If “influencer marketing” were a term coined a few decades earlier, Michael Jordan would be its very epitome. His image and the influence he created for Nike is far more valuable than whatever amount Nike and the Jordan brand have made for him. McDonald’s, Hanes, Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, and other household brands also benefited from his magic.
But there’s the rub, isn’t it? Not a lot of companies can afford to pay one of the most successful athletes of all time to endorse their products or services. And not all successful athletes, despite their command of high endorsement prices, can “be like Mike”, so you can’t be sure if they’re just as worthy of the gamble.
Although people have long followed endorsers’ lead, they knew they could never be exactly like them. They knew that celebrity and athlete endorsers were a world away from what they could possibly achieve. There was hardly a way to follow such popular people, let alone talk to them or share in whatever they were doing and comment on them.
Then Came Social
The social media boom is enjoying unprecedented influence. Businesses were quick to jump in, having seen how social has evolved—from an avenue for expression to a portal for easily reaching out to users from different generations.
These days, Mr. Jordan may not dominate hashtagged Tweets and Facebook Likes. But, that’s not because he’s lost his influence; it’s just that he and the rest of his generation of big names have taken a backseat to the new generation of heavily followed personalities.
Eighty-six million: that’s the number of Instagram users that follow millennial singer and actress Selena Gomez. Of the top ten most followed Instagram accounts, only one belongs to an athlete, Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese Real Madrid footballer. Still, @cristiano has almost 10 million followers more than @kendalljenner.
These are the statistics now. They are popular people, yes, but that doesn’t mean they are the only ones who enjoy a lot of followers on social media. Young chefs and restaurateurs have thousands of followers among food lovers on Instagram. The same with photographers and travelers. There are also millions who subscribe to makeup tutorials and review channels. Fashion is another big thing on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
What does this mean for your small business marketing efforts?
Welcome to the Age of the Influencers
People will keep buying Nikes now even if they knew Kevin Durant is receiving millions of dollars to endorse them. But instead of taking Durant’s word for it and buying his pricey sneakers, a young basketball fan will turn to social media to find out what others are saying about the shoes. He will seek reviews and testimonials. Chances are the first ones this young customer will believe are his peers.
They have power because they are “peers” instead of “idols”.
Influencers on social media and in the blogosphere are like that. They have power because they are “peers” instead of “idols”. They seem reachable. Most of them are regular people who buy things. They are usually unattached so they can review products more honestly—at least compared to simply telling you to “just do it”. And on top of that, they always seem to know what they’re doing; that’s why they have influence in the first place.
So if you’re looking for small business marketing ideas, you need only watch influencers do what they do.
They’re Not All Celebrities
For your small business marketing strategies, you don’t need a celebrity (unless you know one who’s willing to endorse your products or services). You need industry leaders. But, how different is this from simply serving up your brand on social media?
Instead of promoting your brand on your own, an industry leader can do it for you. If you know one, then you’re in luck; they may do it for free or in exchange for a few samples (as in the case of some device reviewers).
In most cases, you may have to hire an influencer. But why spend money on someone whose only claim to fame is an Instagram account or a YouTube channel? Because people are not impressed by ads; that’s the long and short of it. They want to hear it from people they trust, and people trust influencers.
On YouTube, the device reviewers and unboxing gurus Unbox Therapy and Marques Brownlee (aka MKBHD) have over 6.1 million and 3.7 million subscribers respectively.
Here’s an example of a product review from Unbox Theraphy:
Influencers can touch more people and drive them to buy things faster than a TV commercial. According to the Tomoson Influencer Marketing Study, every dollar you spend on influencer marketing earns you $6.50 or more.
If you reach out to an influencer who does not charge anything to review your product, or who doesn’t mind being seen using it, you may still generate a lot of interest. It’s normal for a brand to become known because someone who has a lot of followers on social media was spotted with it.
Sometimes, what you do with your marketing strategy generates enough interest, even that of an influencer. For example, if you have a giveaway program, and an influencer receives one of those freebies, all it takes is for that person to mention your product. It won’t take long for their followers to become interested in the same product.
Even if you didn’t have a giveaway program, but you have a great product, one influencer who takes a picture or a video with it, or writes about it, can make consumer interest reach new heights. If an influencer does that for you, be sure to appreciate them and send them something in return.
Plan your Influencer Marketing Strategy
You can plan an influencer marketing program by doing the following:
- Hire an influencer.
- Reward an influencer.
- Entice an influencer.
- Send a sample to an influencer and ask for their review or opinion.
To do this, you must monitor social media. Find out who the influencers are in your niche, and make an attempt to reach out to them. The good thing about influencers is there are a lot of them out there. If you don’t have the budget and an influencer turns you down, you can move to the next one on your list. You might even get someone who is willing to promote your business or nothing or in exchange for a sample.
The good thing about influencers is there are a lot of them out there.
Think about applying influencer marketing when you do a promo. For example, if you want to give away free products and make your brand more recognizable, talk to an influencer in your niche. Ask them if they would like to give away free products using their website or social media account. It’s a win-win situation: the influencer gains more followers because “they’re giving stuff away”, while your brand generates a lot of interest among those followers. You can even work out a deal with the influencer to capture email addresses or account names.
Influencer marketing is nothing new, but it’s never experienced such widespread power before the time of social media and blogging-slash-vlogging. You cannot ignore it. You cannot risk not using it to your advantage. The day might even come when the only marketing you’ll ever have to do for your small business is to get an influencer to start talking about it.