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  • Writer's pictureAlison Ellerbrook

The importance of influencers for your small business

Updated: Jan 28, 2018

Recently British vlogger Elle Darby came under fire for asking a hotel owner if she have free accommodation in return for a mention. The 22 year old has over 87k followers (probably a lot more than that now) and her job title as an 'online influencer' baffled many who hadn't heard of the phenomenon until now.

What's an online influencer?

It's a relatively recent buzzword, but what does it actually mean?

Simply put, an online influencer is someone who has a significant presence online; usually a blog, vlog or instagram account. The content they post has the ability to influencer their audience's purchasing decisions. They can be a great way to connect with your target audience.

What constitutes a significant presence?

This is a tricky one because a lot depends on the niche and it's not always down to how many followers they have. An influencer in the fashion work will likely have hundreds of thousands of followers, however one in the world of engine parts probably won't. What's important is how engaged their audience is with them.

As a rule of thumb I tend to look at instagrammers who have at least 10k followers and actively engage with their audience. Saying this, Micro influencers, those with less than 5000 followers, can be equally valuable as they tend to be more engaged with their audience. Essentially you want to see posts with lots of comments as well as likes. Phlanx has an engagement calculator that you can use to measure engagement rates of individual accounts.

Why should my business care?

Your business should care because influencer marketing is a really effective way of promoting your product to your target audience. The value in the authenticity of having a real person talking about your business or using your product cannot be underestimated. An influencer's followers trust them and by association they will likely trust your brand. Most influencers will make sure your product fits with their own brand, will want to talk in their own voice (rather than be spoonfed content) and therefore the promotion will come across as genuine and counts for far more than sticking up an advert.

Where do I start?

What is your goal with influencer marketing? Is it to drive traffic to your website or to increase your own social following? Perhaps you want to drive sales of a particular product or draw attention to your start up.

Before looking for influencers make sure you really understand your target audience, you can then look for accounts that match. You can search the old fashioned way using Google and directly on social platforms or, if your budget is bigger, there are agencies who can help you plan a strategy and find the right influencers for you to work with. If you're not sure where to start, I offer an influencer outreach service at a more affordable price than a big agency so do get in touch if you'd like some advice.

How do I choose the right influencer?

It sounds obvious, but firstly make sure their audience and values align with yours. Look at their content, is it high quality? Would this person be your brand's ideal spokesperson? Take time to follow their account and build awareness of the influencer before deciding. They will have likely collaborated with other brands in the past, so take a look and see if the way they work fits with the way you do.

What do influencers charge?

Costs vary widely. Usually a sponsored blog or instagram post ranges from £50 up to £1000, some top bloggers even have their own management companies and command thousands. Sometimes a freebie will be enough for you to get exposure. Many influencers will send over their media packs with costs and details of their audience which is helpful in decision making.

What's the downside?

Influencers are independent people, businesses should make sure they research the blogs and accounts they associate themselves with. Vlogger Logan Paul was recently removed from YouTube after filming himself and friends joking about a suicide victim; would you want you brand associated with that type of content?

The other risk is knowing how genuine the influencer's followers are. It's easy to build a following by buying follows and joining pods that increase your likes and engagement. Take time to research your influencers before parting with your cash.

How do I measure the success of influencer marketing?

You need to be able to measure your strategy to see if it's delivering results for you. Engagement on posts; reach,likes, shares and follows are relatively easy to measure, but as will all social media marketing ROI can be difficult to gauge. This type of marketing is about building relationships and brand awareness.

Determining direct sales as a result of influencer marketing can be difficult, but anecdotally many brands see a spike in sales of a particular product or an increase in web traffic after using influencer marketing.

Remember the objectives you defined at the beginning of the process. Perhaps you wanted to drive an extra £2000 worth of sales that month or to get an additional 50 newsletter subscribers; make sure the influencer understands these. Perhaps you could give them a specific voucher code to promote which you can then measure sales against or link/landing page to send their followers to. Set a time period for after the influencer's posts to measure activity, remember action doesn't always happen straightaway.

Don't undervalue the general exposure and sentiment people will feel about your brand - this is not something easy to measure, but brand awareness is invaluable.

Alison Ellerbrook delivers social media management and online marketing for small businesses in North East England and beyond.

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