As a small business owner, you might think that social media influencers are out of your league. After all, the influencers you often hear about are big-name celebrities who can earn millions of dollars for endorsing products.
But the field of influencer marketing extends well beyond the TV and film stars or athletes who are household names, and many are well in the reach of small business owners.
An influencer is someone who affects buying decisions by creating social media content that informs, entertains, or both. Sometimes their digital content is based on their expertise, but it can also be based on their passions and interests.
In other words, an influencer doesn't need formal credentials. Though their authority might come from expertise such as work experience or education, just as often it comes from their position on a social media platform and the relationships they build with their followers. The more an influencer is able to attract and retain viewers, the more followers they earn.
You've probably seen celebrities endorsing big brands, but many other influencers are the same people you might come across in everyday life. An influencer is defined by the number of people they reach and the degree to which other people pay attention to what they have to say.
An influencer can be:
Influencers can be categorized by the number of followers they have. Big names are macro- or mega-influencers. They have at least 100,000 followers and often command attention from more than one million people.
It's the nano and micro influencers who are most accessible and beneficial to small businesses. These influencers have less than 100,000 followers. Many have communities of less than 10,000 people.
People follow mega influencers because they want to be like them, but they follow nano influencers because they are like them. Nano and micro influencers are relatable, and for that reason, they often have the deepest connection with the communities they build.
The relationships these types of influencers develop are the reason they're so effective in promoting a brand or a product in spite of their smaller follower numbers.
Influencer marketing—a type of social media marketing—can not only get the word out about your business and products and help you stand out from the competition, but it can also be more cost-effective than many other types of advertising.
Influencers can help a small business:
Build awareness and drive sales. Working with an influencer in your market space exposes your brand, business, and products to a large number of potential customers. For example, if you have a clothing boutique, a style influencer can introduce their fans to your products by modeling and reviewing outfits from your store. Because an influencer's followers are already interested in subject matter related to your products, they're more likely to become your customers.
Establish credibility. It can take years for a business to build trust with customers, but influencers have already gained the trust of their followers. Your business and products automatically piggyback on that trust when they're featured by an influencer.
Save money on advertising. Influencer marketing generates higher returns on investment than many other forms of marketing. Research shows that influencer marketing can generate $5 to more than $6 in sales for every dollar spent.
Improve SEO. Search engines like Google and Microsoft Bing look at several factors besides keywords to rank your website, including the number of backlinks (links from other websites or pages) to your site. Partnering with an influencer increases the backlinks you get and improves your search engine results.
Influencers typically establish their own personal brand around a lifestyle, such as cooking, athletics, or parenthood. As a marketer, you want to choose an influencer whose subject matter intersects with your products or services.
The industries most often covered by influencers include:
Influencers live on social media, so checking social media feeds is the way to find them. They often post daily or at least a few times a week, and they might also be mentioned or quoted in digital articles related to their chosen subjects.
That's not to say that finding an influencer is easy. Research takes time, and it takes even more time to ensure that the influencer you choose is the right one for your business.
These steps will help you find the best match for your business.
Before you begin your search, take stock of your brand characteristics so that you can identify influencers who are the best match.
Consider the following about your brand:
Your target market. The influencer you choose should "talk to" the target market you serve—including factors like age, marital status, and income. If your products appeal to Generation Z, for example, you'll want an influencer with a Gen Z audience.
Your brand personality. Is your brand corporate? Casual? Fun? Pay attention to the tone of voice the influencer uses and whether it matches your brand personality. Humor, for example, might work for a fitness product, but you might need a more serious tone of voice if you're selling a nutritional supplement.
Your mission and values. Every business tends to have a unique set of values that represent the company culture. For example, a technology company might value innovation above all else, whereas a design company might be dedicated to sustainability. The influencer you choose should share your company's values.
Each social media platform appeals to different target markets, and some platforms are better suited to certain formats than others. For example, demonstration videos are best featured on YouTube. TikTok is best known for featuring fun videos with music, and Instagram posts often focus on eye-catching photographs.
Influencers, too, tend to focus on specific platforms. So you'll want to know which platforms are most valuable for your brand and messaging and choose influencers who use those platforms.
You can DIY your influencer search or use one of the many influencer marketplaces to identify candidates that match your needs.
If you're conducting research on your own, be aware that the first keyword or hashtag you use might do little more than lead you to other pages. Be prepared, patient, and follow the trail.
Below are a few avenues to try.
With Google and Bing, use keywords based on your industry. You can also search the keyword, "influencer" or "blogger" along with your industry. But be aware that unless you specify nano or micro influencer, you're likely to get results for the big-name influencers.
For example, a cosmetics company might search beauty bloggers, makeup reviews, or top nano beauty influencers.
You can also search Google or Bing to find bloggers in your industry. Try subscribing to blogs when the content matches your needs to get to know the bloggers and the types of content they typically publish.
You'll want to use influencers who are active on the platforms that are best suited to your business. Search procedures differ somewhat from one platform to the next. Here are some ways to start a search based on the platform:
For Instagram, TikTok, and X (formerly Twitter). These platforms have search bars you can use to insert hashtags for your industry and other tags that apply to the subject matter.
For example, the cosmetics company looking for a beauty influencer might use "#makeup," "#beautytips," and "#beautyblogger."
For YouTube. YouTube also has a search bar for conducting research. Because YouTube videos are often educational, the same cosmetics company hoping for an endorsement in a makeup demonstration or product review might use keywords such as "makeup tutorials" or "makeup reviews."
For Facebook. Enter keywords in the search bar to look for groups about your chosen topics. Some groups are private, and you'll be required to go through a process to gain admission, so it's best to focus on the public groups. Participants in relevant Facebook groups can have large followings that'll make them good influencers for your needs. You can also filter the results by location if you're looking for an influencer in your city.
For Threads. Log into Threads through Instagram and use the same procedures you would for Instagram.
For LinkedIn. LinkedIn is generally best for B2B marketing. It also has a search bar you can use with or without hashtags. If, for example, you own a recruiting company, you might use a keyword like "human resources experts" to find an influencer.
To shortcut research time, consider using an influencer marketplace. These marketplaces include directories of influencers. Some offer free search tools, and others charge a fee for accessing their databases and other information.
Some marketplaces specialize in certain industries, some specialize in certain social media platforms, and some offer additional tools to analyze an influencer's performance.
Some of the marketplaces offering influencer research include:
The number of followers an influencer has is important, both for achieving the reach that you want and because it's key in determining their fees. But don't stop at the number of followers. You also want an influencer with strong relationships with their community.
Additional factors to consider when picking an influencer include:
Make sure you review the profiles of the influencers you're interested in and visit their website if they have one.
Although an influencer who doesn't have experience working with other brands might be effective for you, the hiring process will be easier with one who's worked with other companies. They'll likely have established a process and parameters for what they will and won't provide.
Influencers receive all sorts of messages, so your email should be personal and to the point.
Don't rely on an email exchange exclusively. When you identify an influencer you're interested in using, arrange a phone conversation to talk through your needs.
The amount you can expect to pay an influencer varies depending on the influencer, their follower numbers and engagement metrics, the type of campaign you're requesting, the subject matter, and more.
Some influencers might work with you in exchange for a gift of the product, some negotiate each partnership, and others use standard rate cards.
For nano and micro influencers, fees for social media posts typically range from $10 to $25 per 1,000 followers, and additional fees apply based on the performance of their post, namely the number of engagements.
The average fee for blog posts is $60 per blog and YouTube fees average $20 per video with additional fees based on the number of views.
It's important to have a contract when you bring an influencer on board. Your agreement should detail items like the length of the campaign and where it'll be featured, and whether the agreement is exclusive, in addition to the fee.
Influencers can add value to your business, but only if you hire the right ones and use them correctly.
Sponsored content must be disclosed on the post. Make sure the influencer you choose includes terms like "sponsored content," "paid ad," or a statement that merchandise was provided in exchange for the post. These disclosures aren't just the right thing to do. They're legally required.
Choose influencers that stand by their opinions. Steer clear of influencers who promote many different types of products with no apparent justification. To be effective, an influencer's followers must trust them. If the influencer makes dubious claims or endorses products that don't seem to have much relevance to their overall content, they probably don't command the trust of their followers.
Are they authentic? The best influencers are users of the products they promote. Encourage honest feedback from an influencer you're considering to determine whether they're the right fit for your product and brand.