Influencer marketing — your ultimate guide
A core part of every marketer’s job is to build trust with the customer and establish a reliable brand reputation.
But just because you say your products and services are great doesn’t necessarily mean prospective customers will believe you. After all, it’s expected that a marketer will go out of their way to present the company in the best possible light.
This is where a strong influencer marketing strategy can help you build customer trust. An effective influencer marketing strategy can also give you a competitive advantage by increasing awareness of your brand and enriching your content.
Let’s dive deeper into what influencer marketing is, how it works, and what you’ll need to do to take full advantage of this strategy.
In this influencer marketing guide, you’ll discover:
- What influencer marketing is
- Four types of social media influencers
- Creating your influencer marketing strategy
- How to find and work with influencers
- The value of influencer marketing
- Frequently asked questions about influencer marketing
- Influencer marketing made easy
What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is a form of social media marketing in which businesses partner with influencers to promote their brand. It uses endorsements and product mentions from authoritative online influencers to get content in front of potential customers.
A successful influencer marketing strategy can help your business reach a wider audience and increase revenue.
The definition of who an influencer is can be quite broad. People often think of online celebrities with millions of followers, but a true influencer is anyone viewed as an expert within a particular niche.
Influencers are located all over the world. They’re more relatable and accessible than famous celebrities but can still make an outsized impact on your brand. With a loyal audience that’s dedicated to specific interests, anything is possible.
The social proof of authority in a particular niche advocating for a brand or product shouldn’t be understated. It allows potential customers to make purchasing decisions based on the influencer’s perspective. Social proof is crucially important since 69% of consumers trust influencer messages about a brand more than the brand’s own advertising messages.
Influencer marketing has become a mainstream form of online marketing in recent years — thanks to the high levels of success that some advertisers have seen in the space.
Keep in mind that influencer marketing is not about quick wins. It requires building relationships with influencers and should be part of a long-term marketing strategy.
How does influencer marketing work?
The goal of influencer marketing is to get the brand in front of an influencer’s target audience in a positive, natural, and meaningful way. This is done by making a deal with the influencer to expose their audience to the brand’s messaging or content through video demos on social media or blog reviews.
It’s important to understand that careful collaboration is often needed when running an influencer campaign.
Sometimes it’s best to treat influencer marketing as having three main participants that need to be satisfied:
- The brand
- The influencer
- The audience
For influencer marketing to be successful, the messaging needs to come across in a way that is comfortable and natural for all — it needs to meet brand guidelines, suit the influencer’s style, and be seen as sincere by the audience.
Influencer marketing today
Influencer marketing is undeniably growing. We’ve put together some stats and trends that show just how much of an impact influencer marketing can have on social media.
- The influencer marketing industry reached $16.4 billion in 2022. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, the expanding market increased from $1.7 billion in 2016 to $9.7 billion in 2020, and then to $13.8 billion in 2021.
- Marketers will increase influencer spending in 2023. Influencer marketing spend is predicted to hit $6.16 billion in 2023, according to Statista, and it’s set to rise to $7.14 billion in 2024.
- Most marketers are on board with influencer marketing. Influencer marketing is seen as a key component of marketing campaigns today, with 93% of marketers using influencers in their strategy, according to research from Oberlo.
- Videos continue to get higher engagement on Facebook. Video is one of the top-performing advertising formats, receiving more interactions because they encourage users to stay on the platform more than stagnant images do.
- More brands are executing in-house influencer campaigns. To maintain their reputation and improve their authority, more brands are hosting internal campaigns rather than relying on outside sources.
- Instagram is the preferred route for users to search for products and services. Research has found that nearly 8 in 10 marketers see Instagram as an essential piece of their marketing campaigns. After seeing a post with product details, 87% of users took a specific action, such as visiting the brand’s store, following the brand, or purchasing something.
Four types of social media influencers
There is no industry-wide, agreed-upon definition of how to break down influencers into different types based on size. Different influencer marketing platforms have different definitions.
However, this breakdown may be helpful in differentiating the various types of influencers out there:
- Mega-influencers are influencers with more than 1 million followers and are most likely celebrity influencers. For example, Kylie Jenner is a mega-influencer who has 388 million Instagram followers.
She grew up with a famous influencer family, and at a young age starred in the reality television show Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Jenner went to make more of a name for herself by creating lip kits, face care, and other popular beauty lines.
- Macro-influencers typically have more than 100,000 followers but fewer than 1 million. These are more likely to be popular social media stars. Amy Jackson is a macro-influencer who has over 850,000 followers and built her platform by sharing fashion, beauty, lifestyle, and home inspiration.
Through her website and social media platforms you can find a variety of inspirational images and tips, including outfit ideas for different occasions, beauty product favorites, best bags for traveling, and more. Her content is based around a minimalist approach to fashion and demonstrating that style doesn’t have to be complicated to be considered chic.
- Micro-influencers are those that have between 10,000 and 100,000 followers on their social channels. An example of this type of influencer is Jean Lee — @jeaniuseats on Instagram. After graduating from college, she traveled around the world as a corporate global event planner, curating hotels, restaurants, and cultural activities for her clients.
Lee worked for several years as a PR and social media manager for Le Cirque restaurant. She eventually went on to start her own hospitality industry social media agency in New York City. Lee works with top restaurants, runs successful campaigns with global brands, and lives her life as a food and dining influencer.
- Nano-influencers have fewer than 10,000 followers. Nano-influencer Lindsay Gallimore — a mother of four — is in charge of the brand called Maman Loup’s Den, which means “mommy wolf’s den” in French.
Her content focuses on “eco-parenting” and looking for ways to be mindful of the environment while providing children and moms with high-quality products. Gallimore initially started out promoting cloth diapering but has expanded to many other environmentally friendly products, and her blog now includes sponsors, giveaways, product reviews, and lots of explainer posts for new mothers.
New types of influencers are emerging too. While lifestyle, fitness, and skincare led the way and are still prevalent, now others — such as pet influencers — are taking the spotlight too. Even influencers who have long remained in one niche are venturing out to try new trends and areas of potential interest for their followers.
Creating your influencer marketing strategy
If you feel ready to start setting up an influencer marketing campaign, we’ve put together a list of steps below that can hopefully help streamline your marketing efforts.
Step 1. Set goals, define success, nail down metrics
Ask yourself some questions to figure out what you’re trying to achieve with your influencer marketing strategy.
- How are you going to define influencer marketing success?
- Are you hoping to boost brand awareness?
- Do you want to generate targeted awareness of a new product or service?
- Can you increase social media engagement?
- Can this content help you boost sales?
The goals of your campaign will dictate which metrics you’ll want to focus on as your key performance indicators (KPIs). Some of the most common metrics for influencer campaigns are referral traffic, reach, audience growth, and engagement.
Conversions or revenue are also sometimes used as the KPI metric. However, it can be challenging to track influencer marketing back to an accurate ROI figure against the marketing budget.
Step 2. Figure out the budget
How much of your marketing budget do you have available for influencer marketing? If you’ve got a small marketing budget or are just starting out with influencer marketing, think about where you want the most bang for your buck.
If there is one macro-influencer that seems just right, then that may be the best route for you.
But generally, diversifying and spreading risk across your influencer marketing strategy is the best way to go — so a number of nano-influencers and micro-influencers might be the strategy that works best for you.
Step 3. Choose your audience
Your audience should be excited about the influencer you choose. Your audience and the influencer should have a lot in common in terms of lifestyle and interests. A good influencer marketing strategy requires you to talk with the right people, use the right tools, and create the right messages.
Develop your audience by creating an audience persona to better understand the people you are trying to reach. After that, develop influencer personas to know what qualities to look for in your influencer.
Your brand’s target audience and your influencer’s target audience should overlap. For example, if you have a trendy athletic clothing brand, your target audience might be men and women in their 20s and 30s who are very active. An influencer of choice could be an athlete or fitness personality in that age range. Both your brand and the influencer’s personal brand should have a similar type of follower and may even already have an overlap in audience.
Step 4. Design a management strategy
An influencer marketing campaign is not a set-it-and-forget-it initiative.
You’ll need to reach out to influencers, monitor their content, pay them, evaluate performance against KPIs, and maintain relationships. Work with your team to determine who will be responsible for managing your efforts.
If you’re in the midst of planning your influencer marketing campaign and are struggling to see where the internal resource might come from, you might want to consider an influencer marketing agency.
Step 5. Contact influencers
After you’ve created a list of influencers you believe are a good fit for your brand, you’ll need to reach out to them.
Send them an email or message on social media promoting the opportunity. Be clear on your expectations and incentives. Make sure your pitch is short and personalized. Long, mass pitches are rarely effective.
Step 6. Run the campaign
If some influencers are interested and ready to move forward, there’s no reason not to bring the campaign to life.
Work with your brand influencers to create schedules for social media content, collect data on engagement and conversions, and make changes to your campaign as necessary.
Step 7. Measure success
As your influencer marketing campaign starts running, keep an eye on the performance metrics you’ve set up in step 1.
Are you getting the engagement you expected? Are your social media numbers increasing? Are you seeing traffic to your site? Are prospects starting to convert?
Depending on the goals of your campaign, you may also want to measure other indicators like brand sentiment and word-of-mouth referrals.
How to find and work with influencers
Finding the right social media influencer for your marketing strategy often takes time and dedication.
There are many ways you can research potential influencers.
- Search for hashtags related to your industry to see who is already talking about your niche.
- Set up Google alerts for keyword searches related to your industry. Keep your eye out for blogs that may interest your target audience.
- If some of your competitors have hired influencers, look at them to gauge the type of influencers who would be a good fit to promote your offerings.
- Use marketing tools such as Followerwonk to see the social influencers with the largest follower count for certain topics and hashtags.
- Consider using an influencer marketing platform like IZEA to make the process easier.
Once you find influencers you’d like to work with, it’s time to do some influencer outreach.
It can often be tempting in the interests of time to send a cut-and-paste approach to your target influencers, but this is unlikely to get the results you want. People can sniff out a templated email.
Take the time to understand the influencer’s tone of voice, their values, the social platforms they are active on, how they engage with their audience, and the types of people and brands they choose to interact with.
If you can demonstrate in your approach that you have done your research and clearly explain why you believe they are the right influencer for your influencer program, you will be more likely to get a positive response.
The value of influencer marketing
To better understand how influencer marketing works and the business benefits that can be gained, let’s look at a specific example.
Olay, a popular skincare company, used influencer marketing to boost engagement by 8.33% and connect to young audiences with more authentic messaging. For its campaign, Olay partnered with a number of diverse influencers to encourage women to be “unapologetically themselves” and embrace their natural beauty.
These influencers consisted of athletes, models, business professionals, and other women who embraced their appearance. They posted pictures of themselves with the #FaceAnything hashtag and captions that encouraged women to be confident despite the often-unrealistic expectations placed on them.
The results? Olay increased:
- Exposure by 1.4 million views
- Comments by 11,000
- Hashtag uses by 1,000
More broadly, a Twitter survey found that 40% of respondents said they bought something online after seeing an influencer use it on their social media or video channel.
On the other hand, word-of-mouth marketing comes from your existing, satisfied customers who may or may not have a social following. Word-of-mouth marketing occurs when these customers tell their friends, family members, and personal acquaintances about the good experience they’ve had with your brand.
Frequently asked questions about influencer marketing
How much does influencer marketing cost?
There is no exact answer to this question other than it really depends on what you’re after. There is a gradual rise in influencers who are open to performance-based or hybrid deals, typically where only part of the fee is fixed. The remainder is subject to certain engagement or traffic objectives being hit.
What are some best practices for working with influencers?
- You need to agree on the brand message or product benefit so it’s clear and consistent.
- Advise your influencers of your ideal message and what you want the audience to feel and take away.
- Give them all the information possible. You want influencers posting about your brand or product as soon as you can.
- Work closely with your influencers to build a relationship. Respond quickly to any requests from influencers, and work closely together so you can get the best out of each campaign.
- It’s also important to make sure that everyone is following the relevant guidelines about disclosing any paid partnership.
Are celebrity endorsements the same as influencer marketing?
Not really. Celebrities will have a much larger audience than influencers, so a product may reach lots of people who aren’t interested in it. Influencers do have the relative choice to pick the brands they work with, meaning their followers are more likely to be interested in the brand and make a purchase.
Is there a minimum number of followers an influencer should have?
No, but they do need to have a large enough following that using them to market your products will be worthwhile. Remember that impact is measured through engagement and impressions.
What are the KPIs for influencer marketing?
KPIs to focus on for your influencer marketing campaign may vary based on who you’re working with and on what platform. However, they should generally include things like reach, referral traffic and conversion rates so you can monitor the success of a campaign and take learnings for next time if deemed successful.
Influencer marketing made easy
Influencer marketing can increase awareness of your brand and help you connect with customers in a more authentic way than traditional advertising.
When you’re ready to get started, work with your team to:
- Outline the goals of your influencer marketing campaign.
- Identify your target audience.
- Set your budget.
- Contact influencers.
Adobe can help
Adobe Marketo Engage is a one-stop shop for lead generation and lead management. Provide a personalized experience, optimize your customers’ journeys, and make data-driven decisions thanks to analytical tools. Social media and influencer marketing are easier with Marketo Engage.