How to work with an influencer and not regret it

What does an influencer do and when should you consider hiring one? Here are some points to consider.
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The word “influencer” gets thrown around a lot in marketing: “Should we find an influencer to work with?” … “Has your team thought about utilizing influencers?” … “I’m trying to make [insert dog’s name here] an influencer.”

Ubiquitous but not always endearing, influencers can be somewhat polarizing, making news for parties they shouldn’t be throwing or causing atypical traffic jams or both. But those are one type of influencer. In my experience, the influencer who is wont for bizarre self-promotion is an outlier throughout the industry. This article will largely focus on helping you find the right influencer for your brand and guide you as to what an influencer does.

I’ve worked with dozens of people who would refer to themselves as influencers over my ten-plus years of marketing content. Hopefully, the below helps offer some guidance as to when it makes sense to use influencers for marketing.

Here’s what an influencer does and when you should consider hiring one … in 5 minutes.

What does an influencer cost?

Here’s a sample setup of what an influencer might use. The video, editing, and drone equipment in this photo are worth close to $10,000, which they’d conceivably be using to produce your content.

If there is a going “rate” for an influencer, it would likely be somewhere around $1,000 to $2,000 per post for every 100,000 followers they have. Meaning a post endorsing or showcasing your product from an account with a million followers would cost 10 grand.

But this is a broad approach and should mainly be taken with a grain of salt, mainly because of:

  • The arbitrary nature of social media followings
  • The potential oversight as to what you should really be asking, which is “what is the ROI from using an influencer?”

The second point above is a bit of a crapshoot. But it is incumbent on you to ask the influencer what is the click-through rate on their posts. If you’re a good marketer and know the conversion rate on your website, you should be on the right path to determining an accurate ROI.

What do influencers do?

Courtesy Jane Ko via Amazon. A marketing influencer with a strong audience and brand will have influence across multiple channels and forms of media, be it a podcast, book, or video.

It’s easier to work with an influencer if you understand not only what they do but how they built their following in the first place. The main ways an influencer can build a social media following is by having a strong understanding of who they are and being scrupulous with the content they post. When you work with an influencer, you are working alongside someone who built something from scratch, no different than you and your business.

Influencers deserve a ton of credit

It should be noted that influencers don’t really get breaks. They don’t have time off in the conventional sense. Basically, almost every aspect of an influencer’s life can be performative in some capacity. They report to no one, but they are always reporting. This lifestyle could be the envy of some and could cause distress for others. But it comes at a cost for an influencer—mainly hard work—that should be compensated for.

Don’t look at how many followers an influencer has…

…look at their engagement rate. A low engagement rate usually means an influencer’s social media following is fake, or just as bad, the people who follow them no longer care for what they are posting. The latter is quite often seen when people or groups buy a social media account and re-brand the content for their own usage.

Don’t look at how many followers an influencer has (part 2)…

…look at how great they make a product look. Also, do they come across like they are an honest, genuine person? Great influencers are those who are pro small business, as they are running a small business themselves. This mentality is most often found in micro influencers from what I’ve experienced.

When you work with an influencer, you aren’t really buying mindshare in someone else’s following as much as you are an endorsement.

Basically, every aspect of an influencer’s life is performative in some capacity. They report to no one, but they are always reporting.

Anyone who is in customer service realizes the sale isn’t over when the check clears. Are these the customers you want to spread the good word about your brand or your product? Is it likely they might buy and leave a negative review based on the nature of the channel or outlet?

There is no better representative of what an audience likely looks like than the leader curating and feeding them content.

Consider Using a Micro Influencer

Screenshot of a twitchtv tournament
This Duracell gaming event on Twitch put gaming influencers head to head against NFL Players, testing how long they could play each other, subsequently showing off the endurance of Duracell batteries. It combined a number of smaller, “microinfluencers” and was one of the better influencer events I was able to be a part of.

Makeup and style are two sectors where influencers thrive. And believe it or not, it’s not the influencers with huge followings that are always the most successful. Microinfluencers, i.e. influencers with followings in the 20,000 to 100,000 range were voted to be the most effective. Why?

  1. Usually, they’re the easiest to work with. As alluded to, having social media followings of a million or more people can create an ego that may hinder how the collaboration proceeds*.
  2. Microinfluencers have smaller communities, which are often more engaged and better targeted for a more specific audience.
  3. A “smaller” following should allow for a more affordable rate for smaller budgets, curtailing massive expectations.

*I’ve worked with some really solid people who have made millions of followers on social media. But by and large, I do feel like their humility can be an exception.

The best advice I can give

You aren’t paying for an influencer’s following. You’re paying for their talent to make something look good and to feel engaging.

It’s highly likely you’ll need to pay an influencer their rate, as you should be willing to do in order to take advantage of their talent. But the main focus of your partnership should not be about buying a following, it should be the VALUE your product will give to an influencer’s audience. Audiences can easily snuff out a blind endorsement. They reward organic, fun partnerships.

Final Minute

A negative experience with an influencer can often be chalked up to a bad product or brand fit, which might have little to do with the influencer themselves. One way of looking at hiring an influencer is to pretend as if you’re doing an infomercial. When I did direct advertising selling teeth whitening on TV, I wasn’t hired for my following but my expertise. I was also selling a product that elicited impulse buying behavior (buy two now, get a third free). You’re likely only going to get one shot for whatever product you hire an influencer to promote. The overwhelming majority of people will only see a social media post once before it “disappears from their feed.” If your product requires a great deal of thought and/or the credibility behind it can’t be immediately verified, it’s likely you should try a different form of marketing.

If your product could use a credibility boost and some initial visibility in new circles directly relevant to your brand, influencer marketing is usually a good fit and can be the tail that wags the dog for many marketing endeavors.

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