Get started with influencer marketing

How small businesses can work with social media influencers on a limited budget

Influencer marketing for small business owners

In case you missed this year’s Red Letter Day, we’re sharing a recap of one of our favorite presentations – “Influencer Marketing 101.” Hosted by Jamie Dunham and the team at Brand Wise, Red Letter Day is half-day mini conference that covers trends and best practices when it comes to marketing to women.

At its core, influencer marketing is asking (and in many cases paying) a social media “influencer” to share their experience with your product or service with their followers.

For example, a lifestyle blogger may have a large, engaged following of thousands of young mothers on Instagram. You may approach that lifestyle blogger to bring her family to eat at your restaurant (at no charge). If she likes the experience, she’ll share photos on Instagram and tag your business. The hope is that her audience will try your restaurant and share their experience online in turn, all in order to increase foot traffic to your business. Make sense?

Here are 3 steps to get started with influencer marketing:

1.  Identify some influencers who are in-line with your brand and whose followers overlap with your target market.

Start on Instagram – are there any lifestyle bloggers you personally follow? Google lifestyle bloggers in your area, research their content (both blog and social media), and find 3-5 influencers you’d like to work with. Here’s a helpful article from Forbes on identifying and using micro-influencers if you want to target influencers with smaller, more specific audiences.

When evaluating potential influencers to partner with, find individuals whose followers match your target demographic. Remember the more established influencers will often charge for posts and will likely have more sophisticated agreements. You’ll also want to check to see how engaged their followers are and watch out for fake engagements from bot traffic.

The easiest place to start is to ask your customers who they follow and build your influencer target list from there.

2. Make the ask (and be clear and concise about what you have in mind).

Established influencers get hundreds of emails a day with requests from businesses to promote their products or services. It takes a lot of time to create good content, so be respectful of their time. Briefly explain your business and what you’re offering – be personal in your email and make it clear you know their brand. Share your Instagram handle and introduce your business.

If you’re new to influencer marketing, a great place to start is to ask the influencer to bring a friend to try your business for free, and if they like it, you hope they’ll share their experience with their followers.

For example, if you’re a salon, you could invite the influencer to bring a friend in for a free blow-out service and manicure. Make sure you’re upfront about what product or service you want them to try. Inviting the influencer to bring a friend almost guarantees them to have a better experience than coming alone, plus you are exposing your brand to another potential customer!

Be clear that you’re offering them to try your services or product for free with the hope that they’ll post if they’re happy with the experience. Once you start making specific requests for multiple posts with editorial control or approvals before they publish, you’re almost certainly getting into paid contract territory. Be flexible with their schedule and work them in for a time when you can focus on delivering a great experience.

3. Roll out the red carpet.

You’ve found a great potential spokesperson for your business, they’ve agreed to check out your business, and you’ve got the visit scheduled. Now it’s time to deliver a great customer experience. Your goal is to attract this influencer as a lifelong customer, and to have them share a great visual of your business.

Greet the influencer when they arrive, make sure they have everything they need, and let your business speak for itself. If the influencer does share their experience, don’t expect sales to spike overnight. Influencer marketing, just like most marketing, is all about building trust and awareness with your target audience. If you see success from the experience, you may want to investigate a paid relationship with the influencer, or replicate the experience with other influencers in your various target audiences.

Influencer marketing is not new – there are entire agencies dedicated to managing influencer marketing who are hugely successful. But don’t let that intimidate you. If you have a great product or service to share with the world, influencer marketing can be a cost effective way to spread the word!

Want hands-on help starting or growing your business?

Here at Pathway WBC, we work with entrepreneurs at every stage or business and in every industry to build strong businesses.

Come to an upcoming Blue Sky Workshop to join our growing community of side hustlers and entrepreneurs.