• Alexis Kwan

How Small Businesses Can Leverage Influencer Marketing

Let's face it, influencer marketing is no longer the shiny new toy for businesses to utilize. For large corporations, influencer marketing has been integrated into the marketing budget for years now, but as a small business owner, how can you use influencers to drive real sales?

Before putting money behind any marketing campaign, consider your main objective. Are you looking for more exposure? Trying to gain followers on your social accounts? Or are you looking to drive your sales? As a business owner, it’s a great practice to keep your objectives in mind before initiating or accepting any influencer propositions.

Here’s a hot take: gaining followers should be the lowest priority for your business. Although it is nice to have that “k” tacked onto your follower number, in the end, if those aren’t loyal, engaged, and paying customers, what value have you really added to your business? The number of likes and followers are now commonly referred to as “vanity metrics” that you can read more about here. There is value in them if they are authentic, not paid for, and can help businesses gauge brand sentiment.

I would recommend shying away from prioritizing follower growth as a small business, especially because it is not often for a post to go viral or instantly reach that 10k following. If this is what you’re interested in, though, consider mid-small influencers to help you gain exposure. A mid-small sized influencer in this sense has between 10k-50k authentic followers. Make sure they are located near your business and that their audience is the type that you want to reach!

Suppose you’re looking to create a cohesive brand image, including high-quality product and lifestyle photography for your brand. In that case, I recommend looking into specific “creative” influencers that utilize their platform sharing professional-level images. These influencers might not have even 10k followers, but for a modest investment or sometimes an exchange, you can request a deck of high-quality photos you can reuse long-term.

The most relevant type of influencer marketing for small businesses is through micro-influencers. What is a micro-influencer and why would they help my business, you ask? Well, micro-influencers are people, usually with less than 10k (even less than 5k) followers that have built a community around them that often knows them outside of just social media and highly trusts their opinions and recommendations. For this type of influencer, it is common that they have the highest engagement rates on their platforms and don’t use their profiles just to promote brands.

By identifying your business’s “super fans” or “micro-influencers,” you are generating the most authentic type of engagement for your small business. If they already love your business, buy from you, and recommend you to their friends, you have a powerful brand advocate.

Engaging these types of influencers is beneficial in more ways than one. They are low cost, often happy to exchange a post for a free product or service. They know your brand–you do not have to communicate to give a brief on what you’re looking for or your business’s story. They will (hopefully) produce timely, quality content for you since they are not overwhelmed, creating for other brands. Creating this type of engagement with a micro-influencer has lasting effects. They are likely to talk about your business to friends outside of social media, and you’ve just won a loyal customer for life.

If your business has influencers DMing and emailing you offers (congratulations, first of all), here are some of my tips to determine if they would be a good fit for your business:

  1. What is their engagement rate? In general, this is the ratio of average likes per post to their follower count. If they have thousands of followers but don’t get many likes, that is a red flag. This could mean they have bought followers, which really does not help your business reach your audience segment.

  2. What kind of content do they post? Is it mostly fashion trends? Is it a family blog? Are all their posts basically food porn? Look closely to understand what their page is about and if a partnership with them would ultimately help you achieve your business goals.

  3. Are they posting a lot of branded content? This can be an indicator that your business can get lost in all of the ads. If your influencer isn’t selective about their partnerships, their audience may be fatigued by all the branded content and the value of a paid partnership may be lost.

  4. What is their rate? With any business agreement, make sure you settle the terms of the partnership and BE SPECIFIC, for example, in exchange for your product, one post-in-feed, and three stories on Instagram. For more help determining fair rates for your business, contact me with specifics!

With these tips in the back of your mind, you are well equipped to start navigating the influencer world as a small business! Want to see more of these marketing tips? Let me know by commenting on this post or follow me on Instagram @alexiskwan!

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