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The Waffle-Free Guide to Influencer Marketing

Join the 77% of brands that organize and create their influencer marketing campaigns in-house, rather than through an agency.

10 Minute Read

Find out about Influence
GUIDEThe Waffle-Free Guide to Influencer Marketing

What we now call influencer marketing used to be big companies paying millions of dollars for celebrity endorsements. But the surge in online influencers – particularly across Instagram and TikTok – means brands no longer have to rely on complex deals with Hollywood for successful marketing campaigns. Influencer marketing may sound daunting, but it’s easier than ever.

For every demanding celeb, there are hundreds of friendly influencers who audiences truly listen to. There’s nothing these influencers love more than recommending the right products and services to the right people.

Social media gives small and medium-sized companies a fighting chance of competing with the global giants, so working with influencers is a savvy way to use your marketing budget effectively. In fact, Google says 70% of teens trust social media stars and influencers more than celebrities, like actors and pop singers. And 92% of people trust niche influencers more than A-list celebrities when it comes to product recommendations. Plus, IZEA research shows that 46% of social media users have purchased products promoted by influencers.

The key difference is that, rather than looking up to aspirational figures and trying to mimic them, people look to influencers for genuine, down-to-earth advice. Which means that if you can find the right way to include your business in that advice, you’re reaching people who really are listening. 

Data from Viral Nation reveals that, when done right, businesses generate $5.20 in revenue for every dollar invested in influencer marketing. Even if they’re not glamorous celebrities, social media has democratized who we look up to for our recommendations. Anyone can be seen as an influencer, from an Instagram account reviewing local bar toilets to a new mum trying to share her parenting journey with people like her.

Trust is what makes influencer marketing successful. Influencers are seen as subject-matter experts with whom someone can identify, and 62% of social media users trust influencers over celebrities. Put simply, if your audience trusts an influencer, they’ll trust your brand.

For example, micro-influencer Tabitha Warley uses honest, uplifting social media content to interact with her following on her TakeHeartUK profile. Her collaborations with Pour Moi have led to further deals with other brands.

If you’re paying a YouTube influencer $3000 per video to generate sales, but are only receiving $50 as a return, evidently, things need to change. And being proactive in your search for more suitable influencers is where it all starts.

Where to start?

That all adds up to a heck of a lot of information to sift through. Indeed, you might even be one of the 7% of marketers who've never used an influencer and are wondering where to start. Well, that’s where we can help. We’ve created a simple guide to working with influencers, using Brandwatch’s powerful Influence tool to make things super straightforward.

Brandwatch Influence helps you discover online influencers, make contact, handle relationships, and manage campaigns all in one end-to-end solution. Learn how to structure an influencer campaign, contact 30m+ global creators, pinpoint the right people, and manage your agreements all in one place.

What’s more, you can utilize Influence alongside all our tools – including audience listening, publishing guidance, and advertising – to craft a company-wide marketing structure with influencers at its core. If you have struggled with deciphering the value of influencers, much less working with them successfully, read on. We’ll talk you through how you can handle entire influencer marketing projects and generate ROI reports all in one place.

Our practical guide breaks it down into:

  • Finding an influencer 
  • Managing the partnership
  • Measuring the results

First, let's talk about finding an influencer:

Do your homework

Influencers with between 10,000 and 100,000 followers offer the best combination of resonance and reach.

Step one is, of course, to ask yourself what you need from this collaboration. Sounds obvious, but it’s not easy, and it’s not one to skip. Defining your marketing objectives means you can conduct smarter research and find the right influencer(s) to help meet them rather than wasting time and money on a campaign going nowhere. 

This is important because the accountability stakes are much higher when working with influencers. Hoping for the best is not the right approach, and different people around your business might have different ideas about the objectives. So get clarity before you get started. Once you have these objectives in place, you can better identify influencers and relevant metrics later on. 

Influencers can be utilized to generate marketing outcomes like:

  • Increased sales
  • Improved brand reputation
  • Change of branding
  • Boost interaction
  • Driving web traffic
  • Boosting social media following

So, like all marketing campaigns, it starts with defining measurable goals. 

When putting together your key objectives (aim for 3-5), ensure they meet the following criteria: specific, measurable, accurate, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

Take your pick

As soon as you’ve identified the desired results of your influencer marketing project, it’s time to think about what type of influencer you'll need. 

Traditional celebrities may have glamor appeal, but nowadays they struggle to convey authenticity when promoting a product or brand. They just don’t cut through anymore, and influencers are pushing into that space by providing a friendlier, more personalized experience for social media users. Google’s YouTube Generation Study found that 4 in 10 millennials think their favorite creator understands them better than even their friends do. There’s a reason they’re called influencers.

More and more influencers are unearthed directly from social media, with companies using tools such as Brandwatch Influence to find the right person or group of people to carry their message.

So, what do you need? Marketers have to think about not only the size of the influencer’s following but the type of influencer they’re getting, any controversies that could come their way, and on what platforms their content will be promoted.

Crucially, you need to think about what platform your influencer thrives on. Remarkably, 68% of brands still use Instagram for influencer marketing, while just 45% utilize TikTok, even though TikTok engagement rates are far greater than its rival platform.

Of course, that doesn’t mean everyone needs to go all-in on TikTok. If you’re a restaurant opening in a new town, an agreement with the administrator of a local Facebook group could have far greater micro influence and appeal to your demographic.

How to structure an agreement

Before making contact with an influencer, you need to structure your agreement and define your partnership strategy so it’s ready for when you need it. Linqia found just 55% of marketers know the latest FTC Guidelines for working with influencers, and you need to be across the latest advertising standards before posting content.

Influencer agreements don’t have to be complicated and can move fast, which is why you should have the agreement ready before starting discussions. Waiting for sign-off from five higher-ups means the influencer will probably have moved on to the next opportunity by the time you get back to them.

Using your measurable goals, decide which collaboration model you want:

Different ways to work with influencers

Sponsored content: This is effectively an advertisement the influencer has agreed to place on their stream. This could be an image or a mention, or even a sponsored unboxing. However, there is always a risk the influencer will come across as inauthentic when promoting a product in this way, which is why picking the right person is so important.

Gifting: A more authentic way to grab attention than sponsored content, but it has fewer guarantees. Gifting clothes or products to influencers can be costly too. Yet it’s a far more ‘natural’ way of raising awareness of your brand if the influencer genuinely starts to use one of your products.

Brand ambassador program: Celebrities are the usual go-to figures for brand ambassador programs. For example, Tennis sensation Naomi Osaka earns $58m a year before tax to be the ambassador of 20 brands. But in recent years brands have realized they can get cheaper deals with influencers, with just as much reach and even better engagement. Use Brandwatch’s Influence tool to successfully conduct micro and macro brand ambassador partnerships.

Competitions and offers: A quick and cheap way to get attention is through competitions. Some influencers are happy to post competitions themselves, but they often direct viewers to your accounts or website.

Consider: How much budget do you have? Conducting a free influencer campaign is difficult, but for those with low budgets, gifting and competitions are often the first option.

From here, set out your agreement. There are various pay structures you can use, such as:

Different ways to compensate influencers

Commission: Promo codes are a popular way to promote sales through an influencer to follow up on sponsored content, ambassador work, or a gifting opportunity. The influencer receives a percentage of the sales, and you can track the amount of sales each specific influencer generated by customizing the promo codes: it’s a win-win.

Flat fee: Many of the larger influencers and celebrities have established a flat fee pricing structure. The average cost of an Instagram post is around $300, but some celebrities or prominent influencers with large followings have been known to charge six-figure sums per post. Be careful that you’re not just buying exposure when you could be getting a lot more engagement with a different influencer.

Freebies: Influencers that are still building up their audience are usually willing to share or create branded content in exchange for access to exclusive events or free products. There is no guarantee that an influencer will recommend or share your product, as this would be bribery, but there’s no harm in seeing if they like it.

Pay-per-engagement: Some influencers are interested in receiving a fee every time a customer clicks on a link to your website or leaves a comment on a sponsored post. While bloggers used to rely on the income generated through banner ads, influencers are increasingly favoring more reliable income streams and will work hard to ensure you’re getting the clicks.

You also need to think about the balance of creative freedom. Your boss might expect everything to be done by the book, but one in three influencers says exhausting brand guidelines put them off. 

Striking a middle ground and smoothing out these potential clash points is a must before moving forward. Often influencers need complete creative freedom, so you need to trust that they’re going to be getting your message across, even if it’s not in the way you would have done it – Munya Chawawa’s Deep Issue Massage Youtube series with Harry’s is a perfect example.

Action: Write down three to five key objectives that will form the central pillar of your influencer marketing campaign before beginning your initial research.

Fine-tune your research

Now that you’ve got your objectives in place and agreements ready to go, it’s time to begin searching for the perfect influencer for your brand. 

To do this effectively, Brandwatch has created the Influence platform that helps you conduct qualified research with ease.

Measure the engagement levels of an influencer’s audience to determine whether or not their content resonates. Use our social media listening tool to cut through the noise and identify influencers within your own network. And track how audiences react to influencers when they engage in sponsored content, gifting, ambassador programs, and competitions.

Influence lets you manage and condense multiple data sets, target specific accounts, and personas, and track their engagement rates over time. You can monitor influencers before deciding whether or not they’re right for you.

Through social media listening, it is also possible to find new potential audiences from different interest sectors who are loyal to an influencer and who are likely to engage with your brand. 

We saw this with the recent EA Sports collaboration with the Apple TV show Ted Lasso, which sees the fictional soccer coach featured in the game FIFA 23. EA Sports hope that by coding Ted Lasso into the game, they’ll attract new audiences that relate more to video gaming and TV streaming than simply soccer.

How to make contact

Influencers are far more contactable than traditional celebrities. But perfecting that first contact point is important to ensure you get off on the right footing. Most of us prefer to passively send off an email and hope for a response, but in reality, you’re going to have to be more active if you want to get an influencer’s attention.

Consider: What alternatives do you have in case your number 1 choice of influencer rejects your offer? With Influence, you can keep a list of your researched choices in ranked order.

The best move is to bring your research with you to the conversation. If you can show an influencer you’ve done the in-depth analysis of their audience and can prove that a relationship with your brand would also benefit them, then they’re more likely to collaborate on your terms.

Often, there’s no need to be totally formal at the start. Many influencers did not start out as businesspeople, and they pride themselves on being approachable, so coming in cold with a brief and a proposition may not be the best way to get their attention. 

Send a message complimenting what you like about their content and set up a call or meeting. Phone contact remains the best way to initially engage with influencers or their managers. If their number isn’t advertised, ask for it in a DM. Even if you then agree to send a more detailed breakdown of your proposal on email, the fact you’ve spoken to them means you have their full attention.

What if I’m ignored?

If you can’t get through to an influencer, then there are ways of getting heard. 

Direct messaging can get lost among the many DMs influencers receive, and if phone calls aren’t working, then consider:

  • Contacting their agent
  • Emailing from an individual work account (generic marketing email accounts often fall into spam folders)
  • Approaching them in person at events

Again, being armed with your Influence research will help convince any unsure influencer or agent that the collaboration is good for everyone.

Once you’ve got an influencer on board, it’s time to sign the agreement you crafted before you began your search. 

Of course, there may be some negotiating here, but using the Brandwatch Influence platform should mean you’ve found the right type of influencer – which will reduce negotiation time. 

Prepare to be flexible. You might have been looking for an influencer to do some sponsored content for your entire product range, but actually, they’d prefer to focus in with an offer code for one item that they really recommend. 

Now, let's move on to talk about managing your campaign.

So, you’ve got your campaign structured, your influencer(s) on board, and everything is ready to go.

What’s actually going to be in the campaign? It’s time to plan out your content and ensure your influencer(s) stays on message.

Use Brandwatch’s Influence platform to keep up to date

Brandwatch Influence lets you manage your directory with ease. Record individual contact details and payment information, store contracts, and capture additional first-party data with custom fields. You can also monitor correspondence with your influencers via automated email tracking.

Influence’s all-in-one approach gives you the power to prepare campaigns and streamline post-approval processes before they go live. This is particularly useful if you’re dealing with multiple influencers at once or engaging in multi-level, cross-channel promotion with a sole influencer.

Action: Trial Brandwatch’s platform and create digestible reports on each influencer you intend to contact. It will make your negotiations a lot easier.

Finally, let's proceed to measuring your success:

360° monitoring

Macro influencers on Instagram achieve a 2.72% engagement rate, but nano influencers (1,000-10,000 followers) achieve 4.32%.

While 75% of marketers use influencers in some way, research from The Association of National Advertisers reveals that only 36% are happy with the results. In fact, 19% believe their campaigns were totally ineffective.

Of course, there is no guarantee any marketing campaign will work. But unless you give your influencer marketing campaign your best effort, you risk falling into that 19%. Thank goodness you did your goal-setting and research at the start of the project, eh?

This is where monitoring across social media as a whole comes into its own. Sometimes, it feels like simply getting an influencer on board to promote your product or service was hard enough in itself. 

But the monitoring and review process can be just as arduous unless you have the right tools to condense the data. This is where a lot of marketers’ campaigns fall down, but Brandwatch Influence can help you see the impact of your campaign, not just on the channels it is hosted on but across the social media space as a whole. 

Track your KPIs

Remember those objectives at the start of your project? Well, it’s time to check in on how they’re doing. Using the Reports function on your Influence platform, you can obtain a holistic view of your influencer activity, which accounts have been more successful than others, and generate reports that your managers will understand. The thing about working with influencers is that it isn’t as straightforward as traditional endorsement campaigns, which is why we’ve created this suite of tools to make the job easier.

How to step away or renew your deal

Equally, the Influence platform helps you root out your failing campaigns. Walking away from an influencer deal isn’t always easy, nor is telling your bosses about it. But if the data shows it’s not working, then the best course of action is to be active in your decision-making.

What’s more, you can access all influencer documents and contracts within Influence, which makes it easier to renew agreements if you decide to move forward.

Action: Set out short-, medium-, and long-term goals for your influencer campaign, and make sure you check back in on them throughout the process.

How to manage over a longer period

Managing your campaign over the long term can be the difference between a successful partnership and a complete flop. Using Influence, you can keep track of all the relevant ROI data points from your campaigns – from audience interaction, brand awareness, and positive response rates to direct sales.

Consider: How far are you willing to go with your campaign? Whether you’re hitting your targets or not, the monitoring tools within Influence can help you make rationed decisions looking into the future.

From here, you can make decisions on the next steps. Do you:

  • Maintain the same relationship and content structure with your influencer(s)?
  • Pivot to a new structure?
  • End the agreement altogether?

Influence provides the social listening tools required to monitor your brand’s reputation and audience response throughout the relationship with your chosen influencer(s). So you can make that next step decision armed with greater knowledge.

78% of marketing professionals struggle to prove the value of an influencer marketing program – VERB

Brandwatch can help

Influence provides a simple step-by-step pathway for managing long-term influencer campaigns, renewing deals, and reporting back to managers. See all your accounts in one place and pull out relevant data points highlighting key ROIs and successful and unsuccessful posts.

From here, you can build digestible reports to managers and decision-makers, with tips for the next steps and advice on expanding a campaign or closing it down.

Influence takes you all the way and, coupled with Brandwatch’s powerful suite of other tools, can help you:

  • Find and vet your perfect influencer
  • Streamline workflows and make content approvals in seconds
  • Track deliverables and ensure influencers complete their requirements
  • Generate automated reports on impressions, viewership, engagement, and more
  • Expand and advance your campaigns to the next level

Summing up

So, here’s a quick step-by-step look at the holistic Influence process.

First, you find your influencer

  • Define your marketing objectives
  • Consider the type of influencer and pinpoint ideal platforms
  • Structure a template agreement

Then you manage the collaboration

  • Fine-tune your research
  • Make contact armed with your data
  • Once agreed upon, begin your campaign and assess regularly
  • Analyze data and begin collecting reports

Finally, you measure the effect

  • Manage your influencers with 360° monitoring
  • Track your KPIs and report to those above
  • Take the next step: renew, reshape or end your agreement

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