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A Beginner’s Guide to Influencer Marketing

As social media has matured it’s become clearer to brands that WOM (Word of Mouth) marketing has a lot to offer in terms of advertising. When people recommend a product or service to their friends, it carries a lot more weight than any banner ad does these days. In fact, we’re all suffering from banner blindness and it’s safe to say that as an advertising model on any platform, web or mobile, it’s now the least effective.

But who needs banners when you have people? Identifying influencers on social media and paying for product endorsements is a powerful way of advertising and the future, to some extent, anyway. There are plenty of influencers out there to choose from too, on just about every social platform and some of these people who may have over 1m followers can command rates running into the 1000s each day.

It is such a new form of marketing though that many businesses are yet to realise its worth. For those that do, it can also be difficult to know what the going rate is – do you pay $100 or more for a single tweet, or is this too much? Forbes writer Kyle Wong thinks he has the answer, he says the best way to work out how much to pay an influencer comes down to a simple equation.

Influence = Audience Reach (# of followers) x Brand Affinity (expertise and credibility) x Strength of Relationship with Followers

How to Use Influencer Marketing

It’s thought than in the US brands are mentioned daily a total of around 3.3m times and these mentions are highly effective. This is because an influencer or anyone on a person’s friends list is more trusted than most other forms of advertising. Whilst a lot of everyday advertising goes over most people’s heads, WOM seeps into the consciousness more fully because a product is endorsed rather than overtly advertised.

So how do you get started?

  1. Identify key influencers in your niche – you can do this using tools such as Followerwonk for Twitter or Buzzsumo. It’s essential that you look at the kinds of followers they have too.
  2. Build your own social following – don’t think that an influencer will be able to do all of the work for you on social. Join all of the major platforms and work to get your followers up and engaged. Do put the work in, in order to use social you have to get social and whilst there’s nothing wrong with using scheduling software for posts, you should take the time to share others’ content as well as reply to tweets/posts/questions personally.
  3. Build relationships – unless the influencer states clearly that this is a service that they provide, you should build relationships with them before asking them to endorse a product. An email outlining who you are and what you do should suffice.
  4. Share content with them – don’t be afraid to tag influencers in your content posts and ask what they think, the worst that they can do is ignore you.


In the US, the FTC has introduced new rules to make influencers be transparent about the brands that they work with to promote. This may or may not apply in your part of the world but it’s still likely that you’ll come across influencers who want to make it very clear that they are being paid for promoting your brand. You too should be transparent when it comes to your brand. An influencer who is endorsing your products is not going to be best pleased if you stretch the truth or use lies and gimmicks to market your products as it reflects on them.

According to Marcy Massura, VP of MSLGROUP in an interview with Forbes:

Transparency is the word of the year. It goes hand-in-hand with authenticity. We see our brands striving to be transparent in all the areas of their business, from social conversations, to access to brand information, to crisis response. Transparency desire is a result of an over-marketed and now sceptical (sic) consumer base.

Consumers are no longer trusting of brands and they are even less so of ads, so it pays to be upfront and to ensure that you market yourself as a brand that’s ethical and transparent.

The Future

It’s likely that we’ll see influencer marketing take off on an even bigger scale that it’s reached now. Whilst currently, the majority of WOM marketing takes place offline and face-to-face, the use of social is on the rise and it’s moving quickly. Email is the next most effective method at 51% but it still trails behind sharing information in person which happens 80% of the time. Social media currently stands at 39% but can be expected to close the gap quickly as more and more brands catch on.

Consider also:

  • 40% of young adults are “WOM Champions”
  • Almost 3 in 4 young people think it’s acceptable for brands to communicate via social media

So whilst a lot of brands may discount the youth market, often these are the people who are the most receptive to WOM marketing. Add to this that many young people are already making money through successful YouTube and other social channels, and it would be silly to ignore the market whatever business you’re in – although clearly if you sell stair lifts then it would be taking it way too far outside of your target market.

Brands pay a lot out for advertising and when it comes to WOM marketing, it shouldn’t be approached any differently. Yes, you may hit lucky and get on the radar of influencers who will tweet to their 2m followers for nothing, but they have worked hard to get to where they are and don’t expect to be taken advantage of. There are plenty of brands out there that attempt this too, I get so many requests to look at websites, apps, books, songs (in fact, you name it) that it’s impossible to get through them all and quite frankly, my time isn’t worth nothing. With that in mind, approach influencer marketing just as you would any other form of advertising – with a clear strategy and budget – and you won’t go too far wrong.

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