Although influencer marketing far precedes the invention of Instagram, the popular marketing strategy has certainly gone mainstream. Now it’s an essential part of any comprehensive marketing plan. In fact, the industry is “on track to be worth up to $15 billion by 2022, up from as much as $8 billion in 2019.”
As a new influencer, navigating the industry may seem difficult at first, especially when you’re just beginning to cultivate relationships with brands. Becoming knowledgeable about the world of influencer marketing can help you partner with the right brand, grow your own personal brand, and jumpstart your rising visibility as an influencer.
Let’s take a crash course at “Influencer University.” Here’s everything you need to do to learn about the influencer marketing business in six easy steps.
1. Learn about the industry
As a new influencer, you’re probably enthusiastic to immerse yourself in the industry and build brand relationships. Before diving in headfirst, be sure to consider your next steps. First and foremost, it’s vital to understand the industry. Although you may not yet be actively involved in the influencer world, you can still learn about the industry through a variety of sources. Several strategies you can begin with include:
- Connect with influencers who are familiar with best practices and working with brands. When deciding who to network with, consider forging relationships with influencers who share your values and interests.
- Scroll through social media and marketing industry publications to see what top influencers are posting and what brand campaigns are trending. For example, the National Hockey League is currently trending with its #NHLFaceoff hashtag.
- Look at marketing resources such as Hootsuite’s “Influencer Marketing 101” to understand what brands typically look for when deciding to partner with an influencer. For example, brands look for influencers who are aligned with their values, avoid controversy, and have a loyal following.
- Stay in touch with current events and trends. Keep tabs on the latest in influencer marketing on prominent websites such as Influence Weekly, Talking Influence, Influencer Marketing Hub, and Forbes.
2. Identify and build your niche
As an influencer, your goal is to be considered a thought and community leader among your followers. Therefore, it’s essential that you identify your niche—a unique ability or skill that you’re passionate about and want to share. Your niche is essential to standing out amongst a sea of seemingly similar creators, growing your audience and engagement, and ultimately landing brand sponsorships. It allows brands to identify you as the perfect fit for them. In turn, you’ll be able to confidently turn down offers that aren’t right for you, therefore preserving your authenticity and credibility.
Here are some examples of successful niche influencers:
3. Research potential brand partners
When you begin to identify brands you’re interested in partnering with, it’s important that you do your homework. That way, you can confidently say to a brand, “I know your niche, I’m a good fit, and here’s why.” Consider researching the following:
- Objectives: Scour the brand’s website, social media feeds, testimonials, and other available information that might allow you to gauge its mission and values. Try to find information about the brand’s image and positioning. This will ensure that your values align with the brand’s.
- Business history and current campaigns: You’ll want to make sure there are no headlines you would not want your own personal brand being associated with, so be sure to investigate the history of the business and its current campaigns.
- Partners: Consider who the brand’s other active influencer partners are, and if you share an affinity for their values. Look into which influencers are actively promoting the brand and examine whether they promote anything that is at odds with your values.
- Competitors: Consider a brand’s competition–once you partner with a brand, you shouldn’t partner with its competitors. As an influencer, you want to maintain your relationships and avoid appearing unaware or indifferent to the goals and competitors of that brand.
- Expectations: Be prepared, and know that different brands will have different expectations from, and payment policies for, influencers. Influencers may receive payment or free products from the brands they collaborate with and in exchange, the brand receives exposure. Be mindful of the type of business, the size of the business, and what they’re selling in order to approach the partnership respectfully.
4. Develop a pitch
Being an influencer can become a full-time job, and in order to market yourself, you’ll need a resume. Instead of a traditional resume, you should develop a media kit, or a digital portfolio that outlines everything a brand needs to know about you and emphasizes your attributes and selling points. Your media kit should have these components:
- Number of followers: Be sure to include all of your social media accounts with their respective follower counts. This gives prospective brands a quick overview of your outreach potential.
- Audience demographics: This lets brands know if your followers would be interested in their product. You should pay attention to demographics such as age, gender and location. For example, if you want to work with a fashion brand, they would probably want to work with an influencer whose audience is majority female. Information on follower demographics are also available for Instagram users with Business Accounts, which grants access to Instagram Insights.
- Blog or website: If you have your own blog or personal website, include this information as well. If applicable, include metrics like number of visitors, number of page views, and total subscribers.
- Testimonials: Include testimonials from previous brands you’ve worked with. As you build your portfolio, be sure to include testimonials from your followers by direct messaging, emailing, or otherwise contacting them. You can go about acquiring brand testimonials through similar methods.
- Introduction: Create a short introduction about yourself. Keep it brief and honest. Explain who you are, what you’re looking to achieve, and how specifically you can help the brand. Include examples of your work and partnership experience. It’s also critical that you discuss your niche and how it aligns with the brand objectives. When introducing yourself, maintain an engaging, positive, and active voice.
- Contact details: Let brands know how they can get in touch.
Be sure to include a link to your media kit on your Instagram bio, your blog, and your personal webpage. When you want to send out your media kit to brands you may be interested in collaborating with, personalize each outreach. This is an excellent opportunity to showcase your media kit and show—not just tell—them why you are the perfect fit. Moreover, be sure to emphasize your unique selling points. Not only are you partnering with a brand, but you’re also creating your own personal brand.
5. Find the right fit
It’s not just whether you’re the right fit for a brand, but if the brand–and the creative opportunity–is the right fit for you. So, how do you know that the partnership will be beneficial for you? Consider the following:
- Know your own values and whether or not a brand aligns with them. You don’t want to represent something that goes against your beliefs or morals.
- Be authentic. If it’s a brand or product you would normally use, your partnership will read as an authentic endorsement to your followers. Conversely, authenticity can lead to low engagement rates and loss of followers.
- Understand the branding guidelines. Does the brand encourage creativity in a collaboration? For example, Chicago food blogger @chicagofoodauthority did a sponsored post for Crate & Barrel, but had the creative freedom to make the post her own. The post was aligned with the rest of her feed, and offered her followers the kind of content would normally expect from her.
It’s important to remember that as an influencer, you don’t have to take every brand offering that comes your way. You are allowed to be picky in order to build your own brand through the partnership, which will ultimately reward you, your audience, and the brand.
6. Know your value
Although not all brands you collaborate with will give you a paycheck with every sponsored post, it’s important to know your value–and your pricing. As a new influencer, you can gain a basic understanding of where to begin by talking to other influencers and seeing what they charge. If you happen to have a friend in marketing, ask how much they would pay for a collaboration. Every campaign is different, so prepare to be flexible (but also prepare for negotiation). Do some market research to identify how much brands are willing to pay depending on factors such as experience level, following, and past successes (which you should illustrate in your media kit).
If the brand values you, they will pay you what you’re worth, on time. It’s up to you as the influencer to determine what your value is. Check out @influencerpaygap on Instagram to ensure you’re being paid fairly and equally.
Becoming an influencer isn’t a cakewalk, but it can be very rewarding. You have the opportunity to promote your values and work with brands that align with them. In addition, this is a profession that lends to creativity and allows you the chance to share who you are with an audience that values what you say. With the right partnerships, you may be able to ascend to stardom within your niche and become a voice everyone trusts.
Looking for help getting started as an influencer? Request a Julius profile here.
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