‘Influencer marketing’ was the phrase of 2016, with all different types of businesses getting in on the hype. But is ‘influencer marketing’ really the most effective way of marketing our businesses - especially now that everyone’s doing it? We think not. At Digital Gaggle I took you lovely lot through the pros and cons of influencer marketing and explained why I think micro-influencer marketing is actually the way forwards. And because you were so nice about it, I’ve written it down here, too. Yes, yes, I’m really very good.
According to HubSpot, 47% of people use ad blockers on the daily. I know, right? I can’t even be bothered to download it on my PC. But still, if Hubspot say it it’s probably true - and it strongly suggests that your old fashioned marketing endeavours of just sticking banner ads on every other page simply won’t work. People are increasingly sceptical of anything that looks like marketing.
This isn’t really surprising. It’s always been the case that people are more inclined to buy something following a friend’s recommendation than they are from seeing an ad. Why? Trust! Trust sits at the core of this whole argument. You trust your friend, so you trust their recommendations, so you trust the brand they’re recommending.
Influencer marketing works in the exact same way. But before we get into that - quick recap.
What is an “influencer”?
No prizes for guessing this one: an influencer is someone who influences others. So these could be big time celebrities like Kim Kardashian or Snoop Dogg, but for the sake of this blog post we’re thinking of them as digital influencers. People like Zoella, who made a name for themselves filming content on their favourite beauty brands in their bedrooms and attracted literally millions of loyal followers as a result.
The appeal of Zoella (and the hundreds of other bloggers who’ve sprung up in the past few years) is that they’re relatable. They look, sound and behave Just Like Us. When YouTube was just beginning to take off and blogging was an early art form, these digital figures were an antidote to the Shiny Polished World of celebrities and branding. They were your older siblings, your cool cousins; people you went to for advice on, well, everything.
But marketing ruins everything that’s pure. We know this. It’s what we do! So it wasn’t long before clever marketers started to capitalise on the influencer rise.
Now, these types of influencers with hundreds of thousands of loyal followers can attract crazy money for their promotional work. Like, big big bucks for even a mention of your product - let alone a positive review.
Inevitably, those previously loyal and engaged audiences who thought of these influencers as their ultimate BFFs have grown cynical - and increasingly disengaged. Attempting to work with these brands will not only cost you a pretty penny, but it might also not even work.
From my own experience with clients at Noisy Little Monkey, going for the big influencers purely for the sake of numbers rarely pays off. Sure, you might get in front of lots and lots of people, but if they’re not the right audience for you - what’s the point?
Know your audience.
The most important thing to do is know your audience. Promoting your brand (with the help of an influencer) to thousands of people is pointless if you don’t know who you’re promoting it to, and the kinds of influencers you want to work with. If you’re a furniture company, for example, asking teenagers to promote your brand probably isn’t a very good idea no matter how many followers they have.
So build yourself some buyer personas. Wait - you don’t know what they are? Jeez, are you new here!? These blogs should start you off:
- What are buyer personas? And do I really need them?
- Marketing personas = marketing bollocks?
- So you've got your buyer personas. What now?
Time to downsize.
Where influencers used to appeal because of their relatability and relative normality, now micro-influencers have taken their place. Micro-influencers are people who do much the same as their more popular counterparts, but with less followers (30k, for example, rather than 300k). What they boast instead, however, are hyper-engaged audiences.
These graphs from Markerly are Instagram-specific, but what they indicate is that the bigger an influencer gets, the less influential they become. People might be following them, sure, but they’re not engaging. They’re not particularly interested. Big influencers have migrated out of the realm of the BFF and into the realm of the celebrity, leaving a gap in the market for micro-influencers.
Shifting your marketing perspective away from big numbers and towards hyper-engaged audiences instead is likely to be a lot more effective and, hopefully, cheaper.
Finding the right micro-influencers.
If you’ve got your personas ready this’ll be a piece of cake, because you’ll know who you’re looking for. The best place to start in finding the right micro-influencers to work with is with those that you already know. If you’re already aware of 1-2 bloggers/Instagram stars/whatever who have the right kind of audience for you, stalk their profiles. See who they’ve collaborated with, who they follow, who comments on their stuff.
If you don’t know where to start at all, Google is your friend. If you’re looking for Mummy bloggers, for example, Mumsnet has a whole network for Mummy bloggers and you’re bound to find what you’re looking for there.
It’s a question of getting your hands dirty and doing some digging, but it won’t be long until you uncover the goods. Once you’ve found one or two, as well, you’re bound to start finding the others.
Little Black Book of Bloggers.
As you traverse the interwebs and come across all your new shiny influencers, ignore the numbers and instead make sure you’re asking yourself these three questions:
- Is their audience engaged?
- Does their audience look like our ideal audience?
- Do they make sense with our brand?
If so, put them in your little black book of bloggers. For us, this is basically just a spreadsheet (duh) with these fields:
- Blog URL
- Domain Authority
- Number of Followers
- Type of Blog
- Any Extra Info
This’ll help you keep track of the bloggers you’d like to work with, and once you’ve reached out and spoken to them you can keep track of your communications here.
Don’t expect it to be free.
Micro-influencers are likely to charge significantly less for their promotional work, but don’t ever expect it to be free. These people are working for you, after all, and it’s important that you treat them as such. Exposure doesn’t pay the bills, people!
Fortunately, because they do tend to charge less, you can maximise your efforts and work with a few influencers at once. Multiple engaged audiences = lots of lovely success. Hooray!
As with everything that actually works in marketing, it all comes back to your audience - to know who they are, what they want, and who they’re going to trust. Ultimately the number of followers an influencer has doesn’t really matter. What matters is genuine reviews, authentic relationships and an engaged audience. It’s the emotional connection that counts.