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  • Influencer Marketing for Small Businesses: 5 Ways to Make It Profitable

When it comes to marketing your business, it’s important to incorporate multiple tactics into your overall strategy to ensure you’re reaching potential customers in the right places and in the right ways.

And that becomes even more important when you’re trying to market your business on a budget and may have less marketing dollars to spend.

One marketing tactic that you might be overlooking is influencer marketing. While influencer marketing is beloved by the big brands, there are actually some great opportunities for businesses of all sizes to take advantage of, no matter what’s going on in the economy.

Let’s take a journey through the history of influencer marketing, what it actually is, and how your business can use influencer marketing as part of a successful strategy.

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is a seemingly newer marketing strategy. The term “influencer” wasn’t even added to the dictionary until May 2019! But, “influencers” have been around since the late 1700s when, according to this article from Social Media Today, “a potter by the name Wedgwood made a tea set for the Queen of England. Since the monarchy were the influencers of their time, his forward-thinking decision to market his brand as Royal-approved afforded it the luxury status the brand still enjoys today.”

Since then, there have been many celebrity endorsements that can be categorized as part of the influencer movement, but true “influencers,” as they’re known today, really became a “thing” around when Instagram launched in 2010.

An influencer is a person who uses their social media pages, YouTube channels, or blog sites to help “influence” what people buy. Get it? They’re influencing purchases, which is how they got their name.

Influencer marketing is when influencers partner with brands or businesses to share the brand’s information about a product or service with their fans and followers. The goal of this partnership is to sell the business’s product or service to the influencer’s audience.

Influencers grow their audiences by posting engaging, relevant, and real content. They’re typically real people like you and me who have capitalized on an interest. The biggest influencers are in the fashion and beauty industry where they can get as much as $5,000-$50,000 per Instagram post. And that’s the non-celebrities! Celebrities who get in on the influencer game can net way more.

Benefits of influencer marketing for small businesses

So, you might be wondering how this whole deal works–and why it matters. Here are the top benefits of influencer marketing for small businesses.

Helps expand your audience

Essentially brands will use influencers to get in front of a new audience in a more authentic and real way. Influencers have grown a following on social media–they put in the time and effort and developed their own strategy to ensure they’re consistently growing. And a lot of that is done organically on their part by being authentic and consistent.

When you use influencer marketing, you’re able to expand your small business’s own audience through the audience of the influencer you’re partnering with. This allows you to reach even more potential customers while capitalizing on the influencer’s connection with their followers.

People trust influencers

We know that people trust recommendations from friends and family. And many consumers see the influencers they follow as a trusted resource for discovering new businesses, brands, products, and services. So, if a trusted influencer posts about a new favorite clothing item–from a company that’s paying them for a post–it’s a sure bet that at least some of their followers are going to click the link in their bio to purchase that item. And, those that don’t make the purchase are now aware of the brand. Brands want to capitalize on that following and the organic connection that these influencers have built with their audiences.

Consumers know when a post from an influencer is paid because influencers are required to disclose that information, especially on Instagram. You can tell by looking at the hashtags–they typically include one like #ad, #sponsored, #partner, etc.

It works

Honestly, I’m a sucker for influencer marketing. I’ve purchased so many things because an influencer I follow told me about it. And if I don’t make a purchase, I’ll look up info about the business they’re touting and usually go back to it later when I have money to burn.

So, in the end, it’s a win for everyone involved (usually). It’s a win for the business because they’re reached a new audience and positioned themselves positively since they’re tied to a beloved influencer. It’s a win for the influencer because they made money from the post and potentially from any purchases made through their affiliate link (influencers will typically use a UTM code to track which consumers visited a business’s site or made a purchase because of them). And it’s a win for me because I have a new sweater (or five) that I’m obsessed with from a new favorite brand.

How to use influencer marketing for small businesses

Obviously, you’re probably not going to drop $5,000-$50,000 for one post from your favorite influencer for your business. And you don’t have to, especially when you’re creating a marketing strategy on a budget. You can include influencer marketing as part of your online strategy without breaking the bank.

Here are five tips for how to use influencer marketing for your business:

1. Identify the right influencers

There are many different categories of influencers. You have your celebrities, like the Kardashians, your big fashion influencers, your fitness influencers, and so on. The list is essentially infinite. It wouldn’t make sense for your local auto repair shop to partner with a big fashion influencer or even a fitness influencer. You want to choose influencers to work with who make sense for your industry and your area. I can pretty much guarantee you that there are aspiring influencers no matter where you live. And within that group of budding influencers, there is a handful that would make sense for your business (and your budget)–you may just have to think outside of the box.

For example, “mommy bloggers” are exactly what they sound like–moms who blog–and they can be very influential in local communities. An influencer in this category might be a great fit for your auto repair shop. They can share with their followers how simple you made the process, how their newly repaired car is so safe for their kids, and highlight the amenities you offer that make it a kid-friendly place to visit.

2. Outline the deliverables for your influencer marketing campaign

Now that you have an idea of the influencers you want to reach out to, you can develop your plan. Look at the type of content the influencers usually post–what do their other sponsored posts look like? What do their regular posts look like? What does their audience seem to engage most around? You can obviously refine your full plan once you connect with the influencer–they’ll likely want to collaborate or make tweaks based on their personal style and own knowledge of their audience.

Once you have an idea of what they could post about, build out your plan. Are you looking for just one post from them? Do you want them to attend an event you’re having or try your products or services? Are you looking for some kind of series from them?

Also, what is your end goal for your influencer marketing campaign? Do you want them to highlight one specific product or service, your business overall, or an upcoming event? Make sure to get very prescriptive about what you’re hoping to accomplish so you can measure whether or not it worked for your business.

Your plan will dictate your budget–and vice versa. If you really only have a set amount you can spend on influencer marketing, you may have to adjust your plan based on that.

3. Consider a contest

Many influencers will partner with businesses and brands for contests. This is an easy and pretty cost-effective way to drive action around your business. It also ties into your social media goals. If you’re looking to grow your reach on Instagram, your contest can be around participants liking your page and commenting on one of your posts as well as the influencer’s posts to enter. If you’re hoping to drive website visits or engagement on your site, your contest can be for people to sign up for your newsletter and then comment on the influencer’s post when they’re done.

You can give away a variety of prizes–from a free product or service from your business all the way up to a free trip. It’s really up to you and what your budget looks like.

Speaking of budget…

4. Determine your influencer marketing budget

Next, you have to set your budget. Influencers typically negotiate post pricing based on their audience size and what you want them to do. Asking them to highlight your brand in an Instagram Story–which disappears after 24 hours–is typically less expensive than asking for a full post. But it’s important to do your own research on what influencers in your local area and industry typically charge so you offer something compelling for both you and them.

Additionally, if you are looking to incorporate influencer marketing into your small business marketing strategy in a slower economy or when your marketing budget is lower, you can partner with up-and-coming influencers who are open to cross-promotion or freebies.

Say one of the influencers you identified has a smaller audience, like a micro-influencer, you can talk with them about experiencing your business for free in exchange for an Instagram Story or post. Then, you can feature them on your own social media pages to increase awareness for their profile like they increased awareness for your business. This is one budget-friendly way to get into influencer marketing.

5. Don’t stop there! Stay social

Building a solid social media strategy goes hand-in-hand with influencer marketing. If you’ve partnered with an influencer for a post, you want to make sure that your social pages and presence look good before and after the influencer marketing campaign. If an influencer is driving traffic to a desolate page, it might decrease trust in your business or brand. And, if you’ve gained new followers from your campaign, you want to give them something to continue engaging with.

Make influencer marketing work for your small business

Influencer marketing is attainable and can be extremely successful for businesses and brands of all sizes–and of all budget sizes. If influencer marketing is new for your small business, it can be daunting to figure out the right steps and strategy. But, with a little planning and some out-of-the-box thinking, you can make influencer marketing a hit.

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