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Since we are a referral platform we often get asked about influencer marketing too. Though the two are different, they both utilize word of mouth and often have the same end goal in mind (to increase leads).

We thought we’d get some expert advice on marketers who have used influencer marketing and that are familiar with the process for their advice on being successful with influencer marketing.

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is when someone who is considered an ‘expert‘ or is well-known in the field, uses their reputation to help you market your product. (Unlike referral programs which focus on using your customers to spread the word).

Typically speaking, influencers have a certain ‘influence’ over their followers as they are seen as trustworthy sources within their niche. They use this influence to persuade and get others excited about your brand.

Many influencers use social media, blogs, and video to help get out their message. Between custom content made for specific brands, to hashtags, to simple shoutouts, an influencer has a variety of avenues to talk about your brand.

Influencer marketing statistics

There are a ton of influencer marketing statistics already out there. But, we wanted to see if we could come up with similar findings to prove that influencer marketing is as effective as they say.

We received 47 responses to our survey. We had quite a range of business types respond the long list includes, transportation, digital marketing, entertainment, finance, agencies, eCommerce, tech, health, travel, home, P2P, SaaS, subscription, enterprise, and public relations.

We were thrilled with the spread! Even with the wide variety of respondents, we saw a few common factors…

Influencer marketing is king compared to display advertising

For one of our questions, we asked the marketers to compare influencer marketing to other forms of marketing. Two things stood out.

  1. We found that many believed display advertising to be less effective than influencer marketing. Which aligns with numerous other studies that mention people trust the recommendations from those they know compared to typical ads.
  2. We also saw that more marketers than not felt content marketing is more effective than influencer marketing.

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Content marketing is more likely to take over 25% of a marketing budget

Another thing we wanted to know was where marketers planned on spending their budgets. With the increase of influencer type programs out there, we wondered if marketers accounted for spending their budgets there.

To get a good feel for where people planned on spending their budgets, we asked where marketers planned on spending at least 25% of their overall marketing budget.

The respondents were able to choose multiple options, but what we found was that around half of marketers said they would be spending at least 25% of their marketing budget on content marketing. Influencer marketing (18%) and social media marketing (16%) followed behind content marketing.

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Those who plan on using a service will spend more time on influencer marketing

It’s worth noting that the majority (70%) of respondents said they would be finding influencers on their own.

However, what we found was that a bigger portion of those who are going to use a service to find influencers said they were more likely to spend 20+ hours a week doing so. Verse those who plan on doing the work of finding influencers on their own where more than half of the respondents said they only planned spending less than 10 hours a week on influencer marketing.

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The most popular influencer is someone who is well-known in that niche

If you’re browsing the web, you might often see famous influencers promoting products. What you might not realize is that a lot of other people including everyday users are also promoting products and helping brands gain exposure.

However, most brands want people well-known in their niche to show off their products. 68% of respondents mentioned that they want those who are “well known in my niche” to be their influencers.

So for instance, a popular beauty blogger (or someone who posts content relating to beauty who has a lot of social media followers) might be picked up by a makeup brand to promote a new product instead of someone who posts content aimed at tech and business. And that works both ways, an influencer might only want to work with brands in their niche.

Even more so influencers and brands might hone in on a specific angle. For instance, a regular makeup brand might not be appealing to someone who prefers using organic and natural products.

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Conversions are the number one way on how ROI will be measured

How do most people associate that their influencer marketing is working? We found that marketers don’t strictly count on one thing to see whether or not their influencer program is working. Instead, the majority of respondents mentioned using a variety of measurements.

72% of marketers mentioned that conversions were what they were measuring for success.

Website traffic was just after that, with 64% of respondents saying they used it to measure whether or not their influencer marketing is working.

Only 23% of respondents said Mentions were to be used to determine success, making them the least likely option chosen.

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Majority rules – most influencer programs use a mix on content

68% of marketers say that content for their influencer marketing is a mix of content. Meaning they may have specific details their influencers must mention, but the execution of the content is up to the influencer.

Some brands 19% said that their influencers did have complete freedom to come up with content. Meaning the brand doesn’t persuade them or give them criteria to follow. While 17% of brands supplied their influencers with the exact content they want shared.

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Here’s how to successfully do influencer marketing

Before we dig too far into tips on running a successful influencer program, we thought it would be worth noting that an influencer software can make the whole process of finding influencers, tracking their work, to issuing incentives and payments much easier than doing it on your own.

Check out our influencer software list.

Here are some of our expert’s suggestions on what software works for them:

Heepsy’s Patricia Garay, mentions “The possibility of finding influencers with tools like Heepsy makes it easier to track them and filtered them”. She adds in that “Influencer Marketing has been successful because influencers are people that customers trust”.

Affan Vohra from  BestVPN.co chimes in by saying that you can reach out to influencers via email, but the chances of having your email seen are slim with the amount they probably receive. “I suggest using Boomerang for Gmail”. He also goes on to say, “Moreover, Twitter is another way you can engage with your targeted influencers”. But if you are wanting an easier way to find influencers, “Followerwonk is a great tool to find influencer, search Twitter bios, categorize influencer with engagement and active followers, this will help you to cater and engage on the most fruitful Influencer”.

Let’s dive in to cover the tips we’ve learned for running a successful influencer marketing program.

1. Set specific goals beforehand

You need to have a set goal in mind before you even start your influencer program. You understand the benefits of using influencers, but if you don’t define what you’re wanting to accomplish with your program before starting, your program can fizzle and you might not reach the potential you could have.

Mike Liera from  The Arena Gym says “Defining your goals is a critical step in influencer marketing that is often overlooked”. He mentions “Whether it is clicks, impressions, conversions, or followers, you have to discuss with the influencer what your goals are on both ends, and tailor your campaign to hit those goals”.

By having goals in mind, you can create a program that works. Laura Gonzalez of AutoNation says “If your goals are too vague, you might not get the results you want to see. The goals you set are going to determine what tactics you decide to use for the campaign”.

Laura gives an example, “if you want to increase brand awareness you might consider using tactics including sponsored content, gifting an influencer or doing a giveaway”.  She adds, “The success of your campaign relies heavily on the results you want”.

Michelle Zaporojets from Marr Media Group simply states “Expectations”. She goes on to add, “When discussing expectations, you (as the brand) need to be clear about what type of post needs to go up, by what date, and what captions/hashtags you expect”. She adds that if you don’t define your expectations “you’re likely going to be left with a game of cat & mouse, chasing down the influencer for a post”.

Flushing NY Real Estate LLC’s Matthew Reischer explains that “Managing the message of the campaign so that there is a narrow communications message is key to a successful influencer marketing strategy”.

He adds that “The influencer should have some autonomy so their communication is authentic but the scope of the communication should be expressly defined and enumerated”.

Another aspect of defining your expectations is that it creates efficiency. Fab Giovanetti from Whole Influence says “Create a clear flow of communication with influencers when it comes to professional standards, contracts and agreement. This is always helping influencers taking things more seriously altogether and delivering efficiently”.

2. Give a reason to share in the first place

If you want to get people to share you give them a reason to do so. Learndojo’s Sajan Devshi explains “One tactic that has made influencer marketing really successful is giving away a service or product for free”.

Sajan mentions “For example, working in the education sector, our influencers are also our customers which are teachers and students. By giving away our service for free to a handful of them, they are likely to spread our brand to others who are our target audience (other teachers and students) and this helps with growth”.

He further explains, “This works well within particular niches where you have potential customers in such close contact regularly (within classrooms with a common goal such as education. This type of approach is likely to be effective in some particular markets more than others, however”.

Brian Horn of Authority Media Group, LLC mentions “The right influencer can make a world of difference for your business by enhancing your reputation and spreading your brand to their audience”. With that being said, he goes on to say “So, a good tactic is to give influencers a reason to share you and your brand”.

His biggest tip is, “I don’t recommend going for big “celebrity entrepreneurs”, because they are bombarded with messages and tags every day. Instead, choose ones that are leaders in their specific niche of a market”.

Pedro Okoro from Astute Copy Blogging explains that influencer marketing is both effective and cost-conscious. “Here is the truth you already know: competition for both SEO and SEM traffic is notoriously brutal and fierce. However, we’ve found influencer marketing to be cheaper and quite effective”.

He mentions that linking to these influencers gives them a reason to share. He says “When we write some blog posts, we target specific influencers in the particular niche. We do this either by interviewing and quoting them or just writing the article around their most cherished ideas or philosophy. We then reach out to them and ask them to link to the post”.

Big Berkey Water Filters’ Dan DeBaun explains that adding something fun can be enough. “Usually a giveaway creates the most engagement. It’s an old strategy, but extremely effective because everyone wants something free”.

He mentions that by doing a giveaway “Engagement is always higher and we feel it keeps the product on the mind of the visitor for longer periods of time, as they wait for the winner to be announced”.

He includes some solid advice saying “It’s also a key practice that we follow up with those who engaged with our influencer post giveaway”.

3. Be open to experiencing other mediums

Most people assume influencer marketing campaigns yield the best results on platforms like Instagram. But, that isn’t always the case. You might want to be open to exploring other options, as your business type may benefit elsewhere.

Take a look at what your customers use, and try drill into that one most. Yasir Haseeb of Tekrevol mentions “Choosing the right social media channel which supports your end goals is very important for the success of your influencer marketing campaign”.

You may even try different content types for each medium. For example, Jessica Dais of TakeLessons Live explains “We’ve seen huge success having YouTube influencers in our niche do a review-style video of our product. This works much better than when they simply mention our product in a video or call us out as a sponsor”.

Videos and Instagram posts aren’t the only ways your program can thrive.  Nooria Khan from GigWorker mentions “The ONE best thing we have done to make an influencer marketing campaign successful is through Podcasting”.

She says “Podcasting is one of the best kind of influencer marketing. By providing valuable informational content through podcasts to your audience will help you to not only be recognized as influencer but also as the go-to expert, authority, and thought-leader in your industry”.

If you aren’t sure a podcast is worth it, she chimes in by saying “Also, around 29% of monthly podcast listeners are affluent people with a household income of $75,000 or more. As you are answering queries of these people while keeping their needs in mind, you eventually stand out as an influencer and expert in your industry”.

Mavens & Moguls Paige Arnof-Fenn adds to that, explaining that on top of exploring different mediums and platforms, you may want to try a variety of influencers. “Instead of just focusing on the most popular/branded individual influencers, include internal experts, micro-influencers, niche experts prospects, and customers in your influencer marketing mix”.

She adds, “Getting multiple perspectives and insights always enriches the discussion and generates more activity online”.

4. Create a sense of exclusivity

Giving people the VIP treatment can make them want to talk about you. People like being on exclusive lists, and being ‘in the know’ when it comes to their favorite brands.

Shawn Lim from Traffic Bees explains “One thing I have seen that makes an influencer campaign extremely successful is making use of exclusivity to a more connected audience with the influencer”.

Shawn talks about an example, “Mini Cooper had limited edition Coopers and only made the first available to the followers of Chinese influencer, Becky Li”.

Get this, “Becky managed to sell 100 mini Coopers in just five minutes, which is a great indicator of how successful the campaign is based on conversions. Becky attributed the success of this campaign to how connected her audience was with her because and they all shared the same tastes and interests”.

By using an influencer who has a good relationship with her followers, and setting the parameters of the program to be pretty exclusive, they managed to sell a good handful of cars in just a few minutes!

5. Consider the quality of your influencers followers

When you think of influencers you imagine a famous or well-known person with tons of followers. What you don’t think about is the quality of followers that person has.

Quality, however, is far more important than quantity, however. Especially if you are wanting people to trust you as a brand.

Extrabrains Illia Termeno says “When choosing influencers for your campaigns, it’s better to take into account the quality of their following, rather than the quantity because the true power of influencer marketing is in the micro-influencers – people with special interests and smaller audiences”.

Illia explains “Big following and actual influence and engagement are not always correlated”. She gives insight “Research revealed that micro-influencers often generate a higher engagement rate than celebrity influencers because their audiences share their specific interests and values”.

She adds that “micro-influencers are more affordable”, and that “You should partner with influencers who can truly have an impact on your target audience”.

Sadi Khan from  RunRepeat, adds to that saying “It is important to look for influencers with high engagement rate compared to the ones with a high follower count”.  Further explaining “It is easy to get new followers but difficult to keep them engaged”.

Sadi mentions, “High engagement rate means that the influencer is capable of creating great content on a regular basis. These are the kind of influencers you should be aiming for. Because metrics like impressions or reach will add nothing to your bottom line”.

Quality doesn’t always mean big quantity

Natalie Athanasiadis from Ormi Media says “Don’t just look at the total number of followers an influencer has on social media, you need to dig deeper”.

She says “Just as you would any other digital marketing activity that comes with a cost you want to be generating value for money. So things I have found incredibly valuable in our campaigns is not just reviewing how many followers a profile has, but looking at who the followers are”.

She adds “You will also want to do this with the influencer’s blog. What kinds of keywords are they found with, if for example its all fashion but your site is about travel then it may not be the best fit. This is the key to success with influencer marketing”.

Keeping that in mind, you may want to consider more niche influencers. Like a micro-influencer.

Patrick Brightman from 3E Public Relations suggests “We have seen greater success working with micro-influencers because they tend to have a more targeted and engaged following”.

By focusing on micro influencers you can aim closer to your target. He says “This is important for the programs we implement for our clients, as it ensures we are reaching the proper audience without a lot of waste”.

Because you hit on your target better, he mentions “Those followers also tend to take greater action as there is a stronger bond with the micro-influencer because they tend to engage with their followers. They also are usually more receptive to innovative approaches, recommendations, and partnerships that add a level of creativity that can lead to better success”.

6. Pick an influencer who makes sense for your brand

You have to use influencers that match your message. Katherine Rowland from YourParkingSpace explains “One of the most important factors in Influencer Marketing is making sure the influencer you are working with fits your brand”.

She says “Now this works both ways. On your side, you want an influencer who fits your brand and who you would be confident promoting your product to their responsive audience. On the other side, a lot of influencers, particularly those with a smaller, more devout following, will be unwilling to work with brands that do not fit with their content as they know that their followers will see right through it. Therefore, it is important to do your research about what influencers are within your area, and what kind of brands they have worked with previously”.

Jamie Cheng from Digital Alpha Agency adds on to that saying “The ones that are highly-successful usually engage influencers that are in the same niche as the company” . She explains “On top of that, the influencers chosen should be passionate about the brand too. It makes everything much more authentic and an easier process too”.

Matthew Ross from RIZKNOWS LLC says “They key thing is to focus on a specific niche. We’ve had much more success by concentrating on a specific category rather than going broad”.

By focusing on people within your niche you get better content. He says “We’ve found that the audiences that follow niche influencers and websites are much more engaged than followers of more mainstream influencers and websites”.

Imaginaire Digital’s Charlie Worrall adds that people who already use your products can have a real impact. “The best way to develop an influence marketing strategy is to find someone that either already uses your products or someone that likes the products you make anyway”.

By using someone who actually makes sense for your brand, you avoid seeming insincere. He says “The worst part of influencer marketing is how fake it all is, most people will be able to tell when there is a paid advertisement is a social media post or video. The acting involved, especially in an audio-visual advert is likely to be of poor quality and so, the conversion rate will be lower”.

He ends by saying “Looking for an influencer that already has an interest in your brand means they’re already passionate about it which means that they’ll sound genuine when recommending it to their views”.

Though it’s important to find an influencer that matches your brand, it’s important to make sure they are with good standing with their followers as well. Catherine Nichols from Numesko mentions “Influencers should not have bad reviews”. She goes on to say “The influencer I choose should represent my brand. For this purpose, I do thorough research for the right influencer”.

BeeSmart Social Media’s Eileen Schlesier mentions that working with a local influencer can also be a smashing hit.  She refers toWorking with a local influencer who had an existing relationship with local media was a huge plus for our KOGAbucha campaign”.

She adds “Emily Kyle brought a relatable voice to an unknown new local product. Her authority and trust transferred to our product. Customers walked into our brick and mortar hours after the airing mentioning they learned about us on the TV spot”.

So be open to who is a good fit for you. It may be a niche influencer, just as it could be a local celebrity.

7. Make sure your influencers are on board with what you want

Picking your influencers isn’t the end of the work you have have to do. You have to communicate what you’re wanting from them and continue to work with them through the process. Joe Delbridge from GeekSmash says “The one thing that we do that we feel makes a big difference is to have onboarding calls with new influencers, especially if we’re looking to them to be an ambassador for one of the brands that we represent”.

He mentions that “Taking the time to speak with them helps to strengthen the relationship, which can lead to a better experience overall for everyone”.

McKinzie Bean from Moms Make Cents says “One thing that helped us have more successful campaigns was putting creating a welcome packet for each influencer. This included information about the product, frequently asked questions about the product, key points to cover in their post, and additional resources (ex. logos, graphics, etc.) for them to use in their promotions”.

She adds that aside from providing a welcome packet, they have had a lot of success with micro-influencers. “Our most successful campaign ever came from an influencer with a smaller following. She had a very engaged audience and created high-quality social media posts and blog posts and her conversions were through the roof”.

Anne Polland from Novella Brandhouse says to make sure you are communicating with influencers. “The biggest thing when working with influencers is communication. Making sure that they are on the same page with us and we have met their expectations for working with us”. She says “If there are specific restrictions, it’s important to note that in the scope of the project so they aren’t surprised and don’t violate the terms of the contract. It’s a mutual business networking opportunity”.

Intellifluence’s Joe Sinkwitz agrees that having influencers know what is expected is key. He says “One of the most impactful ways that we’ve used influencer marketing to grow our own influencer marketing platform is to create a high level of useful content that guides a new influencer on how to get started and succeed, then walks that user through how to do so with us (for free)”.

He ends by saying, “After that point, we simply ask that in exchange they help us spread the word — this simple ask has resulted in tens of thousands of new influencers to work with”.

8. Use multiple influencers to supercharge your message

Is proof really in the numbers? We think so. Perhaps instead of putting all your eggs in one basket, you hire a herd of influencers. This can help you tackle even more ground in the long run.

Jonathan Gorham from  Engine Scout, says “A round-up campaign where we organized multiple influencers to post on Instagram at the same time” has been beneficial. He adds “This created a lot of hype for one on my e-commerce customers and spiked their product sales”.

Julien Malet from Online Optimism gives a great example of how multiple influencers can supercharge your message. “I ran an influencer campaign with a client 1 of the Blazers to get local influencers suited up in the brand’s “painted blazers”. We reached out to a number of professional athletes and musicians and were able to get several New Orleans Saints players and artists performing at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2018. In addition, we received media publicity from local influencers wearing their blazers to events or while on air”.

Lead Gen Hype’s Lisa Fox agrees and explains, “Approach numerous micro influencers in a niche market to get the word out about a brand. Creating a small community of fans based around your product is worth way more than a singular post by a mega influencer”.

9. Let influencers have creative freedom

Influencers can do a lot for you. The best part is, you build up a variety of content. This user-generated content can increase traffic and increase your word of mouth.

Danica Kombol from Everywhere Agency says “Influencer marketing is successful when the brand recognizes and celebrates the fact that influencers are real people, creating their own authentic content, in their own voice”.

She mentions “It’s a highly successful marketing tool but NEVER works when you try to automate it or dictate content that you want the influencer to regurgitate”.

Christmas Central’s Laura Gordon adds on to that saying “The trick is finding an influencer who is a true partner and cares about what you are trying to execute”.

She says they work on creating a close-knit group that they can consider partners “We only look for long term partners. We include a few keywords and hashtags”. This allows them to trust their content creation, she adds “We trust them to stylize the photos and provide an honest review of our products. Authenticity is important. We work to create trust and transparency”.

She adds that by working with the same influencers has other benefits too, “Repetition with the same influencers is helping us build our brand. We believe you have to see a name a few times until you take a chance”.

11. Use influencers who actually like your products

Finding an influencer that matches your space means they will likely enjoy your product. And that shines through in the content they create. Stacy Caprio from  Colorful Eyes says “When the influencer actually enjoys the product, it shines through and their audience can tell. That’s when you start to see traffic and conversions”.

Lauren Crain from HealthLabs.com says “Probably the biggest thing is having influencers who are genuinely excited about our product and having them use the product”. She adds “Seeing an influencer try the product provides our potential customers with a view of how the product performs in real time”.

KPOP Foods’ Theo Lee suggests getting potential influencers to try beforehand. He says “We typically send our sauces to the influencer ahead of time to see what he or she thinks before discussing a potential partnership”.

He says this helps because then they can filter out who is an isn’t a real fan of the product, “I think this is important because if the influencer isn’t a really big fan of the product, it shows in the final piece of content”.

This is great because real fans create longer content. Theo says “Also, instead of just looking for short forms of content, we’ve actually had more success with longer forms of content, such as 8-10 minute Youtube video”.

Mikaella King from Blinds Direct adds that “Researching to find the right influencer is key to your success”.

By choosing a person within your niche, you’ll likely have better content. Mikaella explains that you wouldn’t want an influencer that doesn’t know anything about your niche. “You need to make sure that the influencer you pick will attract the right target audience that you want. If you are a home brand, you don’t want to be picking a makeup influencer as this wouldn’t work in your niche”.

12. Build a long-lasting relationship to get the most out of it

Sometimes you can earn influencers by just having a good relationship with them from the start. G2 Crowd’s Levi Olmstead says “Networking with other content marketers in my niche who have large audiences. By connecting with them and staying on top of their new content, I’m able to share and engage with that content”.

He adds that “By helping promote that content, over time a relationship is built between an influencer and myself, which works in a reciprocal marketing manner”.

Nika Wolf’s very own Nika Underwood explains that she’s worked on influencer programs of all magnitudes, to include ones with influencers like the Kardashians and Jenners.

She says “One thing most brands miss is that they are doing mass campaigns with small accounts that post once and the collaboration is completed”. She adds “We prefer to work long term with every influencer that shows professionalism, as it builds not only our relationship with the influencer but their followers trust them more when they keep endorsing the same product for a long time”.

Anamaria Scuric of Travelpreneur Tribe explains “One of the key things when building an influencer marketing campaign is to take the time to build a real and genuine relationship to see if we are a good fit for each other”.

Anamaria mentions that influencers typically receive a lot in their inbox, so you have to really stand out. “Start by following them on social media, commenting on their posts, asking questions and being truly engaged”. She says “Once when the relationship has been established and you know they have seen and interacted with you, then you can reach out with a proposal that would be mutually beneficial”. She also advises making your interactions personalized.

Jeff Rizzo from  The Slumber Yard states “The biggest thing that we’ve done is befriend influencers”. He adds “This way we are always top-of-mind and their comments about us remain largely positive”.

To kick it up a notch, he says to take your time building the relationship. “We understand that they get dozens of pitches per day—most of which do not even take the time to investigate their audience—so we make sure to take the extra time, which has really improved our hit rate”.

In conclusion

With all this information we have learned how to create a successful influencer marketing campaign. Finally, you’ll want to be sure you are prepared for the traffic that it can lead to. Theo Ellis from Anime Motivation mentions “Prepare for the aftermath. Naturally, you’re bound to have an influx of traffic”.

He reminds us that the hard work you put in can pay off. But that you should prepare all the way around, “Depending on who you’re dealing with (or how many) the traffic will vary. That being said – if your website’s resources aren’t prepared for it, and you haven’t prepared in other ways (conversions, etc) the results are bound to be weaker. Or worse in the case of a website crashing”.

What we’ve learned is that you need to set specific goals, find the right people, and develop a real relationship with them. Then continue your relationship in the long run, as influencers who continually support you tend to yield better results.

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Posted by Megan Mosley

Megan Mosley is a writer for Referral Rock. You can find her poking around online or tweeting about marketing, small businesses, SEO, or even sharing funny memes. She is addicted to coffee and uses it as a fuel to keep her going through the day.