Getting the right people to post about your products or services on line can have a big impact on your marketing campaign, but it doesn’t have to be left to luck.
Social media influencers are gaining traction online as another option in your marketing toolbox.
But as with any marketing strategy, you’ll get better results if you plan ahead and take a professional approach.
Ashlyn George is a freelance digital media creator, and one of her roles is working as an adventure travel social media influencer under The Lost Girl’s Guide brand.
Check out The Lost Girl’s Guide:
She’s had partnerships with big companies like McDonald’s, Marks Work Wearhouse, Clif Bar, Air Miles, Dairy Farmers of Canada, and NFL Canada, as well as local companies like Saskatoon Transit, Little Victory Candles, and Little Brown Jug.
Her number one tip for companies interested in hiring a social media influencer for their marketing campaign? Do your research.
How to find the right social media influencer
Ensuring there’s a fit between the influencer and your product is important to the campaign’s success.
George has spent the past seven years building her following and she pays close attention to what her followers respond well to. She won’t partner with a company that isn’t the right fit, but not everyone will be as upfront.
- Know your niche. Doing your own market research will give you an idea of who you want to reach and what their interests are, which will help you narrow down the possibilities for social media influencers.
- Do keyword or hashtag searches to find relevant profiles. Armed with your market research, get online and see who’s out there. One company found George because she had “adventure” in her bio tag line.
- Look at the quality of the comments. It’s a good sign if people are actually engaging with the content, asking questions or sharing anecdotes rather than just leaving emojis or one-answer responses.
- Followers aren’t everything. If you have a targeted or niche audience, your campaign might actually have better success with an influencer with fewer followers. Plus, George notes, “People do buy fake followers.”
There are also websites that can help you analyze social media influencers, like Hype Auditor.
How to contact social media influencers
It might seem like sending a private message would make sense if you’re trying to reach an influencer on a social media channel, and that might be how the conversation starts, but George says she prefers email — it’s a more professional platform.
It’s important to remember that this is a business deal.
"People often think I'm on a holiday when on work trips,” said George. “While there are lots of perks to this type of career, I'm running a very serious business behind the aesthetic of social media."
When starting a conversation with a potential client, George said it’s nice to have some information to start with.
- Explain why your product is a good fit. Show that you’ve done your research and you truly know that this product will perform well on the influencer’s channel.
- State what you’re expecting. Are you looking for a long-term ambassador or a one-off partnership? When will your campaign be running? Is it part of a bigger campaign?
- Know whether you’re looking for brand awareness or sales. Different marketing goals have different strategies; knowing from the beginning what you’re hoping to achieve will help the process run smoother.
- Ask about their process. An experienced influencer should be able to give you a run down of how they work and what their rates are.
- Know your budget and timeline. Influencer pricing can vary widely and not all influencers will be able to post about your product right away.
If you’re feeling a little lost about hiring an influencer, that’s normal! “I’m used to companies not knowing where to go from there,” George said. She will respond with her media kit and help guide the conversation in the right direction.
Her media kit has demographics about her followers, their interests and personas, and previous campaign case studies. Not everyone will have a media kit, especially people who are newer to the influencer market, but it’s a good sign if they do have one.
At the end of the project, George supplies her clients with an analytics report, including the number of comments and direct messages. She’ll send this one to two weeks after the campaign ends in order to give it time to simmer.
How to send products to social media influencers
Not all social media influencer campaigns are super involved. You can just send an influencer your product in the hopes that they promote it on their channels.
If you pick the right people to gift your product to, this can be an incredibly cost-effective way to get great social media reach.
The key word here is “Gift.” It should have no strings attached. That means it’s totally up to the influencer to decide if they want to promote it or not.
It’s okay to follow up if you see it hasn’t been used on the channel after a few weeks, but your follow-up should be polite and not demanding. Think along the lines of, “Have you had a chance to check out my product? What did you think?” Not, “Why haven’t you posted about my product yet?”
And make sure you give it time. Just because they don’t use it right away doesn’t mean they’ll never use it, or it won’t have an impact.
George said someone once sent her a T-shirt, and it took her about a month to post about it, but when she did, the post did well.
In another case, she had been working with a company to feature a product but she actually needed to use it first, and that took several months.
“I’m not going to mention it until I can honestly speak about it,” she said.
The Wild West of social media influencer pricing
Gifting an influencer your product only costs the price of your product and the shipping to get it there; that’s about as cheap as marketing gets. But that doesn’t mean hiring an influencer is cheap.
“It literally ranges from free to several thousand dollars or more depending on who you’re reaching out to and the size of their following,” George said.
Because there aren’t hard and fast standards for how much an influencer should charge, focus on finding the right fit and don’t be afraid to reach out. Even though George does big campaigns with international companies, she also works with smaller local companies — and she doesn’t charge local companies the same rates as international companies.
“I want to support local,” she said. “I have even done free work for certain clients who might not have a budget because I believe in what they do.”
Your company might not be the right fit
What makes George’s Lost Girl’s Guide brand so successful is her dedication to keeping it real. “I don’t want to turn my channel into nothing but a walking advertisement,” she said.
She’s always considering what her audience is interested in, what they care about — and what she cares about, personally.
“With McDonald’s, I’m a genuine huge fan. I’ve travelled the world to track their Big Mac index. Working with them was a perfect fit versus another fast food chain; I eat there whether they’re paying me or not.”
She’s also upfront with her followers about the sponsorships. “I let people know that’s how I support my business.”
George says she has had companies reach out that weren’t a right fit for her, and she was up front about that.
“I’ll say, this isn’t the right angle for me right now but if anything changes in the future, I’ll let you know.” People appreciate her being up front. “I had someone say, ‘This makes me want to work with you even more!’”
Sometimes, the influencer will already be working with a company similar to yours, or they’ve had too many posts recently on a similar topic.
“Sometimes it’s just timing,” George said. “Don’t ever take it personally. Be appreciative that they’re not taking free things from you.”
The biggest misconception about social media influencers
Partly because the field is so new, George often needs to educate her clients about what her work involves.
“The biggest misconception is that it’s really easy to be a social media influencer,” she said. “There’s a lot of planning, work, strategy, and knowledge of analytics.”
“It’s also often taken an influencer years to get to where they are. We hear about people that go viral overnight and that’s not the norm.”