Everything I thought I knew about marketing was challenged when my oldest daughter became a consumer. Growing up with Instagram and YouTube, she wasn’t just influenced by what she saw online, she sought out recommendations from the people she followed. And it wasn’t celebrities giving her advice, it was everyday people who had used their platforms to position themselves as “expert consumers.” Even though sites my daughter followed, like fashion blog Something Navy, were getting paid for nearly every item they promoted on Instagram, my daughter still viewed them as trusted sources rather than salespeople. This, I would later learn, is the magic of influencer marketing.
While the fashion, food, and fitness industries tend to dominate the conversations around influencer marketing, the truth is that influencers exist everywhere products are sold. Consider an example from the music industry: Canadian producer Andrew Huang has grown his YouTube following to more than 1.5 million followers by creating captivating videos that show him making music with unconventional “instruments” like fireworks, pumpkins, and airplane seats. Brands like Gillette and DiGiorno have partnered with Huang on videos about making music with shaving supplies and pizza, respectively, to get their products in front of his music-loving audience in a fun way that doesn’t look or feel like advertising.
But you don’t have to have Gillette- or DiGiorno-sized budgets to work with influencers. In fact, micro- and nano-influencers with smaller (but loyal) followings can drive better outcomes for small businesses working to connect with niche audiences. According to a study by influencer marketing agency HelloSociety, micro-influencers—which it defines as accounts with 30,000 or fewer followers—deliver 60% higher engagement rates and are 6.7 times more efficient per engagement than influencers with more followers. Like those odds? Here are a few tips for getting a micro-influencer marketing campaign started:
Look inward. Take a peek at your current online fanbase. You might be surprised to find that you already have a few followers that cater to an audience similar to yours (or the one you’d like to build). Guitar stores offer a great example. Small, local stores tend to naturally attract the attention of musicians of all levels in the area. If a local musician has already expressed interest by following a shop on social media, the foundation for an authentic partnership is already there. If your online social media following is a little on the light side, talk to your customers and your employees. Who do they follow, trust, and interact with online?
Participate in the conversation. Get in on the discussions about your industry that are already happening on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and elsewhere online. Monitor, follow, and use hashtags relevant to your business—the more specific, the better. Follow the users, big and small, who are leading and participating in the conversation. Not only will you naturally start to learn who drives engagement and shares values similar to those of your business, but you’ll also show future partners that you’re a valuable member of the community.
Collaborate on campaigns. Once you’ve found your perfect micro-influencer match—someone who believes in your product and aligns with your company’s tone and goals—be a good partner. Come to the table with ideas that will feel natural for the influencer while communicating the value of your brand. One of Reverb’s most successful influencer campaigns involved partnering with a talented French guitarist to give away a guitar similar to the one she uses every day. Helping one of her followers score a cool instrument was “on-brand” for our company, and giving fans the chance to win the guitar she plays felt natural (and exciting!) for the guitarist.
Influencers not only help brands get in front of targeted audiences, but they also add a level of credibility that is difficult for brands to obtain elsewhere. For small businesses, micro- and nano-influencers can provide genuine and impactful advocacy for a more manageable price tag. If it’s in the budget, consider working with multiple influencers to drive engagement across a variety of targeted audiences. Create campaigns that are repeatable so that you can track their impact over time. And don’t forget to hook your influencer partners up with swag and discounts when and where you can.