Devising a useful influencer marketing strategy is a great way to gain traction as an e-commerce business. It’s a tactic that can significantly broaden your customer base and build affinity for your brand.
And, contrary to what some might believe, an effective influencer marketing strategy isn’t limited to those who can spend the most. There are ways for just about any e-commerce business to leverage influencers. However, it does require having a strong understanding of how that’s done and the best practices for execution.
Here are five things to remember before developing your influencer marketing strategy:
Focus on the Micro Level
In the early stages of developing an influencer marketing strategy, start out analyzing how things work at the micro level. Micro-influencers are the large majority. Though they don’t command as significant of an audience as the celebrity and athlete macro-influencers, they do typically command more trust and commitment from their audience. They have become extremely valuable with the rise of social media, particularly Instagram.
Micro-influencers are also affordable for any brand. You don’t have to break the bank to acquire them, and it’s far more possible to spread your reach by using several of them. With micro-influencers, those with as few as 1,000 Instagram followers can be valuable depending on the engagement level of their audience.
Approach Influencers as Professionals
Influencers generally aren’t all that difficult to contact. Especially on the micro level, they tend to make getting in touch fairly easy for obvious reasons. Possessing the means of how is the easy part, though. It’s what to say that presents challenges for many businesses, and it really shouldn’t be all that difficult.
Influencers should be viewed as employees. In many ways, that’s exactly what they are to a business. They’re a face associated with the brand and a driver of revenue. So, there’s no reason to treat them any differently than you would a co-worker or any other business associate. That means being respectful, transparent, and prompt with all interactions.
“Where I see the biggest room for improvement on the brand side of influencer marketing is the lack of respect they give their influencer partners. You would never, ever email a new co-worker in your office to ask about a project and start that email with ‘Hey babe!’ or ‘Hi beautiful, saw you on Instagram and I want to work with Y-O-U!’ Influencers are professionals who take our personal brand seriously and we need to be treated with the same level of respect as you treat your co-workers. At the end of the day, we’re all working towards the same goal of helping you or your client meet KPIs and the best way to meet that goal is bringing professionalism to the table. “
Make Certain It Makes Sense
Before striking any deals with influencers, a business must be absolutely certain the partnership makes perfect sense. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time and whatever investment is put into the process.
Influencers should be deeply immersed within the audience where your customers exist. An influencer having a boatload of followers and the willingness to work with you isn’t all it takes to have success. If their audience isn’t your target audience, the efforts are wasted.
Ideally, you’ll find the influencers that genuinely love your product(s). For example, PSD Underwear has built a network of athlete influencers to help them thrive in the growing luxury men’s underwear niche. Those athletes are certainly being compensated, but many of them were drawn to the brand because they love the product. That’s the best type of partnership.
Additionally, you must understand the potential risks that come with influencers. This is especially true of those with larger audiences. That doesn’t mean avoid anyone who may be controversial. Just make sure it aligns with your brand and your audience first. Think about Nike with Collin Kaepernick as an example. It’s pretty clear Nike heavily weighed the risk of partnering with a controversial figure and decided this was the right move. The results have been great for the brand, but it took careful consideration to get there.
Don’t Forget the Hidden Costs
If an e-commerce company is paying direct, up-front fees to influencers, the investment can be easily tracked. However, hidden costs can arise if there is neglect in accounting for free products, store credit, or percentage of sales provided. If you don’t properly account for this plan of action, you’ll be lost trying to calculate the overall return on investment.
It’s important to understand that while offering incentives other than direct payment can be a great way to leverage influencers, it can also become very costly if you’re not careful. Put a plan in place ahead of time and track what you’re offering at every step.
Also, if you’re using in-house resources for your influencer marketing strategy, take the labor costs into account. It takes time and resources to land the right influencers.
Avoid the Fakes
Be aware: the influencer industry has plenty of frauds. They can come in the form of bots or real people.
Looking at the comments can be one way to spot the real from the fake. Do the messages seem authentic? Or are there hundreds with very brief, very bland posts? That’s probably a good indication as to whether that’s a bot or not.
And even if that test doesn’t officially distinguish legitimate influencers from others, remember this is also a great test for engagement. You want influencers with highly-engaged audiences. If the followers don’t seem particularly enthralled in the comments, they probably aren’t.
Then there’s the real people that post fake advertisements in an effort to build credibility. This has made it rather difficult to tell what is really sponsored content these days. It all goes back to doing your due diligence and making sure you find someone who is on-brand and integrated into your target audience.