What Is Influencer Marketing? | An Expert’s Guide

As a marketer in today’s rapidly evolving digital world, you have more options than ever for reaching your target audience. One increasingly popular option is influencer marketing, which has grown from a niche strategy into a powerful way to reach consumers. 

So, what is influencer marketing? This guide will help you understand all the ins and outs of choosing and working with the right influencers who will help market and grow your brand. Discover how to implement influencer marketing for brands, plus four best practices for influencer campaigns. 

Influencer Marketing Explained

Influencer marketing involves working with an influencer — typically someone with a large and dedicated social media following — to sell your brand or product. Social influencers have spent time and energy building trust with their followers. When they promote your brand, they lend it all the credibility and exposure they’ve already established with their audience.

Social media influencer marketing isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy. From the type of influencer you work with to the platforms they use and the type of campaign you run, there are a lot of decisions to make. 

Common influencer marketing campaigns include: 

  • Sponsored influencer ads
  • Product endorsements
  • Product giveaways
  • Brand reviews 
  • Pre-release content or product launches

Types of Influencers

Influencers typically fall into four broad categories based on their follower count. Definitions may vary, but a good rule of thumb is:

  • Mega-influencers: Over 1 million followers
  • Macro-influencers: 100,000 – 1 million followers
  • Micro-influencers:  10,000 – 100,000 followers
  • Nano-influencers: Under 10,000

Mega-influencers are frequently celebrities, tend to be highly sought after for brand collaborations, and usually carry a hefty price tag. Nano- and micro-influencers have smaller followings and are usually more affordable. 

Smaller influencers often have more engaged and dedicated followers and can run impactful campaigns. They may be more tuned in with what their followers care about and have more significant influence over the brands they engage with. 

Benefits of Influencer-Based Marketing Campaigns

With more than 2/3 of American adults active on social media, it’s a major opportunity to reach consumers and grow your brand. Because influencers have significant followings, they can get your brand seen by large audiences. While consumers tend to be wary of traditional advertising, they generally place a great deal of trust in the influencers they follow. 

An influencer-based marketing campaign lends credibility to your brand that’s hard to leverage through any other form of advertising. And influencer marketing can often be more cost-effective than other advertising channels. 

Challenges of Influencer-Based Marketing Campaigns

One of the greatest challenges of an influencer-based marketing campaign is finding the right influencer to promote your brand. You’ll need to really vet potential influencers to ensure their authenticity. Unfortunately, some influencers resort to deceptive tactics like purchasing fake followers. Working with an influencer who has a massive audience of fake followers does nothing to sell your brand but can eat up a good chunk of your marketing budget.

Another potential challenge is finding an influencer who shares your brand’s values. If the influencer you work with doesn’t align closely with your brand, it could cause them to lose credibility with their audience, which would, in turn, negatively impact your brand’s reputation. 

How To Implement an Influencer Marketing Strategy

As you implement an influencer marketing strategy, it’s critical to clarify what you’re trying to achieve, clearly lay out how you’ll make that happen, and accurately evaluate the campaign so you can learn from it. 

The following are some top influencer marketing tips to help you get started. 

Define Your Goals and Metrics

Clearly defining your goals will set the tone for the entire campaign, from planning through evaluation. Be as specific as possible. Instead of “sell more of product A,” decide how much more you want to sell within a particular time frame. And selling products shouldn’t be the campaign’s only goal. 

Other metrics you can focus on include how often followers engage with brand posts and how much new traffic is coming to your site. Increased sales might not happen immediately, but building brand awareness and authority pays off over time.

Align Your Budget With the Right Influencer

The right influencer for your brand needs to fit within your budget. But if you can’t afford a top celebrity influencer, it doesn’t mean the marketing campaign won’t have great results. 

Often, nano- and micro-influencers are more affordable than those with millions of followers. But they also tend to have devoted, engaged followers with whom they’ve spent time cultivating trust. So be mindful not to blow your entire marketing budget on the biggest-name influencer you can find. Set a firm budget for the campaign and then look for quality over quantity. 

Establish Collaboration and Clear Expectations

Working with an influencer is a bit different than working with traditional advertisers. You both share common goals but also have your own individual desired results. The key is to set clear expectations from the beginning while giving the influencer enough creative leeway to remain true to themselves and their audience.

If there are things you want the influencer to say or avoid in the campaign, be sure to make those expectations clear so there’s no misunderstanding. But keep in mind that if you’re working with the right influencer, they understand their audience well, and they are creative professionals. You want to avoid micromanaging them, as it could lead to a perception of inauthenticity. 

Measure Results and Draw Insights for Future Campaigns

Once you’ve set your goals, it’s time to measure your results. You’ll need concrete evidence of how well the campaign met your expectations so you know how to proceed in the future. 

One way to accurately gauge a campaign’s effectiveness is to give the influencer a unique discount code so you can track how much business they actually sent your way. You can also install pixels in your site’s code to help you track and categorize the users who take specific actions. Another option is to use UTM parameters, which are tags added to the end of a URL that shows where your traffic is coming from. These tactics will give you hard numbers to measure the campaign’s success.

To evaluate your results, first confirm that your objectives were realistic. If they were, but your campaign fell short, you’ll need to do some tweaking. You can choose to stick with the same influencer but switch some things up or find a new influencer to work with who better matches your brand. 

Just know that it sometimes takes some trial and error before you hit the sweet spot. You may need to try different content and promotions to see what resonates best with followers. 

Maintain the Relationship for Future Collaboration

If working with an influencer helps you reach your brand objectives, you’ll want to maintain that relationship for future collaborations. There are many things you can do to nurture the relationship. Of course, you’ll want to treat the influencer with respect throughout the entire process. This means treating them as a partner and letting them do what they do best without getting in the way too much. Allow them to maintain their creative freedom while keeping communication open and expectations clear. And be sure to express your appreciation for their work. 

If the campaign is successful and both parties are happy with the collaboration, consider asking the influencer to become a brand ambassador. This means they would be a long-term spokesperson for your brand, so it’s critical that you work well together and the influencer’s following matches your target audience.

4 Best Practices for Influencer Campaigns

Your influencer strategy will significantly impact how successful your campaign is. Influencer targeting — selecting an influencer who can reach your target audience — is critical. Here are four influencer marketing best practices to help you get the most out of your collaboration. 

1. Work With Influencers Who Are Experts in Your Niche

The influencer marketing industry is saturated with individuals trying to make a name for themselves, so there are plenty of influencers you can choose to work with. But it’s essential to find someone whose influence falls within your brand’s niche. An influencer can have all the followers in the world, but if those followers won’t be receptive to your brand, a collaboration would be a waste of your resources. 

Consider an influencer whose audience mainly comprises middle-aged males passionate about working on classic vehicles. If you sell women’s skincare products, you’re unlikely to increase your sales by working with this influencer. But if you work with an influencer who is an expert on skin health, their followers will naturally be open to your brand and products. 

Similarly, if a classic vehicle influencer tries to sell your skin care products, their followers won’t have any reason to trust that the influencer knows what they’re talking about. But if a skincare expert tells their audience that your product is top-quality, their followers will place a good amount of trust in their recommendation. Working with an expert in your niche is critical to an authentic collaboration that will yield positive results for both you and the influencer you’re working with. 

2. Align With Influencers That Share Your Brand Values

The influencer you work with should share your brand values. It’s the simplest way to avoid controversy and maintain your brand’s reputation. Plus, it will make the partnership more natural and authentic, increasing the chances that the influencer’s followers will trust their opinion of your brand, which is ultimately what you’re paying for.

As just one example, if environmental sustainability is central to your brand, you’ll want to work with an influencer who shares that value. If they clearly don’t care about the environment, you’ll lose credibility with current and potential customers, and the campaign may do more harm than good. 

3. Pick Influencers in the Same Social Platform as Your Audience

Just as choosing an influencer who is an expert in your niche is crucial for reaching your target audience, the influencer will need to be on the same social platforms as your intended audience. For example, Instagram influencer marketing might not be the best strategy for reaching a 40-and-over crowd that is more likely to be on Facebook or LinkedIn. 

You’ll need to research social media platform demographics to understand where you will find the consumers you’re trying to reach. 

4. Select Influencers With Higher Engagement Over Followers

It can be tempting to make the number of followers the most significant factor in your search for influencers with whom to work. But more important than audience size are audience engagement levels and influencer content quality. 

Influencers with high engagement rates typically have active and loyal followers and a real relationship with their audience. Loyal followers are likely to trust the influencer’s recommendations, increasing the likelihood that they’ll convert into paying customers. 

So, rather than simply searching for an influencer with hundreds of thousands of followers, look at how their followers engage with their content. Take the time to read through comments to gauge what type of relationships the influencer has built with their audience. 

Boost Your Revenue with Performance-Driven Influencer Marketing

Assembling all the pieces of a successful influencer campaign can be a challenge. Finding the right influencer, developing the perfect content, and understanding the full meaning of all the metrics takes skill, experience, and resources. Your time and money are extremely valuable, and you don’t want to waste them on a campaign that doesn’t grow your brand. 

Luckily, you’re not in this alone. At AUDIENCEX, our expert teams and performance-driven influencer solutions can help you navigate every step of this process. We’ll leverage our community of diverse, vetted influencer partners to ensure you find the ideal influencer for any campaign. This community is exclusive to proven creators who over-index on engagement and performance, helping to build more authentic connections with consumers. Working with in-depth metrics, we’ll ensure that performance is maximized throughout the influencer relationship, remaining adaptable at all phases to ensure full optimization.

With our integrated organic and paid social teams, your influencer relationships can be effectively leveraged across social media to strengthen your own community and engagement. And, with seamless omnichannel media access backed by holistic strategy and AI-powered predictive performance and data science tools, we can scale your campaigns across channels and devices at any time. By using influencer content on digital out-of-home, programmatic video and audio, CTV, or any channels, you can drive authenticity and engagement throughout the entire digital landscape.

Reach out today to be connected with a member of our team who can help you explore how performance-driven influencer marketing can fit into your strategies to drive meaningful results.