Influencer marketing has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry within the last few years, and giants from all industries are known to use the strategy. Influencer marketing can help brands achieve goals related to branding, engagement, sales, and more.
But, you don’t have to be a massive company to take advantage of influencer marketing. Even small, local businesses can employ the strategy.
However, success is dependent on finding the right social media influencers for your brand. This can be a bit overwhelming sometimes, especially for small brands with limited resources. So if you’re a small business interested in influencer marketing, keep reading to discover what to look for in influencers.
Before we start, here’s how to find influencers
There are three primary ways to find influencers:
- Social media
- Influencer marketing platform
- Influencer marketing agency
The easiest way to do this is with an agency, but it’s also the most expensive option, and probably not a viable one for most small brands. An influencer marketing platform requires a subscription, but is much cheaper than an agency.
With that type of tool, you’ll find influencers much more easily than if you search on social media directly. However, if your budget is extremely limited, don’t rule out searching directly on social media. It requires the most effort, but it’s free.
To decide which method is best for you, evaluate your objectives, available resources and budget. Whatever method you choose, it’s important that you have access to influencer performance metrics. You can get these from an agency or influencer marketing platform, or you can ask influencers for their media kits.
What to look for in influencers
Let’s take a look at the different metrics and qualities small businesses should look for in influencers.
- A follower count that you can afford
Influencer’s prices for services are determined by a few factors, namely: follower count, engagement rate, country of location, and the type of content you’re asking for.
Follower count is one of the most obvious ways to get a sense of what an influencer might cost. To do this, we can organize influencers in 6 tiers:
- Nano influencers, 1-5K followers
- Micro influencers, 5-50K followers
- Medium influencers, 50-100K followers
- Macro influencers, 100K-1M followers
- Mega influencers, 1M+ followers
- Key opinion leaders, no specific follower range
Small businesses should forget about collaborating with the likes of Kim Kardashian, because you simply can’t pay her. Mega influencers sometimes charge tens of thousands of dollars per post, or more!
Likewise, a KOL (or key opinion leader) isn’t always a viable choice, either. KOLs are people who are resident experts in their field, and who can sway public opinion with just a simple recommendation. They can also be very costly, and are difficult to get in touch with. So if you’re a small brand, a KOL might not be your best bet.
Thankfully, there are good options out there for small brands. Nano influencers, who have 1-5K followers, will generally collaborate with brands in exchange for free products alone. Micro influencers, who have 5-50K followers, may also work for free products alone, or products and a small fee.
You might be thinking that these influencers, who have relatively small followings, won’t be able to make an impact on your campaign. But think again, because these influencers have the highest average engagement rates of all, which brings us to the next point.
- Good engagement rate
Engagement rate shows the level of interaction between an influencer and their followers. The more the audience trusts and enjoys an influencer’s content, the more likely they are to interact with it. We calculate engagement rate as a function of content interactions compared to the number of followers an influencer has.
Anyway, the more connected an influencer is with their audience, the better chance they can translate that engagement into engagement with your brand. And as small businesses can’t afford mega influencers with millions of followers around the world, it’s better to promote your brand to engaged niches. You connect with fewer people, true, but they’re the right people for your brand.
How do you know what’s a good engagement rate or a bad one? You should compare influencers to the average engagement for their peers. You can do this with an influencer marketing platform, or get the influencer’s media kit and research the benchmarks for their segment.
Just know that engagement rate averages vary depending on social network, category, and follower count. So, don’t compare TikTok creators against the averages for Instagram influencers. Likewise, don’t compare fashion influencers with 5K followers with sports influencers who have 500K followers.
Finally, look out for extreme engagement. If it’s very low, people are interested in the influencer’s content, their followers are inactive, or their followers are fake. If it’s very high, the influencer may have bought fake engagements (like fake likes or comments).
- An authentic audience that matches your target
All marketing campaigns must keep in mind their target audience. You can’t be successful if you don’t direct your campaign at a specific group of people who fit your buyer personas. The target audience also helps to guide your choice of influencers.
When searching for influencers, look to see if their audience matches your target. Analyze audience demographics like age, gender, country, language and interests to make sure the influencer can connect you to the right people. If you don’t have access to this info, ask the influencer for their media kit and audience demographics.
An audience interests analysis from an influencer marketing platform, which shows us that over half of this influencer’s audience is interested in surfing.
While looking at an influencer’s audience, also look into its authenticity. Do a fake followers audit to weed out any influencers with audiences made up of bots. Fake followers allegedly cost brands $1.3 billion in 2019. And as a small business with a relatively low budget compared to other brands, it’s especially important that you don’t waste your money marketing to bots.
An audience authenticity analysis from an influencer marketing platform. 8.46% of this influencer’s followers have demonstrated some type of suspicious behavior typically found in bots.
There are a few ways you can usually spot a bot:
- No profile picture of biography info
- Names that seem to be random strings of letters and numbers
- Little to no content, or content with heavy advertising angle
- Comments that seem unnatural or off-topic, as if not written by a real human
Verifying audience authenticity is an important step in making sure you find the right influencers for your small business.
- Local presence
Big brands can work with influencers from around the world, because their companies have an international presence. But for your small business, things are different. You should, instead, stay local.
Why? Well, a local influencer will better understand your brand and its culture, and can maybe even visit you if you have a physical location. Second, local influencers will better connect you with people in your area, and these are the people who can actually become your potential consumers.
- Content and personality that aligns with your brand
Finally, this last point is true for all brands doing influencer marketing: Find influencers who align with your brand. In other words, it should be clear to followers why the influencer and your brand are collaborating.
This quality can’t be measured in data, so you have to take a careful look at the influencer’s profile and trust your instinct. Think about questions like:
- Does this influencer create content in the same category as my brand?
- Is their content up to par with my standards?
- Can their voice transmit my message?
- Does the influencer uphold my brand’s values?
- Does their aesthetic style make sense with mine?
Choosing influencers who mesh with your brand will lead to more authentic, believable collaborations.
Influencer marketing is a massive industry, but even the smallest businesses can use this strategy to boost. Just remember that success is dependent on finding the right influencer to collaborate with.