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A Complete Guide to Influencer Marketing

How to find the right influencers, understand user-generated content and make campaigns successful.

The basics of influencer marketing

In recent years, we’ve all witnessed growth in the use of social media. It's especially true for Facebook and Instagram, which have been gaining users at a rapid speed. With 2.23 billion active users on Facebook and 1 billion active users on Instagram in 2018, there is no doubt these platforms are reaching a big part of the world.

Of course nowadays, the platforms are no longer used solely for personal use. They're increasingly used by companies who want to spread awareness of their brand to more people.

The group that makes use of social media the most are the ‘millennials’. There is a big discussion going on about when exactly the millennials were born and on how they should be called. We won’t be going into this discussion, but we do know that millennials make up more than a quarter of the U.S.’s population and are the biggest generation in history.

From 2017 onwards, the millennial generation is expected to collectively spend more than $200 billion annually and a total of $10 trillion in their lifetime. Therefore, it’s only logical that big brands want to jump on the millennial bandwagon and try to sell them as much as possible.

One pitfall with this generation is that they very much distrust traditional marketing like billboards, newspapers and even television commercials. This indicates that it’s time for companies to start a new marketing strategy - Influencer Marketing.

What is influencer marketing?

I’m sure you've seen a post by an influencer on social media talking about a certain product or brand before. That’s exactly what influencer marketing is! Influencer marketing is a type of marketing where brands and influencers work together in a campaign to expand the reach of said campaign.

Influencers don’t necessarily have to be celebrities; they can be anyone, from a beauty blogger to a food reviewer on Instagram. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re working in as any industry you look into has influential people who can be helpful to your influencer marketing campaign.

The success of influencer marketing

Here are a few statistics to show you how successful influencer marketing actually is:

  • It has been shown that, in 2018, 70% of all YouTube teenage subscribers trust the opinions of influencers over traditional celebrities.
  • On average, businesses have been shown to generate $6.50 for every $1 invested in influencer marketing.
  • 59% of marketers have increased the budget for their influencer marketing campaigns in the last year.

Influencer Marketing phone

Know who your customers are

Before starting your marketing campaign, it’s important that you know who the audience is that you’re trying to reach through your channels. Start off by figuring out who you are as a company and what you want to achieve.

After you understand who your company is, it’s easier to understand your customers as well. If you’ve already used marketing strategies, you can always examine by whom the content was received best and start from there.

If you have no previous data that you can use, it's always a good idea to create a buyer persona profile that fits your brand. A buyer persona is a fictional person who represents the consumers of your brand. Such a profile consists of the demographics of your customers.

Demographics include factors such as age, race, and sex. Next to demographics, buyer persona profiles also use behavior patterns, motivations and goals. Having a clear buyer persona will make it easier to know who your marketing strategy should be aimed at.

It’s also important to think about where you want to spread your content. If you’re a brand that mainly attracts young people, the best way for you to reach your audience is on Social Media platforms, as this is the place where your possible buyers are hanging out the most. When using these social media platforms, it's important that you stick to a certain way of marketing so as to not confuse your audience, but instead create a recognizable and effective marketing campaign.

How to find the right influencers

When selecting influencers to work with on a new marketing campaign, it’s important that you choose the right influencers as they can make or break your campaign. One of the first mistakes made is to think that influencers with more followers will be better in promoting their brand, but this is generally not the case. Big social media stars often have millions of followers, whereas the approachable and relatable micro-influencers may ‘only’ have between 10,000 and 500,000 followers but might be more trustworthy or suit your brand better.

When looking at an influencer’s commercial visibility, the engagement on their social media channels is the most important factor. Engagement is measured in likes, comments, saves and shares, depending on the social media platform. That’s why it may be better to opt for a micro-influencer as their following is much more dedicated and will probably interact more with the influencer’s posts.

Once you've found one or a few (micro) influencers you’re interested in you’ll need to review if they’re the right fit for your company and the campaign. Monitor the social media pages of the influencers you’re interested in for a week or two to get a good understanding of what they’re posting about.

Checklist for a good influencer fit

  • Is the influencer not posting about other brands too often?
  • Are the other brands they post about in line with your company’s values?
  • Is the influencer really influential in your industry?
  • Are the influencer’s followers the people you want to reach with your campaign?
  • Does the influencer reach enough people in your industry?

To get a clear overview of how an influencer is performing on their social media channels, you could use a social media analytics tool. A tool that would work well for this is quintly. With hundreds of customizable metrics, you can analyze a lot of the influencers’ online behaviors.

A useful metric for analyzing an influencer would be the ‘fans change’ or ‘followers change’ metric, which you can use to see how stable the increase or decrease in followers is. If the line is constantly strongly peaking and dropping, it can be an indication that the influencer continually adds a lot of people to get more followers, but those people then choose to unfollow again after a few days. These influencers will probably not have a dedicated following and, therefore, will not be a good partner to work with.

If you feel like the influencer would be a good fit, you can reach out to them and initiate a collaboration. Make sure to tell them why you’re interested in working with them, as this will show them that you chose them for who they are and not just for their followers.

Keep in mind that influencers have spent a lot of time and effort on building their own brand for themselves. Therefore, they will want you to come up (together with them) with a campaign that they would be proud of representing, otherwise, they'll probably turn you down.

Tip! In this case, it’s quality over quantity. Having many influencers promote your brand will not automatically guarantee more interactions. It’s often the case that one influencer generates a big portion of traffic, while the others only generate a few percent. Really try to look for that one (or more) influencer that knows how to sell your brand. This will save you a lot of money and time.

What makes influencers so successful?

Content marketing thrives on the generation and the distribution of content. That is why influencers are so good at it.

Being online is their job and quite frankly their life. They will know which things are successful and which are not, hence why they can sell things so well.

Influencers also know how to communicate very well with other people, especially about the field they’re working in, making it easier for them to sell a product. People tend to trust influencers’ opinions quicker as they're real people and tend to give their honest opinion about their experiences.

Additionally, word-of-mouth is seen as the future of marketing, as it generates double the amount of sales as paid advertisements get. When people buy a product for the first time, they rely mostly on the opinions they've heard via word-of-mouth rather than old-school marketing practices.

Because influencers are so ‘normal’, their opinions feel very authentic to their audience. For example, nowadays, a TV commercial where a dentist states that brand X is the best toothpaste will not seem trustworthy at all to people.

However, when their favorite YouTuber tells them how much they love the brand X toothpaste, the audience is much more likely to take their word for it. They’ll probably actually go and buy the product.

Influencer Marketing influencer

User-generated content

Social media users posting (positively) about your brand is a goldmine for your brand. If you can encourage your audience to create posts about your brand, you receive free publicity and posts that fit your audience’s interest without putting much effort in. This type of content is called user-generated content. User-generated content is any type of content that has been created and posted online by your fans or other unpaid contributors. It can be anything from images to blog posts. In this case, your customers are your best marketers.

What makes UGC successful?

If you want to boost your sales, UGC (User-generated content) is an effective way to do so. Here are some interesting stats that prove its effectiveness:

  • Customer reviews are trusted 12 times more than marketing coming directly from the organization.
  • 85% of consumers say they find visual UGC more influential than brand images or videos.
  • 92% of consumers say they trust word-of-mouth more than any other type of advertising.
  • 70% of consumers find peer recommendations more important than any professionally written review.
  • 51% of millennials state that UGC content created by strangers is more likely to influence them to buy something than recommendations from family and friends.

All in all, people feel they can trust other people more than they can trust any form of marketing done by companies alone. So making use of UGC will help consumers trust your brand more as they have already gotten their social proof.

As has been mentioned before, millennials have huge buying power and are the biggest generation to date. But they’re also the generation that relies the most on user-generated content, which is why you should focus on receiving and publishing as much UGC as possible to increase the effect you‘ll have on millennials’ buying decisions.

Additionally, visual UGC builds more trust for your brand, because the consumers will see exactly how others interact with your brand. Besides, images and videos always work better for attracting fans as they’re more attractive and convincing than just boring text. You should use your UGC across multiple social media channels to optimize the content’s promotional outcome.

What to do with user-generated content?

When deciding on a UGC campaign, the best way to figure out what would work the best for your brand is by looking at your fans and what gets them to interact the most. You could choose to hold a contest, for example, where people have to send in images that include your brand and the best one wins a prize.

Such a contest will create a lot of UGC for you in a short amount of time, but the downside is that it has to have an end date when the winner will be chosen. After that time, you’ll receive a lot less UGC as people don’t feel the need to create it anymore.

Another option for a campaign is to ask people to send in images that you, as a company, will display in your gallery. Most people like to see images of themselves on the social media of big brands, that’s why UGC campaigns like these are so successful. A big plus for this campaign is that it doesn’t need to have an end-date, meaning you can make use of this for a very long time without losing interest quickly. Both of these campaigns will work best on either Twitter or Instagram, but can also be run on a separate webpage.

Influencer Marketing

Aerie asked its audience to post their unretouched swim photos accompanied by the hashtag #AerieREAL. In return for doing so, the lingerie retailer donated $1 per photo to the National Eating Disorder Association. The brand promotes body positivity, so this campaign appealed a lot to the company’s fans.

Example Influencer Marketing

In a recent campaign by Buffer, the audience was asked to post a photo of what their workplace looks like with the hashtag #BufferSpaces. The people who posted the photos were competing for a chance to be featured on Buffer’s Instagram account. The software application company mostly has followers from other brands and companies, all of whom would very much like to appear on the Buffer Instagram account and, therefore, were very enthusiastic to post a photo of their workspace.

Another great example of a company who uses user-generated content for their influencer marketing is Daniel Wellington. The watch manufacturer decided to take a different approach to its competitors.

Instead of promoting its brand by paying celebrities to wear its watches and bracelets, or talk/post about the brand, the company decided to send their watches to social influencers on Instagram. In exchange for the free watch, the influencers were asked to post content where the watch could be seen and to put the hashtag #DanielWellington with it.

Creatively, what the content looked like was left to the influencers, which in turn created a wider variety of styles in which the watch could be seen. As well as the free watch, the influencers were given a unique promotion code which their followers can use to receive a discount on a Daniel Wellington watch.

Influencer Marketing DW

Influencer Marketing Outside_Project

Another smart approach the company uses to get more content created by their audience is the #DWPickoftheday contest. Anyone can take part in the contest, they just have to add the hashtag to their post to participate. The winner of the day will be featured on Daniel Wellington’s Instagram account and receive a free watch on top of that. The company’s approach to influencer marketing seems to work very well. Its Instagram account currently has a total of 4.3 million followers, while the hashtag #DanielWellington has a total of almost 2 million posts.

Influencer Marketing Dog

Make the campaign successful for both parties

Influencer marketing should benefit both sides involved in the project. If the campaign only benefits your company, chances are that the influencers won’t want to work with you again. The most popular way to compensate influencers is to pay them an amount of money per post they create and share about your brand. Another popular compensation is giving the influencers free products, which they can test to see if they like it. If they do, they’ll probably talk about your brand on their social media channel(s). You may find other ways to compensate the influencers for spreading your name, but that is totally up to you and the influencer. As long as they feel that they have gotten back enough for their efforts, you’re doing well.

Tip! Make a deal with the influencer that in every post they create about your brand, they disclose that it's a paid advertisement. For the influencer, this will gain more trust from their followers, which will benefit you as well. Just adding the hashtag #ad in the description is sufficient to let the audience know that it's a paid advertisement.

Create a good relationship with your audience

Just having social media pages with good content is not going to cut it. It’s also very important to make sure that your audience feels appreciated and listened to.

The best way to make sure this is taken care of is by setting up a social media team to supervise interactions.

Whenever a follower has a question or a suggestion, the social media team should respond to them as quickly as possible. This way your company feels authentic and ‘real’ to consumers, which makes the choice of whether to buy or not a lot easier.

Create a budget

This might be one of the most important parts of having a marketing strategy. Without a budget you'll not be able to figure out your ROI (return on investment), and how then could you possibly know if the campaign has been successful? A budget will also keep you from overspending, which is very easily done in the influencer marketing world as there are a lot of opportunities that all seem to fit with your company. Most companies have a marketing department where the marketing team takes care of creating the budget.

How to measure influencer marketing

If you feel like you have all the important elements of influencer marketing covered, there is still one thing left that could definitely help you out with improving your social media performance. With no clear overview of your company’s performance, it’s difficult to see how well you’re actually performing on your social media platforms.

Your company’s social media strategy may be performing very well, but what you don’t know is how your competitors are performing and if they are doing better than you. The solution is competitive analysis, which can provide you with a clear overview of how well you are performing on your platforms. A great tool for this purpose is quintly. Unlike some tools of this kind, quintly allows you to create in-depth analyses of your (and your competitors’) social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube.

quintly can be a great tool for competitive analysis. Competitive analysis in this case could be influencer marketing with which you can measure the effectiveness or the performance of the individual influencer.

As well as analyzing your or your competitors’ performances, you can also measure the impact of your campaign. A great metric for this is the ‘interaction rate’ metric which will show the peaks and drops in interactions linked to when the content was posted. You can see exactly how much the interactions have increased or declined from the time you started your campaign.

Influencer Marketing graph quintly

Conclusion

Influencer marketing has proven to be a very successful marketing tool, especially considering how many people can be reached through this type of content and how much brand credibility increases. It would be a loss not to make use of the opportunity. And when you consider the fact  that businesses on average make $6.50 for every $1 spend on influencer marketing, choosing not to make use of the opportunity could translate into a genuine financial loss . If you choose the right influencer to collaborate with for your campaign, your sales could get a big boost.

It'll be smart to put more effort into word-of-mouth marketing seeing as it’s considered the future of marketing generating twice the amount of sales a paid advertisement receives. People have shifted from trusting old school marketing practices to trusting the opinions of others. Millennials, in particular, distrust conventional media and base their buying decisions on the opinions of influencers. They're the largest generation to date and, therefore, also play an important role in what your marketing campaign should look like.

With 85% of consumers stating that they find visual user-generated content to be more influential than content created by brands, it proves that UGC is a very effective and cost-friendly way of marketing. If you find a good campaign to encourage your fans to start creating images and videos and to post them, you'll receive loads of free content that you can use on your social media channels.

What’s more, making smart use of UGC will make consumers trust your brand more as they got their social proof from the other social media users posting their opinions about your products.

Create a budget! If you don’t create a budget for your campaigns, you’ll spend too much money very quickly. Overspending will not give you any information on how well the campaign is going as it will not be easy to figure out your ROI (return on investment). Most companies already have people who take care of budgeting, but if you don’t have one yet, make sure this is taken care of.

Instagram Trends 2018

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