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How to Make Millions Online Through Influencer Marketing And why you don't need big-name influencers to do it.

By Jonathan Long

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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As the world of marketing continues to change, brands must constantly identify new ways of engaging with customers and driving sales. With the rise of social media and technology in recent years, companies have shifted marketing dollars from billboards, newspapers and television to digital ads, search engine optimization and alternative online marketing strategies.

This change in marketing approach has opened new opportunities for businesses. Now, the cost of reaching a customer is at an all-time low and brands have new platforms to use to tell their story. While influencer marketing has essentially been around for decades, it's seen a resurgence in popularity because of the accessibility brands have to social media influencers.

Whether you are a large corporation or a small startup, there is a good chance that influencer marketing can help play a major role in the growth of your brand. If you plan your strategy right, you can experience massive returns on your investment, driving millions of dollars of revenue. Before you start an influencer marketing campaign, consider these important steps to ensure the success of your efforts.

Identify your campaign story.

Many brands fall short when it comes to influencer marketing, believing that influencers hold the complete attention of their followers -- able to convince them to do anything. While some influencers, like the Kardashians and Jenners of the social media world, do have massive loyal audiences, most influencer campaigns will require a compelling story to maximize results.

Brands must identify a story to focus on while devising the campaign, and they need to understand how that story aligns with the particular influencers that will be utilized. For example, it wouldn't make sense for fashion bloggers to recommend workout supplements, even if they have more than one million followers. The better the alignment between the influencer and the brand's campaign story, the better return the campaign will produce.

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Be extremely creative.

As branding expert Joel Contartese explains, "Some of the best influencer campaigns are not simply paid posts, taking the influencers on adventures and streaming this branded content through their feeds. The Tarte Cosmetics campaign with Desi Perkins is an excellent example of this."

During the Tarte Cosmetics campaign, the company paid for Perkins and other beauty bloggers to travel around the world. While on the trips, the influencers pumped out content across Instagram, Snapchat, their personal blogs and YouTube. Videos on YouTube from the trip collected millions of views, resulting in massive exposure for the brand. Creative content campaigns provide maximum engagement and subtle organic branding that is valuable to the company, while not being overly promotional.

Align your brand, influencer and audience.

George Beall, a Gen Z consultant who has organized influencer campaigns for a number of Fortune 500 companies, says that, "Two-thirds of Gen Z would rather see a social media influencer promote a product rather than a celebrity. Since social media influencers have stronger relationships with their audience than celebrities, companies can better convey their story through these social media stars."

Brands need to think carefully about two things: who their audience is following and which influencers align best with their brand's story. Beall explains that Pepsi's infamous Kendall Jenner ad correctly picked Jenner as an influencer their audience was following, but incorrectly identified her for the campaign's #BlackLivesMatter storyline. Without synergy between the audience, the influencer and the campaign story, the influencer marketing campaign will likely not succeed.

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Consider younger influencers.

Social media offers the opportunity for people of any age to rise to fame. This has resulted in a number of incredibly young people attracting massive followings. Contartese mentions Ben Hampton, a six-year-old with over 320,000 followers on Instagram, as a prime example. A 6-year-old might not be the typical face brands are used to working with, but if he can convey a brand story to his audience, there is an opportunity to make money.

Over the past few years, the ages of influencers have gradually gotten younger and younger. The opportunity to work with young influencers can help your brand tap into new and unique audiences, as well as a grow side-by-side with the child star as they grow in age and following.

Leverage talented micro-influencers.

Often times, brands will only look at the follower count of influencers, but this can often result in missed opportunities. Every influencer has a certain skillset, and if brands can identify influencers with smaller followings that have a skillset that complements their message, it can result in a successful campaign.

One example of this is Gucci's recent efforts, where the fashion brand partnered with leading contemporary artists that had between 20,000 to 50,000 followers. These influencers then made various pieces of art, memes, murals and designs for Gucci in their respective styles. This resulted in added engagement on Gucci's social media accounts.

Related: Habits of the World's Wealthiest People (Infographic)

Final thoughts

Whether you manage the advertising and marketing budget for a huge existing brand or want to build a brand from the ground up, think about how influencers can help you reach your target audience and how you can use influencers to convey your brand story.

Jonathan Long

Founder, Uber Brands

Jonathan Long is the founder of Uber Brands, a brand-development agency focusing on ecommerce.

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