E Commerce is an essential part of today’s retail experience. But finding effective sales tactics remains an ongoing problem. One avenue you might have overlooked is influencer marketing—using a popular online figure to promote your product or service.
Read on to learn what an influencer does, the benefits they offer, how to find the right one, and how to ensure a professional, productive partnership.
What is an Influencer?
Influencers are people that encourage purchases or actions through various internet channels. Popular examples include YouTube, Instagram, or their own blogs. Influencers have both popularity and credibility within a niche of a particular industry. Their followers share their (very particular) interests, and they treat the influencer as a valued resource when deciding what to buy or do.
While we often associate influencers with glamorous industries like makeup or fashion, they’re active in areas like parenting and business too. The right influencer is a boon to any brand, even if it’s something unusual like retail inventory control software. All you need to do is find them.
Influencer marketing is distinct from celebrity marketing – the public’s awareness of them is relatively smaller, and they are much more focused on what they promote. That said, there can be some overlap between these two marketing strategies; influencers may become celebrities, or vice versa.
Celebrities and advertising have long gone hand in hand. But influencers’ promotions are more targeted to certain niches, and can be a great way of marketing to millennials and other particular demographics.
Why are influencers useful for marketing?
The simplest answer is that conventional advertising is facing new challenges. Today’s internet users can avoid a lot of advertising—ad blocker usage in the US has risen over the last eight years, with around a quarter of today’s internet users blocking it on connected devices.
The Ultimate Guide to Influencer Marketing For EcommercePercentage of internet users using ad-blocking software. Image source: Statista
Influencer marketing sidesteps this problem by burying a marketing message within something that’s valuable on its own terms. It’s a more sophisticated use of social media and content marketing, and if done properly it offers a solid payoff for your business. According to data from Socialpubli, 89.2% of marketers see influencer marketing as highly effective.
What benefits does an influencer offer?
Before you start looking for an influencer to work with, you should look at your own brand. A brand-influencer partnership works best if you share more than an audience; your values and tone of voice need to line up as well. If you’ve developed some great branding, you should already have an idea of what your identity is.
You also need to have a clear understanding of what an influencer will actually do for you. Influencers don’t put money into your pockets directly; they encourage actions from followers that lead to it. An influencer can spread awareness of your brand, promote a particular product, or increase your own follower numbers. They can also encourage newsletter signups, drive traffic to your website, and so on.
How do I find an Influencer?
There are many different ways to find a suitable influencer. A good place to start is your own followers; is anyone who follows you an influencer you can contact? Make sure to focus your efforts on a social media platform that resonates with your audience. For instance, if you have a younger audience, then a platform like TikTok is a great choice.
It’s important to find an influencer that actually promotes products in your industry. For instance, you wouldn’t promote a WMS with a fashion blogger, or ask a financial adviser about your new eyeshadow palette. You want them to be able to speak knowledgeably about what you do.
If you need a bit of help with your search, take advantage of specialized tools like Peg, Mention, or Shoutcart. These tools allow you to find influencers, and check how successful they are.
Remember that when it comes to influencers, bigger isn’t necessarily better. You may want to consider a micro-influencer. This is a person with a smaller audience but a deeper understanding of their particular niche, and greater engagement as a result.
Which Social Media Should I Use?
This choice should be informed by what your audience tends to use. While you can cast a wide net (or focus on a channel that’s personally appealing) you ultimately have to meet your audience on their terms. Let’s look at three of the most popular.
Instagram has a billion users worldwide, with most users falling into the 25–34 age bracket. It’s great for expanding your audience, or growing awareness of your brand to attract new members of it. Visually enticing products do very well on Instagram.
Snapchat is great for driving people to buy your products, thanks to its shoppable ads (ads that users can tap on for more information). Its audience skews a little younger than Instagram, and since Snapchat’s content doesn’t hang around for long you can be a little more immediate with marketing messages. It’s also great for promoting limited-time events, such as product launches.
YouTube is a popular and versatile choice, ideal if you want to build brand awareness or draw people to your website. It boasts over 2 billion users worldwide and serves a range of functions, including search engine and social media platform. That versatility makes it great for many different content types, like educational videos or ambitious, on-location adventures.
How do I know an influencer is worth working with?
Good influencers are obviously selective with what they promote; they focus on things that will resonate with their audience. They should also be knowledgeable about their niche, and project an air of authority that their audience trusts.
Try to avoid influencers with a lot of sponsored content. This only serves to undermine their authenticity, which is their biggest asset. You should also avoid influencers that aren’t drawing engagement from their followers. Having 10k Instagram followers, for example, is a good sign of success – but if they’re only getting two or three likes per post, you might want to look elsewhere.
Fake influencers are a concern too, though they’re relatively easy to spot. Low engagement is an immediate red flag, especially since it’s that pre-existing audience you’re counting on. You should also look out for oddly-worded comments, photos that look generic, or anything else that causes concern.
What Format Will the Content Take?
It’ll be unique to each influencer, but it should be reflective of their broader content offering. It’s important to trust an influencer to know what they’re doing; after all, they’ve built an audience off their own back, and that’s the audience that you want to engage.
Some industries – for instance, makeup and beauty – are highly visual, relying on images and videos. Others, such as ‘mommy blogs’ tend towards lengthy written blog posts. You and your influencer should work together to create something that works for them and your brand.
For legal reasons, you need to make it clear that the influencer has a ‘material connection’ with your brand. This means that the influencer is receiving payment or discounted products/services for promoting you. State this in every piece of content you collaborate on; it’ll give a boost to both the influencer’s credibility and your own.
Is there anything else to consider?
Remember that whoever you work with, there’s always a limit to your input. An influencer is an effective marketing force because the content they produce is meaningful to their audience. Any marketing message is secondary to the narrative or information being provided.
Trying to make your promotion too forced or salesy will turn off followers. That said, there is some guidance you can offer to the format. For instance, you might want to endorse a contest or offer a discount code to the influencer’s followers. The influencer can add this discount code to social media posts, giving your business an immediate shot in the arm. If you offer a boxed product, such as subscription boxes, consider an unboxing video; these are extremely popular, and help put your product front and center.
While an influencer’s benefits aren’t immediately tangible, your goals certainly can be. Consider what metrics you want to track (on both social media and your ecommerce site) and set a clear, realistic goal you want to hit. This helps you properly gauge how productive your time with the influencer was.
Finally, be clear about the nature of the content being produced. From the beginning, agree on what content is being produced, who will own it and how much the influencer will be paid for their work. Treating an influencer with respect is essential, regardless of what you’re promoting.
Whatever you want to promote—and whether you use photos, videos or written content—influencer marketing is an excellent choice for ecommerce platforms. The format is friendly to many consumer products, and the flexibility of the format makes promoting services easy as well. With the right research and expectations, you can enjoy a major business boost in the future.