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Social Media Influencers, why bother?

Social Media Influencers, why bother?
Josh Donelson

Quite often we hear the term expert or guru being thrown around on social media. Why just yesterday I was suiting up for my daily dive on YouTube for the topic of intermittent fasting and of course, was met with a never-ending supply of experts unleashing their knowledge on me like the time I stood too close to the landing on Splash Mountain. I ingest these types of videos every day and have since my days as a personal trainer.

I guess I too am now an expert. Well, by 2019 standards I am.

We live in a world of over-saturation and high-speed access to information. This is good. This is also very, very bad for our society. As we slide further into the BuzzFeed culture of quick lists, short-hand writing styles because we are “just too busy” for the more than the gist, our quality of information digestion will continue to drop. So, where does this leave people, or better yet businesses?

Impact of social media influencers

Social media influencers are leading the charge on Instagram. 39% of active Instagram accounts with over 15k followers are influencers of some sort*. In the current state of Instagram, the new algorithm favors the popular and not the chronological. It looks like this.

Michael posts at 10:59 am and Dwight posts at 11:00 am. Michael’s post had more initial engagement (likes and comments). Jim logs into Instagram and saw Michael’s post while Dwight’s post gets shuffled in the mix.

Because of the algorithm now favoring popularity over the original concept of instantaneous “gramming,” it is ever important to develop content that triggers the user to act on a post. This is where social media influencing comes into play. Now that Instagram is making it that much harder for new profiles to gain traction and attention, leveraging social media influencers can help elevate your brand faster than you could organically.

Since social media influencers have cornered a specific market or audience, you can leverage their popularity and notoriety to showcase your products, services, destinations, etc. But are all influencers created equal?

Vanity Metrics vs. Quality Returns

Of course, with advancements in technology comes advancements in hacks to cheat the system. There is no shortage of third-party apps or outsourced spammers that boast the ever-desired influencer lifestyle. They promise the world, the audience, the notoriety, but what are they really doing? Most of these companies are using blackhat tactics to give you short term gain. These include but are not limited to:

  • Off-brand hashtags methodologies
  • Follow-to-unfollow campaigns
  • Emoji spamming to get attention
  • Software that offers followers based on cost or “coin”

Most of the followers gained are trying to achieve the same outcome and as such, are not a good follower.

How does this apply to social media influencers?

There is truth in numbers when auditing social media influencers. For example, I look at follower-to-like ratios to determine influencer viability. If you see a profile touting 1M, one would assume their engagement is high, though this is not always the case. You may notice low likes, low comments, or multiple comments from the same profile (blackhat tactic). This is an indicator of an influencer propped up on ghost followers, or fake followers that do not care about the brand or person themselves and as such the social media influencer has no “influence” over their audience. What good is that to you?

Pick social media influencers based on brand relevance

When selecting an influence to market your brand, it is best to find someone who has not only high numbers of potential customers but also credibility in the marketplace. The fitness industry is criminal in this regard. Don’t let the shredded abs and lean bodies fool you. Unless this person holds some certification or degree, it may be wise to view it as what it truly is; vanity backed by hopeful followers who desire to look a certain way.

The same thought is prevalent in the marketing industry. If someone tells me Gary Vaynerchuk is a marketing guru, I would argue that he got in on the ground floor of budding marketing platforms at the right time and hustled his ass off to get where he is today and now has grown a network that can make magic for many companies. Just listen to his message. Every podcast, speaking engagement, or video has one underlying tone;hustle.

His message is excellent but only serves as a reminder that you can’t throw money at a problem and hope it works. You have to grind, live, and breath to achieve the success you want. If you look to influencers for answers, listen to the ones with track records of success back by data or science and provide the authenticity you want to associate with your brand.

Authenticity is key to social influencer marketing

You might notice that many social media influencers are now tagging posts with #ad to provide their audience with real insights into their lives. Instagram is great at one thing; showcasing the good in our lives and overlooking the background details. We see the good and the great, but we rarely see the struggle.

Joelle Friend sits in a restaurant showcasing an Amex Gold Card enjoying a drink. I may look like obvious product placement, which it is, but the strategy of how she presents the product adds authenticity to the ad. First, the sole fact that Joelle lets her audience know that she is promoting American Express offers transparency for her audience. Secondly, she ties the product into her personality like it is second nature. Rather than casually inserting commentary of the benefits of the Amex Gold Card, Joelle comments of her upcoming travels and how the Amex Gold Card offers benefits for world-travelers such as herself. In this scenario, Joelle keeps her #ad genuine and on-brand.

How to spot an authentic social media influencer

  1. Works with companies that they agree with ethically and would actually use to enhance their well being.
  2. Avoids spammy calls-to-action and focuses on the conversation.
  3. Delivers value to their audience and not a sales pitch.
  4. Is transparent and tags their advertisments #ad.
  5. Answers questions and comments on their posts. This goes lengths in showing their audience that they are active and engaging.
  6. Is consistent, genuine, realistic, and shows gratitude in their success.

These are all traits of a social media influencer who is in tune with their audience and brand and may add value to your marketing mix if your product or service can find a home in their lifestyle. Now what?

Finding your social media influencers

Locating an “influencer” can be like shooting fish in a barrel, but finding the right influencer can be more difficult. Again, it comes down to finding the most authentic person with the right audience to make an impact on your business.

Explore Tab

A good starting point is the Explore section of Instagram. Based on your activity and interests the creepy developers at Instagram have curated a feed dedicated to helping go deeper down the rabbit hole.

WARNING: Liking ridiculous memes, garbage videos, and random nonsense will only push more of the like to you.

At the top of your Explore feed, you will nor For You followed by various tags commonly associated with profiles or hashtags you have searched. Since you are likely looking through the lens of a business profile, this is more likely to be on-brand and related profiles.

Referring back to the commentary of the new popularity algorithm, this is where it comes in most handy. The default sort will be based on the popular post and not real-time posting. Look at the top 20 or so profile (deeper if needed) and see if those influencers or profile could offer a benefit to you.

Competitor analysis

Another great way to find social media influencers is by looking at your competitors and finding who is interacting with them. By now, you should know who your competition is and where to find them on Instagram. On their main profile, locate their tagged posts and click through the photos to see who is tagging their product, service, or company. You will likely find a mix of general users, growing influencers, or vetted professional social media influencers.

Once you’ve started a list, it is time to make contact.

Engaging a social media influencer

You have heard the term, “it never hurts to ask.” Since Instagram implemented direct messaging, you now have a direct line to potential influencers with the click of a button. However, if you have never engaged with a user, your message may get lost in the shuffle of Requested messages. Here are a few tips to get in touch with a social media influencer.

  1. Follow the profile and engage with their content
  2. Check the main profile for contact information. It is likely that more professional and veteran influencers have a website, blog, email, or phone number to contact them for business opportunities.
  3. Send a direct message using a catchy lead-off to avoid being lost in the shuffle. For example, **BUSINESS INQUIRY: enter your message. Using an prefix like this will allow them to see your intention before opening the Requested message.
  4. Comment on their photos with a short pitch to connect.

Do this for 10-20 users, and you will find that your influencer network will grow. But, be prepared when they reach back.

Determine your business needs and set a budget

Depending on the social media influencer, you may find a few different options for your collaboration. Most influencers charge to post on their profile and story while others might accept free products or services. In some cases, profit sharing or affiliate marketing is a great way to gauge the value of an influencer partnership. The goal is to find out what you are willing to offer and set a budget for influencer marketing.

In my experience, I have worked with micro-influencers who are willing to review a product in exchange for X-amount supply of said product while others charge $100+ per post. I suggest starting small and building on your social influencer strategy. Using micro-influencers can provide measurable and impactful benefits for businesses with a low starting budget.

Micro-influencer: A social media influencer who has a specific niche or market that may have followers between 10k – 50k.

Wrap it up

Not every business will benefit from social media influencer marketing, nor does every business need to be on Instagram. Some businesses might find that Facebook ads pushed to Instagram will suffice. For those looking for ways to grow your profile, brand, or launch a new product or service, start looking at Instagram as a business exercise and not a time-wasting social media platform. Carving 30-minutes a day to reach out and engage with users or influencers, can yield serious results if done right.

If you are reading this and found this information helpful, be sure to connect with Kicks Digital Marketing on Instagram and let us know how it goes.

Josh Donelson
Josh Donelson
Marketing Strategist
Mar 7th, 2019 • Marketing, Trends

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