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Influencer Marketing 101: What Small Businesses Need to Know

Influencer Marketing 101: What Small Businesses Need to Know
Credit: farland2456/Shutterstock

As you scroll through your social media feeds, you may have noticed people with large followings promoting products or brands. They could be celebrities or just everyday people with a few thousand followers.

According to Influencer Marketing Hub, an influencer ultimately uses their authority, expertise and/or position in an engaging, authentic way to affect how their audience purchases items. Often, influencers have a niche, such as street fashion, paleo food or natural beauty products.

"Influencer marketing is a low-cost way to get a brand in front of new eyes," explained Lindsay Patton-Carson, vice president of customer engagement at natural deodorant company PiperWai. "All we have to do is send an influencer our product, ask them to post about it, and we get more likes, followers and people to our website."

Business News Daily chatted with two experts about the basics to help you integrate influencer marketing into your advertising strategy.

Before you consider how your business can benefit from an influencer, it's important to understand what your business needs. Are you looking to increase profits, build brand awareness or reach new followers on social media?

"If you're trying to reach more customers and ramp up sales, leveraging influencers in your niche [or] your target audience can boost that," said Nicole Ocran, influencer marketing specialist and founder of lifestyle blog The Noteworthy.

If your business needs include developing brand awareness on social media, influencer marketing could be a great direction for your brand. In addition to promoting your product, an influencer shares your social media accounts with their audience, creating an opportunity for an engaged audience to follow your brand as well.

Ocran says microinfluencers, or influencers with 100,000 or fewer followers, are best for audience building because their audiences are incredibly loyal.

Ocran strongly suggests doing research first. "Know what exactly you would want the influencers you onboard to achieve for you, and be totally upfront with them about it." 

Not only will you need to conduct research as to which influencers will be the best fit for your brand, but you will need to conduct background research on their followings. Sometimes, this means inquiring about their audience engagement data. A background check helps you confirm the influencer has an organic following, instead of fake followers with false engagement numbers.

"Don't be afraid to ask the influencer about their demographics and insights on Instagram, or their blog or YouTube channel," Ocran added. "If you're trying to sell tights and you are solely targeting women in the United States, ask the influencer you're considering working with for their insights and demographics in case they have a large male audience in any city or country you don't sell to."

Patton-Carson reminds marketers to ensure an influencer matches your brand as well. Otherwise, the relationship feels superficial.

"It's completely obvious when an influencer and a brand don't match up,” she said. "It's awkward and forced. Find an influencer that is a natural fit."

Influencer-brand relationships often work in a collaborative way. "If you're simply a business in need of photography, video or general content creation for your website, there are so many talented and creative influencers out there you can bring on to create that for you," Ocran said.

Since the influencer is promoting your product on their platform, they may want a say in how the promotion is framed and presented. This is a great opportunity to invite their input. After all, they have already successfully nurtured an engaged audience.

"Although influencers are being paid to do work for your brand, it's important to allow them to have some creative input and allow them to present their content to their audience in an authentic way, as it will always go down better than something that screams 'advertisement,'" Ocran said.

One of the biggest places you'll find influencers is on social media itself. For example, Ocran first turns to Instagram to connect with influencers, especially because the app offers business accounts, making it easy to contact influencers directly via email.

Ocran also uses apps to find influencers. Some of those online tools are Revfluence, NeoReach, Upfluence and Takumi.

In addition to using apps to find influencers, Patton-Carson said, PiperWai includes its products in gift bags at award shows like the Golden Globes. Many celebrity influencers then approach the company about working together.

Influencer marketing is an effective, cost-efficient marketing strategy to develop a social media presence and reach new potential customers. To find the right fit, research your potential influencers and envision how that collaborative relationship would look like.

Danielle Corcione

Danielle Corcione is a freelance writer. To learn more about their work, visit their website. They also run a blog called the Millennial Freelancer and a newsletter Rejected Pitches.