Founder and CEO of Sway Group, an influencer marketing agency that generates exceptional content with guaranteed results.
Influencer marketing has long matured from an edgy Wild West tactic to an integral part of many brand marketing strategies. A recent survey shows that more than half (63%) of businesses that budget for influencer marketing intend to increase their spend for the next year.
It’s clear that plenty of marketers are finding influencer campaigns to be an effective way to engage potential and existing customers — however, there’s one particular stumbling block to success that many marketers are contending with: finding the right influencer can be a major challenge.
It’s no wonder that it can be so difficult to identify the best digital creators to work with; on Instagram alone, it’s estimated that there are more than 500,000 active influencers. Given the fact that the most common way businesses look for influencers is by searching social media platforms, this can obviously become a time-consuming, resource-intensive process.
As the CEO of a full-service influencer marketing agency, here is some of my best advice for finding the right influencers — and the number one mistake to avoid.
Do: Prioritize Fit Over Following
Micro- and nano-influencers have been getting more attention lately in the influencer marketing industry, and for good reason: These small-in-name-only creators tend to have more personal connections with their followers and are more likely to be perceived as authentic in their content and brand recommendations.
Celebrity-level creators dominate the headlines when it comes to media coverage of the influencer industry, but in truth, the star power promised by these large accounts doesn’t always shine through. Studies show that, in many cases, an influencer’s engagement rate decreases as their follower count increases. Smaller influencers have more sway with their sponsorships because their audiences are more active and loyal — and they’re less likely to be tuned out in the way a commercial-feeling celebrity endorsement can be.
Do: Map Your Campaign Strategy (and Influencer Search) to Your KPIs
Common influencer marketing efforts include increasing sales and website traffic, improving brand affinity and reaching new audiences. Taking the time to break these down into specific, measurable goals (i.e., “increase branded social media shares by 20%”) is key for success — both in terms of determining the effectiveness of the campaign and being able to identify the right people for the job in the first place.
Once you’ve clarified your campaign goals, you should have a better picture of the audience you’re looking to reach. In order to engage your ideal influencers, consider demo details like location, gender, age, occupation, interests and hobbies and consumer pain points.
Searching social media for potential influencers can take time, but it does have the advantage of being a low-cost method that any brand can take on. A few tips:
• Search hashtags that fit with your vertical or campaign objectives. Platform hashtags can be a quick and relatively easy way to identify influencers who are already posting about topics that are relevant to your business.
• Check out who target influencers are following. Once you’ve found a quality influencer, take a look at who they’re following or interacting with on a regular basis — this can lead to discovering other creators who are a strong fit.
• Reach out to existing brand advocates. One of the best ways to find a great brand partner is to find the ones who are already out there promoting your brand! If you’re not already tracking who’s tagging your brand or sharing about your products, it’s time to start doing so.
Another option for finding influencers is to use an influencer discovery platform, although those are often limited to providing lists of influencers without any additional expertise or strategic services. Full-service agencies offer an easy solution for brands that would benefit from outsourcing influencer identification — as well as a host of other options like contract management, creative direction, activation, QA and reporting.
Don’t: Target Just the Creator
As stated above, the process of searching for influencers should start with identifying brand goals and thus the target audience for the campaign. I find that the most common mistake businesses run into is assuming that it’s enough to target the influencer themselves — however, an influencer and their audience aren’t always the same.
While it stands to reason that an account laser-focused on vegan cooking will attract vegan audiences, there are plenty of times when an influencer’s followers aren’t a precise match with their demo. For instance, female gaming influencers often have a large number of male followers, while male beauty influencers offer more gender-neutral appeal. Celebrity-level accounts with follower counts in the millions often have audiences that span a great variety of ages and interests — whatever they promote needs to have incredibly broad appeal, and even then it’s unlikely to resonate with all audiences.
Whether you reach out through a platform, an agency or to the influencer directly, it’s critical that you consider the relevance of the influencer’s audience in addition to the contextual fit of the influencer themselves.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of an influencer campaign depends on a number of factors, and choosing the right influencer is just one of the elements that lead to success. With the right planning and execution, it’s possible to not only find the best people to share your brand message but deliver the kind of social campaign that drives real measurable engagement with your ideal audience.
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