20 expert tips for influencer marketing success

influencer marketing banner image

Influencer marketing has fast become one of the most influential tools at marketers’ disposal. As the effectiveness of traditional advertising declines and more young people turn to the internet for content, brands big and small have turned to influencers to engage their audience.

First, let’s cover the basics. So what is influencer marketing precisely?

Influencer marketing is the relationship between a brand and an influencer. Influencers promote businesses, products or services through their online channels, which could include social media accounts, vlogs, and blogs. 

An influencer is an ordinary person who has built up a following online – don’t mix up influencer marketing with celebrity endorsements. Influencers can have a widespread appeal or specialize in a niche topic. Once they have the power to influence their audience and impact their purchase decisions, they are considered an influencer.

To help you start off on the right foot – or improve your approach going forward – we spoke to some pros with experience of working with influencers.

Covering everything from initial research to reaching out and tracking success, check out their 20 tips on how to improve your influencer marketing strategy:

Do your research and find the right influencer:

1. Choose an influencer that fits with your brand

Be sure that you thoroughly research the influencer you plan to partner with to ensure they are “on-brand” with your company – i.e. you share a common voice, have a similar target audience, have a similar aesthetic, etc.

You want to make sure the influencer you select for your campaign feels authentic and is a natural fit for your company or your brand, so as to not come across as an advertisement.

-Jill Caponera, Senior PR Manager at Promocodes.com

 

2. Dig deep into the available analytics

Whenever I have to hire and work with influencers, I make sure to ask them for a few screenshots of their analytics. This way I can ensure that the account has an engaged audience and an acceptable CTR on the bio link, rather than just thousands of fake followers

I also go through their profile and do a simple calculation of the number of followers vs. the engagement they receive on their photos. Additionally, I’ll go through an analytics platform like Socialblade – which is free – to see their growth over the last several months.

-Martin Khan, Online Marketer at Morningscore

influencer marketing tool example
Example of stats in SocialBlade

 

3. Make sure their followers match your target audience

When vetting influencers on Instagram, be sure to ask them for a breakdown of their audience demographics, by location. If you find a relevant influencer with 300k followers, that’s great. But if only 20% of those followers are in the US, and you’re a US-based business, you’re not going to get a lot of bang for your buck. You should also be aware that many of their followers could be bots!

-Jessica Dais, Senior Content Marketing Specialist at TakeLessons 

influencer marketing example of insta insights influencer marketing example of insta insights

Audience location data available in Instagram Insights

 

4. Try searching internationally for the right influencer for your market

Don’t limit yourself to local influencers for a local market. Influencers across the world can often reach a local market – and possibly for cheaper.

Be sure to do some thorough research. It’s no use spending a large amount for an influencer’s high follower count, only to find out the majority of their audience is based half-way around the world with no access to your product.

Instead, flip this around to your advantage – if local influencers are unavailable or pricing a little too high, look internationally.

For example, Irish YouTube channel ‘Facts’ worked on a video for a company called ‘MyHeritage DNA’, which vastly outperformed expectations.

Based in Israel, MyHeritage wanted to reach a US market and though Facts was based in Dublin, the majority of its nearly 1.5 million subscribers was based in America.

We were able to work together to create content that was in line with Facts’ style and highlight the features of the MyHeritage DNA kits. The video ended up going viral in the US. Initially, projected views were 200k-300k, but the video currently sits at 1.5 million. This just goes to show how reaching out internationally can work even when you want to reach a more local market – or even a separate market entirely.

-Sean Connolly, Digital Marketing Executive at Rebrandly

 

5. Check out past campaigns and collaborations

One important strategy when targeting influencers for your campaign is to look at previous campaigns they have done… rather than solely focusing on the number of followers or press they’ve received.

It is important to focus on how they promoted products or services for other companies and to make sure that the content involved aligns with your own. A successful influencer campaign will focus both on relevance in addition to the popularity of the influencers they target.

-Tracy Julien, VP of Marketing at GuidedChoice

 

6. Make a final decision based on engagement metrics

When you are at the point of narrowing in on the right influencers for your campaign make your final selection based on their engagement rates. Some of the most important campaign measures revolve around engagement, including:

  • Brand recall
  • Website visits
  • Leads
  • Sales

Comparing influencers’ organic and sponsored post engagement rates will set your campaign up for success. Unfortunately, many marketers overlook this fundamental practice and concentrate too heavily on vanity metrics.

-Amy Baker, Digital Marketing Manager at Content Career

 

7. Find someone with expertise in your industry

We are using influencer marketing to introduce a new concept breathing sensor to athletes in a market that is eager to learn but skeptical of undue hype.

My advice to companies looking to launch an influencer marketing campaign is to look for influencers who are not just social media pros, but pros in a real area of expertise. We’re partnering with athletes and exercise science associations because our product is more than a gimmick…

While real subject matter experts may not have millions of followers, they will likely be more willing to promote new ideas they see potential in. Endorsement from them also carries much more weight than an Instagram star who will advertise just about anything. A true expert has their professional reputation to consider… So target established professionals who bring intelligence and credibility to the table when seeking out influencer marketing partnerships.

-Alice Donoghue, Community Manager at Zansors

 

When reaching out to influencers:

8. Highlight the benefit you’ll provide to them

Influencer campaigns are a solid way to get your brand across to new audiences. I especially recommend influencer campaigns to new and upcoming brands since they are typically low on budget in the first year. Start off with about 25-50 influencers as a test… and create a value-added message.

It’s not recommended to just contact the influencer and ask, ask, ask. Think of creative ways you can add value to the influencer. Perhaps it’s a “work trade”, such as creating a video together or offering to reciprocate – i.e. I write a blog post about you if you write a blog post about me…

Once you have communicated with the 25-50 initial influencers and received feedback, make tweaks and scale this out.

Jean Ginzburg, Founder and CEO at GinBall Digital Marketing Agency

influencer marketing outreach example
Screenshot of an email communication from a current client of Jean’s

 

9. Research, reach out, repeat

While I’d like to simply recommend Intellifluence, there is a myriad of ways to reverse engineer an influencer hunt using a combination of Clearbit, Dux-Soup, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and Twitter.

Once you’ve done this, craft your pitch. No one wants to receive a longwinded, unclear, self-absorbed pitch that seems open-ended and non-reciprocal… In any pitch, open in the first couple of sentences with what you want to give the influencer and what you want to receive in return; don’t waste anyone’s time.

The next step is to follow-up… The average number of follow-ups required for sales during my own prospective process is 6; if you stop trying, you’ll stop growing.

-Joe Sinkwitz, CEO of influencer marketing network Intellifluence

using clearbit for influencer marketing
Clearbit pulls data on customers to highlight who could be an influencer for your brand. A sample of how the data appears via Clearbit

 

10. Consider enlisting the help of an agency

I recommend getting someone else to pick your influencer. With your first campaign, you’ll want to jump in and feel that you know your target demographic well enough to pick a great influencer. But the chances are, you don’t.

You’re probably working with a lower end budget. Short of Kim K, influencers cycle in and out all the time. Using agencies like Influences or Speakr can provide you with in-depth user behavior ensuring that your money is well invested in the right influencer for you, and not the most recent Insta celeb.

-Nate Masterson, Marketing Manager at Maple Holistics

 

Ensuring success and progress:

11. Propose an affiliate relationship

You would not believe how many people have 100k followers online, but can’t sell a single thing to them… If possible, ask them to become an affiliate. Not everyone’s going to say yes, but I’ve found that affiliate relationships are more profitable than influencer relationships, because it increases the motivation on their end to actually do a good job of engaging their audience in the promotion.

It’s easy to push a single post out and leave it at that. But affiliates, because they’re paid a commission, are more likely to go the extra mile to make sure they write a great post and respond to comments.

-Shannon Howard, Senior Digital Marketing Strategist at Overit Media

 

12. Set out your goals from the start

Are you looking to generate direct sales? Or increase your reach on social? Are you seeking links for SEO – or are you trying to build an email list? It is crucial to first set the goal by which you can measure your results against.

The final step of an influencer campaign is then to measure what worked, what didn’t and adapt to ensure you can increasingly improve on meeting your goals.

-Joe Sinkwitz, author and CEO of Intellifluence

 

13. Clearly communicate these goals

Make sure you are clear with your goals for the partnership off the bat… Your ideas should be fully thought out and ready to present via one sheet to the influencer you choose to partner with.

This should include:

  • The number of posts you’d like them to do
  • Specific brand, company and product names
  • Social media handles
  • Hashtags that must be used
  • Expected dates of posts

You should also require pre-approval of content and copy to make sure it aligns with your company voice and achieves the message you are attempting to promote. Having these thoughts and ideas organized and agreed upon in the beginning will eliminate any guesswork or confusion throughout the process of the influencer partnership.

-Jill Caponera, Senior PR Manager at Promocodes

 

14. Track campaigns closely

Use tracking tokens. This, unfortunately, gets left out of a lot of influencer marketing campaigns, but it’s so important to track everything… If you’re partnering with someone, get them a unique tracking link so you can measure how many people came from that campaign and determine if it was successful or not.

-Shannon Howard, Senior Digital Marketing Strategist at Overit Media

 

15. Use branded links to track offline influencer marketing

Tracking links are great for accurately monitoring the impact an influencer marketing campaign has on your conversions. By adding UTM parameters to the links your influencer shares, you can see exactly how much traffic and how many conversion an influencer drives to your website. You can see this data in Google Analytics alongside other campaign metrics, which will help you decipher if it was worth the investment.

Branded links are great for hiding UTM parameters and also make it possible to track the impact of any offline promotions an influencer carries out for your brand. If an influencer mentions your brand at an event, in a speech, during a media appearance or even while speaking in a video, make sure they call out a memorable branded link that listeners can type into their browsers.

-Beth McEntee, Partnership Marketing Manager at Rebrandly

example of how branded links hide UTMs

 

Choosing your influencer marketing messages:

16. An authentic fan will make for an authentic message

For Influencer Programs to be impactful and translate into meaningful sales, it is crucial that your spokespeople are genuine users and lovers of your products. Social media is fickle, but followers know when an influencer is doing a brand deal vs. genuinely speaking about a brand. The tone and coverage they give to a product or brand will also change subconsciously if an influencer is a true believer.

I’ve worked with influencers of 10,000 followers up to 1.5 million followers and it’s been proven time and again… it’s not about followers. It’s about the influencer’s connection to your business. Smaller followings can yield better results, as long as the influencer is a true believer and has skin in the game. At Booksy, our ambassadors know they are part of our family.

-Juliana Katz, Chief Marketing Officer at Booksy.com

 

17. Provide an exclusive offer

Make sure there’s a perk for your audience. This is typical of most influencer campaigns, but not all, so it’s worth a mention: There should always be something in it for both parties. Consider giving people a $ figure saving, a percentage off their purchase, or even free shipping if they use a coupon code unique to the influencer.

-Shannon Howard, Senior Digital Marketing Strategist at Overit Media

influencer marketing coupon code example
via James Charles

 

18. Test the waters with a genuine review first

We’ve amassed over 384K followers on our iHeartRaves Instagram page and use influencers as part of our digital marketing strategy… We engage in influencer marketing in a variety of ways. We find popular accounts who meet our criteria for selection, and we start a conversation to gauge whether or not it’s a good fit.

Often times, we will send one of our products to an influencer for free, in exchange for an honest review that is posted to their blog or social media followers. In the case of Instagram, this leads to a ton of new followers for us, as well as sales.

We send ambassadors to music festivals to cover live events. We also post photos of influencers, ambassadors and team members wearing our outfits.

-Brandon Chopp, Digital Manager at iHeartRaves

influencer marketing example for iheartraves
via WhoaaNelly

 

19. Test partnerships and keep the budget in check with Insta stories

influencer marketing campaign example of insta story

Don’t be afraid to try out stories on Instagram.

The “swipe up” feature is a much more organic way to include sponsored links, while still getting the exposure of a brand mention. Because stories aren’t permanent, influencers typically offer a better rate for these kinds of posts too.

You can also throw in a discount for the first 100 people or so who swipe up, to get even more traffic out of the campaign.

-Jessica Dais, Senior Content Marketing Specialist at TakeLessons

 

20. Use branded links to increase click-throughs

Because branded links feature your name and a keyword, they boost brand awareness, visibility and trust. People know a business or influencer wouldn’t associate its name with spam or malicious content, so they have no qualms about clicking through. Research has shown this increased trust means branded links have a higher CTR than generic short links.

When posting a message, make sure your brand’s influencer shares links that showcase their name or your name – or both. This will increase clicks by as much as 39%, which will benefit the success of your campaign.

-Louisa McGrath, Content Manager at Rebrandly

 

We hope you find these 20 tips useful. If you try any of them out, let us know how you got on in the comments below. Feel free to share your personal experiences and tips for working with influencers too.

Further Reading:

This Article is About:

  • Influencer marketing tips
  • Influencer marketing campaigns
  • Tips for influencer marketing
  • Influencer marketing strategy

Photo in main image by Levi Elizaga via Unsplash

Louisa McGrath
Louisa works on putting together creative and useful content for Rebrandly customers to read. Though she spends a lot of time reading and writing online, she still loves to buy the Sunday papers.