According to a recent survey, 66% of marketers ran three or more influencer marketing campaigns in 2018 and 42% now have an “always-on” influencer strategy.

More than ever, businesses are starting to understand the value of collaborating with individual content creators and thought leaders to drive engagement and conversations around their brands.

Planning and managing an influencer marketing program is a big undertaking, but its potential to be a powerful part of your marketing mix can make it worth the effort.

What is Influencer Marketing?

Think of a celebrity endorsement. Many businesses still work with celebrities to promote their brands.

Influencer marketing works very much in the same way. An influencer is an individual that has a sizable online following, from hundreds of loyal followers to millions.

They often focus their posts on a specific space or industry, which they’re usually well integrated within. And, since most grow their following from the ground up, they tend to be a relatable and trusted source for reviews of products and services.

Brands often collaborate with these individuals to leverage their authority. How? By tapping into an influencer’s—well, influence—to spread their message and build trust between their business and its consumers.

Collaborations between brand and influencer can take many forms, including:

– Sponsoring a giveaway for the influencer’s following
– Having the influencer “take over” a brand’s social media account
– Gifting an influencer products or services
– Asking the influencer to write for the brand’s blog

So is the effort worth it? According to Linqia’s 2019 State of Influencer Marketing Survey, 57% of those surveyed reported that their influencer content outperformed brand-created content. So if your business has goals to expand its reach and building trusted connections with your audience, an influencer marketing program could be a great addition to your marketing initiatives.

But first, you need a strategy. Let’s talk about how to create one that will work.

How to Kick Start Your Program

Determine Your Objectives

Start with considering what your team wants to accomplish with this program. You may want to grow your following, build brand awareness or strengthen its image or improve conversions (of purchases, newsletter signups, etc.).

Next, get specific. Make sure you know exactly how many followers you want to gain from your influencer marketing program, and how you plan to measure changes to the perception of your brand.

Define Your Budget

Now, determine how much of your marketing budget you want to spend to trial your influencer program. You may want to invest in tools to identify the right influencers for your brand, or gift your target influencers one of your products or services. (We’ll discuss tools in the next section.)

Make sure to research the standard rates and payment types accepted by influencers in your space. This will become clearer as you go, but defining a budget ahead of time will be important in helping you determine your program’s ROI.

Understand Who You’re Targeting

Now, it’s time to nail down your audience. Jot down:

– # of followers (But note that a lot of followers ≠the right followers)
– Average posts per day
– Average likes per post
– Average shares per post
– Topics of interest
– # of interactions with your brand
– Whether or not they follow you
– Other helpful information

You don’t need anything fancy. A simple spreadsheet like the one below will work.

Social Media Examiner

Let’s break down the process of defining your influencer audience.

1 – Use an Influencer Marketing Tool

Research is key to finding influencers that fit with your brand. Luckily, there are tools to help you find the right influencers for your brand.

Keyhole, BuzzSumo and the Upfluence are a few to check out. Some tools are free while others require a subscription, but each one will help you narrow down a list of influencers to target.

2 – Follow Hashtags Relevant to your Business

Beyond tools, hashtags are a great way to find out what influencers are working in your space. To get started, try searching for the same keywords your business targets for SEO.

For example, let’s say your brand sells shoes. You may want to search for hashtags like #newboots or #favoriteboots to find people who’s posting about footwear. You can also search for people using your brand’s name in a hashtag. For example, we’d search for #bitly.

3 – Determine Engagement Rates and Follower Counts

While searching for influencers, don’t neglect looking at their stats. Sometimes large followings can be full of bots, so it’s important to check that the influencers receive real engagement on their posts.

According to the influencer platform CreatorIQ, the average influencer engagement rates across Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are:

Tube Filter

Reach Out to Influencers

Now that you’ve defined your budget and know who you want to target, it’s time to engage the influencers on social! Be genuine. Don’t reach out as your brand, but as an individual from your brand. Make your communications as personable as possible. They’ll appreciate it!

The key to establishing a connection is to not pitch a partnership straight away. Let them know what you like about their posts. Tell them which of their recent blog posts caught your eye. Ask them questions. Promote their content.

Once you’ve made a genuine connection, move your conversation to email or DMs. There, you can share more about your brand and why you think they would be a great fit to help you promote it.

Be as specific as possible with your asks, timeline and expectations, and keep an open line of communication with the influencers throughout your collaboration. It’s a good idea to share a master document with the influencers in your program with all of the details.

Share Content & Other Resources

When you’re on the same page with the influencer you hope to collaborate with, be sure to provide them with content and tools they can use to make it as easy as possible for them to talk about your brand.

For example, give them unique tracking links so you can see who’s driving engagement with your brand, and how much engagement they’re driving.

Track Your Campaign Success

Finally, the key to any influencer marketing strategy is to track its success.

Here are some key metrics to look at when developing an influencer marketing strategy:

– # of visits you had to your landing page or site
– # of people that signed up for an offer you’re promoting
– # of new followers
– Engagement (comments, likes and shares) on your posts

Wrapping Things Up

Getting your influencer marketing program off the ground won’t happen overnight. It’ll take time and effort, and you’ll need to be strategic about how you execute on your brand’s influencer initiatives.

More importantly, it’s an iterative process. As you work with influencers, you’ll undoubtedly learn a lot about what works for your brand and what doesn’t. So, adjust as you go and keep your goals in mind along the way.