COVID-19 changed everything, including influencer marketing. Half the world is trapped inside their homes, which resulted in a sharp increase in engagement rates on social media platforms, to the tune of 18%.
Increased screen time gave influencers a second wind during COVID-19. In fact, nearly 80% of influencers have reported higher engagement from their followers during the pandemic.
But it’s not just influencers who are capitalizing on the new normal. Brands that invest in influencer marketing earn $5.20 for every $1 spent.
Although influencer marketing boosts revenue, 61% of marketers say they have a hard time sourcing influencers for their campaigns. Influencer marketing is difficult during the best of times, but during a pandemic, the rules have changed.
You need reliable, down-to-earth influencers to share your brand’s message. It’s not enough to show off glitzy outfits or products—these messages are tone-deaf in a world that’s trying to recover from catastrophe. If an influencer can’t persuade their following in the midst of a pandemic, you’ll never see results.
Fortunately, more customers are engaging with influencers during the pandemic. Tap into this trend ASAP: you need awesome social media influencers, and you need them right now.
Most important—and overlooked—tips to find high-quality influencers
But Instagram and YouTube are flooded with wannabe influencers. How do you sift through all of your options? Who’s the best fit for your brand, anyway?
The Lingble team compiled these 4 expert tips to find the best influencers for your campaigns.
1 – Macro influencers are nice, but micro influencers convert branding into conversions
There are two types of influencers: macro influencers and micro influencers.
Macro influencers are celebrities and quasi-celebrity figures with a large social media following (50k or more followers). These are people like the Kardashians, who collaborate with brands for a living.
Brands like working with macro influencers because of their high follower count. After all, who wouldn’t want to put their products in front of millions of people?
The problem with macro influencers is that, despite their large audience size, they don’t have a close connection with their followers. There’s a distance between the influencer and their followers that results in lower engagement rates.
In Lingble’s experience, macro influencers charge thousands of dollars for just one Instagram post; that’s hardly ideal for a growing eCommerce brand. You can get some traction with macro influencers, but micro influencers should be your focus.
Micro influencers have 5k – 50k followers, so they definitely have a smaller audience. Although they’re small, they’re mighty. Micro influencers:
- Get 60% more engagement than macro influencers.
- Are 6.7X more cost-effective than macro influencers.
- Increase conversions by 20%.
Followers see micro influencers as relatable, everyday people. They tend to trust their recommendations more than they would a big-name celebrity. Micro influencers’ relatability and audience connection make them better candidates for branded messages, especially in niche markets.
How to find micro influencers
You need to partner with micro influencers, but how do you find them? Our clients use these quick tips to source better influencers, faster:
- Practice social listening: Regularly check platforms like Instagram or Reddit. Who is talking about your niche? Are there any outspoken or noticeable users? Or people with a unique style? These are your potential micro influencers. While you could spend hours sifting through hashtags and keywords, you can use a social listening tool like Sprout Social or BuzzSumo to speed things up.
- Check your competitors’ followers: Go to your competitors’ social accounts and see who’s following them. Do they have any notable or outspoken influencers on their follow list? If an influencer is interested in your competitor, there’s a good chance that they would also be interested in your brand.
- Source everything in-house: It’s tempting to use a marketing agency to source micro influencers on your behalf, but that’s not the best approach. Do the influencer research yourself. An agency takes too much time to understand your brand, and that’s precious time you need to start your campaign.
2 – Loyal fans love you already, so partner with them!
Partnering with established micro influencers is just one way to find social media influencers for your campaign. Existing customers can become your biggest advocates, too.
At Lingble, we encourage eCommerce brands to seek out existing fans first.
Fans have firsthand knowledge of your products and the customer experience, which makes them an ideal influencer. Plus, they’re representative of your target audience, which gives you a direct line to your audience’s pain points and needs.
In fact, these fans aren’t just loyal shoppers. They’re fanfluencers: fanatical customers who evangelize your products across the web.
But how do you find fanfluencers? We recommend looking at:
- Order history: Do you have repeat customers? Are there people who have bought 3+ times from your store? Repeat purchases are a vote of confidence for your brand.
- Social media: Is there a follower that frequently engages with your posts? Do they share updates about your products or tag you in posts?
Once you’ve identified your brand’s fans, give them the chance to become a micro influencer. That’s right: you can transform VIP customers into fanfluencers, even if they’ve never done influencer work before.
Send customers a personalized email thanking them for their support. In the email, ask the customer if they would write a review about their purchase. Give them links for where to post their review, like forums, Instagram, or a niche community. In return for their support, offer the customer a gift from one of your product collections.
3 – Avoid bots, bought likes, and Instagram pods
Unfortunately, the demand for micro influencers created a big problem: influencer fraud. Not every micro influencer is legitimate, and it’s important to spot the signs of low-quality influencers to make the most of your investment.
Avoid red flags like:
- Bots: Does an influencer have a high number of followers, but low engagement? That usually means they’re using bots to boost their follower counts.
- Bought likes: Some influencers will pay other users to engage with their posts. Since engagement rate is an important metric for influencer success, this increases an influencer’s opportunity for lucrative sponsorships. But it actually means nothing for brands.
- Pods: A pod is a group of Instagram users that fights the social platform’s algorithm. Pods agree to boost each other’s posts to get more engagement on their own posts. They mimic actual engagement, but in reality, they’re artificially trying to game the system.
Avoid social media influencers who use shady tactics like these; they will drain your budget and won’t get you any real results. Even if the influencer seems experienced or high-quality, these practices call their legitimacy into question.
It’s difficult to spot influencer fraud, but checking engagement and follower ratios, asking for references, and analyzing benchmarks are a good place to start.
4 – Find someone who isn’t in it just for the money
At Lingble, we know your brand will only grow if you have dedicated, passionate fanfluencers behind your mission.
During this process, it’s important to weed out the influencers who are only in it for the compensation. You want true fanfluencers for your campaign. If they’re asking for payment instead of products, then they’re not for you. You’re looking for true fans, not walking advertisements.
When reaching out to micro influencers, figure out if they’re actually interested in your brand. You can gauge this from a quick Zoom call. Do they sound excited? Do they have a favorite feature? Why do they want to become a fanfluencer?
It’s also important to ask:
- Are they truly a fan of my brand?
- Do they share the same values as my brand?
- Do they have a following in a community that is relevant to my brand?
Lingble sees a lot of eCommerce brands trying to outsource this work, and that’s a big challenge. Remember, you’ll never be able to gauge a fanfluencer’s level of interest through a third-party. Always source micro influencers yourself to find the perfect match.
Influencer marketing best practices for eCommerce
But knowing how to source fanfluencers is half the battle. Follow these 3 tips to make the most of your influencer relationships.
1 – Talk to influencers like they’re real people (but get to the point)
So, you’ve found an influencer who could be a fit for your brand. Now what?
Start the relationship by sending them a message. Some influencers will provide their email address for brand inquiries, but you’ll likely have to DM them on social media.
Remember, this is the beginning of a relationship. You can’t start the message with, “Work for me and I’ll give you free stuff!” Be friendly, concise, and professional.
If you’re feeling stuck, use this structure to write an effective influencer outreach message:
- Greet them and introduce yourself.
- Compliment their work (or at least make it obvious you’ve noticed their social presence).
- Ask if they’re interested in partnering up.
- Let the influencer know what’s in it for them.
In practice, this should read like:
“Hi, Mark! I’m Mary, the marketing director at ABC Beauty. I saw your posts on eyelash application tips and loved them! From time to time, we provide significant discounts and gifts to our outspoken fans. We do it for those who we know will enjoy the products and share that experience with others. Based on your posts, we think you would really enjoy our products and would love to hear back from you.”
Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t hear back from everyone. Influencers are busy people, and not everyone will want to work with your brand. If you aren’t getting a lot of responses, try engaging with influencers on social media first. Like, comment, and share their posts so they recognize your name.
2 – Don’t pay for influencer marketing (find your fanfluencers instead)
We’ll probably get a lot of heat for this one, but just hear us out.
This is a controversial topic in the marketing world, but Lingble firmly believes that you should compensate fanfluencers only with products or gifts. Yes, their following is valuable, but it’s often not enough to justify cash payments.
Of course, you can’t ask your fans to work for nothing. You do need to give your fanfluencers a reason to promote your brand. So, instead of offering payment, send fanfluencers products and gifts in exchange for their time.
We’re not advocating that people should work for free. This is only applicable to fanfluencers who are already your fans. If you work with an established micro influencer with a proven track record, it’s okay to pay them. But make sure that payment is tied to a specific metric that means something (Instagram likes won’t work here). Use coupon codes and UTM tracking to compensate micro influencers fairly.
3 – Avoid contract relationships
Don’t create a relationship where an influencer promises a certain number of posts in exchange for products. A restrictive contract just doesn’t give the relationship room to flourish over time. Plus, if an influencer genuinely loves your product, you can expect them to post over an established quota, anyway.
If a micro influencer pushes for a contract, move on. Continue searching until you find someone who is enthusiastic about celebrating your brand with their followers.
Influencer marketing is the future
COVID-19 may have changed the world, but for brands, there’s never been a better time to invest in influencer marketing. Transform your most vocal and dedicated customers into fanfluencers. Avoid red flags, understand fair payment terms, and source someone who’s willing to grow with your brand. No matter where your eCommerce brand is today, influencers will launch you into the future.