Influencer Marketing: What It Is & How to Create an Influencer Strategy


November 18, 2022
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Influencer Marketing: What It Is & How to Create an Influencer Strategy

There’s little question that the rise of social media has thrown the marketing world for a loop. In 2022 alone, an estimated 4.74 billion people use social media worldwide, a whopping 59.3% of the global population.

Given continually changing trends, brands are still learning how to market on social media. Meanwhile, with the rise of viral videos, celebrity social profiles, and product discovery on Instagram, influencer marketing emerged as a new way for brands of all sizes to reach target audiences, increase awareness, create content, and drive traffic. 

But there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to creating an influencer marketing strategy. In fact, many well-known influencers began creating content as a side hustle and have since turned social media into full-time careers. And since social media is constantly evolving, influencer marketing strategies have become more difficult to navigate than ever. 

Are you looking to start an influencer program for your brand but don’t know where to start? Read on to learn more about influencer marketing platforms and get tips to craft a perfect influencer marketing strategy. 

What is influencer marketing? 

Influencer marketing is a social media marketing strategy to promote products or services to followers by collaborating with influencers and content creators. 

Simply put, influencer endorsements and product mentions increase brand recognition and revenue. They help brands avoid coming off as selling since 49% of consumers trust and rely on influencer recommendations.

Why do brands turn to influencers? Because it’s challenging to build a genuine and loyal following and influencers fast-track success. Having earned trust with followers, social influencers come across as experts in their chosen fields. Thus, followers respect their recommendations highly. So one TikTok video or Instagram post from a well-known influencer can boost sales practically overnight for small businesses and large corporations.  

Who are social media influencers?

Influencers, or content creators, are people who build a large, engaged following on social media. Sometimes influencers go by different job titles, such as influencer marketing manager, influencer marketing strategist, influencer agent, or influencer marketing account executive. 

Usually, their audience idolizes them, respects their opinions, and relates to the influencer in some way. Whether they share content about food, fashion, design, or lifestyle, influencers exist on all social media platforms in every niche. 

Brands collaborate with many types of influencers. From celebrities with millions of followers to people with a few thousand followers, influencers help brands connect with company values. You can group influencers into categories based on audience size:
  • Mega-influencers with more than a million followers
  • Macro-influencers with 100K to 1 million followers
  • Micro-influencers with 10K to 100K followers
  • Nano-influencers with 1K to 10K followers
Influencers and celebrities harness the power of social media to form meaningful connections with followers. But while celebrities tend to garner a following because consumers enjoy their music or acting credits, influencers gain genuine followings through their niche. 

What do social media influencers do?

Now that you understand what influencer marketing is and who influencers are, let’s talk about what social media influencers do. Simply put, influencers use their reach to guide followers’ buying decisions. 

To do this, influencers create videos, social posts, podcasts, collaborations, and live events. And while brands write scripts for influencers and pay them to promote products and websites, you might also hire a social media influencer to:
  • Respond to comments and collect audience feedback for marketing campaigns
  • Message followers directly to make specific recommendations
  • Preside over contests and giveaways on social media channels 
  • Write original blogs, slogans, captions, scripts, and promotional blurbs 
  • Participate in photo shoots or live events
  • Brainstorm campaign and content ideas
  • Create influencer campaigns for different markets

Different platforms for influencer marketing

A critical part of defining your brand’s influencer marketing strategy is deciding which platforms to use. The good thing about influencer marketing is that brands can get messages across already established audiences. 

Almost every social media site today has a large influencer presence. So depending on your marketing goals and message, you may want to use more than one platform. The top social media channels for influencer marketing are Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest—and we’ll even throw in email as a bonus channel. 

Instagram 

Instagram, a cultural powerhouse, is a photo and video sharing app for users to share, view, comment, and like posts by friends and influencers. Users can also share short-form videos and live streams to wide audiences. 

As one of the original apps that launched just as social media was gaining popularity, Instagram connected brands, celebrities, and friends. Today, this is still true as small businesses, large institutions, news organizations, influencers, and celebrities have Instagram accounts to connect with others and grow brands. 

Instagram relies heavily on user engagement, making it an excellent platform to reach target audiences through influencer marketing. In fact, Instagram had the highest interaction rate among social media platforms in 2021, and 65% “of the top-performing Instagram posts feature products.” 

The platform also offers a perfect outlet for brand ambassadorship as influencers recommend products or services to loyal followers who don’t seem to mind viewing ads on their feed. This is why many brands partner with influencers to announce Instagram giveaways, which usually receive many followers, likes, and comments. 

TikTok

TikTok is a short-form video streaming platform allowing creators to upload content with different music, dialogue, and special effects options. Starting as a creative outlet for many during the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, TikTok’s 1 billion active users have made it the most-downloaded social media app in the world. 

Over time, the platform has also become an outlet for lip-synching and entertaining videos. Now, you’ll find dance trends, tips, cooking, sponsored content, and so much more on your TikTok feed. 

Due to fast growth and rising popularity across generations, brands now realize TikTok’s potential for influencer marketing strategy. Because it’s rooted in user-generated content and authenticity, brands have found success by collaborating with TikTok creators to create promotional content. 

This has enabled some influencers to turn their social media influencer marketing into full-time careers on TikTok—strictly from creating short-form video content up to 3 minutes in length. Just like Instagram, TikTok relies heavily on engagement: the more people engage with your sponsored post, the more TikTok’s algorithm will boost the video, increasing your chances of exposure.

With a nearly 18% engagement rate for micro-influencers on the platform, TikTok beats Instagram’s 3.86% and YouTube’s 1.63% engagement rates. So it’s definitely a channel worth considering.

Pinterest

Pinterest is a search engine for high-quality imagery, inspirational quotes, stylish videos, fashion tips, and helpful guides across industries. By pinning photos or clicking through pins saved from company websites, “pinners” use the platform to plan future purchases and find design inspiration for their next remodel. 

Users can also find pleasing imagery and inspirational quotes designed by content creators and social media influencers for their next phone background or gallery wall. If they find what they’re looking for, users can follow a pin to a brand’s website and make a purchase. 

Pinterest’s mission to “bring everyone the inspiration to create a life they love” runs deep. What started as an outlet to curate and share images has turned into an influencer marketing hub filled with opportunities for brands to expand the customer base. By attracting a target audience on the platform, brands secure sales and boost brand awareness. 

Whether your brand creates a dedicated profile or uses already established influencers on the platform, Pinterest has the opportunity to impact visitors’ buying decisions through influencer marketing. It’s also worth noting that Pinterest users have 85% bigger basket sizes and spend twice as much every month than other social media users.

Bonus: Email 

Email isn’t necessarily a form of social media, but many brands experience better email campaign performance when working with influencers. By creating user-generated content to include in email marketing campaigns, you can achieve greater engagement, sales, and brand awareness. Here are some influencer marketing examples that work well in emails: 
  • Include product reviews and customer ratings: Consumers value influencers’ opinions, especially when it comes to product reviews. So display content (and photos) by influencers in your email marketing campaign to make reviews feel more trustworthy.
  • Highlight product collaborations with influencers: People should know if your brand begins a partnership with an influencer, so run several marketing campaigns to get the word out. This can help your brand and the influencer get your audience excited about what’s to come. 
  • Let influencers use their own words: People become influencers when they relate to their audience. That’s why scripted posts rarely go over well, especially with a younger audience. By including their personal touches and stories in your email marketing campaign, it gives audiences a glimpse into their world. 

How to create your influencer marketing strategy 

To create a great influencer marketing strategy, you need to work with experienced social media influencers who share your brand’s values. Influencer marketing can have a big impact on brand awareness, but how do you find potential influencers to start a partnership? How much do you pay them? 

Sourcing influencers can seem overwhelming, but the most important part of influencer outreach is finding the right creator who can truly resonate with your brand and compellingly promote your product or service. Here are our best tips to help you start your influencer program. 

How to find influencers and compensate them

If you’ve decided that influencer marketing is the right step for your brand, first steps include finding influencers and deciding how to compensate them. Like any successful marketing campaign, research is critical. So if your brand deals with home decor, you wouldn’t reach out to an influencer who promotes restaurants and food about a collaboration, just like major apparel retailers wouldn’t reach out to gaming content creators. A bad collaboration can hurt your brand and the influencer. 

Before starting an influencer program for your brand, ensure your marketing goals and messaging aligns with the influencers of interest. That means researching potential influencers to see that their follower demographic matches your target audience and that their following and engagement are genuine. 

Are you looking to work with micro-influencers or mega-influencers? Is your focus on one social media platform or several? Whatever you decide to focus on will determine your overall budget. However, if you’re unsure of where to begin to find influencers, here are some places where you can start your influencer search:
  • Social media: This channel allows brands to scroll through Instagram or TikTok to pick out influencers you’d like to work with, which is a great start. Find their contact information on their profile to reach out, or send them a direct message about collaboration. You can also search through hashtags to see who’s already posting about your brand. 
  • trendHERO: This influencer platform allows brands to find, check, and contact ideal influencers in minutes. Influencers are grouped by category, demographics, audience as well as growth and engagement rates.  
  • Influence.co: This marketplace is an excellent option for finding influencers. It lets you search based on category, location, and follower count. 

Set and manage a budget 

Once you've found an influencer you want to work with, how much do you pay them? While working with influencers can help you connect with wider audiences, it can also be expensive. Most influencers get paid based on their follower count and engagement, which can be anywhere between $100 and $1,000 per social media post.

However, influencers with large followings can charge upward of $10,000 per post. You’ll want to establish a reasonable budget early on to prevent runaway costs. 

Also, remember each influencer comes with their audience, performance metrics, and way of producing content. So when deciding on how much to pay an influencer, keep in mind their following, industry, and (most importantly) engagement rate.  

Only work with influencers who see true engagement, ensuring followers are actually interested in their posts. And while there’s no guide on how to choose the right compensation for influencers, brands usually pay them in 3 ways:
  1. Free products (usually the product the influencer promotes)
  2. Rates that work for your marketing budget and the influencer
  3. Commissions from discount codes and affiliate links (where influencers receive a percentage of each sale) 
The money brands spend on influencer marketing also varies depending on how many influencers they work with and the nature of the campaign. Running a successful influencer program involves attention to detail and constant research, so be sure to factor in time for planning and executing your influencer marketing strategy. 

How much your brand decides to pay influencers for their work will impact your overall budget significantly. After all, influencers expect to be paid for their time, social posts, and performance. So depending on your budget and marketing goals, it may be more cost-effective to work with micro- or nano-influencers with a smaller following. 

Micro-influencers tend to accept free products in exchange for social posts, as opposed to mega-influencers, who tend to require compensation and usually go through a talent agency. Although they don’t have the same following as mega-influencers, the following of micro-influencers tends to be more engaged and trusting. 

That said, as the industry grows and influencers develop, performance-based compensation will become more common than product gifting. So if you have a larger budget, consider organizing an ambassador program. Ambassadors can help diversify your feed and showcase your brand through product launches or holiday campaigns. 

Decide on your marketing goals and messaging 

As influencers have the power to reach very specific audiences, you’ll want to clearly define your brand’s marketing goals and messaging before working with them. It’s no secret that influencers help elevate brand awareness and increase revenue, but be sure to have goals beyond that. 

Does your brand want to expand your customer base to a younger demographic? Do you want to inform a different audience of a product launch? Influencers can help ensure a target audience who’s likely to engage with your content. By determining the structure of your influencer program, you set your influencer marketing strategy up for success. 

Reach out to prospective influencers  

Once you’ve determined what you want to gain from your influencer marketing strategy and campaign, it’s time to start the process of influencer outreach. At this point, you’re a professional at research and should already have a few influencers in mind. Remember, they should connect to your brand and have a genuine and engaged following. You'll also want to be polite, brief, and not pushy for successful influencer outreach.

Some influencer marketplaces and hubs have tools to reach influencers directly on the platform. This opens the doors for other influencers—mainly micro and nano-influencers—to reach out to your brand directly about a potential partnership. Larger influencers who go through a talent agency typically don’t reach out to brands. 

For micro-influencers, you can directly reach out to them in a private message on the social media platform. However, some established influencers may have their contact information for business inquiries on their profile, so be sure to check before sending a private message. 

Review and refine your strategy 

The key to a successful influencer marketing strategy is research. Even if your campaign is ongoing, you should routinely measure its progress to see results—affiliate links and discount codes are ways to track revenue generated from influencers. And the more followers engage with the link or code, the more revenue the influencer generates. For instance, you partner with an influencer to host a giveaway. Track how many followers the giveaway brings your brand and how many stay after the giveaway ends.

That said, not all influencer marketing campaigns are successful, so periodically review and refine your strategy. If your current campaign isn’t working or garnering the results you’d hoped, that’s OK. Re-strategize. With each one you create, you’ll learn what your target audience reacts well too—and what they don’t. 

Include influencer marketing in your email campaigns with Twilio SendGrid 

As influencers take on a more prominent role in marketing, their presence will only increase as social media grows. And as the world of influencer marketing continues to grow, brands need to keep up. That’s where we come in. 

Prepare for the sudden scale of influencer marketing campaigns by partnering with Twilio SendGrid, a trusted leader in email delivery and analytics. After all, we process over 100 billion emails monthly, so we know how to help you scale.

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