All through the 2010s, we’ve been speeding toward a more interconnected, online world. The COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated this trend, and may of the remaining offline parts of day-to-day life adapted themselves for the computer screen. Yesterday, we had celebrity endorsements. Today, we have influencer marketing.
Social media has become a dominant force in society today. There are BILLIONS of users on sites like Facebook and Instagram, and people are finding more and more ways to make money doing what they like to do. For many, that means tapping into their natural people skills in a way that scales rapidly via social media. Enter the influencer.
Influencers are people with a large following online, especially on social media. Influencers use both their following and their status on a specific platform to drive sales through endorsements, affiliate links, or advertising.
As new as the term is, influencer marketing is pretty straightforward! What isn’t straightforward about this, however, is what goes on behind the scenes and how you can effectively use influencer marketing to promote your eCommerce business.
In this post, we will be going into detail on what influencer marketing is, how it works, and how you can implement it within your eCommerce business.
What is Influencer Marketing
Before we jump into the details of how influencer marketing works, we are going to talk more about what influencer marketing is. In short, if you are earning money through your social media account, such as Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, or even Twitter, you are considered an influencer. My colleague, Maria, wrote an incredible article on a specific example of influencer marketing and nailed what influencer marketing is:
Simply put, Influencers are people on social media platforms who help companies sell products. Gone are the days of “If you build it they will come” as brick-and-mortar stores are swiftly shuttering and businesses move online. But since many stores are solely online, and more people are trading in cable for commercial-free experiences (23% of households since 2014), more companies are turning to social media influencers to spread the word. In other words, influencer marketing is when a “regular person” sells followers products but done in such a way that it feels like a friend is recommending a fun new find rather than a company pushing yet another product on consumers.
– Why a Rambling Redhead is taking over the internet by Maria Polcari
So many of us use social media every day. We have followers that we feel like we know because they walk us through their lives with them! This transparency people have, coupled with who they are/what they do, can be a recipe for success in regards to getting a product shown to a large number of people.
Again, think of influencer marketing as a modified version of a “celebrity” endorsement. Through followers seeing a given celebrity’s backing of a product, and oftentimes offering an incentive to purchase a product through their own link, followers can receive perks, discounts, and more.
How Influencer Marketing Works
While researching influencer marketing, I stumbled upon this great paragraph on how it works:
At a fundamental level, influencer marketing is a type of social media marketing that uses endorsements and product mentions from influencers–individuals who have a dedicated social following and are viewed as experts within their niche. Influencer marketing works because of the high amount of trust that social influencers have built up with their following, and recommendations from them serve as a form of social proof to your brand’s potential customers.
– What is influencer marketing: How to develop your strategy by Jenn Chen
Remember those Lebron James and Sprite commercials from several years back? If you don’t, that is okay, because I do – which helps prove my point! This is an example of a famous athlete who is known around the world, shown aligning himself with the Sprite brand.
Sprite, who is aware of how big Lebron James’ fan base is, wants to highlight James enjoying a Sprite. In turn, their hope is that fans of Lebron will choose to align themselves with Sprite, after seeing his support of it.
More or less, this is what influencer marketing is today. But instead of being limited to celebrity endorsements for products with mass appeal, you can find influencers who have a lot of sway in very specific niches.
Need to sell turtle food? That’s pretty niche, but te live in a time where a turtle can have an Instagram account can have 200,000 followers. Frivolous as it may sound, that turtle has every right to use its platform to help other people succeed!
How to Start Influencer Marketing
Before you find an influencer to align yourself with, take the time to understand who your target audience is. Ideally, you want someone who has a real sense of community developed with the market you are trying to sell to. Why is community so important you ask? Well, take this for example…
Arii, a young Instagram influencer who was trying to start her own clothing line, had to sell 36 shirts to her 2 million-plus followers in order to continue on… When she was unable to sell the shirts, this is what she had to say:
Unfortunately, the company that I’m working with goes based on your first drop sales. In order for them to order and make my products (even to keep working with them), I have to sell at least 36 pieces (knowing I’ve become super irrelevant, I already knew it was gonna be hard) but I was getting such good feedback that people loved it and were gonna buy it. No one has kept their word so now the company won’t be able to send out the orders to people who actually bought [items] and it breaks my heart.
Why is this relevant?
In addition to understanding who your target market is and properly reaching them, finding an influencer with a sense of community is just as important for successful influencer marketing. Part of the reason Arii’s clothing line didn’t work was due to her trying to sell a clothing line to her followers when her page was lacking engagement and a sense of community. If you are looking to see a great example of influencer marketing, check out my colleague Maria’s post on the Rambling Redhead. She goes into great detail on why the Rambling Redhead nails influencer marketing – highlighting the community she has built.
With that in mind, your first order of business is understanding your target market, finding an influencer that has rapport and community within the audience you are trying to reach, then finally, reaching out to them and finding out a way to work together to grow each other’s brand. Remember, this is a two-way street! Finding the right influencer is part of it, but the influencers themselves want to align themselves with brands that they really support. Hopefully avoiding Arii’s dilemma.
5 Steps to Take to Start Influencer Marketing
1. Determine which channels you need to consider for influencer marketing
There are so many channels that you can effectively market through, it can seem overwhelming when trying to decide which one you want to use. Try to take into account a few key variables.
- Which channels are your audience most engaged on?
- Which channel would be the best for an influencer to market through?
- Is my product best suited for Instagram influencers to use and highlight, or would Facebook be the best fit?
Regarding the third point, various platforms such as Instagram and Facebook have their own advantages and disadvantages. Consider which channel will objectively yield the best results based off of what you are looking to accomplish!
2. Be organized and systematic about your outreach
Strategic, well planned outreach will yield the best results. Influencers can receive hundreds of DM’s a day, so make sure that you are reaching out to them in a professional manner, and through their preferred method of communication. Most influencers will have a business email that you can use as opposed to a direct message. This is a time where you don’t want to just reach out to anyone with 50,000 followers. Make sure that you are reaching out to those influencers that you think will help further your brand’s name and image, to the audience you’re intending it to be for.
3. Find influencers
Finding influencers can seem daunting as well. Thankfully, there are quite a few websites that work to connect businesses with influencers, on the platform of your choosing! Sites like Upfluence and Helixa have made this process incredibly easy for you, and can connect you with influencers quickly!
4. Reach out to influencers
I touched earlier on one method of outreach. Most influencers who are open to collaborations with businesses will have a business email link embedded somewhere in their profile. If this is your preferred method of outreach, start off by introducing yourself, your business, what you do/sell, and what work you have in mind for them and your business!
If you utilize a site like Upfluence or Helixa, there are helpful prompts throughout the page to guide you along the outreach process, while providing ample information to the influencers!
5. What to expect next
Try to remember that not every influencer is going to be open to advertising on their page. Influencers can lead very transparent lives, and many of them are selective with who they choose to align with. Also keep in mind, the total number of followers is not everything! Finding influencers who have built loyal, engaged communities will be the ones you find the most success with in regards to marketing!
Influencer marketing can be a fantastic way to spread the word of your business. Social media isn’t going away, and more and more people will find mainstream popularity within a site. Through understanding your long-term goals, what you are trying to sell, and to whom, and who can help you reach the most amount of people within that audience, you can successfully tap into influencer marketing and grow your business.
You’ve done everything by the book. Your Kickstarter campaign is almost ready to launch.
You made a great product. Built an audience. Set up a campaign page.
But how do you ship it?
We put this checklist together to help you get started. It's free.