28% of marketers report that influencer marketing is the fastest growing customer acquisition method. We’ll get into why in a bit…
But does it work for solopreneurs and small business?
And it can be done for free, or by using low-cost tools.
This article focuses on businesses that don’t have big budgets for marketing but are prepared to put in the work to find real influencers who will believe in their products and services and get excited about a potential partnership to help your business grow.
What is influencer marketing?
Word of mouth marketing has always been the most powerful form of marketing, from the minute people started selling stuff way back when, and it still stands true today.
In online marketing, influencer marketing is based on the fact that consumers trust other consumers more than they trust brands.
It makes sense because the average online user is exposed to about 3000 brand messages every day. It’s too much.
And online, where you can’t actually see the face on the other side of the computer, trust is key.
Building trust online is essential to making sales, and influencer marketing builds trust and credibility in a way no other marketing method can because influencers are people who have:
- Reach through social media or some other form (they can reach a large number of people).
- Credibility they’ve built in a certain area; they’re viewed by others as experts, and
- Sales and communication skills that persuade people to try or buy.
In addition, they share these personality traits:
- They like to try new things
- They enjoy sharing
- They’re motivated
Influencers are not necessarily celebrities, just people who have authority in a certain niche.
So influencer marketing is using influencers to promote products or services to the followers who believe in them.
But. When an influencer promotes your goods, it has to be done naturally and sincerely because influencers are usually people who have built their credibility by being credible. And that is where the trickiness of this type of marketing comes in, which we’ll get to.
Solopreneurs who use influencer marketing, tap into the power of a person’s influence online.
If you’re wondering how effective it is… more than 67% of marketers are increasing their budgets to accommodate this technique.
Image Source: Influencer Marketing Hub
Having said that, it’s not only big companies who are investing in influencer marketing.
Solopreneurs, without a big budget, or even any budget, can also utilize influencer marketing.
Why influencer marketing?
There’s many digital methods of marketing, such as:
- Search engine marketing
- Email marketing
- Paid advertising
- SMS marketing
- Affiliate marketing
And so on.
And yet, a study shows an increase of 325% in Google searches for “influencer marketing” in one year, which confirms the growing popularity of the strategy. That can only mean one thing: influencer marketing works.
Indeed, a report by Linquia found that 92% of marketers say that influencer marketing is effective.
It’s all about T-R-U-S-T.
Traditionally, people would do business with people they liked and trusted. And because they would go into a physical store where “real” people could be seen working, consumers would go into a shop and believe that if they were to buy something that needed to be returned and refunded, all they’d need to do is simply return to the shop with the item and proof of payment, and Bob’s Your Uncle.
Or before they’d agree to accepting a service, they’d meet with a representative and discuss the deal.
Digital marketing is different because generally speaking, consumers don’t interact with humans, but with clicks. This is why email and social media marketing are still so important – because when done correctly, relationships and trust are built.
Digitally speaking, humans find it hard to trust online brands because they can’t see the humans face-to-face behind the computer.
A whopping 70% of millennial consumers are influenced to purchase by recommendations of their peers.
And this is why influencer marketing is so effective; the influencer has built trust with a large group of people. When they endorse a product or service, their followers consider the influencer a trusted peer, and so the influencer has tremendous persuasive power.
To boot, influencers are so much more interesting than brands. For example, Imforza says that 86% of the most-watched videos on YouTube about beauty were made by influencers, compared to a mere 14% from brands. Brands are boring and focus on the promotional aspects, but influencers treat their audience as buddies. And buddies are far more fun than business meetings.
When he or she recommends your goods, you can be sure that many of their followers will buy into what they say.
Instead of you as a solopreneur needing to build credibility from scratch via various channels like social media and email marketing, a two minute discussion about your goods from the mouth of an influencer can generate more sales than had you spent months of hard work trying to build trust.
Motivating factors for influencers
Not all influencers will want to partner with you. And that’s OK. But it helps to know what will motivate people to help grow your business.
This is the formula that motivates micro-influencers:
They believe in your products or services +
Have an audience that would also be into your goods +
You are not direct competitors.
And here’s the proof to back it up:
Image Source: Crowdtap
How do influencers prefer to benefit from joining forces with you? By getting paid to do so:
While they may prefer getting monetary compensation, it’s not the deciding factor and you can still try other compensations; just put on your creative hat by understanding what’s important to them and seeing how to meet their needs first.
Aaron Orendorff, currently the Editor in Chief at Shopify and founder of iConiContent, was unemployed five years ago. Desperate to do something, he started a blog. Today, he has become a social media influencer.
In this video, he speaks about how he used influencer marketing to land huge writing gigs for the world’s top websites like Lifehacker, Entrepreneur and BusinessInsider.
He provides a unique tip for success: find influencers you genuinely admire and target them. Why? Because you have to be genuine and build relationships based on mutual respect.
Brian Rudolph, founder of Banza (a chickpea pasta company) started out by emailing influencers to gain traction for a new concept and product that at the time, did not yet have traction and was going through growing pains.
He started out by dropping comments on photos of the people who had big Instagram followings, saying something like, “Hey this looks really good, would you want to try our product?”
When an influencer shared the product, other influencers wanted to try pasta made from chickpeas.
All it required was time.
Here’s another success story. In 2014, at the time a small luxury mattress company, Leesa, who deals directly with consumers, needed a way to reach millennials.
They decided to look for a set of influencers that spoke the language of their target audience, reaching out to them for support, and received positive responses. The campaign set them up for robust growth, drawing more than 100,000 clicks to their website.
Types of influencers
The type of influencer you decide to look for must depend on your goals. For example, local influencers who are not on social media may be suitable if your goal is to run workshops. So your goal must drive the type of influencer you target.
- Celebrity – not the best option for small businesses as they are not likely to benefit from partnering with you. It’s also difficult to “get” to them.
- Local – often won’t have a social media following, or very few, but may be a good choice depending on what you want to achieve.
- Networkers – it’s not about their followers, but rather who the connector knows. These people have the gift of connecting people. A viable option for solopreneurs and small businesses.
- Authority – these are people whose aim is to get people to listen to them. They write books, do talks and so on in order to build their authority on a subject. A good option for the solopreneur or small business, granted the authority figure is not someone on the level of a Tony Robbins or Richard Branson.
- Media – not a great option if you don’t have anything that’s not really juicy, or that can benefit the media. Pitches don’t work. Not recommended for the small business.
- Micro-influencers – these are people with followers on social media of about 1000 – 10000; large enough to have influence but small enough to “get” to. Good for small businesses.
How to find influencers for free or low cost
When you’re a solopreneur, you’ve got to think of ways to market your business that are free or low cost, and micro-influencers are ideal.
The reason why you want to go for the micro-influencer is that you stand a better chance of them being interested in what you have to offer, unlike a better-known celebrity or expert who gets inundated with requests.
What to look for:
- Are their followers the right audience for your business?
- Is there high engagement between the micro-influencer and followers?
- Does the influencer have enough followers (minimum 1000 and maximum 10000)?
How to find them:
Your own followers
If you have already built up some social media presence, you may have Twitter or Instagram followers who are micro-influencers. The best way to identify them is by the number of followers.
The next step is to find out if the content they post is relevant to your business, but not in direct competition.
Now think up ways to start engaging with them. But you have to remember that the reason why they’re so popular is that they are authentic. They will not respond to any appeal that is not authentic or cheap or fake.
Use the “Search & Explore” feature on Instagram (location + hashtag) to find people you don’t yet follow.
The next method of finding micro-influencers are with free or low-cost tools:
- Buzzsumo: Enter a term for Buzzsumo to bring up a list of top quality content. These will be top influencers in that niche. Be careful though, not to use direct competitors. So the terms used must be related to your niche, but not your actual niche. You could also use the “influencers” function which shows their number of followers and allows you to save influencers for later.
Buzzsumo “influencers” search function.
- Tweetdeck: Meant to manage your Twitter account, it’s an easier way to find influencers, view their profile, followers, and content for relevancy, or conduct hashtag searches.
- Followerwonk: Find bios based on keywords and check the number of followers, number of tweets, how long the influencer has been on Twitter, and social authority.
These are really just a few of the most popular tools to find influencers, but there are many more. Do a Google search using a variation of this phrase to find more: “find influencers free tools”.
How to approach micro-influencers
Here are some ideas to kick off engagement:
- First know your goal. What is it you want to achieve? Be very clear with yourself about this first before approaching influencers.
- Start by interacting with micro-influencers on social media so they can get to know about you. If they are not responsive to comments on their posts, it’s best to find other influencers who are, because the more engaged they are with their followers, the quicker they will notice you. Do not be fake about this. It’s no good liking 10 of their posts one after the other and then pitching them five minutes later… they’ll see right through that.
- Be genuine in your approach. Start by following them, commenting on posts, sharing their images, videos and so on. Find common ground and weave that into any engagement you initiate with them.
- Give before you take. If you email them, personalize your email. And when I say personalize, include something that will benefit them. For instance, if you wrote a blog post and mentioned them with regards to something they’re passionate about, you may email them to let them know they got a mention. Never ask them to do something for you first. Genuine appreciation for the influencer is the order of the day because then you come across as authentic.
- Once you believe they know who you are, take a more formal approach.
How to measure success
It’s not always easy to measure success once a micro-influencer partners with you, but there are ways of finding out how things are going. Check for:
- Increase in revenue.
- Increase in social media engagement.
- Increase in website traffic (you can check this with Google Analytics which you first have to set up before you will see results).
Famous last words
The hardest part of any digital marketing campaign is the patience factor. Results can take so long to see, and it’s no different with influencer marketing.
Tom Fishburne, Founder of Marketoonist said, “The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.”
And with influencer marketing, this is especially true.