By: Carol Sours, Treo Marketing

Once upon a time in marketing, if you hired a spokesperson to represent your brand, you sought an individual with some sort of celebrity status. You looked for someone with a fan-following and a platform from which to tout the benefits of the brand. Depending on the scale of your efforts and market, you would seek out a media personality, athlete or entertainer. This could be an expensive, shotgun approach with limited (if any) ability to track direct return on investment (ROI).

Times have changed and social media has blown open the options for securing a mouthpiece for your brand, with very targeted approach and instant performance monitoring. Welcome to the world of influencer marketing. Today, there are over 500,000 active influencers on Instagram alone!

Leveraging influencer marketing is not just for lipstick and laptops or big national brands. Small businesses of all types can (and should) consider integrating an influencer strategy in their marketing plan. Influencer marketing works because of the age-old “word-of-mouth” principle. Purchasing decisions are easier when the information comes from someone you know, like and trust. Even if you think you serve a niche market or are very localized, there is likely an influencer that has the ears and eyes of your target consumers.

There is a whole segment of “micro-influencers” across diverse markets. These are influencers with 5,000 to 25,000 followers. To zoom in a little more, there are “nano-influencers” with 1,000 followers or less. Because it comes down to the quality of the content and responsiveness of the followers vs. volume of followers, engagement can run higher than average with these accounts. These influencers are able to effectively move the needle for brands. A recent survey by eMarketer reports that 30% of North American retailers rely on micro-influencers as part of their marketing strategy.

If you’re thinking of adding an influencer strategy to your marketing plan (smart move, as 80% of marketers agree influencer marketing is effective), keep these pillars in mind:
Relevance. Reach. Response. Results.

• Partner with a social influencer who shares content that is relevant to your brand and offering. If you offer financial services, partnering with a musician with a large following is likely a disconnect. An influencer in real estate, insurance or legal segments will make more impact.
• Check out the influencer’s platforms to see the numbers of followers for your potential audience reach.
• Review platform posts and engagements for response and interactions. High levels of likes or reactions and comments demonstrates an active, engaged audience. What level of response has the influencer been able to generate for other brands or on topics relevant to your brand?
• Likes, reactions, comments and follows are nice warm fuzzies, but you’re looking for revenue results.

Tracking all the interactions is important, but keep in mind that many followers may never engage on social, yet are still moved to take action with a purchase. Incorporating a promo code or other mechanism with your call to action or offer will help monitor sales performance, and give you insight for adjusting your influencer strategy as needed.

When you find the right influencer partners, this is a smart marketing strategy that most any business can implement to effectively raise brand awareness and drive sales. Give it a try. Your business could be the next Ista-hit!