Posted: Tue 12th Feb 2019
Today's marketing world is built around the cult of personality. People are fast becoming the biggest brands in the world. Small business owners are creating their own platforms and leveraging influencers.
The age-old model of using brand ambassadors to promote products has evolved with the onset of social media. A wider range of people are able to build audiences. The rise of influencers has rapidly expanded opportunities for small business owners.
But how do you get started? We spoke to three experts from the Enterprise Nation adviser community about the cost of working with social media influencers, finding people to work with and how to get started.
How much do influencers cost?
The brilliant Netflix documentary about the infamous Fyre Festival laid bare how much top influencers get paid; Kendall Jenner got $250,000 for a single post promoting the event. But you don't need to pay anywhere near that or perhaps anything at all.
"If you're a small business or especially a micro-business just starting out, I say keep things simple and keep your entry level at zero. Yep, zero!
"Ideally, your ambassadors should already be raving fans who care about your product or service."
Greg says the important part is identifying people to work with and making it easier for them to talk about your business. This can include giving them free products and discount codes to share with users.
"Power influencers are the Kim Kardashians that charge megabucks. Macro influencers are usually 50,000 to 500,000 followers and will generally require a fee. This could be £100 right up to £5,000.
"Micro are the influencers with 3,000-plus followers who are influential among their key target audience. They will usually be looking for some sort of value exchange. It could be a free product, an invitation or a special experience."
How can small business owners find influencers?
It's crucial you understand a potential brand ambassador's audience. How closely does it match your customer base?
Spend time searching Twitter and Instagram and looking at hashtags related to your business. When you find one influencer, look at who they talk to and follow to get other ideas.
Greg Simpson says they ideally need to be fans of your business already. He warns against getting excited about influencers who aren't in your target market.
"They should conform to your ideal customer persona themselves or have the ability to reach them for you. What you're really trying to do here is 'shortcut' your way to a certain status within a certain market so make sure your audiences fit."
Ask your customers what accounts they follow in your sector.
Heather Cowper, travel influencer and director of Heather Cowper Media, runs a Facebook community for bloggers and influencers in Bristol.
She suggests using this kind of route to discover potential influencers. They're generally open and free, and cover local areas as well as specialist subjects. Starting locally is a great way to test the water because influencers are more accessible and often cheaper.
It depends on where your customers are. If you're a running a shop or restaurant, an influencer that's building a national following won't be as relevant.
Don't put all your eggs in one basket either – experiment with a range of bloggers, influencers and platforms. It's important to check whether influencers content fits with your brand too.
Alison Battisby explains:
"It's got to be authentic. Otherwise, your ambassador's followers will switch off. Look for common interests, hobbies and what other brands and experiences they like."
This means it's not just about identifying the right audience but making sure your product fits with the content they post.
A paid-for Instagram post from Scarlett London shows her morning routine complete with heart-shaped balloons, immaculate make-up and a conspicuous bottle of Listerine on her bedside table. The post was widely panned because of its staged nature, with tens of thousands of people weighing in with criticism.
How do influencer engagements work?
When you're approaching influencers, it's important to understand what level they're at. It can range from being just starting out as an influencer to it being a full-time role.
Heather Cowper explains:
"If you're talking about local bloggers, small bloggers or Instagrammers who have a few thousand following them, the chances are they will be happy to do something on an exchange basis.
"At the other end, when it's the full-time job, you'll have to pay them. For someone in between, it's a bit of a grey area."
It's amazing if you've found influencers that are already talking about your brand. Sending them a thank-you in the form of a free product to try or discount is likely to encourage them to post again.
Make sure you get a sense of reach and how they plan to share the product before agreeing a fee. Thinking about an ongoing campaign can be more sustainable and trustworthy.
Look at the tone of their interactions with people that comment on the campaign. Do they take time to reply? Try to use tracking links if possible. Google has made it really easy to create bespoke links.
Examples of good influencer campaigns
A word of caution before we get into the good examples. Greg Simpson advises small business owners to consider the potential downside too.
"It's lovely to think that someone is out there promoting you. But what happens if their personal brand goes into decline after an error of judgement? It happens to celebrities and BIG brands so it can happen to you. Also consider non-compete clauses. You don't want your star advocate promoting the competition."
Alison Battisby mentions several examples of companies with great social accounts that use Instagram influencers.
Heather Cowper worked with the SS Great Britain tourist attraction in Bristol for the launch of a new museum, Being Brunel.
"The first thing we did was work out their objectives and their target audience.
"We ran a blogger event that was mainly aimed at families. A third were from outside Bristol so I did some outreach to identify them and check if they were willing to come and stay.
"SS Great Britain partnered with hotels so didn't pay the bloggers direct but they got a free hotel stay. The bloggers then covered the hotel too."