The power of influencer marketing to connect brands with new consumers has made it the world’s fastest-growing online customer acquisition strategy — yet many brands are still unsure about how to get started with a collaboration, especially if they’re working with a very limited budget.
In the not-so-distant past, working with bloggers meant working with their agents, who often promoted only a handful of big influencers. For smaller brands, the expense — and the lack of transparency around collaborations — made influencer marketing unattainable and unjustified.
Thankfully, all of that has changed.
Social media has evolved over the last decade to allow a greater number influencers to have a real impact, fueled by searchable platforms like Instagram that allow consumers to easily follow accounts based on an interest — like fashion, beauty or travel — without leaving the network. (Bloggers previously had to rely on viewers by finding them at their URL, a much more difficult way to build an audience.)
More influencers to choose from isn’t the only change that has worked in favor of smaller brands. Digital platforms that allow brands to easily offer non-monetary compensation like gifts or commission on sales have made working with influencers more attainable.
Still not sure how to get started? Here are four ways to use influencer marketing, even with a limited budget:
Work with Niche Bloggers
The most effective influencers for your brand aren’t always the ones with the most followers. “Niche bloggers” who have a strong, targeted audience — whether it’s new moms, travel lovers, or makeup enthusiasts — often have higher engagement rates and more loyal audiences than some larger influencers. This loyalty can translate to real, new customers for your brand, since niche bloggers are more likely to influence their followers’ buying decisions.
Finding these “hidden gems” — with the perfect audience — was once difficult. Where do you even begin? Thankfully, digital platforms have made it much easier for brands to reach the right audience (not just the largest audience) based on a number of criteria — including location, demographics, influence by social network, and engagement history — saving brands time and energy while ensuring that they connect with the best bloggers for their audience.
Look to Micro-Influencers
Closely related to niche bloggers are micro-influencers — bloggers with beautifully curated blogs and social feeds that haven’t yet built a large audience. Working with these smaller bloggers is like discovering Adele or Bruno Mars before they became famous; there’s merit to building a relationship with these influencers and having beautiful photography of your brand. If you choose the right ones, it may only be a matter of time before you’re the lucky recipient of more traffic. Bloggers just getting their start often simply need content or are happy to work for gifts, access to events, affiliate links, or other types of non-monetary compensation, making them a great value — and a ‘secret weapon’ for brands with small budgets.
Raise Awareness With Gifting
One of the biggest advantages of influencer marketing is flexibility in terms of compensation. As a small brand or startup, you can start out by gifting influencers to raise awareness, which can greatly extend your budget. If your brand resonates with the right bloggers, you may even secure a higher level of influence than your budget would allow otherwise.
When it comes to gifting, the more personalized the better. You want to spark a genuine relationship with bloggers and inspire them to go beyond simply posting the product. As a fashion brand, for example, make sure you select pieces that fit a blogger’s personality. A generic gift certainly takes less effort, but the long-term benefits that result when a blogger sees your gift and says, “Oh, that’s so me!” is worth the effort. You want influencers to genuinely rave about your gift!
Collaborate with Complementary Brands
Collaborating with partner brands is another way smaller companies can take advantage of influencer marketing without a big budget. The key is to find brands that complement your own. A fashion and accessories brand, for example, might partner on a collaboration to create the perfect look for festival season. Or a hotel and a travel-friendly skincare brand might join forces to promote the perfect rejuvenating getaway. Influencer events are one of the easiest — and most effective — ways for taking advantage of this strategy. Not only do brands have the chance to interact in person with top influencers (and in most cases, put product directly in bloggers’ hands), but they also have an opportunity to connect with potential brand partners. Multi-brand events like our own Fashion Week STORY series, for example, or Shop Style’s Social House are easy ways for brands to connect with high-level bloggers, and smaller brands can often find opportunities as product or gift bag sponsors.
These are just a few ways for small brands and startups to take advantage of influencer marketing with a limited budget. As the number of influencers grows along with the tools to target just the ones you need, the opportunities to take advantage of influencer marketing will only continue to grow.
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