It’s not just you: influencers are indeed taking over the world of marketing. And while we’re all for new marketing trends (especially ones that actually create results) this one can feel a little intimidating. After all, compared to traditional marketing methods where you’re in control of the final product, influencer marketing relies on a third-party to make it happen.
But as with most trends, the question remains—is it here to stay?
Research shows that influencer marketing isn’t disappearing anytime soon. In fact, it’s only getting more popular. Especially in the travel industry, which has always been a stronghold for influencer marketing, influencers are on the rise as one of the most effective ways to connect with your audience.
Of course, it’s only effective if you can get it right. To help you perfect your influencer partnership, we’ve put together a crash course in influencer marketing. Let’s get started:
What is influencer marketing?
Like most forms of marketing, influencer marketing is all about building relationships. But instead of building relationships with each individual customer, you focus on one very specific customer; the influencer.
Influencers can be bloggers, popular Instagram users, YouTube stars or even the neighbor next door—anyone that has a large, dedicated social following.
They use social media as a platform to create a community around their own personal brand, connecting with people (followers!) that share their same interests.
Similar to the way you might reach for your favorite magazine, people look to influencers for inspiration, up-and-coming trends, product reviews and advice.
In fact, the average person trusts the opinion of the influencers they follow as much as they trust their friends and family.
That leaves hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of customers to be reached with a trusted peer review, all by connecting with just one influencer.
That’s the beauty of influencer marketing. One relationship can transform into a tour de force of customer connection. A trusted voice advocating your brand can be that powerful.
The challenge, of course, comes in finding the right voice to work with.
How to choose an influencer
In any form of marketing, the key to an effective campaign is knowing your audience. After all, how effective would an advertisement for men’s shaving cream be in a room full of single females? If you aren’t selling to the right customer, it simply won’t matter how good your activity is.
Keep this in mind as you choose an influencer to work with. It’s not just about them, it’s about their audience too. After all, these are the people that you’re targeting with the partnership.
So how do you make sure you choose the right person?
Search hashtags, location tags and Google to find influencers you like. A little research goes a long way. If you’re looking to connect with a blogger, tools like BuzzSumo make it easy to find bloggers that have used your keyword. A simple Google search will do the trick too!
If you’re looking for an Instagram influencer, use the app to browse hashtag keywords associated with your activity or area. Try starting locally, with hashtags that feature your location’s name, like #explorehonolulu or #surfhawaii. You can use Instagram location tags in the same way.
Take follower count lightly. Follower count seems like it’d be an intuitive way to gauge the potential of an influencer, but that’s not always the case. A larger reach also means a higher price tag, and the promise of a higher return has led some accounts to purchase fake followers. Fake accounts obviously won’t give a great ROI (return on investment), so keep followers as a metric, but not the metric.
Check for authentic likes and comments. Remember that fake followers warning? Here’s where you vet your influencer for authenticity. In the social media world, likes and comments are known as “engagement.”
Good engagement means your influencer’s followers are real people who care about what they say—not bot accounts purchased online. You’ll know you’ve found a good one if people are tagging their friends in the comments, asking questions and getting responses from the influencer.
Scan posts for consistency. You’re looking to make sure they not only post consistently but that their brand is solid. The influencer you choose should have a brand that aligns with yours—and not just while on vacation or in your area.
Scroll through a few months of their posts to view their content and read their captions. Remember, you’ll be putting your brand in their hands. The extra time it takes to dig in is worth it.
What to focus on
Now that you have the right partner and the right audience, what comes next? You’ll get the best results if you work side-by-side, planning and executing the promotional content as a team.
While the influencer is ultimately in control of how the brand message comes to life, it’s your job to pass along clear expectations about your business’ values and goals, as well as technical details like post length, frequency and compensation.
Decide what you want to offer beforehand. Be strategic, and fully plan out what you’re willing to offer an influencer in exchange for exposure to their audience. What is expected will vary between influencers, so it’s easiest to establish the partnership on your terms.
Don’t break the rules! There are, of course, rules when it comes to advertising your product but you’ll navigate them well if you keep things transparent.
You’ll always be in the safe zone if you insist that your influencer is fully transparent about the partnership, letting their audience know that the experience was sponsored. This can be as simple as a “#sponsored” or a thank you included in their caption.
Be prepared to measure ROI. It’s valuable to track likes and comments, but you’ll want to keep an eye out for an increase in subscribers to your own page, shares, views and of course, bookings.
You can create a unique link or promo code for your influencer to share, then dig into Google Analytics and look for referrals from that link or from their blog site.
Work together for the best results. Spending time generating ideas, discussing branding goals and sharing content with your influencer will always lead to better results. Both you and the influencer you work with will benefit from treating the gig as a true partnership.
When it comes to influencer marketing, it’s all about selecting the right partner for your unique business.
Because you’re trusting them with your brand, it’s incredibly important that you partner with someone you align with. Someone that just gets it.
As they relay their experience to their community, it’ll be through their own lens. It’s both what makes influencer marketing so intimidating—and so effective. Embrace this fully by doing diligent research before you make your choice and working closely with whoever you partner with.
If you’re still feeling nervous about taking the dive into influencer marketing, start slow! Practice partnering with people in your local neighborhood, offering discounts or free swag for sharing their experience on social media and tagging your business or using your hashtag.
After all, with 68% of social media users between the ages of 18 and 24 reporting that they’re more likely to make a purchase after seeing a product on a friend’s post, truly anyone can be an influencer.