The Definitive Guide to Influencer Marketing

Three cartoon renderings of credit cards in pink, orange and yellow on a solid purple background. If your influencer marketing campaign is successful, then your customers are likely to pull out their credit cards for real.
Three cartoon renderings of credit cards in pink, orange and yellow on a solid purple background. If your influencer marketing campaign is successful, then your customers are likely to pull out their credit cards for real.

The rise of the influencer marketing space – today a $10bn industry, growing 50% per year – is one of the clearest examples of how social media is transforming traditional marketing. These days having a business website, presence on social, PR coverage, and your own content isn’t enough to compete. There is so much content available online, that unfortunately, the content that brands work hard to create is often buried by it.

Social media influencers help branded messages get seen by a relevant audience while adding a level of relatability and authenticity that can only come from the endorsement of a trusted third party. Well-respected influencers spend years building up organic audiences who trust their recommendations, and brands can piggyback onto this through well-planned partnerships.

When I saw this coat on Alexa Chung, I knew I had to get something similar. It was not solely because I liked its look, but it was also because Alexa was wearing it. As one of the commenters on the post wrote, “Already ordered and will forever order anything AC approved.” Our buying behavior can be influenced by those we admire or those whose recommendations we trust. 

Instagram post of Alexa Chung wearing Barbour coat

But for all its advantages, influencer marketing is hard to get right. First, the explosion of social media influencers means it can be difficult to find the right creators to work with. And then there are hurdles surrounding managing those relationships at scale, plus the difficulty of measuring ROI.

During this post, we'll dive into the intricacies of influencer marketing to help ensure that you're equipped with the insights needed to be successful in this space.

Table of Contents

The following blog is an adapted snippet from our latest whitepaper, "The Social Media ROI Playbook: Driving Growth with Social". Download the whitepaper here.

Influencer Marketing 101

What is an influencer?

Now, you may be thinking that in order to be considered an “influencer,” a person must have millions of followers — but that’s not the case. 

In order to be considered an influencer, a person must be able to effect change on our buying behavior based on their status, position, or even fanbase. So, an influencer can be anyone (regardless of follower count) that is able to effect change over our buying behaviors or our way of thinking. 

Celebrities like Alexa Chung are considered influencers because their followers often buy products based on their recommendations. The example above illustrated how her endorsement of a Barbour coat influenced my own purchasing behavior — in addition to several other commenters.

However, not all celebrities or high-profile figures can be considered to be influencers just because of their large followings. Someone with 1,000 followers could qualify as an influencer if they are able to persuade or convince their community of followers to purchase or test out the services they recommend regularly.

Image of a camera on pink background

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is no longer just a fringe strategy; it has become a core marketing tactic for many consumer-facing brands. And now that we know who is an influencer, let’s explore how influencer marketing can help your brand.

Influencer marketing is a type of social marketing that involves a brand partnering with an influencer who has agreed to promote the brand’s products or services to their audience. 

As the adoption of social media platforms continues to grow around the world, social influencer marketing will likely only grow in importance for brands.

And there will also be more influencers (nano, micro, power, celebrity) for brands to partner with as social media democratizes fame. Already we can see this new generation of social media influencers popping up within niche categories or specific social groups that may be hard to reach through traditional advertising. 

Why influencer marketing is effective?

It is more challenging than ever to connect with your customers with so many competing ads and posts online. There's a lot of clutter in your target audience's social media feeds and email inboxes that your brand's message is competing against.

Influencer marketing is a way to cut through the noise and deliver a message to your audience that appears in a way that may be more compelling and relevant. Influencer marketing can help your brand:

  1. Reach new audiences
  2. Engage existing audiences
  3. Create brand awareness
  4. Drive sales or web traffic

All of these can be outcomes of an influencer marketing program because of the bonds that influencers have established with their followers.

While traditional advertising still has its place, it’s been proven to be less effective than word-of-mouth marketing or personal recommendations, which is how an influencer's endorsement should appear when done correctly.

Consumers are seeking out reviews, testimonials, or endorsements from people when they are in the buying process, and it may not matter if that recommendation comes from a stranger or an influencer.

One study, for example, found that 84% of people trust online reviews from strangers as much as those from friends and families. Influencers who are known and respected in your industry can provide a business with valuable recommendations that consumers will trust, especially when the message is delivered in an authentic manner.

In order to make the most of influencer marketing, however, you need to follow certain guidelines. We’ll discuss these guidelines later on, but first, let’s evaluate the influencer marketing landscape of today.

A man and a woman standing against a wall, the wind is blowin the woman's hair

The current state of influencer marketing

The influencer marketing landscape has become quite competitive as the number of influencers continues to grow. In some verticals where there is an abundance of influencers, audiences have become more skeptical of the content they see and the message's authenticity. This also means that there are more influencers from brands to evaluate and monitor (here's how to evaluate and identify social influencers).

With that said, here are some of the most relevant points to keep in mind about influencer marketing in 2021 and beyond.

  • Audiences want to see that influencers are truly knowledgeable and impressed with the products they endorse. Otherwise, their messages just come across as social media versions of TV commercials.
  • Don't choose influencers simply because they have lots of followers. It's more important that they have engaged and loyal followers. Additionally, you want to find people who are the right match for your audience.
  • Authenticity is essential. Messages delivered in a canned manner do not come across as persuasive. This speaks, once again, to working with influencers who are genuinely enthusiastic about their message. The most persuasive messages are more spontaneous and involve storytelling. For example, an influencer explaining exactly how they use your product or giving a live demonstration.

Tips on influencer marketing

Now that you have an understanding of the foundations of influencer marketing in today’s social landscape, let’s look at how you can plan and launch an influencer marketing campaign.  

Running an influencer marketing campaign does not come cheap. Brands are pouring thousands of ad dollars to run a successful campaign. To get the most out of your campaign, it is essential that you ask yourself the following questions:

What are your influencer campaign objectives?

When planning a social influencer marketing program, you need to carefully consider the behavioral change you want an influencer to help you with. For example, do you want their followers to buy more of your product? Do you want their followers to follow your social handles? Do you want their followers to sign up for your email newsletter?

Knowing the type of behavior you want to influence, will help you identify the objectives and right influencers for your large-scale marketing campaigns.

Some common examples of influencer campaign objectives are brand awareness, brand loyalty, website traffic, and sales. Let's take a look at each in more detail.

Brand awareness

Perhaps your brand is new to the market, or you are about to launch a new product, you need audiences to know about it. And if that is the case, the primary objective of your influencer marketing campaign should be brand awareness. You would want to work with influencers who would reach a large number of people.

Influencer and Garmin collaboration on Instagram

Garmin worked with several top Singaporean fitness influencers like @elaineruimin, who has a large follower base of over 100K, to raise awareness about the launch of their new smartwatch, Garmin Venu.

However, generating brand awareness alone isn’t truly influencing anyone’s behavior (technically this could be considered to be only a celebrity endorsement), which is why you’ll want to make sure there is a strong CTA attached to the post.

Brand loyalty

Think about your favorite brand. More often than not, you become a fan because the brand’s values and personality align with yours. Influencer marketing is a great way for brands to communicate their values. Brand values can not only be communicated via the content that’s shared but also signaled by the choice of an influencer.

One prime example would be Lululemon’s ambassador program. They identified local influencers in the fitness scene who embodied their brand values, exposed these influencers to Lululemon’s values, and gave them high-quality activewear for free. In exchange, these influencers chose to promote the Lululemon brand on their social platforms and run classes at Lululemon’s studios. The influencers became ambassadors for the brand’s values as well as products. And Lululemon eventually transitioned from being an activewear retailer to becoming a lifestyle brand with a lively, engaged community of fitness fans.

Website traffic and sales

This is one of the most common goals of influencer marketing campaigns. Influencer marketing is well-known for being able to generate website traffic and sales within a short amount of time. Based on the principle of word-of-mouth marketing, consumers are more likely to trust the recommendation of someone they personally know. Hence, having influencers talk about the benefits of your product has been proven effective in driving sales.

Once you have nailed down your campaign objectives, the next step is to think about which influencers to partner with.

Which influencers do you want to work with?

As we've established, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to selecting your influencer – the right fit often depends on your campaign objectives and brand personality. That being said, the diagram suggests the type of influencers best suited to certain goals.

Chart showing levels of influencers

Celebrity influencers

Celebrity influencers are often the go-to choice for big multinational brands who have a large pool of resources and existing relationships with the celebrity. While it is expensive to engage them, it will put your brand in front of millions of people. This is especially effective in establishing top-of-mind awareness.

Kylie Jenner in floral outfit in instagram post

Celebrity Influencer: @kyliejenner, 233m followers

Power users

While they may not have celebrity status, power users still have a substantial following and clout within certain groups. Using power users in your campaign, you can almost guarantee that your content will reach a targeted audience who likely share a similar interest. Power users are great for mass-market brands who are trying to reach a particular segment. Huge clothing brands often engage power users to raise awareness about their new collections and launches.

Power influencer Massy Arias in instagram post

Power influencer: @massy.arias, 2.8m followers on Instagram

Micro-Influencers

Micro-influencers are less costly and can be an effective alternative to celebrity or power user influencers. Studies have shown that followers of micro-influencers tend to trust their recommendations more than that of celebrity influencers. As this group is perceived to be more authentic, micro-influencers often command greater influence over their followers and generate higher engagement rates with each post they push out. This is why a stronger connection may be forged between a brand and a consumer when a micro-influencer is engaged.

Micro influencer Maria Hazel advertising cosmetics on Instagram

Micro-influencer: @itsmariahazel, 16.5k followers

Nano-Influencers

Despite their modest number of followers, hiring nano-influencers for your campaign may lead to a faster way of spreading your brand name through niche communities. They are more proactive in promoting products as well as sharing their opinions with their circle of friends. 

Getting nano-influencers to be nano-advocates of your brand is also cost-effective! Nano-influencers usually do not charge fees. Instead, brands reward them with complementary products to start reaching out to their own social circles, thus extending your brand’s reach and goodwill.

Nano influencer Amy Chow in front of Kiehl store

Nano-influencer: @amychowmakeup, 2k followers

Searching for influencers beyond your own knowledge of the influencer landscape

Let’s be honest, good influencer marketing involves resources, so taking the guesswork out of finding the right influencers that resonate with your audience is vital. The challenge is, pinpointing the most influential voices for your brand can be extremely manual and time-consuming.

Native search functions within social networks are limited, so marketers often turn to influencer marketing platforms to streamline the discovery process. Investing in software that provides granular data on your audience will ensure analytical accuracy.

For example, Meltwater’s Social Media Influencer Discovery platform offers a robust influencer search engine allowing users to discover influencers. For example, if your brand sells sports apparel, they can search for “fitness” influencers and refine/ narrow the search down by filtering based on factors like follower count, location, and audience demographics, among many others.

Meltwater’s Social Media Influencer Discovery filters

  1. Influencers engaged with your brand, competitors, or campaign hashtags
  2. Topic/ area of knowledge or expertise, such as Yoga, Art, or Travel
  3. Audience demographics
  4. An influencer’s network to find other relevant profiles
A screenshot of Meltwater's influencer tool

List of influencers under the search topic “Fitness”, filtered by Networks, Influence, Location and Gender.

Two common pitfalls when selecting your influencers

When brands and agencies do not use an influencer database to help them find influencers that match their brand values or align with their target audience, they risk falling trap to several common pitfalls.

Selecting influencers based on vanity metrics

One common pitfall among marketers is selecting a partner based on vanity metrics like follower count or engagement numbers. The existence of fake bots, spam, and inactive accounts can drive up these numbers. 

In fact, aspiring influencers often head to influencer pods, which are public and private forums, to exchange likes, follows, and comments to increase their social media presence. As a result, many brands waste their resources on fake influencers with high reach and engagement, but with little influence. 

Our social influencer marketing tool calculates the true reach of every Instagram account. True reach removes fake bots and spam accounts from the equation, and this reflects a more accurate depiction of a user’s influence.

Finally, many marketers fail to understand how Instagram ranks posts on our feeds and how this ranking can impact an influencer marketing campaign. Instagram posts are no longer ranked chronologically, but rather, by relevance to the specific user.

How is the relevance of a post determined? Two factors are weighed by the algorithm: The user’s historical interactions with the poster’s content and the user’s interaction with similar posts from other influential creators. This means that only those who recently engaged with the influencer’s content or content similar to what was posted may see the post.

A screenshot of Meltwater's influencer marketing tool

Our platform's technology attaches an "influence score" to each user and this represents how influential an account is in their social network. It takes into account(1) the frequency that active users interact with the content and (2) how influential these active users are. Furthermore, if an influencer is an expert in their field (i.e., fashion), their influence score will increase. The influencer score is a great indicator of how much action and impact that influencer will drive for your brand.

Selecting influencers whose followers do not align with a brand’s target audience

But what if an influencer has a high number of active, engaged followers? It is easy to conclude that the influencer would be an ideal partner for your brand. However, many brands fail to consider who exactly these followers are and if they would be reaching their target audience. Assuming that an influencer’s followers all share the same interests and values as the brand is the second mistake marketers commonly make. As more brands begin to understand the complexity of influencer marketing, they’ve started investing in influencer management tools that provide them with rich data on an influencer’s audience.

Our social influencer tool empowers marketers to dive deep into the demographics of the influencers’ followers. This helps marketers ensure that their brands’ target audience is aligned with the followers of their partners. For each influencer, our tool generates a global influence score that helps clients understand the impact they can expect when collaborating with an influencer, based on their reach and engagements. The score is from 0-100, with 100 being the highest.

Additionally, you’re able to set up custom brand scores for the influencers because Meltwater understands there are varying factors that are highly specific to each brand campaign. Audience age, audience gender, audience location, and audience topic are some of the parameters that make up a custom brand score. This, in turn, will give you a more customized experience in identifying influencers that align with your brand’s profile. Selecting the right influencer whose content reaches the right audience is already half the battle won.

Want to learn more about Meltwater's influencer tool? and we'll be in touch!

Hand rearranging cubes on blue background

How to manage your influencers?

As influencer marketing continues to become a more widely adopted tactic, influencer marketing strategies have begun to evolve as well. No longer are influencers perceived as a mouthpiece to amplify your brand’s latest promotions, but as collaborative partners.

This means your relationship with an influencer should go beyond a purely transactional one, and as you work with them as true partners they could become your brand ambassadors — not only spokespeople. 

The way you change this relationship begins with how you reach out to them and engage with them on a day-to-day basis.

Reaching out to influencers

Building a relationship should begin even before a contract is signed. In most cases, influencers would only choose to work with brands they believe in, regardless of the cash incentives. Once you have identified the influencers that you believe embody your brand personality, you need to get them excited about working with you. 

A common strategy that brands employ to get the attention of influencers is to mail them free samples of their products, without asking for anything in return. However, you don’t want to just send them free stuff, you want to personalize the package based on your knowledge of them. You may also want to consider reaching out to check in — not only when you want or need something.

Communicating your expectations

Some brands fall into the opposite ends of the spectrum where they pander too much to their partners' demands such that they lose control of the partnership. It is important that brands clearly spell out their expectations about the campaign and ensure that their partners understand them. From the type of content to the frequency of posts, these expectations should be communicated from the start in a campaign brief. Check out this useful template we created.

Picture of campaign brief template

Centralizing communications

By centralizing communication, you can say goodbye to messy email threads, DMs, and communication roadblocks and hello to better collaboration! For example, from Meltwater’s influencer tool you can:

  • Invite influencers to join a campaign
  • Share campaign briefs
  • Build and send contracts
  • Send direct message
  • Monitor and manage campaign assets, such as verifying content before it goes live
  • View outstanding tasks
  • Pay influencers
A screenshot of Meltwater's influencer marketing tool

Communication is automatically saved within one interface for complete transparency between you and your influencers. That way, you can simply open a campaign and see where each influencer stands at a glance, or identify which tasks have been completed, or which require more focus.

Turning influencers into ambassadors

After expectations have been communicated and the contract signed, many brands make the mistake of neglecting their partners until they need something from them. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that, influencers, like people, would appreciate brands who go the extra mile to build a relationship with them.

Regardless of whether your organization is B2B, B2C, or an NGO, you can benefit from Influencer Advocacy programs. Not only are they useful in building lasting relationships with existing clients, but they can also be used to connect with new clients in a more authentic and organic nature. Additionally, as Ambassador programs are intended to promote sales, measuring ROI is relatively easy.

To help drive advocacy amongst your network of influencers, try keeping them updated about the latest happenings, inviting them to exclusive brand events, or simply sending them a token of appreciation every now and then. The key here is to be genuine and authentic in maintaining a good relationship with them.

Picture of influencer management dashboard

Meltwater’s Social Media Influencer Discovery platform offers a “Campaign” feature that allows users to develop relationships with your selected influencers — moving them down the funnel from “Fresh” to “Advocates”.

When influencers enjoy the experience in this partnership, they will develop trust and a connection with your brand. And once they are avid fans of your product, they will continue to give your brand exposure even after their work commitment is over. This is when you know your influencer has transformed into a powerful brand advocate.

Measuring your influencer campaign

We get it. With so many numbers to stay on top of, creating timely and insightful reports can be tricky. Being drowned in multiple spreadsheets is never fun, which is why brand managers lean on automated reports, saving many hours that can then be channeled into more strategic activities that will drive greater ROI.

The two most common metrics marketers often use to measure the success of their campaigns are reach and engagement. While they are important metrics to measure, using these numbers as your be-all and end-all would limit the potential of your efforts. Furthermore, with the recent announcement around Instagram’s decision to hide like counts, marketers have to start thinking of a more holistic framework to measure their success. 

Here are some other quantifiable metrics that can give a comprehensive picture of your campaign’s performance:

1. Earned media

It’s great when someone likes your post, but it’s even better when that person chooses to share that post with their audience. For example, a user can share an influencer’s post on his or her own Instagram Stories, which would help you increase your reach. Alternatively, users could begin to use your branded hashtag in their content, which, again, would lead to greater reach than what you originally paid for.

2. Instagram story views

Since its launch, the growth of Instagram Stories has been astounding. Many influencers have adopted this new format to talk about a brand, product, or service. It offers a real-time authenticity that makes users feel that the influencer is letting them into their lives. However, one challenge marketers face is tracking engagement and views of Instagram Stories — given its perishable nature. The good thing is that our social influencer tool can track and store Instagram Stories even after 24 hours!

If your objective is to drive web traffic, the number of link clicks is the most relevant metric to measure the success of your campaigns. Developments within the Instagram app have facilitated the ease of inserting links into posts, such as the “Swipe-up” function on Instagram stories. If you tag UTM (urchin tracking module) parameters in the URL used, you can easily track how much traffic is generated from that particular piece of content.

With so many numbers to stay on top of, we understand the challenges that marketers face in creating timely and insightful reports.

Our social influencer tool also allows marketers to keep track of their campaign’s performance in real-time and generate reports in an instant. From engagement numbers to follower growth, earned media value to link clicks, marketers have all the data they crave at their fingertips. We even track perishable content like Instagram Stories.

Influencer marketing campaign examples

You are now one step closer to running a successful Influencing marketing campaign, but before you get started you might want to take a look at these exciting influencer campaigns for some inspiration.

1. #ImWithCHARLESKEITH by Charles and Keith

Influencer modeling bag on instagram post

The Charles and Keith team employed several influencers to promote the launch of their new collection. A search of the hashtag #IMWITHCHARLESANDKEITH on Instagram will return over 20,000 Instagram posts. While it raised social media awareness for the launch, Charles and Keith wanted influencers to help drive traffic to their own Instagram page. 

Once on Charles and Keith’s page, users would see a link to shop their Instagram feed in their bio. But instead of bringing users to their e-commerce website, the link brings them to a completely new platform that resembles their Instagram feed. Users can click on the items featured in the photos and they will be shown more information about the products. Clicking again would bring them to the product page where they can purchase it.

Influencers modeling bag on Instagram post with spectacles

Charles and Keith’s smart move to create a seamless, fluid customer journey is something we can all learn from. 

2. #danielwellington by Daniel Wellington

Boasting 4.7 million followers on Instagram, @danielwellington has perfected its influencer marketing strategy. Entering the market in 2011, they did not have the resources for huge ad campaigns to boost their branding. As such, they engaged the help of micro-influencers. The DW team sent samples of their watches to selected micro-influencers. As long as they posted a photo of themselves sporting the Daniel Wellington watch, they would get to keep it for free.

Picture of woman posing in front of buildings

Many micro-influencers were happy to take up the offer, and combined with the use of the targeted hashtag: “#danielwellington.” The campaign exploded! Soon, Daniel Wellington consumers started sharing photos themselves, giving the brand a sustainable stream of social media publicity at a low cost.

Man standing in front of store with crossed arms

The massive influencer market will only continue to expand – by 12.3% up till 2027 to be exact. The benefits of influencer marketing are there for your brand to enjoy if done well.

With influencer marketing now in your marketing campaign toolset to boost your other strategies in place, keeping tabs on all the different types of marketing campaigns is critical in making sure that your brand garners the best results.

A media intelligence company like Meltwater provides end-to-end product services such as social influencer marketing services and analytics, social media analytics and management, and mainstream media monitoring

If you don’t want to miss out on capturing those new markets for your brand, make it your priority to include social influencer marketing into your strategies by filling !

PS. Don't forget to download our new whitepaper, The Social Media ROI Playbook for more tips on growing your business with social media!

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