are they married or unmarried?
  • Do they have children?
  • What hobbies and interests do they have?
  • What are their favorite social media networks?

Look at the commonalities among your customers. Many of them may be married, employed women with bachelor’s degrees and kids or pets. Or perhaps most of them are young men who’ve recently graduated college and enjoy fishing in their spare time. Determine their primary shared characteristics, and then turn your attention toward their psychographics — their highly personal characteristics:

  • Personality elements
  • Attitudes toward pertinent issues
  • Values

You can further group your customers using these elements and then determine how your product fits into their lifestyle. Finally, you’ll use this information to create a buyer persona. What is a buyer persona? It’s a model of your target customer that’ll help you connect with real customers on a deeper level. It humanizes them and teaches you how to relate to them.

Determine Your Budget

A budget helps you maintain direction in managing your campaigns and impacts decisions you’ll make. It also helps you more effectively determine the results of a campaign by comparing what you spent and what you earned. But how much should you spend?

There’s no one-size-fits-all number you should aim for, and it depends on what your company can afford.  But there are several important considerations in settling on your own influencer budget numbers.

  • Look at your current marketing spend and overall budget. To maintain your current market position, you should devote around 5 percent of your total revenue to marketing, according to marketing company FrogDog. If you want to capture a bigger market share, bump that number up to 10 percent. Highly competitive niches may necessitate budgets of 20 percent or higher.
  • Break your overall budget into quarters. Market analysis and research company Altimeter recommends allocating 25 percent of a marketing budget specifically to influencer marketing. Another 25 percent can go to general social media marketing.
  • Anticipate costs by approximating potential conversions. Once you have an influencer in mind, estimate how many people you expect to view a piece of content from that influencer. Then estimate how many people you expect to convert after seeing that content. Use 1 percent as a guideline if you’re unsure, notes CrateJoy. Plan to allocate at least that much per piece of content based on the influencer’s preferred compensation model.

Influencer Marketing PLatform

Ready? You have the basic framework set up for the foundation of your influencer marketing strategy. Now it’s time to start focusing on getting a campaign going.

Choosing the Right Influencers For Your Brand

Influencers often specialize in discussing specific topics, and it’s essential to choose an influencer who represents the same niche your brand is in. This improves your chances of connecting with the target audience that’s most likely to identify with (and purchase from) your brand.

It can be jarring for followers to see an influencer presenting a product that doesn’t fit with their overall theme. It comes across as irrelevant or inauthentic, which turns people away from the brand. For example, you wouldn’t want a mommy blogger posting about your company’s new skateboard decks — her audience wants to know about the latest car seats. This ultimately wastes your budget, because you’re marketing to an audience that isn’t going to become interested in your offering.

Popular Niches

The following list shows some of the most popular niches in today’s marketing climate.

  • Beauty — Makeup, fragrance, professional artistry, special effects, haircare, skincare, how-tos, tips, event looks, etc.
  • Fashion — Clothing, jewelry, accessories, designer looks, budget-friendly looks, hauls, styling tips, etc.
  • Health and Fitness — Recipes, workouts, gear, sports, diets, etc.
  • Parenting — All things related to child-rearing, including tips, homeschooling ideas, toy and other product reviews, etc.
  • Pets — Food reviews, training tips, travel ideas, etc.
  • Travel — Deals, tips, experiences, specific types of travel like cruising, etc.
  • Decor — Inspirational ideas, budget tips, deals, etc.

Influencer Types

It’s important not only that influencers you choose are accessible to you budget-wise but that they’re also accessible to your followers on several levels. Influencers typically charge rates according to their experience and their follower count. There are four primary types of influencers, and the one that’s right for your campaign depends on factors like your budget, audience and niche.

  • Mega-influencers generally have over 1 million followers. They’re often celebrities or people who’ve become celebrities due to their presence on social media. They aren’t able to engage with followers as deeply as other types of influencers and are typically known more for their fame than their influence.
  • Macro-influencers have between 100,000 and 1 million followers. They’re slightly better equipped to engage with followers than mega-influencers and still boast broad audience reach.
  • Micro-influencers have smaller audiences of around 10,000 to 100,000 followers, which offers even more opportunities to engage with fans. Micro-influencers usually have more narrowly defined niches than mega- and macro-influencers.
  • Nano-influencers have the lowest counts of the bunch — sometimes fewer than 1,000 followers. Despite this, they’re highly authentic and their content is usually the most targeted to a specific niche. Their engagement rates with followers tend to be the highest of all the influencer types.

Want to know more about each type of influencer? Check out our Influencer Tier Guide for a deeper dive.

How Influencer Pricing Works

There’s a lot of versatility in influencer marketing, even when it comes to how influencers may charge for their services.  Although some influencers may have their own compensation packages set up in their media kits, there are five primary pricing models you’ll typically see. You can negotiate the terms, and which ones you want to use, based on your influencer and your campaign goals.

  1. Cost per engagement: You pay the influencer a flat fee for each type of engagement they produce, such as a like, share or retweet. This is a helpful choice if one of your goals is to drive engagement because it’s an effective way to track results and determine payment.
  2. Cost per click: You pay the influencer a flat fee each time a consumer clicks a link. This is almost always a link to your website that you provide the influencer. If one of your primary goals is to boost site traffic, it’s a wise idea to opt for this payment model.
  3. Cost per acquisition: You pay the influencer based on how many sales they generate, typically through a URL you provide them. Email or subscription signups may also constitute acquisitions. This is an ideal choice when you’re aiming to increase conversions.
  4. Product compensation: Instead of (or in addition to) paying the influencer cash, you provide your product or service as payment. This can be a good option if your goal is to raise brand awareness. Nano-influencers, who typically don’t get paid as much as the other types, often accept this form of payment.
  5. Payment per post: You pay the influencer a flat fee for each piece of content they post mentioning your brand. This content usually includes Instagram photos, tweets, videos and blog posts. This is another good option if you’re looking to generate leads and boost brand awareness.

Partner with industry-leading food, fashion, beauty, and lifestyle brands.

How to Find & Qualify Influencers

With a general strategy in place, it’s time to start the search for a key piece of your puzzle: your influencers. There are several different ways to discover and connect with them. The one that’s right for your brand depends both on your budget and the amount of time you have available to devote to the search.

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Finding Influencers for Free

Say there’s not as much wiggle room in your budget or you’re interested in first getting a feel for the types of influencers out there. Start out by using some general free search techniques to familiarize yourself with the influencer landscape of each platform. Ideally, you’ll have already narrowed down the preferred platforms for your type of campaign and target market. These are where you’ll begin your search.

Followers

Start by looking at your current followers on your desired social media platform — this is particularly useful on Instagram and Facebook. These people already have an interest in your brand’s offerings. Comb through your posts. Are there some usernames that pop up repeatedly, leaving comments and likes on a regular basis?

Take a look at these followers’ profiles. Check out what they post about, what their follower numbers are and whether they often have conversations with followers in their comments. You want to see if anyone posts cohesive content that fits with your niche and facilitates dialogue with other people. Ideally, they’ll have more followers than people they follow and don’t post anything offensive. Note your overall impressions of these people, and their usernames, to return to later.

You don’t have to stick with your brand account’s followers. Take a look at your competitors’ social media profiles to see who’s following them and use the same process to guide your research.

Hashtags

It’s also helpful to check out relevant hashtags. Perhaps your brand already has its own special hashtag or you created one that’s product specific. Check out who posts using these tags. If this doesn’t turn up anything promising, move on to niche-, location- or industry-specific hashtags.

Follower Follow-up

At this point, you’ll have a list of potential people to contact. It’s time to take a deeper dive into their followers before you settle on some choices. Fake followers are a real concern, particularly on platforms like Instagram and YouTube.

Fake followers are accounts that follow a social media user that are often set up to artificially inflate users’ follower numbers. Real fans, friends and sometimes human beings at all aren’t behind these accounts. Any interactions they generate aren’t coming from someone who’s genuinely interested in the content the fake follower is “interacting” with. Instead they may even be bots that are programmed to mimic human actions and speech.

It’s essential to look at a potential influencer’s followers and evaluate it for bots. Bots often have nonsense usernames with random letters and numbers. Their accounts may only have a few generic photos, and the number of people they’re following is typically much higher than those who follow them.

It’s also crucial to look at the potential influencer’s engagement levels. If a user has 100,000 followers but regularly only gets 50 comments on posts, it’s probable there’s a multitude of bots on their follower list.

As you’re scrolling through a user’s friends list, click on anything suspicious to gauge the presence of bots. It’s common for public accounts to have some bots following them but having hundreds upon hundreds is a red flag. The user might’ve purchased the bots to inflate their follower count and create the appearance of popularity, and you don’t want an influencer who’s dishonest.

Fake followers are a problem because they can mask the true level of engagement a user has. They might cause you to think you’re having your influencer market your brand to a big audience. In reality, you’re wasting your money on producing content that’s not reaching as many people as you thought. Do the legwork early on — before contacting a potential influencer — to judge whether followers are real.

Ready? You have the basic framework set up for the foundation of your influencer marketing strategy. Now it’s time to start focusing on getting a campaign going.

Influencer Marketing Tools

A free search can find you some great leads. But when you want to dig deeper and find influencers that are ideal matches for your brand, consider using an influencer marketing platform. Tools like IZEAx’s Discovery can save you time during your search process. With over 4 million (and counting) influencers on the platform, you’re almost certain to find the right match for your needs.

This powerful search engine returns results in an array of formats, all of which guide you to influencers. Plus, the extensive filtering options help you hone in on influencers who fit your exact criteria. When you get started with Discovery, you’ll have the option to use Unity Search, VizSearch and Lists to get organized for your campaign.

Unity Search

This is Discovery’s comprehensive, proprietary influencer search platform. When you sign up for a Discovery subscription, you can use Unity Search to find influencers by niche, platform, location, and more. Use filters to refine your search and sort through the results. From here you can save your search or create lists to export for later use.

VizSearch

If you’re looking for an innovative way to check out influencer content in addition to the influencers themselves, try VizSearch. This AI-powered content engine displays actual influencer posts, not just their profiles. You can perform a visual search with your desired keyword to display pieces of content, like Instagram photos, that are relevant to your query. Try searching for your brand’s name to see who’s posting about it and what they’re saying.

If you’re interested in more guidance with formulating an influencer marketing strategy, consider IZEA’s Managed Services. As an influencer marketing agency, IZEA can manage some or all aspects of your campaign with offerings tailored specifically to your brand’s goals and budget.