A while ago it was the total Wild Wild West of Advertising, with rate fluctuation looking at like 300% for the same sized audiences. Brands were paying ridiculous rates to Influencers who built their followings with mostly bots and booty shorts, but that’s dying down now, and what’s left after that dust settles is an extremely authentic way to grow your brand, convert and literally influence people to use/try/buy your stuff. With that, I wanted to take the time to write out what I’ve learned about how you can do your own Influencer Marketing tests, even with minimal budgets, yourself. Firstly, I want to say, there are three major ways you can go about Influencer Marketing:
- DIY (which is the purpose of this post so I won’t elaborate on what that means yet)
- Going through an agency like God and Beauty (who I recommend)
- Using a platform like Influence.com, Heartbeat, AspireIQ etc.
The difference between each strategy basically is more money investment vs. more time investment for you and your team. For instance, if you go through an agency, they’ll do the heavy lifting for you from start to finish, but you’ll need to pay a decent percentage of your total budget to get that assistance. Agencies are also great if you’re starting out because you can benefit from people who have been in the trenches (like Kyle at G&B) for thousands of posts since the inception of the advertising channel. Basically, if you’re a bootstrapped, self-funded company, you’ll need to go the DIY approach, and my entire near 15-year career has been dedicated to helping early-stage businesses so, why stop now! Let me tell you how to do your own Influencer Campaign:
Step 1) Discovery
The first thing I always do is develop a keyword list that I want to use to discover Influencers who will have an audience of our target users. For this exercise, I didn’t spend a ton of time developing this list, but I would obviously suggest you research this in-depth with more time. Let’s say I’m a healthy food delivery startup focused on affluent 25-45-year-olds. I won’t name any names, because they’re not paying me, but just pick one in your mind. Assume that after I wrote out all the keywords, I searched dozens of terms in the channels I want to advertise on and found these 5 to be the most accurate:
Develop Influencer Keywords:
“Healthy” “Medicine” “Wellness” “Fitness” “Organic”
For the sake of this exercise, let’s imagine these 5 terms are super targeted to our users based on significant research. I’ll source and develop lists of Influencers for each term,(for this exercise I’ll just show 1 each) to test out engagement and identify which “community” or keyword focus is best for us to scale up with this strategy.
I then suggest you go to your various Social Media platforms (Not just Insta) and/ or Influencer Platforms like Aspire, HeartBeat, Influence.co etc and search for users based on these keywords. You’re looking to test Influencers at various sizes, but each should have a solid blend of these three metrics:
- Audience – How many total followers.
- Engagement – How active are followers.
- Activations – How many directly ask followers to purchase?
Beyond the 3 mentioned above, do they have the audience your company wishes to target? This can be ascertained by looking at the keyword relevance of their profile, posts and their content. Their location is also important if your business is focused on specific geographies.
Average Post Engagement
Then I’m looking at the average engagement of their posts.This sheet has the formulas I use for determining the engagement ROI of an influencer before I engage them.
Note: the rest is dummy content but shows you an example of the metrics and KPIs I look for.
I’ve found that much of my Influencer Marketing success has come from smaller Influencers under 100k followers, not only because they have more engagement, but because they’re also less saturated, and have more interest in large partnerships including cross-platform and multipost campaigns.
Note: For this article, I’ll suggest larger partnerships with large Influencers only.
Then I’m looking for previous activations that they’ve done with similarly aligned brands. I want to see SOME activations, showing the type of content and the average engagements but I don’t want to see too many. I like to look for at least one post a month but not more than 1 post a week.
If they saturate too much then their “influence goes down quite a bit.” Now, you also need to test various channels. You may already know that Instagram works best for your business organically, but I also like to look at a few other outlier platforms like Pinterest and Youtube or even industry-specific forums for test engagements, or if Influencers have diverse audiences across multiple platforms we can test cross-platform multi-post engagements as well. For the sake of this exercise, I’ll just pick 5 relevant Influencers on Instagram.
Here are the 5 Influencers I chose in 2 minutes for the above keywords:
Note: You don’t have to do a female influencer, I have had several campaigns where male Influencers have outperformed females. I just found the top profiles for these keywords were female. Also, you would want to try several other search terms, even with multiple words.
Step 2) Pitch
So if I am not dealing with an agency or a platform, I start with a very simple cold outreach message like the email below:
Or via DM to get their email and add them to my list of Influencers:
Or even better is inviting them to a launch event:
Take a moment to brainstorm and see if you have something valuable to offer the Influencers besides just cash. Many of them will say no to anything besides financial reward, but enough will agree to make your campaign a success, even with low budgets. Some ideas of other things to offer are below. Reach out to them with short succinct messages that are valuable and your response rate will be decent. Focus on Influencers who are not doing a lot of paid posts as they’re more likely to be interested in other value.
Other Things that are valuable: Free merch – Giveaways – Content Ideas – Exclusives
The pitch then becomes more focused on collaboration with strict guidelines for content to ensure success. What I’ve found with Influencers is that the larger their audience, the lazier they tend to be, so we want to make it exciting by pitching large partnerships, but also hold them accountable with strict guidelines so they can’t “slack off” on the content creation, often trying to reuse content they’ve already created.
The bottom line for all of my influencer pitches is how can I make an engagement with my brand more valuable to their audience than other brands that reach out to them. We want them to feel like this is valuable for more than just financial reasons…so coming at them with creative ideas and fun ideas that will delight and impress their followers will be best at helping them be ok with not getting a big paycheck. This is especially true for the under-100k Influencer.
Also, if you have an upcoming event you can invite them to, it’s even better. Influencers love free stuff and that means swag, and party/event invites too, so if you’re doing an event or launch party you can invite all press and all potential Influencers and the pitch becomes something like this:
Note: the average response rate of an invite is like 75% for me..vs 35% for other messages.
Step 3: Create
The secret tip to having a successful Influencer Marketing campaign, is having control over the content. The more guidelines you give the Influencer the better the outcome. In my experience, content like the below works best…that is created solely to promote our product, with product placement in the post, showing the influencer using it, and actually believable. This is ideal. To have maximum engagement we want Influencers who would actually use the product.
On the other end of the spectrum, a poor Influencer post is often just a random photo of just the Influencer, with the focus on the Influencer’s sexuality/body and even other products in the post.
See the difference in the total engagements between the above posts, now guess what? The influencer in the second image has a larger following (slightly) and we paid both engagements the same amount. So know exactly what you want them to do ahead of time. It helps to create a PDF kit that you can just email them as you sign them up. This entire process should only take a week’s worth of work for everything from sourcing, messaging, following up, PayPaling them etc. You can easily start off with 20-30 of these and see how it works for your business before scaling up to larger Influencers, and working with Agencies and bigger platforms/engagements at scale.
As I’m writing this, I’m wondering about all the negative comments I’ll get from other “Digital Marketers” out there who still shun the thought of engaging in Influencer Marketing. Bottom line, the data doesn’t lie, and for certain brands, with certain target demographics, this stuff really works. The key is just knowing how to do it right. I hope this helps you scale your business. If you’ve got questions or feedback please comment below. Has Influencer Marketing worked for you? You can also reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
To read more stuff I wrote: www.andrewstartups.com/blog
Ps. If you’re looking to learn ALL my proven strategies for building scalable organic growth without a budget, enroll in my comprehensive Growth Hacking Course that covers how to scale 10+ channels! Over 30 free tool recommendations and 45 HD Video lessons, with a 60-page workbook on how to do everything from your own SEO to Influencer Marketing without a budget. Check it out here: https://andrewstartups.com/online-growth-course/