Although social media influencer marketing is only recently becoming more popular, some young start up brands recognised its power from day one. Those early adopters of influencer marketing mastered their strategy and built their entire brand around it. By selecting the perfect influencers for their brand and creating fun and authentic campaigns, they have generated organic content for their products, which has resulted in the brands growing at a rapid rate.
What is influencer marketing?
Online Influencer marketing is a type of social media marketing that uses key influencers in your industry to give your brand’s message or products increased reach. Rather than directly tell people how good your products are, you hire or gift your products to influencers so that they can tell the world instead.
Creating an influencer partnership in this way is crucial in today's online world where most consumers use the internet and social media to find new products they might like. Influencer partnerships are effective because influencers work hard to build strong relationships with their audiences. That way, when they talk about a new exciting product, their audience listens.
How does influencer marketing differ for startups compared to large corps?
The most obvious difference between influencer marketing for startups or small businesses and large corps is how much budget they have available.
For instance, large c-corps can run $100,000 campaigns and it not eat too much into their budget. Startups and small businesses, though, need to watch where their money goes and as such have to get creative about how they conduct their influencer marketing campaigns.
If you’re a startup or small business and want to find some free tools to help you do influencer marketing, check out this post. We include two free influencer marketing strategy templates as well as give you the lowdown on a great ZINE feature that allows you to work with up to five influencers for free.
Our free social media influencer marketing strategy templates aim to help you run and manage your influencer marketing campaigns without having to worry about the additional cost of an influencer marketing platform.
The benefits of small business influencer marketing
Running influencer marketing campaigns can be a great way to improve your overall online marketing strategy. First, you might find that by creating solid influencer partnerships, you’re able to reach more people than you would if you were running Facebook ads, for example.
Second, influencer marketing isn’t just about getting as many likes on your product as possible, it’s about generating sales too. Some people are misinformed and think influencer marketing is just there to get more eyes on your product and there’s no real ROI. But if you run the right campaign and track the right metrics, you can actually see real ROI from influencer marketing campaigns, no matter your budget.
Once you've run your first influencer marketing campaign, the benefits are endless. For example, you might experience any of the following:
1. Increased traffic to your website
2. More subscribers for your email marketing list
3. Increased sales for your products based on influencer recommendations.
Conduct influencer research
Ideally, you’ll want to look for online influencers within your niche. You can use a range of tools to do this, but we recommend simply looking on the platform you hope to work on. If you have access to an influencer marketing platform, use that to find the best online influencer for your startup.
During the influencer research stage, you want to check out the proposed influencer’s metrics. Look at things like their engagement rates, the type of content they post and who they’ve worked within the past.
The ideal influencer will have a high engagement rate and good experience and history marketing products just like yours (or at least within your niche).
When your influencer research is done, it's time to start working on your initial campaign and watching the results roll in.
How to get started with influencer marketing for startups
Often, as a startup, you’ll be working with smaller influencers. This is because they tend to charge less and are more open to working with less established brands. You might find some success working with larger online influencers, but remember that it will increase the cost and eat into your total influencer budget.
Large influencers, on the other hand, receive so many requests each day it can actually be hard to get on their radar when your business is still new. As a small business owner, you really need to think about where your money and most importantly, time is spent. This is why we recommend looking for micro influencers initially.
Once you’ve found the social media influencers you want to work with, you need to reach out. If you’re opting to work with micro influencers, send a pitch to them that tell them about your brand, why you want to work with them specifically and how you initially see the engagement working.
Remember, it’s a negotiation. Your initial offering might not be in line with what the influencer had in mind. This doesn’t mean a partnership can’t work well though. It simply means you might need to relook over your terms and come to a compromise with each influencer you work with.
Don't forget to think about local influencers too. Local influencers are a secret way to build connections with people with an added advantage: you can meet the influencers in person. So much of influencer marketing is done online. Influencers themselves often spend their time behind a screen. So when given the chance to meet you in person, learn more about your brand and try the products out in real-life, influencers will jump at the chance.
If you're stuck on what sort of campaigns you can run, we've outlined three amazing startup brands that truly rock at influencer marketing to give you some inspiration for your influencer strategy.
Glossier Influencer Marketing Strategy:
Why they're nailing it: Since pre-launch Glossier has always stayed true to their belief that "every single person is an influencer"* so it is no surprise that 70%* of their growth is attributed to owned, earned, peer-to-peer or organic channels. Founder, Emily Weiss who also runs her blog In The Gloss, has always put consumers at the heart of Glossier. Having over 500 ambassadors for the brand all with varying audience sizes that consumers can shop Glossier through gives them a huge online presence.
Not only do the team go through all their Instagram mentions, they regularly repost consumer images of their products in their incredibly instagrammable packaging and their favourites even get invited to take part in their marketing campaigns.
They also recognise that their consumers aren't exclusively going to just use their products and share stories and posts of them being used in contingency with other brands such as L'oreal. This creates a much more authentic and powerful content.
Glossier's "mission of giving voice through beauty" is certainly a great one when it comes to influencer marketing and has resulted in them creating a huge online community. We're obsessed!
Key take away: Value all influencers equally, including large influencers and smaller influencers
Value all of your consumers equally - not just those with a huge following. When looking at potential influencer to work with, consider all aspects of their social profile, not just the number of followers they have.Read our blog on our Top 5 Vegan Beauty Brands...
Bumble Influencer Marketing Strategy:
Why they're nailing it: Whitney Wolf Herd, launched Bumble in a bid to tackle issues of harassment and abuse on dating platforms and this along with other social issues remains at the core of their ethos and marketing strategy. Bumble tackles these in a light-hearted but effective way, partnering with brand ambassadors with a similar stance.
During the launch of Bumble they worked with 'hyper-micro-influencers' to spread the word, creating authentic and genuine relationships with consumers. This is still key today, with the launch of @bumlebff they appointed Sara & Erin Foster as co-creative directors. The sisters who are influencers in their own right, utilised Bumble BFF to find real users to befriend and meet up with. This process was documented on Instagram and generated a huge buzz around the product.
The extension of Bumble to @bumblebizz has opened up networking events, talks and true connections to collaboratively spearhead other businesses. They partnered with experiential marketing agency 'Bloggers Who Brunch' to highlight women in entertainment, promoting diversity and inclusion to generate meaningful conversation & connection for change.
Micro influencers and real users have always been key to their campaigns and have resulted in over 40 million users and almost a 100% annual growth rate, they are true pioneers in the millennial world.
Key Takeaway: Create a sense of community with potential influencers
Collaborating with likeminded individuals chosen influencer experts to create a community of change within the industry that resonates with their followers.
Miss Pap Influencer Marketing Strategy:
Followers: 1 million
Why they are nailing it: Launching in 2013 Miss Pap has amassed a huge following through recognising that Instagram and influencers are a huge part of everyday life for millennials. Introducing an instashop allowed their followers to shop the looks from influencers direct from their feed. They have also collaborated with influencers to create capsule collections which tap into their loyal follower base. Their most recent collaboration with Arianna Ajtar, influencer and actress was their first gender-neutral collection breaking boundaries in the fast fashion. Miss Pap have also collaborated with Ferne McCann, Amber Turner and various other influencers/celebrities.
Always being one step ahead and creating collections that tap into an audience to build meaningful & loyal consumer relationships. This might mean taking longer to conduct your influencer search or using more than one social platform. However, that doesn't mean you can't find your ideal influencer on one platform, it just means you should not rush the process. A good influencer will want to get to know your brand inside out and become not just an influencer but brand ambassador too.
I'm Head of Content at ZINE where I help brands and influencers improve the way they run and manage their influencer marketing campaigns.