How to begin working with influencers

As a business owner, you know the immense value of a positive review or referral. Customers trust the opinions of friends and family, and 84% of consumers trust online reviews just as much.

Influencers bridge the gap between strangers on the internet and actual friends, acting part trusted adviser, part objective information source. If you’re active on social media, you’ve no doubt experienced firsthand the power of influencers promoting and helping to sell their favorite products.

In this post, I’ll explain why influencers can be a valuable piece of your marketing strategy and how to begin working with them.

Why Work With Influencers?

Well, for starters, they’re your gateway to a large, engaged audience.

An influencer is someone with a sizeable social media following in a specific niche, from fashion or beauty to camping or cars.

An influencer regularly puts out engaging, informative or entertaining content related to their niche, and as such, has attracted a targeted, interested group of followers. What makes an influencer valuable? Their audience trusts and listens to what they have to say.

An influencer’s audience looks to him or her for tips on what products to buy, how to do things and where to shop. When you work with an influencer, it’s your brand they share with their loyal followers, recommending they use your product or service.

working with influencers

Can you reach a targeted audience on your own? Well, sure. That’s what platforms like Facebook ads are for.

But when you work with an influencer, you also get that added level of credibility—a trusted third-party source endorsing your brand rather than you simply promoting yourself.

Ready to try out influencer marketing for your business? The first step is identifying the right influencers to work with.

Step 1: Identify The Right Influencers

As we mentioned earlier, influencers exist in nearly every niche you can imagine. The key is finding the ones that are a good fit for your brand and the audience you want to reach.

Let’s say you run an online shop selling men’s shaving products. Would it make sense to reach out to an influencer in the weightlifting niche?

Your first thought might be, sure, why not? There are lots of men interested in weightlifting, and many of them probably need shaving products, too.

But not so fast. People who follow a weightlifting influencer aren’t there to learn about personal grooming products. They most likely follow that person for weightlifting inspiration, tips to improve their performance, products to wear and use while weightlifting, and so on.

If that weightlifting influencer suddenly talks about shaving products out of the blue, it’s going to feel random and stilted. It will read more like a commercial, which nobody wants to hear!

Instead, if you sell men’s shaving products, it would make much more sense to approach an influencer in the men’s fashion and grooming niche. That person’s followers show up for personal style information, grooming tips, and products to use to improve their appearance.

Your product would fit right in, and it’ll come off as an authentic endorsement when said influencer recommends your brand. Make sense?

A good way to find influencers in your niche is to search within Twitter and Instagram for “your niche + influencer.” Many influencers bill themselves as such directly in their profiles, and they’ll show up in the search results.

how to find instagram influencers

You can also find influencers by searching the most popular hashtags related to your niche and seeing which users receive the most engagement on those topics. Look at the number of likes they receive on each post in relation to their number of followers. Is it a healthy ratio?

One important thing to keep in mind when looking for influencers is that not all people with influence are going to come right out and say they’re an influencer. “Influencer” isn’t some official title you earn. It’s simply someone with an engaged following in his or her niche.

So, if you’re selling a new makeup line and come across a vlogger who gets thousands of views on her makeup tutorials, you’ve found yourself an influencer who would be great to collaborate with, even though she may not have the word ‘influencer’ plastered all over her bio.

If someone gets a lot of engagement on their content and has a decent sized following, it’s worth considering working with them to promote your brand.

One more note regarding following size: when it comes to influencers, bigger doesn’t always mean better.

If an influencer has a million followers, that’s a wonderful audience for you to reach, but there are downsides, too. That person is likely working with many different companies, all of whom will be competing with you for their audience’s attention. Also, with such a huge following, the influencer naturally isn’t able to have as much one-on-one engagement with individual fans.

Smaller influencers may not have as big of a reach, but working with them has its upsides. Oftentimes you’re the only brand or one of just a few they’re working with, so you get more personalized attention. They also tend to be more engaged with their followers, as there isn’t an avalanche of comments to respond to on every post.

I advise my marketing clients to keep a healthy balance between small, mid-sized and large influencers. Just like with a stock portfolio, diversification is a healthy strategy.

Step 2: Reach Out With An Offer

Once you’ve identified a shortlist of influencers you’d like to work with, it’s time to get in touch with them and make an offer.

Know this up front: you should never expect to work with an influencer for free. They’ve worked hard to build a targeted, engaged following. Why would you expect access to it without offering something in return?

In most cases, influencers work like any other professional service, trading a commodity (in this case, access to their audience) for a set fee. In some cases, you may be able to negotiate “payment” in the form of free product or some other trade arrangement.

The more popular an influencer is, the more they’re going to charge to promote your brand. If they’re newer on the scene or have a smaller following, you may be able to work out an alternative arrangement like sending them product in exchange for a post more easily.

Once you’ve located their email address (typically in their social media profile or on the contact page of their website), it’s time to make contact.

In your email, you’ll want to explain the following:

  • Who you are and what brand you represent
  • Why you’re reaching out
  • What you’re looking for
  • How to take the next step

A hypothetical outreach letter to an influencer might look like this:

Dear Jake,

My name is Tami Brehse and I’m reaching out on behalf of Best Ever Razors. I came across your Instagram profile and was impressed with the engagement you receive on each post.

I’m wondering if you’d be interested in partnering with Best Ever on a series of sponsored posts showcasing our new “1 Minute Shave” razor. We’re looking to execute on this campaign within the next 3 months.

You can learn more about the brand on our website, www.BestEverRazors.com. If you think it’s a good fit, please let me know when it’s a good time to connect for a quick phone call to go over details.

Your truly,

Tami

Keep it short and sweet. The goal is to open the conversation. If the influencer is interested in working with you, he or she will be eager to set up a call or continue the email chain to discuss next steps.

In many cases, an influencer will respond to this type of outreach letter with a media kit or price sheet, which contains more information on their audience and how much they charge for the type of service you’re seeking. I love when this happens, because it lets me know right away if I can afford to work with them before we go any further.

Everything good so far? Proceed to step 3: making an agreement.

Step 3: Agree To Terms

When working with influencers, it’s easy to let details fall by the wayside. They’re a pro, you might think, so you neglect to outline specific terms for your partnership.

This is the biggest mistake I see in brands working with influencers. Just as you’d never enter into a professional business agreement without a contract, you also shouldn’t pay an influencer without first mutually agreeing to terms for the engagement.

Before any cash or products change hands, you’ll want to get the influencer’s agreement in writing to the following:

  • The timeline for the engagement (shipment of the product to the influencer, content publishing dates, payment date, etc.)
  • The fee the influencer will be paid and when payment is expected
  • Requirements for creative materials (photography requirements, suggested language for captions, hashtags to be used, etc.)
  • Permission to republish any materials furnished by the influencer

Why is this necessary? For one, it helps you plan your content calendar around the influencer’s post. For example, if you’ve agreed that their post will go live on January 10, you might simultaneously plan to share their post on your own social media channels that same day. Or, you might time their post to coincide with a big sale or promotional event.

Additionally, agreeing to terms ahead of time avoids any surprises and cuts down on the chance for mistakes. Once or twice I’ve seen brands receive endorsements from influencers that contained incorrect information, like the wrong product price or even a typo in the product name. Not good when they’re supposed to be a trusted source for information!

To keep everyone on the same page and avoid mistakes, have a conversation with the influencer ahead of the publishing date about your expectations. What tone are you looking for in the post? Are you wanting a first-person testimonial, a how-to tutorial, a beautiful photo shoot, something else? Are there any campaign hashtags or key phrases they should be using when talking about your brnd?

By outlining expectations and deliverables ahead of time, you’ll set both your brand and the influencer up for a positive partnership experience.

Just an FYI when it comes to payment–I’ve worked with many influencers and generally prefer to submit payment once all deliverables have been completed. Obviously, this protects you as a brand and make sure you’re getting what you paid for. However, some influencers (especially bigger ones) require payment up front. In this case, just make sure that once again, you’ve outlined all expectations clearly. You might also ask to review their materials ahead of when they’re posted, since you’ve already paid for the work.

Step 4: Execute

Alright! This is the exciting part. Nothing quite matches the feeling of a trusted authority figure giving your product a positive shoutout.

Once their post about your brand goes live, be sure to engage with it from your brand’s social media accounts. Share, retweet and repost it so your own followers see the content, too. You want to get as much mileage out of it as you can!

How to work with influencers

If you’re using your influencer post to drive traffic to a certain URL, like a landing page for a sale you’re having, you might consider posting a special welcome message on that landing page specifically for their followers. Or, you might offer customers a special discount when they mention seeing the influencer’s post. It’s all about tying your brand back to their positive recommendation.

Once the post has gone live, wrap up any loose ends on your end of the agreement, like submitting the influencer’s payment, in a timely manner. Word to the wise: pay on time. Word travels fast among influencers when brands make a hassle out of getting paid, and you don’t want to develop a bad reputation.

Send a thank-you note to the influencer for his or her work with you, and by all means, keep the door open to future partnerships! If it was a positive experience for all involved, you may be able to secure a better deal on future engagements with this influencer—or better yet, earn a loyal fan for life.

Ready to start planning your first influencer campaign? Woo hoo! I created a free printable worksheet to help you plan key dates and track your progress.  Get It By Clicking Here!

 

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Tami Brehse

Tami Brehse

Tami is a television news anchor turned digital marketing consultant who helps small businesses achieve their PR and marketing goals.
Tami Brehse
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