We’ve reached the peak of influencer trends in marketing, but this smart strategy in garnering additional leads and social media reach isn’t going to fade. Are you familiar with “influencers?” Many businesses aren’t exactly sure what they are or how they’re helpful. At Bright Planning, we can answer all your questions regarding how to use celebrity and micro-influencers to help market your business.

What are influencers?

Influencers are everywhere online. They write blogs, create content-rich videos on YouTube, post stunning photos on Instagram, and make recommendations on Twitter. They’re all around us, from the Kardashians to your local top chef. Simply put, they’re online personalities—some of whom have reached celebrity status—who have cultivated relationships with engaged followers who listen to their recommendations and advice. If a beauty vlogger on YouTube with thousands (and in some cases millions) of followers recommends a face cleanser, that brand will receive a bump in website hits as well as sales. These bumps can reach into the hundreds of new sales if not thousands, all from the word-of-mouth of one influencer consumers trust.

Related Reading: How to Create a Winning Marketing Strategy

How do you contact an influencer?

Building a partnership with an influencer is not as simple as sending an email pitch offering them a free sample of your product or service in the hopes they recommend it to their audience. Influencers receive loads of messages from people looking for the same thing you are: their reach. They can spot a canned email from miles away, so wooing an influencer is a process that can turn into a lucrative arrangement for you both. Let’s look at the process:

  1. As with all new marketing strategies, do your research to choose influencers related to your business. If you sell organic cookies, you’re not going to wow an influencer who has a tech blog. However, don’t limit yourself to foodies either. Perhaps a travel influencer can recommend your cookies as a must-eat when visiting your town.
  2. Join your chosen influencer’s audience. Go to where they wield their influence, and engage. If you get involved with their community—beyond simply commenting with “great post!”—they’ll see you as a member of their tribe first, so when you email them that first time, you’re more likely to get past their inbox defenses and have your message read.
  3. Learn what their fanbase is like. You might find a smaller influencer (also called micro-influencers) who seems like they’d fit your line of clothing only to discover their audience is more interested in business attire than the outdoor wear you make. But the data you can glean from their interactions with their audience can also tell you a lot about what consumers who are interested in your clothing are looking for.
  4. The email itself matters. If it’s spammy, it won’t make it past the trash folder. The more personal you can be—using their name, mentioning previous content of theirs you’ve enjoyed—the better. Keep in mind, the first contact doesn’t have to include your pitch. You can simply introduce yourself on a more personal level to make sure they’re aware of you. This is particularly helpful for influencers with large audiences.
  5. Remember, the point of their platform isn’t to sell things necessarily. A food blogger will mention useful kitchen products, but their purpose is to bring their passion—food, a specific diet, culinary skills or baking—to their audience. So they may not be interested in selling any product for a business, regardless of how well a partnership with you would fit. They don’t gain fans because they’re constantly shilling something or other. Their audience stays engaged because of the influencer’s personality or subject matter. Product placement is simply a side effect that sometimes goes hand in hand with their interests.
  6. Compensation: be up front. Some influencers (those just starting out or with smaller audiences) are okay with being paid in product, but some expect to be paid with money. The price of doing business shouldn’t be limited to free product, and their time is valuable. You’re not just paying for the few minutes it takes them to post about your product. You’re paying for all the time they’ve spent building up their platform, cultivating their audience, what time it takes to form an opinion on your product, and what they spend engaging with their audience about your product after they’ve recommended it. That cannot be quantified with a dollar figure. But be prepared to negotiate just as you would any partner doing business with you, and don’t take advantage. Pay them what the advertising is worth.
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You can start small.

Overwhelmed? That’s okay. There are a lot of influencers out there, and each one will have their own ways of partnering with businesses. You have a few options to get your feet wet with establishing this marketing strategy.

You can start small, with micro-influencers. These are the people who have a few thousand audience members and might be happy taking payment in product or small dollar figures. This way you can gauge the data in a sample size rather than going all in up front only to find out something didn’t quite click

There are also organizations like Tribe, who act as a matchmakers between micro-influencers and the brands looking to utilize them. You simply set up an account as a brand, describe what you’re hoping to find, and let Tribe find you the influencer interested in helping out. When a campaign meets both the brand’s and influencer’s expectations, the content is created, posted, and payment is made. Tribe takes the guesswork out of contacting influencers yourself. Once you become comfortable with the process and establish what sorts of influence work best for your brand, you can seek out more influencers both small and large to partner with and go from there.

One particular brand has had incredible results with influencers, to the point where they’ve redefined the influencer relationship (at least for their industry). Lokai is a maker of bracelets and other jewelry, and their Instagram posts content by talented Instagrammers, who helped Lokai customers create stunning imagery of Lokai products using almost entirely user-generated content. The successful partnerships garnered them 900,000 new followers in 2015, the inception year of the campaign. Their hashtag, #LiveLokai has been used nearly 200,000 times.

Influencers take the concept of word-of-mouth marketing to the next level, with a wider reach than simply their circle of friends and family, though to the people who follow their social media platforms, the relationship feels that close.

By reaching out to influencers with the potential to believe in your products like you do, you’re opening a communication channel like no other with your target audience. Big or small, influencers are in a unique position to further your brand awareness while maintaining their autonomy, and the result is an authentic voice consumers can trust.