So You Wanna Reach out to Influencers?
How to Reach out to Influencers (by an Influencer) for the B2B Market
So after countless sleepless nights of having that amazing business idea burning in your brain, you've set up an app that allows yogis to book a studio session on their smartphones. But with only 1000 followers on Instagram, the growth has been slow and you've already exhausted all your friends via word of mouth. You've been trying to network on social media, been chatting with other yogis and religiously employing all relevant hashtags to gain traction and eyeballs to your fitness app. You want to speed things up: this is where the Influencer comes in.
Whether it's a cool new app you've designed, a product or a service, if you're looking to expand your audience and amplify your brand's message through social media, an Influencer is able to share the message of your brand and story to a highly engaged audience in their own unique voice. According to The Star, the brand spend for Influencer Marketing is set to reach USD $101 billion by 2020 and 43% of that group is looking to increase their ad dollars with Key Opinion Leaders (KOL). If you're skeptical about Influencer marketing, you're missing out on a significant shift in digital marketing where brands can have access to a variety of Influencers...
What Your Brand Needs to Know before Hiring an Influencer
While Influencer Marketing is still growing into a mature market and everyone is scrambling to get the best deal with every self-proclaimed content creator out there, most brands try to employ a one-size-fits-all strategy to each influencer. However, Influencer Marketing- if done right- means both examining what each individual Influencer can do for you but also the brand doing due diligence on the authenticity of each Influencer (more on how to tell fake Influencers in the future!).
First, you have to understand not every Influencer has the same goals though they may be in the same niche. Take social media accounts around luxury travel for example. Jane, the travel instagrammer, fresh out of college, living at home, with 125k followers may only want a free hotel stay to leverage the fact that she's worked with The Ritz Carlton. She perceives travel and social media as her hobby- not to make money- therefore she is willing to give 25 photos to a hotel for their image bank. For her, travel is the end goal.
Others, like myself, whose university days are long over, rely on social media and photography as a sole source of income therefore am not enticed by 'free' hotel stays. Although I currently have less followers than Jane, I'm most likely to ask for some form of financial compensation since I perceive this as a career and not some hobby.
Taking the time to speak to every Influencer- on a brand level- can help your company identify different marketing tiers and on the long run, save money, create varied storylines to sell your product/service and develop deep relationships with Influencers. Here's 3 main ways a brand- big or small- can work with Influencers:
1. Free Stuff
Also known as barter service. In the early days of Instagram marketing, it was common to see brands email Influencers for a free T-shirt or lipstick in exchange for a post. As the Influencer market matures, the value of an Instagram post will eclipse any offer of free stuff (unless you're a Dior, Nike or Gucci that has brand stardom and leverage).
If you're a small brand or startup with very low budget this is probably the best way to build up your audience. The ideal Influencers to approach would be the micro-influencers who are motivated to generate more content or want to align their personal brand with brand sponsorships. Email/DM an Influencer and share about your product, (PLEASE make it personal- I've often ignored emails that just state "hi" without acknowledging my name- or even worse, a different Influencer's name) and offer them something for free. You can write "if you like/enjoy the item, we'd love it if you shared it on your Stories or even an Instagram post!".
2. Affiliate Programs
Let me preface this by saying I am not an expert in this as I generally don't like referral programs as they take too much admin work and a level of hard selling I'm not comfortable to do with my audience. However some brands do set up a commission-based program where every click or referral (via some digital coupon code) gives an Influencer a certain percentage of dollars back with every purchase. Many fashion influencers are part of more established affiliate programs such as rewardStyle and liketoknow.it app for Instagram or for travel bloggers, affiliate programs are also available on booking portals such as hotels.com.
3. Paid Collaborations
Ah, the gold standard of Influencer status: turning passion into paid work. As Instagram (for better or worse) becomes a platform for polished images, Influencers are expecting to be paid for their effort and time in creating photos that stand out. If you're a brand with a moderate budget, you can target Influencers to promote your message by offering monetary incentives. Rates will vary depending on your request: Instagram Stories, single post, carousel post or video (rates increase with each form). Offering financial compensation creates a level of professionalism with Influencers and holds them accountable to a higher quality of work since money is involved. According to USA Today, an Instagrammer's rate is determined by taking 1% of their followers into dollars (although personally as an Influencer I disagree with this since I determine by my creative skill, demographic and engagement rate). If you're unsure if an Influencer is the right fit for you, ask them politely for their insights or media kit which should list out their demographics and help you to make a choice whether the Influencer and your brand is a right fit.
These are 3 ways in which you can work with Influencers to create engaging content and amplify your brand's message to a wider audience. If you listen to each individual Influencer- some may simply want a free product and others want to be paid- you can vary your marketing tactics according to what the Influencer is able to give in return.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and hit me up on my Instagram if this helped you!