Influencer marketing has become a viable option for small business.
In a world where social media is the focal point of people’s lives, social media celebrities are turning entire industries on their head.
Fashion, music, fitness, and even filmmaking are all changing thanks to that reach.
And, just like the celebrities of your childhood, these new-age influencers are available to help market your products.
But is influencer marketing right for your small business?
Let’s look at the pros and cons and find out.
What Is Influencer Marketing?
Before you look at the pros and cons of influencer marketing in relation to your small business, I need to share what influencer marketing is.
Influencer marketing is marketing through people who have considerable influence.
This used to get done through celebrity endorsement.
Now, however, the influence of social media users can be tapped.
These social media users have become a new breed of celebrity.
They have influence over a follower base of anywhere from 1,000 to 100,000 fans.
Fans respect and admire the opinions of these “micro-influencers”, often opting for the products and services they endorse.
Small businesses have a great opportunity to engage with micro-influencers and take advantage of their reach.
Done right, it can come with a decent ROI.
However, there are a few downsides as well.
Knowing what the benefits and risks are will help you make an educated decision about whether or not your small business should take advantage of influencer marketing.
What You Need To Know Before You Work With Influencers
Like any small business marketing venture, it’s foolish to jump into anything you don’t understand.
Unlike other forms of small business marketing, influencer marketing can be slightly more nuanced to navigate.
But if you take the time to educate yourself on the pros and cons, you can figure out quickly if influencer marketing is the right next step for your small business.
Pro – People Are More Aware Of Your Small Business
People earn the title influencer by being, well, influential.
The ability to reach an audience and sway their opinions on anything is what makes them effective.
If you can leverage the right influencer in your niche, they’ll get you traffic from the audience you’re after.
Influencers rep your brand.
They demonstrate life with your product in one of their posts.
Maybe it’s how much better your coffee makes their morning, or how great driving their car is now that you’ve upgraded it.
These posts are designed to look as natural as possible while still marketing the benefits of your brand.
And, of course, they tag your social profile in it.
That makes their audience your audience.
They can also directly promote your giveaways and events to their audience.
Posts for your product drive traffic to your social channels and eventually to your website.
They get you new engagements and new followers.
Influencers can also have their audience tag their friends to expand the post reach.
That’s going to get you an even wider audience.
Done right, as Cottonelle did, can wind up getting you huge exposure.
In fact, Cottonelle did so well with their influencer campaign that the promoted product sold out in less than 48 hours.
They didn’t flex their spending muscle and hire celebrities to do this.
They focused on the same micro-influencers that you can.
Con – Influencers Can Wind Up Costing Your Small Business A Lot In Free Product
Influencer marketing isn’t free.
Often younger micro-influencers are looking for something for free in exchange for the “influence”.
However, claiming that you’re an influencer doesn’t make you one.
Great influencer marketing requires a value exchange.
If their followers either aren’t in the correct market segment or they aren’t engaging with your business, there is no reciprocal value.
And that’s what makes the idea of offering free services so costly.Amateur influencers don’t understand the value exchange, asking for more than they offer. Click To Tweet
Normally small businesses aren’t prepared to work with influencers.
They don’t know how to guarantee the quality of content or how to check on the quality of the influencer.
Without that information and the ability to distill it into a strategy, influencer marketing can be excessively expensive.
Pro – See A Jump In Website Conversions
If you haven’t figured out that social media is a powerful way to buy both online and offline, you need to catch up.
It’s especially powerful among millennials, who value the opinions of their peers when making a purchase.
But how, you may ask?
You might be familiar with affiliate marketing, which makes a great parallel.
The same way that affiliates send links, so do influencers. The difference is in the way the value is exchanged.
While affiliates get paid per sale, influencers get paid based on the size of their fan base.
The reason it works differently is because of the way influencers can impact loyalty for your brand.
I mean, check out how well Audible has gotten at this.
They’ve been partnering with YouTube influencers since 2015.
In case you don’t realize it, YouTube influencers (known to many Jr High and Elementary age kids as “YouTubers” or celebrities) have incredibly loyal fanbases.
Audible works with him and many others, who have earned Audible (as of 2015):
- over 83 million marketing campaign views
- Over 132 million YouTube subscribers (between all the channels they partner with)
- A huge increase in monthly subscription signups
Their continued exposure has grown tremendously.
It’s not because of huge celebrity status, though (except maybe in the case of PewDiePie).
It’s because they leveraged lots of influencers to help them spread the word about their membership subscriptions.
They tapped into more markets than they were reaching on their own.
That same strategy could help your business grow.
Con – Influencers Can Create A Negative Image For Your Small Business
The point of influencer marketing is to drive new traffic, leads, and sales to your small business.
When everything goes well, that tends to work.
Influencers post about your brand and your product and their followers flock to it.
Provided the influencer you work with is doing a great job with their brand, their influence may continue for a long time.
And then there are influencers like Logan Paul.
Famously, Paul posted a video from Japan where he was visiting a forest that was a well-known place for people to go to commit suicide.
As it happened, he stumbled across a victim.
He joked about what he saw, he disrespected the deceased, and he posted it to his YouTube account.You can’t control what influencers post around your content. Click To Tweet
The Fortune 500 companies he was working with were forced to decide: they could denounce him or suffer through the fallout.
Some took too long, others decided his sensationalist angle was worth the risk.
Either way, his actions affected their reputations even though the content in question had nothing to do with their products or services.
You don’t have control over what an influencer posts except as it relates to your ads.
If you don’t properly vet the influencers you choose to work with, you may wind up faced with a similar situation.
You also need a plan in place for the event that an influencer you’ve put your faith in goes “off-the-rails”.
Pro – Gain New Leads From Markets You’d Never See
You have a lead list, right?
As a small business, lead lists are the most valuable assets you can gain from internet marketing.
Keeping contact with your audience is critical for both long-term growth and increased revenue.
But building that list can sometimes be difficult.
It can take months to get a reasonable number of subscribers on your email list.
It’s daunting work, especially if you’re not a marketing specialist.
Influencers, on the other hand, have the advantage of trust and credibility.
Their audience respects their opinions and recommendations, so much so that a recommendation for your brand can increase your traffic significantly.
Influencers become a catalyst for list growth.
With a combination of their trust and reach, your brand accesses their market (a market you might not otherwise tap into).
Influencers suggest their audience sign up for your list to reap the rewards.
This pairs well with your lead magnets, which become a great incentive for influencers to promote.
Con – Influencer Marketing Takes A Ton Of Research To Avoid Being Fooled
With the rising popularity of influencer marketing, deception among influencers is the biggest con.
Small businesses who want to take advantage of influencer marketing need to find people who can prove their worth.
Case studies, track records, and a portfolio all matter to make sure you’re not spending money on an influencer who can’t get the job done.
That’s normally how it works with any marketing venture.
However, for many young influencers, sponsorship is more than a business transaction.Often, to get sponsored, you need to have sponsors. Click To Tweet
Getting sponsored can also be a badge of honor outside of social media among their peers.
When kids feel the pressure of achieving something, they do what we all did at one point.
Yes, for real. Young influencers are taking the cliché “fake it till you make it” to a new level.
It can be difficult to identify a fake sponsorship from a real one.
These tactics are causing small businesses to spend more money on an “influencer” who hasn’t spent the time or effort to build trust and credibility.
It’s also tough to identify when an influencer’s follower count is made up of fake accounts.
But that’s where the research comes in.
A fake influencer can be identified if you’re willing to put in the time.
For starters, how much engagement does that influencer get?
If you’re seeing 10% to 20% of their total follower base engaging, chances are they don’t have bots.
If it’s 1% to 2%, even a real influencer isn’t going to be as worth the money.
There are also tons of services that help identify and connect you with the right influencers.
But without the research work, you can really wind up screwing yourself.
Decide If Influencer Marketing Is Worth It For Your Small Business
Truthfully, influencer marketing isn’t right for every small business.
Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to fit your product or service into a lifestyle post.
However, with the right partnership, influencer marketing could make a lot of sense.
Here are some things you want to consider as you make the decision.
- Are you spending money on social media that isn’t getting a decent return?
- Does your competition seem to be outperforming you on social media?
- Has your social media reach and growth become stagnant?
If you answered yes to any of these, it might be time to think about an influencer marketing campaign for your small business.
What Your Small Business Needs To Get Started With Influencer Marketing
If influencer marketing is right for your small business, you’ve got to know what to do to get started.
Thankfully, it’s not a complicated process.
Yes, it’s going to take some work to overcome the cons we discussed.
However, the pros make it all worth it.
Here’s what you need to do to get your small business started with influencer marketing.
Here is where you’re going to give the actual tips. If you include more than 300 words here, you want to break it up with sub-headers.
Figure Out Which Influencers You Want To Work With
Your small business can’t work with an influencer if you don’t know who the influencers in your industry are.
You need to find out who they are and whether or not their style fits your brand.
Sift through your industry’s social media accounts by searching hashtags and your own social media followers.
Find out who is already talking about your industry and potentially your brand.
Once you know who you’re considering, you can start to engage with them.
Begin building a relationship with them and show them how much you like what they’re doing.
That way your direct message is more authentic, and they’ll be more likely to reply when you’re ready to work with them.
Research Which Influencers Are Right To Partner With
Now that you’re following and interacting with influencers, you can really watch how they handle their partnerships.
Monitor their posts closely to find out what they’re doing with their sponsored content and what they do in-between.
Fact-check their posts, too.
When they suggest they have a partnership with a brand, contact that brand to verify.
Just like a job application, you should know if they’re telling the truth about their work history.
The quality of their posts and engagement is going to help with the next phase, too.
Handle The Terms Completely With Preparedness
Once you’ve determined who you’re willing to work with and who is open to it, it’s time to hammer out the details.
At this point, that research information is going to come in handy.
Take the data you’ve learned about their posts, determine what you want them to do, then prepare a logical stance for what you believe it’s worth.
If you can come to the table prepared with exactly what you want the deal to look like and how much you’re willing to flex on that, it’s going to go far more smoothly.
Plan, Produce, And Approve The Content
Now you’ve got the terms down and everyone is on the same page.
This is where the influencer’s expertise comes in.
They know their audience, so you want to stay out of their way as much as possible.
However, you’ve also got to make sure their content is going to reflect your brand the right way.
Have someone from your team review their posts.
They need to meet your quality standards, satisfy the terms of your deal, and conform to FTC standards.
Yes, the FTC has rules about sponsored content on social media.
If their content is up to standards, let them go to work.
Track The Results
If I have to explain the why’s of tracking the campaign, you haven’t been listening.
You need to know if this investment is doing the things it’s supposed to.
If it isn’t, it’s not worth your money.
Tracking influencer campaigns is tricky, so assure the influencer plans on being transparent from the start.
Influencer Marketing Can Be Your Small Business’ Best Friend
If the pros of influencer marketing outweigh the cons for your small business, this might be a great strategy for you.
The return is high, the effort is low, and the reach is beyond what you’d normally get.
It takes time to master, but with the right effort you could wind up getting far more back than you put in.