Influencer marketing is a type of marketing where influencers provide endorsements and product placement to their followers on social media.

Because influencers usually have expert knowledge or social influence in their field, they can effectively reach customers and prospects. They also provide an entertaining and informative way for consumers to become aware of a brand’s products or services.

This article will discuss influencer marketing, how brands find influencers and the challenges that influencer marketing presents.

Why Would Influencers Appeal to Brands?

Influencer marketing is effective because of the high level of trust social influencers have with their followers. When they recommend products or services, it comes across to a brand’s customers or leads as a type of social validation.

Chandler Redding, publicist and brand strategist at Otter PR, told CMSWire that one of the reasons brands are interested in working with influencers is because they produce results.

“Influencer product reviews are highly effective,” said Redding. “Think of them as top-tier testimonials for your brand. When influencers promote your brand, they use their own style that your branding guidelines may not usually allow.”

Because the influencer’s personality and style will represent the brand, it’s important to ensure the influencer is a match for the company and its products and services.

“It's as if a serious corporate brand like Dior, which traditionally promotes itself with high-end, classy ads, were to ask Jimmy Fallon to share their new cologne on his Instagram," Redding explained. "You can imagine how that ad may not turn out to be as refined as they would typically have it."

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Brands are often interested in working with influencers because they provide a high return on investment (ROI) compared to other marketing efforts. Dara Busch, co-CEO of 5WPR, said in 2021, the value of influencer marketing grew to $13.8 billion and that a brand, on average, makes $5.78 for every $1 spent on this type of marketing.

She added that, over the past few years, influencer marketing has gained a lot of traction. “An influencer can be anyone. They can be makeup artists, video game streamers, bloggers or even marketing executives.”

Plus, Busch said, influencers don’t have to have a massive following if they produce content in a niche a brand is interested in. “That is, they should be influential within their industry.”

Related Article: Is Influencer Marketing a Fit for B2B Marketing Plans?

How Are Influencers Classified or Categorized?

Influencers are categorized based on the number of followers they have on any given social media platform. Influencers include celebrities from music, television, movies and other media, along with niche content creators who have amassed a large following through TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Twitch, etc.

Some influencers have thousands of followers, while others may have millions. They typically fall into tiers, including:

  • Mega-influencers: more than 1 million followers
  • Macro-influencers: 500K to 1 million followers
  • Midtier-influencers: 50K to 500K followers
  • Micro-influencers: 10K to 50K followers
  • Nano-influencers: 1K to 10K followers

Julie Solomon, a public relations lead at Next PR, told CMSWire that if a brand’s budget is limited, it should approach micro-influencers.

“A micro-influencer is likely to have a lower fee and be open to working out a collaboration that benefits both them and your brand,” she explained. “Their fee is typically based on their engagement rate, follower count and assets you want them to create (like a review video or a static product post).”

Solomon suggested that sometimes working with smaller influencers is more beneficial, adding that every influencer has a unique following. “Even someone with less than 5K followers on social media can be just as impactful when it comes to ROI for a brand than an influencer with 1M+. It’s all about their target audience and engagement rate.”

She recommended working with a few smaller influencers before investing the effort and money into larger-scale influencers.

Regulations for Influencer Content

Social media influencers are not devoid of regulations. Instagram and Facebook have their own branded content policies for influencer marketing campaigns and endorsements.

Their rules state that branded content is only allowed to be posted with their branded content tool, and they require that business relationships between influencers and endorsers must be tagged when promoting this content.

Meta provides influencers with a tool called Brand Collabs Manager that allows influencers to connect with brands for branded content creation.

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In 2021, YouTube updated its branded content policies, requiring influencers to check a box titled “paid promotion” when publishing sponsored videos. The policies also require influencers to provide disclosure notices.

Finding the Right Influencer

Brands seeking the right partnership should begin by searching for influencers known for promoting similar products or services — or those whose audience closely matches the brand’s.

“For example, if the brand is an educational tool for children, collaborating with a parenting influencer is likely to result in greater ROI than partnering with a general celebrity who happens to have children,” said Solomon.

“The parenting influencer will have a niche and targeted following of parents looking for tips, guidance and new products to use with their children,” she explained, adding that a product review from this type of influencer tends to be more effective because it’s more authentic and personable.

Katrina Froelich, senior account executive at Blaze PR, said that as an analytical team, they look for influencers with the numbers, metrics and demographics to back them up. Meaning they appraise the influencer’s engagement rates, conversion rates, types of followers and other factors to determine who to use for a campaign.

“It’s also extremely important to find influencers who genuinely love your brand or product and are already using it in their daily lives or are already raving about it to their followers,” said Froelich. “Having content from a genuine fan (who happens to have a lot of followers) is priceless.” 

Related Article: Finding Your Target Audience Through Social Media

The Challenges of Influencer Marketing

For most brands, finding the right influencer will be the biggest challenge. A clear understanding of the brand’s core values and goals is key to knowing if an influencer is the best fit for the brand.

Redding told CMSWire that brands should follow four essential steps to find a well-matched influencer:

  1. Determine if the influencer's target audience matches the audience the brand is trying to reach.
  2. Assess the influencer’s follower count and engagement metrics, such as their comments and story shares.
  3. Evaluate the type of content they produce and consider if it fits the brand.
  4. Comb through the influencer’s profiles and ensure that their values match the brand's.

Failing to take these steps could result in a hit to the brand’s public perception. “Endorsement and support by association is a real thing and can damage your brand just as easily as saying the wrong thing,” said Redding.

Costs can also be prohibitive for influencer marketing, with fees ranging from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the celebrity nature of the influencer and the number of followers they have. This is where contractual agreements can work in a brand’s favor.

“Contracts in influencer marketing can become quite complex depending on the nature of what they're promoting and for how long,” said Redding. “Most of the time, it's not strategic for brands to pay a flat $1,200 for one Instagram post; this is where they offer a contract based on ‘ifs, ands and buts.’”

Reaching Your Audience Through Influencers

Brands should look for influencers whose values and target audience align with the brand’s. With the right influencer, companies can reach a wide range of customers and leads while providing an entertaining and informative way to educate people on various products and services.