Look back over the history of digital marketing and you’ll see the various trends that have popped up and taken the attention of marketers. Recently, social media has taken over and, in particular, influencers have gained traction. Let's start with the basics: What’s an influencer on Instagram? How do you get influencer marketing right in 2021?
Do you have your favorite TV chef? Perhaps a favorite sports commentator? Well, they would be considered influencers in a traditional way. We listen to their opinions, buy their books, and respect their values. Influencer marketing describes the same influential personalities but with those present on social media platforms like Instagram.
An influencer is somebody that has built a strong following in a particular niche, whether on Instagram or away from the platform. While some people build their followership on Instagram itself, others have a strong following on Instagram as a by-product of fame elsewhere.
Influencer marketing is the idea of partnering with an influencer to advertise a product/service to their audience. For example, if a fashion Instagram personality has 100,000 followers, it makes sense for a clothing company to partner with this influencer. The influencer gets paid to wear certain items of clothing and the company gains access to the 100,000-strong audience.
Why are so many companies starting to invest in influencer marketing? Great question. The answer is that there are lots of benefits to this marketing technique. First, it’s available to businesses of all sizes. While global corporations will choose an influencer with millions of followers, smaller businesses will opt for a smaller influencer.
Second, it works. It might sound simple, but audiences choose who to follow on Instagram - they have actively clicked the ‘Follow’ button on the profile of an influencer. They respect the opinion of this person and are likely to listen to sponsored posts and ads.
Third, it’s a more organic way of generating exposure and awareness for a brand without continually shouting and frustrating people. Users engage with the influencer through posts, stories, live streams, and other content rather than just one advertisement.
Furthermore, influencer marketing isn’t exactly a new idea. Look back 50 years and you’ll see celebrities on commercials for specific brands - the only change is that the influencing takes place on social media and digital platforms rather than television and newspaper ads.
Tips for Effective Influencer Marketing on Instagram
If you already knew the information above, it’s time to move past the basics and offer some valuable advice. Knowing all about influencer marketing and generating an effective campaign are two very different beasts. Here are some valuable tips!
Just like targeting in paid ad campaigns and selecting the right audience, you cannot achieve anything on Instagram if you don’t have the right influencer. Sadly, this is where many have gone wrong. When choosing an influencer, it’s important to keep the following in mind:
Ideally, you want somebody with a strong audience, that fits with the brand, that communicates clearly, has worked effectively with previous sponsors and actually has a passion for the brand. If the influencer isn’t passionate about the brand, how can we expect any audience member to feel a desire to purchase from the company?
Before choosing an influencer, make sure you have the right fit for the brand. Ensure that the audience engages with the influencer and be sure to check the content they post (you don’t want to get caught up in an Instagram controversy!).
If you aren’t willing to compensate influencers, there’s no chance they will choose to work with your business. Unfortunately, there’s no easy step-by-step guide here because the niche is in its infancy. However, we can learn from companies that have already traveled this path.
While some pay influencers a flat rate, others offer free products or a commission structure. For example, 10% of all revenue that’s generated by the influencer directly. Think about a payment plan that keeps the influencer motivated while not rendering the whole marketing strategy pointless.
If the influencer is already a customer, it’s wise to offer free products as compensation. On the other hand, payments are better for those aiming to make a living on platforms like Instagram.
We mentioned controversies, and this was rife not so long ago both on Instagram and YouTube. Ultimately, influencers weren’t disclosing sponsored posts and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) decided that this was misleading consumers. Transparency is now key with influencer marketing. Be sure to not forget this in your strategy.
You have a responsibility, alongside your influencers, to make sponsored posts clear and transparent. Consumers don’t mind businesses having relationships with influencers, but they do mind when this relationship isn’t made clear at the beginning.
At this stage, we recommend reading up on FTC regulations when it comes to sponsored posts and influencer marketing. Don’t assume that the influencer understands the fine print, because many companies have ran into trouble with this in the past.
For those who were hoping to escape the never-ending statistics and data, we have bad news. This is a marketing technique and, as such, needs analysis just like any other strategy. After all, we can’t be sure of the efficacy of marketing investments without first reviewing performance.
According to studies, around eight in ten businesses currently use engagement as a measure of success. Yet, this is likely to change as Instagram now accommodates sales directly from the platform. As time progresses, we expect more businesses to use traffic, sales, conversions, and similar metrics to uncover success (or failure!).
Not everybody pushes for sales with influencer marketing, so we recommend considering your goals before tracking performance. You might desire website traffic, brand sentiment, engagement, sales, or something else entirely.
Often, we see articles and guides cover the marketing stage of the process while talent acquisition goes forgotten. If you don’t want to fall at the first hurdle, be careful with how you approach a prospective influencer. Especially if they’re the perfect fit for the brand, you don’t want to scare them away before you have a chance to pitch properly.
Don’t forget, many influencers receive messages from companies weekly, daily, or perhaps even hourly. Rather than contacting them through Instagram, look for an email address and provide a brief on your potential relationship. Don’t set too many rules and don’t take away their creative freedoms (this won’t go down well!). Also, research what a business of your size should expect to pay and offer a fair rate (or a fair number of free products).
When working with your influencer, create a strategy that incorporates all the different types of content available on Instagram. Consider the different content mediums as well when discussing compensation at the very beginning. For example, a post will have a different price to a story or live video.
If your audience will engage with all three types of content, be sure to include them in your strategy. While stories are the cheapest content type, posts and videos are more expensive.
Just because you’re working with an influencer, doesn’t mean that you can’t share the happy stories of existing customers. For example, one idea is to transform customer content into a social ad. By using influencer and customer content, you can reach out to prospective customers organically (and in a way that should resonate!).
Lastly, no marketing strategy is ever successful without some monitoring. For one thing, you don’t want to allow your influencer full autonomy because they could generate a bill of thousands very quickly. With no control, they’ll post every day and make all sorts of videos that you didn’t even request. Make sure that both parties are clear on the relationship and that all content is approved before posting.
Remember that influencer marketing works both ways. As well as getting the influencer to post on their platforms, get content created for your own channels - including social media and your website. People will find the influencer’s content on your channels and have an easier route to your pages, websites, and other profiles.
Be willing to make adjustments if the analytics suggest that they’re necessary. We all want to keep influencers happy, but we’re also paying for an outcome, a conversion action. If this action isn’t coming, changes are required. While some companies rediscover an effective strategy with some simple changes, others need to fully revamp the strategy and start again with a different influencer. Often, this happens when the two audiences are no longer aligned.
Here are eight tips for effective influencer marketing on Instagram in 2021 - take advantage of the tools available on Instagram, find the right influencer, and grow your audience this year!