“Hey, Brian! You HAVE to check out this new restaurant -- Seasons 52.” These were the words of my friend Mel a couple years ago, and they began my love affair with this amazing super-fresh restaurant in King of Prussia, Pa.
I’ve been back lots of times since -- their flatbread and wine special is amazing -- but I wouldn’t have gone that first time without a recommendation from my friend. That’s how business works a lot -- by the power of word-of-mouth advertising. But it’s not always easy to get. So what do you do instead?
What if you could duplicate that word-of-mouth effect with advertising dollars? What if you could get word-of-mouth trust from so-called “influencers.” Is it possible? You bet it is. It’s (not surprisingly) called influencer marketing, and it takes place on social media.
Social media is a strange beast that's created a new type of celebrity. A person people trust, just like I trusted my friend about Seasons 52. A person who gives their recommendations a lot more weight than a traditional advertisement. My friend’s kids say these people I am referring to are "Instagram/YouTube/Facebook famous." And it's these people you want to connect with.
The best part about this? It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Here are five steps to leveraging influencers to recommend your products or services, giving you that word-of-mouth effect for your business.
Related Video: How to Be an Influencer
1. Start with the small fish.
There are tons of people with huge followings on all of the social media platforms. But they cost a lot of money to work with. Until you are sure of your market/message match, it just isn’t a good idea to spend like that. Instead, find people who have smaller accounts on YouTube and Instagram (Facebook can work, but is harder to get organic reach with these days), and contact them to partner with you.
You’ll need to do some research within your industry. But smaller accounts can work very well if they have engaged followers. And you’ll spend far less money getting your products and services places.
2. Find influencers who are hyper-related to you.
The more tightly related the influencer is to your brand, the better your chance of success when they recommend you.
If you have a fitness brand, you want to stick with influencers in the fitness market, not the dog market, for example. And if you have a Yoga brand, reach out to Yoga influencers, not influencers in CrossFit. The more targeted, the better.
The idea here is to reach influencers who have audiences who are similar to your target customer.
3. Contact your influencers directly and with a compliment.
Once you’ve identified your influencers -- start with at least 25 -- reach out to them by private message or by email, depending on what you have available to you.
A compliment goes a long, long way here. Tell them you like their account and that you have a product that would be a good fit and ask them what their rates are. This is a bit of a slog, but if you can find a good fit, it pays off big time.
Sometimes you can also give away products instead of money. It just depends on the influencer.
4. Realize this is a numbers game.
When contacting influencers to place your products with them, it’s important to understand that it’s a numbers game. Out of 25 influencers that you contact, one to four may respond and strike a deal with you. This is normal. Be prepared for running these numbers in advance, and it won’t seem so intimidating.
5. Be willing to test different ideas and different influencers.
There are two super important things to remember when looking for success with influencer marketing.
- Not every influencer will be successful for you. Always be polite, but keep trying until you find the right fit.
- The market/message match may take some time to develop. Stick with it, and try new things and different influencers.
Like most marketing, influencer marketing takes some time to perfect, but it’s totally worth it when you get it. It can create a huge amount of ROI for your business because it’s like having friends recommend you.