Working with Influencers in 2020: 6 Lessons for Start-Ups

Lifestyle brands were perhaps the first to get started with influencer marketing but this approach to marketing is by no means restricted to fashion and beauty businesses. Today, companies of all types work with influencers and brand ambassadors to boost brand awareness and increase sales. In fact, influencer marketing was projected to become a $6.5 billion industry in 2019 up from $4.6 billion in 2018 and $3 billion in 2017.

When done right, influencer partnerships can be very effective. Consumers are more likely to make purchases when they are recommended by individuals they trust. That being said, influencers are increasingly being viewed with suspicion and people question whether the hype they get is deserved. If you want to reap all the potential benefits of working with influential individuals in 2020, there are some things you need to keep in mind.

Pay Attention to Engagement, Not Follower Counts

Many entrepreneurs believe they have to work with celebrities or influencers with a million followers in order to be successful. However, this has proven to be far from true. People who are experts in their niche often have more influence on consumers than celebrities. They are seen as more relatable, more authentic, and more believable. If you want real results from your campaign, look at how influencers interact with their followers, not how many followers they have. A social media personality with 10,000 followers usually has higher engagement and a closer relationship with their fans than someone with 100,000 followers. Even an influencer with 2,000 engaged followers can help you to grow your business.

Leverage Your Biggest Fans

You don’t need to look far to find an influencer. If you’ve been doing things right all along, you should have cultivated clients or customers who already rave about your brand. Some of them have influence among their peer groups online, at college, or in the workplace. Usually, these customers will be happy to promote your product or service since they already use it and like it. You can also use this group to give you feedback on any plans you have or products that are in development. If you’re just getting started with influencer marketing or your overall marketing budget is low, this is an excellent place to start.

Offer Free Products or Services

The influencers with the largest following will often want to be paid in cash. Some make exceptions if they already have a relationship with a brand or the campaign is linked to a social cause they support. However, there are influential people who will gladly promote your brand in exchange for exclusive discounts or freebies. Send them a free trial of an app or service or a sample of a product. You’ll want to work with influencers who will genuinely appreciate your brand, so you need to do your research. Scour their blogs and social media pages to learn about their hobbies and preferences so you can target the right individuals. No matter which approach you take, don’t pressure the individual into promoting your product simply because you sent them a gift.

Reward Influencers Based on Performance

If you’ve tried working with influencers before but you didn’t see a reasonable return on investment, you may want to change your tactics. You may have chosen people who didn’t have the right audience for your brand. However, it could also be that the influencers weren’t given an incentive to use their imagination. If you simply pay for a specific number of posts, not every influencer will put a lot of effort into their content. Many businesses find they get better results when they pay for performance. Using streaming analytics to monitor your influencer campaigns will give you the data you need to make sound decisions going forward. All the parties involved would need to be clear about the desired outcome of the campaign.

Give Affiliate Marketing a Try

Many influences prefer to form affiliate marketing relationships with brands. Identify influencers who are affiliates for products or services in your niche and introduce them to your brand. Offer them a percentage of revenue from all the sales they generate for you and monitor how well this works. This approach is simple, but it is often quite effective.

More consumer brands are including influencers in their growth strategies but there is still lots of room for error. However, many businesses find that influencers give them access to a better quality of consumer than other marketing channels. The challenge is that it will take some trial and error before you figure out exactly what works for your start-up. Simply targeting influencers with large numbers of followers or sending out lots of free products won’t work. Using the tips above can help you avoid many of the pitfalls as you seek to grow your business in 2020.

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