Influencer marketing has grown exponentially within the last few years and is expected to reach a market size of $13.8 billion by 2021. In 2019, the number of influencer agencies and platforms grew to 1390, which is about three times more than the year before (Source: InfluencerMarketingHub).
In the last episode, we discussed how we can become digital influencers and build our online presence. In today’s episode, we’re going to discuss how we can collaborate with influencers and take advantage of the opportunity they present to our businesses.
Benefits of Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing allows us to leverage other people’s social media accounts, something businesses are just starting to take advantage of. If we really want to increase our visibility on social media, we need to get people talking about us, and influencer marketing does just that. Instead of bragging about our own products, we can partner with influencers with a strong following who will talk about our products for us.
Neal shared five benefits of influencer marketing.
1. Builds Trust
“It comes down to two core facts. People trust people more than ads and social media was created for people, not business,” Neal said.
Social media is a powerful tool as it allows for virtual word-of-mouth communication between customers. Instead of relying on what we say about our own products or services, customers can talk with friends and other customers.
“Facebook ads [are] extremely powerful, but you’re not going to get word of mouth from it. You may not even build trust from it because it’s an ad and people distrust ads more and more,” Neal explained. “The whole idea about influencer marketing is tapping into people that are passionate about your company, about what you do, and having them basically incite word-of-mouth marketing for you.”
Customers build trust with the influencers they follow. Instead of taking the time to build our customers’ trust, we can use the trust they have already established with influencers. If a customer trusts a certain influencer, they will trust the positive things they say about our brand. When influencers on social media recommend products or services, it’s similar to a recommendation from a trusted friend.
Influencers have become the difference between a connection with a person vs a logo. While a personal brand can help with this as well, it isn’t quite the same. An influencer isn’t trying to sell us something. They are only trying to provide value and customers are more likely to trust them because of it.
2. Increases Credibility
When we collaborate with influencers we gain credibility. As I mentioned above, influencers help our brand build trust. The more trustworthy influencers talk about our brand, the more credible we become.
“[Influencer marketing] gives you credibility for the fact that you’re working together with this person and they’re talking about you,” Neal said. “If this person is talking about you, then immediately you become a trustworthy brand. [Customers] may not buy from you, they may not follow you, but at least you’re getting in their ear from a trusted entity. I think that’s one of the biggest benefits.”
3. Expands Our Reach
There are only so many people that know our business and an influencer will help expose our business to a new community. The chances of any influencer having the exact same followers our brand has are impossibly slim. In fact, most of the people following the influencer we collaborate with may be completely new consumers who have never even heard of our brand. By teaming up with that influencer, we get access to the feed of everyone who follows them.
4. Creates Content
Most influencers are influencers for a reason. They create great content. When we collaborate with them, we get access to their talents and skills.
When Neal did his first influencer marketing campaign for a client, he reached out to bloggers who posted about motherhood. Often, those mothers’ photography about the client’s product was better than anything they were doing. A lot of influencer marketers create great content, even better than what we could create on our own. We can collaborate with them with the goal of using their abilities and talent in creating blogs, photography, or videos for our products and services.
5. Provides a Focus Group
We can work with influencers and view them as a focus group to learn how we can improve our products and services.
Neal got a job offer earlier in his career to become a brand manager at Procter and Gamble at their Asia Pacific headquarters in Japan. At that time, they spent a lot of their budget on focus groups. They brought in housewives to talk about their product and give feedback before sending it out into the market. It made Neal think that social media is one big focus group and a team of influencers helps control it. Instead of paying for a focus group, we can look at the one we already have on social media.
“You now have this really awesome focus group that’s going to teach you a lot, not just in terms of how to do better at social and digital marketing, but also what people are talking about, what people say about your competitors, [and] what people are saying about your products. I think that has incredible business value for companies,” Neal said.
With influencer marketing, we can start with word-of-mouth to gain exposure, leverage their content, and then learn from them as a focus group to see where we should go next with our business.
How to Collaborate With Influencers
In order to find the right influencers to collaborate with, Neal suggested we start by searching for keywords and using hashtags. What keywords do we use for our business? We can search these on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other channels. Keywords can lead us to influencers who are talking about things that attract our target audience. Which influencers resonate the most with our ideal customer? Those are the influencers we want to collaborate with.
As we search for keywords and do our research, we should be intentional about what platforms we are searching on. If our business doesn’t use YouTube, why would we search for influencers on YouTube? If we mainly use Instagram, we should focus on Instagram influencers. That way, when they talk about our product, they can lead our customers to our social accounts while also raising awareness.
As we create a list of podcasters, bloggers, and other influencers to choose from, we can also look at the followers we already have. We can start filtering through our followers, people who already know, like, and trust us. These influencers will be more likely to connect with us as we know they already have a strong opinion of our brand. Neal suggests this is even better than trying to start from scratch by searching keywords.
“I would absolutely start with the people that already know, like, and trust you,” Neal said. “When you start with people that don’t know, like, and trust you, that’s when it gets transactional. That’s when you get a lot of rejection. That’s when you get jaded. . . . When you work with people who already know, like, and trust you, that is your best insurance.”
Once we’ve determined which influencers we want to work with and have made an agreement with them, Neal suggested two ways we can work with them.
1. Give the Gift of a Free Product
When we connect with an influencer, Neal recommends we give a free product or free service. We need to understand that the goal of working with an influencer is not to monetize them; it is to spread the word about our business. We should give them free products so they become a customer and can share positive reviews to bring in other potential customers.
“Why wouldn’t you want them to become a lifetime customer? You’re not looking to monetize them. You’re thinking, if they become a user for a lifetime and they’re always talking about you, every month they’re gonna introduce new users to you. So why are you trying to go dirt cheap?” Neal said.
One way many businesses work with influencers is by sending them a free package they can open on their social media accounts, in an Instagram story for example. The influencer will then talk about the products or services and share their positive ratings. We could send packages every month or offer lifetime value to continually strengthen the customer relationship with our influencers so they will want to share more about our products.
If we want lifetime reciprocity from the influencer, we should provide continual value. We shouldn’t try to give the least we can give. We should give them sustained value so they give us sustained value in return. “Influencer marketing is not a campaign, it’s a commitment,” Neal said. We should make our offer really special so the influencer wants to work with us.
2. Provide a New Experience
We can provide our influencers with exclusive experiences. We can host an event and bring them out to it. It comes at a cost, but it can create a year’s worth of content. The influencer will also feel bonded to us and feel like a part of our community. The stronger relationship they have with us, the more genuine their comments on our products and services will be.
The goal of influencer marketing is to invest in people instead of investing in ads. As we do this, we will see benefits such as increased credibility and trust with our audience, an increase in leads, a bigger reach, a stronger online presence, and more high-quality content.
Thank you so much Neal for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
1. Influencer marketing allows us to leverage other people’s social media accounts. Instead of bragging about our own products, we can partner with influencers who will talk about our products for us.
2. Influencer marketing builds trust, increases credibility, and expands our reach.
3. Most influencers are influencers for a reason. They create great content. When we collaborate with them, we get access to their talents and skills.
4. Social media is one big focus group and a team of influencers helps control it. We can work with influencers and view them as a focus group to learn how we can improve our products and services.
5. In order to find the right influencers to collaborate with, we can start by searching for keywords and looking at the followers we already have.
6. The goal of working with an influencer is not to monetize them; it is to spread the word about our business.
7. Influencer marketing is not a campaign, it’s a commitment.
8. We can give influencers free products or services or provide them with a new experience to build our relationship with them.
Connect with Neal
If you enjoyed this interview and want to learn more about Neal or connect with him, you can find him on LinkedIn or visit his website at NealSchaffer.com. You can also find his podcast online and his books on his website.
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