The Ultimate Influencer Marketing Guide to Boost Your E-Commerce Sales
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Ever wish your marketing didn’t feel so salesy?
With influencer marketing, you’ll put your products in front of fresh audiences in an organic way.
We’ll show you how to find influencers and match promotions so you’ll get more trust and better conversions.
I think we all get tired of getting hit over the head with deals day after day, don’t we?
And if you put yourself in your customers’ shoes, they probably feel the same way.
Another day, another offer in their inboxes.
Or another product promo in their social feeds.
Granted, promotional emails are essential for growing your e-commerce store, but they shouldn’t be the only tactic in your back pocket.
Rather than flood your customers with more offers, consider how you can tap into the power of authenticity to score more sales.
That’s why brands en masse are relying on their influencer marketing strategy to build buzz around their products.
Given that 94% of brands cite influencer marketing as highly-effective, there’s a reason why tapping into the power of social influencers is considered the new wave of pushing products.
In this post, we’re going to break down exactly how you can put together your very own influencer campaign from scratch.
Why Influencer Marketing Matters for E-Commerce
Before diving into the nitty-gritty, let’s quickly break down the what and why behind influencer marketing.
Simply put, influencer marketing involves reaching out to relevant social influencers and getting your products in front of their followers. Think of it as a more nuanced, subtle form of product placement.
While it was once considered unexplored territory a few years back, influencer marketing has become a staple of e-commerce itself.
Why? For starters, consider that 86% of consumers prefer authentic marketing versus traditional brand ads.
That’s exactly why so many people are taking to social media for products. Those eager social shoppers are on the hunt for recommendations, not sales pitches.
And with 74% of shoppers directly influenced by social in purchasing decisions, digital word of mouth is a must for any e-commerce marketer.
Oh, and don’t neglect the fact that influencer marketing allows you to tap into entirely new audiences. Influencers with tens of thousands of followers represent a potential goldmine of traffic and sales with a well-targeted campaign.
The Steps for an Effective Influencer Campaign for E-Commerce
At a glance, influencer marketing might seem like a lot of legwork, and some brands outsource it to influencer marketing companies.
The good news? It’s not as daunting as you might think.
In fact, I’ve outlined a streamlined, step-by-step process to create your campaign without missing a beat with real influencer marketing examples.
1. Define Your Ideal Influencer
If you could get anyone in the social space to promote your products, who would it be?
Chances are you don’t have a specific person in mind, but perhaps you know what that person might look like.
Your influencer persona will most likely resemble the demographics of your customer personas and target audience. Some parameters to consider for your ideal influencer include a combination of the following:
- Geographic location
- Goals and values (think: what do they want?)
- Pain points (consider: what are their struggles?)
- Personality (humorous, passionate, empathetic, )
The exercise of creating a persona is anything but fluff, by the way.
Narrowing your search from the start makes your job easier in the long run. Remember: there are thousands of potential influencers out there to choose from.
Focus also keeps you from making the wrong choice, too. The streetwear brand for twenty-something males isn’t going to reach out to a mommy blogger, for example.
By having your list of must-haves and deal-breakers already outlined, you can zero in on someone your audience will respond to. If you don’t know where to begin with your persona, consider free tools such as Xtensio.
2. Pick Your Influencer Marketing Platform to Prioritize
Keep in mind that you also need to decide which marketing channel makes the most sense for your influencers.
Influencer marketing is pretty much synonymous with Instagram, with nearly 93% of influencers noting that it was their go-to platform to promote products.
That said, it’s certainly not the only platform.
Influencer marketing Instagram tops the charts: Source MarketingProfs
In fact, you should expect even more of a shift toward the likes of YouTube this year which spells good news for merchants. YouTube provides a prime platform to show off products in action via video organically.
If you’re trying to tap into a new audience, it might make more sense to experiment with a platform where your followers aren’t.
That said, most influencers are likely going to have an active Instagram presence regardless.
3. Uncovering Potential Influencers
There are two primary ways to find influencers “in the wild.”
The first is to sift through Instagram hashtags or Twitter’s advanced search function for terms relevant to your products. The more specific you can get with your tags, the better.
The second and less time-consuming option is to rely on some tested tools of the trade.
Likewise, tools like Keyhole provide insights on potential influencers such as follower engagement, impressions, and exposure to ensure they’ve truly achieved “influencer” status.
While you shouldn’t neglect your own research, such tools are invaluable for honing in on a potential list of people to choose from.
4. Choosing the Right Influencer
Once you’ve narrowed down your potential influencers at a glance, how do you know to seriously start pursuing outreach?
There is no “right” answer, but this is such thing is the right fit for your brand.
Consider that you’re in pursuit of the highest ROI possible for your campaign. As such, you should strive to pursue influencers that tick the following boxes.
- They post relevant content. You’ll get more mileage out of someone who not only posts on a regular basis but also shares your brand’s voice and values. Most influencers are going to “play it safe” and consistently post themselves showing off products rather than anything that could potentially turn people off (think: nothing controversial).
- Their followers resemble your target audience. On a related note, there should be a correlation between your ideal influencers’ audience and your own. Spend some time sifting their followers and ask yourself: do these people mesh with my customer personas?
- Their posts receive impressive engagement. This is the big one. Massive follower counts can be deceiving. There is no “magic number” of how much engagement an influencers’ posts should receive, but you should be wary of anyone with tens of thousands of followers who are only getting a few likes or comments per post.
Beyond your own judgment, influencer marketing tools such as Phlanx’s engagement rate calculator can clue you in on how active an influencer truly is.
On a related note, look out for some of the most common influencer red flags noted below.
- Fake followers. There’s no denying that the trend of fake followers is a huge thorn in the side of those trying to run an influencer campaign. Be vigilant of “influencers” with fake clout by looking at their engagement rate and checking their followers manually for bots.
- Little to no engagement. Again, you’re not going to get much out of someone whose posts score no likes or comments despite their massive “follower” counts.
- Lack of previous brand deals. While this isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, it’s ideal to work with someone that’s worked with brands before.
5. Consider Micro-Influencers
As a side note, don’t automatically rule out a potential influencer because they have a follower count on the smaller side (think: 10,000 or less).
In fact, micro-influencer marketing has its own set of unique benefits as smaller influencers traditionally have more active, engaged audiences. If you’re selling a niche product, micro influencers might actually make more sense for your brand.
As influencer marketing continues to boom, what we think of as a traditional “influencer” is evolving, too. Whereas people can identify influencer ads and product placement, smaller influencers feel much less “salesy.”
In short, don’t overlook “the little guy” from a follower perspective if they seem like a perfect fit otherwise. That’s why engagement is such an important metric over followers alone.
6. Conducting Effective Influencer Outreach
Ever gotten a cold email pitch from a total stranger that went straight into the “Spam” folder because it was so off-base?
Yeah, that’s exactly what you don’t want to achieve during your influencer outreach.
Ideally, you can spark the conversation with DM or private message on your social platform of voice and then move the back-and-forth to email.
What do you say, though?
Your goal should be to find a balance between forming a relationship with influencers while also getting to the point. You should let them know that you’re interested in working together, but you should personalize your pitch, so you don’t come across as a spammer.
In other words, no copy-and-paste outreach.
As is the case with any outreach, it’s crucial that you make your communication about them, not you. It might be tempting to try and talk up your brand, but you’ll likely gain more traction as to why working together on a promotion would benefit them.
Maybe that means you have a product that’d be relevant to their audience. Perhaps they’ve worked with a similar brand before, and you can help them gain even more industry exposure.
And yeah, there’s also the potential financial incentive, too. Although the jury’s still out on how much to pay influencers or what you should offer, the list below provides some pros and cons to consider:
As is the case with any outreach campaign, be persistent but don’t be shocked at rejection. That’s why it’s good to compile a list of potential influencers rather than getting your heart set on the perfect “one.”
7. Picking a Promotion
After you’ve locked down the who of your influencer campaign, there’s also the question of what sort of promotion to go along with it.
There are plenty of variables to consider, too.
Do you want to give your influencer free reign of what to say in their promotional posts?
Are you able to track the direct sales of your influencer promotion?
Any of the following types of promotions are totally fair game for an influencer campaign:
- Product reviews. In a world where 71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals, having an influencer present your product in a positive light is always a safe bet.
- Product giveaways. A prime way to build buzz, giving away products does double duty of introducing people to your brand and encouraging social follower simultaneously.
- Products “in the wild.” Perhaps the most common type of campaign, having influencers show off your products organically is a subtle form of promotion that isn’t too in-your-face for followers.
But how do you make your campaigns measurable?
Unique coupon codes. Adding a discount code unique to your sales campaigns allows you to see how many people redeemed your code specific to your influencer campaign.
Here’s an example:
Branded hashtags. Associating a particular hashtag with your campaign allows you to measure the engagement of that tag during your campaign. If you see a spike in mentions that correlates with your influencer push, you know you’re on the right track.
Custom URLs. If you’re running a campaign on a platform beyond Instagram, creating a trackable, custom URL for your promotion likewise gives you a clear indication of engagement from your campaign.
8. Maximizing the Reach of Your Influencer Campaign
Influencer marketing isn’t as simple as reaching out for a post and walking away.
To squeeze the absolute most out of your campaigns, think about the following strategies to boost your products’ exposure.
- Work with your influencer to optimize their posts. Optimization might mean adding industry hashtags or posting at a particular time based on their posts. While your influencer should have some creative input, don’t sacrifice performance in the process. There’s a reason why influencer posts are so tag-heavy, after all.
- Promote your influencer campaign across all marketing channels. Whether it’s other social platforms or your email list, highlight your influencer campaign throughout your funnel wherever possible. Just as you’re expecting your influencer to promote your products, you should return the favor.
- Feature your influencer in an ad. Keep in mind that you can use influencer content within future ad campaigns as well. Given that ads presented as user-generated content increase click-throughs and conversions, an influencer photo with your products has a lot of potential (think: Facebook ads or social proof on your store’s site).
Measuring the Results of Your Influencer Campaign
Last but not least, let’s not forget arguably the most important part of your influencer campaign.
If you’re running a campaign based on engagement, your native social analytics or third-party platform (e.g., Hootsuite, Buffer, or other influencer marketing hub) can clue you in alongside your influencers’ data as well. The more followers and engagement immediately following your campaign, the better.
For e-commerce brands, in particular, unique affiliate links and promo codes are perhaps the easiest way to track direct clicks, traffic and buys from an influencer campaign.
Yet, spending a significant amount of time or money on influencer marketing means that you want hard numbers to back up your campaigns. Measure your influencer marketing statistics with sales results in Google Analytics. As noted by Social Media Examiner, keeping an eye on Acquisition sources in Google Analytics is a good starting point.
Any surge or spike in traffic you see following your campaign is a major plus. That said, having specific tracking links or codes is ideal for e-commerce considering your goals are likely to be more sales-oriented versus traffic.
Although there are lots of variables at play here, it’s key to note that once you’ve gone through all of these steps, repeating the process becomes exponentially easier over time.
- Find influencers.
- Reach out.
- Fine-tune posts.
And once you start seeing those coveted results from your influencer campaigns, you can run targeted campaigns time and time again.
How Could Influencers Help Your E-Commerce Store?
While some might herald influencer marketing as “the next big thing,” it’s already become a staple strategy of top today’s e-commerce brands.
As such, brands of all shapes and sizes should consider how they can get on board with influencers sooner than later.
And as the practice becomes more and more common, the act of finding and bringing influencers into the fold is becoming easier as a result.
If you’ve been on the fence about influencers, consider how you can implement these steps yourself to give your marketing efforts a much-needed boost.
Bonus: Influencer Marketing Infographic
Social influencers are one the most powerful figures these days. They can build your brand, and they can also destroy it. Did you know that people trust influencers as much as they trust their friends? This awesome infographic by Contently tells more about why influencer marketing works so well. And how to incorporate influencers to help you grow your business.
Photo on VisualHunt.com