Once upon a time, celebrity endorsements were considered one of the best ways for a company to get their name, services, or products in front of consumers. While things aren’t wildly different nowadays, the advent of social media has made influencer marketing a popular means for brands to reach their target audiences. Armed with large followings and perceived credibility or expertise in certain fields of interest, influencers provide a certain level of celebrity endorsement that, while lacking the firepower as a nod from Beyoncé, can still move the needle—without having to fork over your marketing budget for the entire year (or more).
But amongst thousands of influencers now floating about Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and beyond, how does one go about finding the right social media ambassador (or ambassadors) for your brand or campaign? It all starts with understanding three things:
Who is your core audience and how do they behave on social media?
At the core of every marketing campaign is an understanding of who your target audience is, how they behave, and where you can find them. This doesn’t change when it comes to influencer marketing campaigns, and in this particular scenario, one particular psychographic that you’re going to want to have on hand is the knowledge of what your audience is doing on social media. What platforms are they most active on? What types of content and users are popular with your audience? Are they even on social media?
This is the information that will help to inform the types of influencers you should be going after, as well as what platforms you should focus on. If your core audience consists of 18–30 year old aspiring travelers for example, more visually-focused, inspirational and aspirational platforms like Instagram would suit your needs. If you’re more into food recipes or cooking, YouTube might be a better option. It really depends on where members of your audience spend their time.
What does the influencer space look like around your topic of interest?
In other words, who are the influencers on the platforms you want to target? The easiest way to go about this is by conducting a quick search. Look up hashtags and keywords that are relevant to your brand, product, market, or topic of interest and see what comes up. Are you seeing any posts from users with that fabled blue checkmark show up in the results? Great. Take note of who they are, look through the content they post to make sure they’re a fit for your brand, and continue the search. You’re going to want to try and identify a cluster of potential influencers to work with here in the event your ideal options may not work out.
You could also look up agencies or online platforms to help you sort through large databases of influencers to choose from. Backstage has a massive online talent database that you can scour through, and putting out a notice for influencers that have over a certain number of followers or subscribers and a blue checkmark is well within your means.
What makes an influencer right for your brand and/or campaign?
There’s a lot that goes to figuring out this bit, so let’s break down some of the major things to consider using bullets:
- Does their persona and content fit your brand? This one’s important. Influencers are essentially ambassadors for your brand, so you want to be careful about who you choose to represent your brand. Go back through at least 90 days worth of content they’ve produced and ask yourself the following question: would you want this person speaking on your company’s behalf?
- Are they within your budget? You can’t hire an influencer whose services you can’t afford, so figuring out their rates should help narrow your list down pretty quickly. Don’t forget: sometimes, it can be more effective to spread the cash around and hire multiple micro influencers as opposed to one big macro influencer.
- Have they ever heard of your brand? Are they aware of your brand or have used your products or services at all? If so, this can make it easier for them to accept you as a client and speak authentically about what it is you’re trying to advertise. If not, how quickly can you get them on board?
- How big is their following? Is the influencer’s social presence and perceived clout big enough to make an impact on your audience?
- How influential are they? They're called influencers for a reason. Does an influencer's endorsement have an effect on the behavior of their followers? Look at the influencer's likes and comments. Are their followers highly engaged? Do they look up to the influencer, agree with them, and positively restate their preferences? Avoid influencers that generate a low level of engagement from their followers.
- Do your timelines match? Social media influencers keep a very tight content schedule and are often working with more than one brand or company at a time, so they might not even be available during your campaign timeline.
Remember, when it comes to running an influencer marketing campaign, simply picking a partner who has millions of followers and a huge reach isn’t enough, nor could it be a good use of your budget. Rather, picking someone who truly speaks to your target audience and whose values align with your brand can make all the difference.