To work with influencers, you need tons of money and a whole team of marketers are your disposal, right?
Wrong! No business is too small to take advantage of influencer marketing. However, it’s important for small businesses to understand how to approach the strategy and make it work for them.
We’ll walk you through the five steps of an influencer marketing campaign and highlight what small businesses need to know.
Step 1: Define your campaign
Think about what you want from this campaign – what is your objective? Consider your target audience, or the people you want the campaign to reach. Also, work out the campaign timeline and budget, and don’t worry if you don’t have a huge sum to spend. There are influencers for every size brand, but more on that later.
In connection with your goal, establish some key performance indicators, or KPIs. These are measurable results that can show your progress toward your goal. For example, if your goal is to increase sales, you may want to measure orders, sales and revenue as KPIs.
At this stage, it’s critical for small businesses to be aware of their limitations. Your brand can’t compete with giants like Nike or Coca-Cola, but that’s okay. You can still be successful at influencer marketing if you work with what you have. Remember to only compete against yourself, and not against your competitors, idols or any other brands.
If you need more information about how to define your campaign, check out this influencer marketing guide. In fact, this article follows the same structure as that guide, so you can use it to supplement all this information along the way.
Step 2: Set up your campaign
Time to find influencers! As a small business, you probably can’t afford to hire an agency. Therefore, you’ll have to find influencers directly on social media or with an influencer marketing platform.
Whichever method you choose, there are some key aspects of influencer profiles that you want to asses:
- Follower count and growth over time shows you how an influencer has grown their audience. Look for slow and stable growth; sudden spikes, in the absence of a giveaway or viral moment, could show fake followers.
- Engagement rate measures the level of interaction an influencer shares with their audience. The more engaged followers are, the more likely they are to comment on, like or share content.
- Audience demographics show you a breakdown of an influencer’s followers by age, gender, country, language and interests. Make sure their audience matches your target audience!
- Audience authenticity can reveal fake followers. You don’t want to waste your marketing efforts on bots, so check out that the audience consists of real people.
- Style and voice are important criteria to make sure the influencer is a good fit for your brand. These can’t be measured in data, so take a thorough look at the influencer’s content to see if they align with your brand.
- Values are another non-quantifiable aspect of influencer profiles. Does an influencer uphold your brand’s values? Maybe you’re committed to diversity, only use sustainable materials, or produce vegan products. Ensure that the influencers you select demonstrate those ideals in their profiles.
An audience authenticity analysis showing that around 20% of this influencer’s audience has demonstrated some behavior typically found in bots.
For small businesses, another important factor when selecting influencers if price. You simply can’t afford to work with the likes of Kylie Jenner, so you have to find influencers who are willing to work for the incentive you can realistically offer.
Enter nano and micro influencers. Nano influencers have 1-5K followers, and although their follower count is small, they have the highest average engagement rates in the industry. They’re just starting out as influencers and will usually collaborate in exchange for free products alone.
Micro influencers, who have 5-50K followers, hit the sweet spot in influencer marketing: the perfect mix of a bigger niche audience combined with still-high engagement rates. Some micro influencers toward the lower end of the spectrum may collaborate with you for free products alone; others with higher follower counts may ask for a fee of up to a few hundred dollars.
Step 3: Launch your campaign
Once you find influencers that look like a good fit, reach out! Small businesses will likely run small campaigns, so you can probably handle your influencer outreach manually. Contact the influencers, and be friendly and polite. Introduce your brand and products, and explain why you like the influencer’s profile and why they’d be a great collaborator for your business.
You may have to negotiate the deal a bit before coming to an agreement. Here are some tips for small businesses negotiating with influencers:
- Know that some content types cost more than others. Video is more expensive than photos. Or, an Instagram story, which is ephemeral, is cheaper than a post, which is static.
- A contract isn’t always necessary. If you’re only paying an influencer in free products, you can probably seal the deal via email. A contract may even scare off some less experienced influencers.
- Now’s the time to outline any publication guidelines you have for the campaign. What do you want to emphasize about your brand? Do you want influencers to use a specific hashtag or mention? What are the deadlines?
- Despite the previous point, give influencers creative freedom when it comes to content creation. It’s okay to establish guidelines, but don’t micromanage. Influencers best know how to communicate with their audiences, so let them!
Step 4: Monitor your campaign
When influencers start posting, you have to be ready to monitor the media and track the results of your campaign. Track your brand mentions and branded hashtags to see when influencers publish content tagged to your campaign. It’s a good idea to download that content so you have it for your records.
Fashion influencer @schultzzie tagging maternity bland @pinkblushmaternity and its founder in her post.
Remember those KPIs we mentioned back in Step 1? You also have to measure those. Some of the typical KPIs in influencer campaigns are:
- Impressions, or the times that campaign content was displayed
- New followers to your social media accounts
- Interactions with content, like likes or comments
- Clicks on links
- Web traffic or time spent on your site
- Sales or uses of influencer-specific discount codes
Capture as much data as possible, because that will allow you to see your campaign from the top level. There are many analytics tools out there to help you do this, but Google Analytics is one of the most popular. It’s free, and what’s more, Google has a ton of educational content to help beginners get familiar with the platform.
Step 5: Analyze your campaign
The campaign is ending, and influencers have posted all of their content. You’ve collected all the data, and now it’s time to see if you’ve been successful. When analyzing your results, keep in mind that success is relative.
In general, you should consider your campaign successful when the benefit outweighs the investment. So, if you paid an influencer $100 dollars, but they brought you sales totaling $300, your campaign was worth it.
For branding campaigns, this can be a bit more tricky to measure, as impressions and clicks don’t have a specific value attached to them. In these cases, you should instead look at if you exceeded your initial expectation. Maybe you estimated that you’d get 1,000 impressions, but you ended up with 2,000. That’s success too, and if you do the math, you’ll see you achieved a lower CPM (cost per thousand impressions) than originally anticipated.
Most campaigns end with a report, which an agency presents to its client, or a marketing team to their manager. As a small business, you might be reporting to yourself, but that doesn’t mean you should skip on the report. Prepare a document for your records, so that if you want to use influencer marketing again, you have a reference.
A report should include:
- The total investment in the campaign (including product value and shipping costs)
- The total results (a breakdown of the KPIs you measured)
- Some visual examples of top-performing media (posts with the most likes, for example)
To wrap up, reflect on your campaign and see what you can learn for next time. You may find things that worked well, things that didn’t work the way you’d hoped, or even new avenues to explore in the future.
Influencer marketing is a big industry, but that doesn’t mean small businesses can’t participate in it. If you understand your limitations, carefully define your campaign, and find influencers who align with your brand, even the smallest of companies can take part in this digital marketing strategy.