Most companies today have some sort of presence on social media as part of their marketing efforts. If you’ve spent any time online as a business owner, you’d probably agree that building a following and getting meaningful reactions to your posts isn’t easy.
One way that some companies rise above the din is to not only promote themselves on social media, but also engage someone else to do it — someone who already has a huge following and gets copious views and “likes” a day. These individuals are commonly known as “social media influencers.”
The case for and against
The term isn’t without controversy. Some people associate it with celebrities who are good at drawing attention to themselves on social media but come up rather short on substantive content. A few influencers have even said or done things that reflected poorly on the businesses they were endorsing.
What’s more, influencers aren’t evenly distributed across all industries. Companies in fashion or cosmetics, for example, have many potential endorsers to choose from. Other types of businesses may have few, if any, “celebrities” shouting their praises — though most industry niches have at least a few voices that ring out louder than others on social media. Whether it’s worth paying one of these individuals to promote your products or services, however, isn’t always an easy “yes.”
So, this marketing strategy has its risks. And yet, if it didn’t work, companies wouldn’t pay social-media celebrities big bucks to tout their products or services. Those that do know that influencers have ready access to abundant followers. Just one image or video with a few positive words can lead to a sales boost.
Why? For their devotees, influencers have a built-in credibility on certain topics. When an influencer promotes a product or service, the business that provides it immediately assumes an air of legitimacy. The person’s followers may share the influencer’s post with others, immediately visit the company’s website or, in a best-case scenario, just start buying.
Risk management recommendations
Like any other marketing initiative, influencer marketing calls for careful research, planning and management. As mentioned, there may not be anyone in your industry or niche who can provide a suitable return on investment. In such a case, don’t force it.
If you do find a potentially viable influencer, ensure the person’s background and posting history align with your company’s mission, vision and values. It’s critical that an influencer’s interest in your business is genuine. Social media users can sniff out insincerity immediately and could make a viral mockery of an inauthentic endorsement.
When setting up a deal, establish each party’s expectations in writing. Lay out the respective roles and responsibilities, with ground rules and timelines for objectives. If possible, determine the market rate for influencers in your industry and make sure the compensation involved won’t strain cash flow. Ask an attorney to review the contract.
Finally, don’t treat the interaction as purely transactional. Take the time and effort to build a strong relationship with the influencer. Set up an in-person meeting (or at least a virtual one). Talk about the history and culture of your company. Send them branded swag, if possible, and keep in touch regularly.
No slam dunk
Is influencer marketing a slam dunk for every business? Certainly not. But it could represent an overlooked way to boost your company’s visibility in the marketplace — if the right partner is out there.