• Influencer marketing is a type of social media marketing strategy that employs influencers with dedicated followers and niche interests to appeal to target audiences.
  • There are many kinds of influencers across a variety of interests and with follower counts ranging from thousands to millions.
  • Instagram is one of the most popular channels for influencer marketing, but platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, and Twitch can also have massive reach potential.

Everywhere you look on social media, influencers are showing off clothes, snacks, cosmetics, and other products or services. Whether it’s via Instagram stories or long-form YouTube videos, influencer marketing is an effective way to grow your business’s social media reach and establish brand credibility.

In this article, you’ll learn about how influencer marketing works and what strategies you can use to grow your business’s social media following.

What Is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is a social media strategy that employs product endorsements from influencers to increase traffic, improve brand awareness and drive brand messages. An influencer is a social media creator who has a following generally within one or more niches.

These influencers are able to impact their followers’ purchase decisions by engaging with a brand’s products or services online. Since followers tend to trust people they admire, such as influencers, influencer marketing acts as a kind of social proof to help brands expand their reach.

The Value of Influencer Marketing

Reports project the influencer marketing industry to grow to $16.4 billion in 2022, and the value of social commerce sales in 2022 is estimated at around $958 billion. With many new influencer marketing agencies and platforms likewise established, it’s clear that influencer marketing offers a variety of advantages.1

The amount of active social media users continues to rise, which means brands can increase their reach to potential customers and increase social media and brand engagement. When influencers post positive messages about your brand, they build trust between you and broader audiences.

Influencer Marketing Landscape

Standing out from other brands on Instagram and other social media platforms in the early 2010s was relatively easy. If your posts had a distinctive look, they had a good chance of being featured or highly trafficked.

Nowadays, social media marketing is much more competitive. Aesthetic trends rotate quickly, which means it’s hard to keep up, stand out and generate interest.

As of 2022, trends are shifting away from perfect DSLR camera shots and toward casual, authentic, and relatable posts. However, there’s no way to know how long these or any other trend will last.

Types of Marketing Influencers

Although the Kardashian-Jenner family may be many people’s first impression of influencers, they represent only one type. These celebrities are mega-influencers who have at least one million followers with many interests.

Macro-influencers are a step down with 500,000 to one million followers. In addition to massive reach, they have a large audience with specific interests.

With lower follower numbers, audiences are typically focused on more niche interests. Mid-influencers have between 100,000 and 500,000 followers, while micro-influencers have between 10,000 and 100,000 followers and represent the largest portion of creators on Instagram.

Nano-influencers are everyday users with no more than 10,000 followers. Influencing isn’t their full-time job, but they’re more affordable and often build more trust with their audiences.

Popular Influencer Marketing Platforms

Although Instagram is a popular platform for influence marketing, many other networks have a growing influencer presence. These platforms include:

  • Instagram;
  • TikTok;
  • YouTube;
  • Facebook;
  • Twitter;
  • Twitch;
  • Snapchat, and;
  • Blogs.

Each platform attracts different audience demographics and has different uses. For example, most mentions on Instagram are about fashion brands, while TikTok’s mentions included Netflix, Starbucks, and McDonald’s. Instagram also usually appeals to a mix of millennials and Gen Z, but TikTok has a proportionately greater Gen Z audience. Video game content may not be as popular on these channels, but it dominates on Twitch and YouTube.

Top Influencer Categories

Some niches are more popular and competitive across social media. Lifestyle is by far the top category, followed by beauty and music. Many of these categories are highly visual, which makes it easy for influencers to share intriguing and impactful photos. Short videos are also great for sharing content related to music, television, and fitness.

In order, the top categories for 2022 include:

  • Lifestyle;
  • Beauty;
  • Music;
  • Photography;
  • Family;
  • Humor, fun and, happiness;
  • Shows;
  • Modeling;
  • Cinema and actors, and;
  • Fitness and gym.

How to Pay Influencers

Compensation for influencers can vary wildly depending on factors such as the influencer’s follower numbers, the type of content produced and the niche. Brands used to compensate most influencers with free products, but approximately 34.5 percent now pay influencers in money.2

More popular influencers may be represented by an agency and have higher rates, while smaller influencers often allow for more flexible payment terms. Celebrities are known to charge up to $1 million per Instagram post, but nano-influencers may require as little as $100.3

Create a Budget and Management Strategy

Influencer marketing takes a hands-on approach. Your budget should account for costs relating to influencer compensation in addition to planning, executing, and monitoring your campaign.

Influencers often have multiple obligations and may fall behind on commitments or make errors in posts, which means you’ll have to manage the influencer and brand relationship on an ongoing basis.

Some brands set up ambassador programs to facilitate influencer marketing and source content directly from ambassadors. Brands with greater needs sometimes opt to hire an influencer marketing agency to manage their strategies.

Identify Goals and Metrics

The first step in creating an influencer marketing strategy is identifying the goal of your campaign. Most brands want to target new customers, increase product consideration, drive sales, and build customer loyalty and engagement. Be specific with your goals, such as expanding reach across younger demographics or expanding into a new group altogether.

Consider which metrics you’ll use to determine the success of your campaign. Common metrics include:

  • Brand mentions, shares, links, and impressions;
  • How quickly your brand gains followers;
  • Social media post reach;
  • Potential reach;
  • Mentions of your brand compared to competitors;
  • Post likes and favorites, and;
  • Average engagement relative to total followers.

Research Your Buyer Persona

The right influencer marketing strategy requires your brand to speak to the right audience, which means you’ll need to use the right influencers. Your buyer persona stays roughly the same, but each influencer will use a different way to connect to your audience.

Perform in-depth research with your marketing team to identify who exactly you’re trying to influence. Your research results should inform you about what type of influencer and content will best appeal to your audience as well as which social media platforms you should focus on.

How to Find Influencers

Once you have your goals, budget, and buyer persona in mind, it’s time to find the right influencers for your brand. Broadly research influencers that fit your brand image and create a shortlist of candidates. Follower counts matter, but not as much as quality of content and engagement. Consider factors such as if they’ve worked with your competitors, used your products or services, and already appeal to your target audience.

To contact influencers, you can reach out directly with a private message on social media. Macro and mid-influencers may list contact information for business inquiries.

Examples of Influencer Marketing

In 2019, Bubly Sparkling Water partnered with Canadian singer Michael Buble in a celebrity influencer marketing campaign. The campaign features Buble’s own special flavor, clever posts on his social media and social media sweepstakes. This strategy successfully targeted millennials and resulted in 12 billion cross-platform impressions in its first year.4

Subaru likewise appealed to millennial audiences with the #MeetAnOwner campaign. They employed Devin Graham, a YouTube influencer with millions of subscribers, and published a video of him and his friends doing adventurous activities.5

Influencer Marketing Software Options

Influencer marketing software allows you to streamline your process, find influencers and quickly launch influencer campaigns. These platforms offer massive searchable databases of influencers with smart algorithms as well as services such as relationship management, campaign management, third party analytics and influencer content amplification. They can help you pay influencers on time, automate workflows, and measure your campaigns with real-time reporting.

Some popular influencer marketing software options include:

  • Ambassador;
  • Grin;
  • CreatorIQ;
  • Klear;
  • Upfluence;
  • #paid;
  • Refersion, and;
  • Aspire.