Influencer Marketing from A to Z: A Complete Guide for Businesses

Did you know that consumers, on average, mention 56 brands per week during regular conversation? That one in every three customers finds your brand as a result of a recommendation? That new customers referred by existing customers have a 37% higher retention rate?

New customers referred by existing customers have a 37% higher retention rate! #InfluencerMarketing Click To Tweet

The common denominator in all of these figures is credibility, and it’s the name of the game in marketing for 2016. With the rapid expansion of social media, brands no longer build credibility through purely organic word of mouth marketing, but through strategic online interactions.

The key to maximizing your company’s marketing campaign is to become one of those 56 brands mentioned per week by as many people as possible. By leveraging social media and influencer marketing techniques, your brand and message will be broadcast to not only your loyal customers, but to thousands more.

Why Influencer Marketing?

In today’s online world, there is a tremendous amount of content, from businesses, consumers and individuals. As of 2015, more than 90% of digital marketers were actively publishing content on their websites and blogs, while over 1.5 billion consumers were actively publishing on Facebook. The result is an overabundance of content that has led to a 60% decrease in customer engagement.

Content, as a tool, is still extremely effective in helping businesses meet their goals, whether that is driving online traffic, sales or leads. The key is to create strategic and credible content that cuts through the noise of other brands.

What is Influencer Marketing?

At its core, influencer marketing is the act of partnering with individuals who have access to a significant audience and strong influence within that particular consumer segment. In practice, influencer marketing and social media often go hand in hand. By leveraging the speed and inherent networks present on social media, reach can be amplified even further.

Example – YouTube

If a company wants to reach its target audience using video content, YouTube is one of the best places to do so. From widely acclaimed “YouTube stars” with millions of followers to local YouTube phenoms with hundreds of thousands of followers, YouTube is an outlet for customers (and potential customers) to watch entertaining – and informative – videos from their favorite personalities. For companies with a product like cosmetics, for example, a partnership with an influencer provides an opportunity for them to provide simplified and easy-to-follow tutorials to its followers.



Not only do these types of content showcase your brand and products, but they also provide advice and meaningful information to your target audience from a trusted source (a YouTuber that they already follow).

Example – Instagram

YouTube, however, is not the only platform perfect for influencer marketing campaigns. In 2015, Capital One launched a campaign of its own using its slogan, “What’s in Your Wallet?”. The company partnered with three popular Instagrammers who were tasked with snapping photos of the items they had in their wallets, including, at times, a Capital One card.

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How Capital One Used Instagram to Boost Ad Recall by 16 Percent

Not only did this campaign leverage the reach of the three Instagrammers that it partnered with, it delivered increased brand awareness without making customers feel like they were viewing a manufactured advertisement.

A Guide for Businesses to Get Started

When designing an influencer marketing strategy of your own, it is important to consider the following questions:

  1. What is your ultimate goal?
  2. Who is your target audience?
  3. How will you identify the perfect influencer for your brand?
  4. What is your budget?
  5. How will you measure success?

Just like other marketing strategies that you have implemented for your business, it is important to create goals before getting started. Not only will this help to outline your strategy in a more targeted and detailed manner, but it will also help measure the success of your campaign after it’s all said and done. Depending on the industry and size of your business, some examples of influencer marketing goals might be

  • To increase brand engagement
  • To generate leads and drive sales
  • To promote a new product
  • To drive traffic to your website
  • To increase your social media following
  • To improve customer loyalty

Take some time to consider which of these points, or others, best fits your business’ need. Once you know the goal you’re trying to achieve, the next step is to define your target audience. You probably have an idea of your ideal target market, the segment that realistically drives your sales and the segment that is most actively engaged with your content. Depending on your goal, it is best to hone in on one, specific segment to streamline your search for an influencer. For example, if your goal is to promote a new clothing line aimed at 25-34-year-old women, the influencer to help you reach that goal is different than if you were trying to drive sales of men’s shoes.

What should you look for in an influencer?

One of the most crucial steps in the influencer marketing process is identifying the best influencer to help you reach your goal. When considering which influencer is right for you, a great place to start is to consider fit, reach and engagement, and effectiveness.

  • Fit: Does your product fit into this person’s individual persona? For example, Taylor Swift has 69.4 million Instagram followers, but how relevant is that if you’re trying to sell designer baby clothes or professional cameras?
  • Reach and Engagement: How many followers does this person have on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.? Are their posts and messages frequently shared or re-tweeted? If the engagement among their followers seems low, a partnership with them most likely won’t help to increase the engagement on your site either.
  • Effectiveness: This factor refers to whether or not your potential influencer can create the impact necessary to help you reach your goal. Do you feel that a message shared by this person will be disseminated to the proper audience that you want to target?

How can you identify the best influencer for your brand?

To find the best influencer for your goal, think about where your target consumers are. Are they on Facebook or Pinterest? Do they respond better to written, photo or video content? The idea of influencer marketing is to find someone who is well positioned in the market that you want to penetrate, so thinking of where your target consumers are is a great place to start. You can also consider using the following sources to better understand where your consumers are and which individuals are best positioned among them:

    • Buzzsumo: This is a great place to start to get an understanding of the best types of content for your target audience and the influencers who are sharing that content.

    • PeerIndex: As a tool that specializes in social analytics and influence, this will help to determine what constitutes important content and who is delivering that content across Twitter handles, specifically.
    • Google Blog Search: For companies searching specifically for bloggers with a large following, this tool is a great place to search for the leading bloggers within your industry. To use this method, you can search using the toolbar on the upper right-hand corner to find blogs relevant to your business. For example, a retail-clothing store could type in the following keywords to find bloggers who cover the topic and then determine who has the most desirable context, reach and effectiveness to create an influencer marketing relationship with. At the bottom of the page, you can also filter by the author to narrow down your search even further.

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  • Social media monitoring: This method includes following hashtags, LinkedIn groups, Quora, etc. and monitoring specific keyword mentions. This can be done with a tool like Hootsuite or on your own by filtering through keywords on each social media platform that is of interest to you.

Engaging your influencer

When reaching out to engage the person you’ve identified to be your influencer, it is helpful to have an open mind. While you already have a content strategy in place, an idea for how your influencer can contribute content and a timeline to do so, remember to be open to hearing their suggestions. Given that they are in-tune with the audience you are looking to reach, they might be able to add additional insights and nuances to your existing strategy. In addition, these influencers can be incredibly creative and savvy when it comes to content, so be ready for them to tweak your strategy or provide a new idea of their own!

When engaging your potential influencer, it is important to remember that every business transaction must have a benefit for both parties involved. While you and your business are gaining an influencer for your brand and products, the influencer also needs to feel that they are attaining something by participating. The following image breaks down which factors are most important to influencers when deciding whether or not to work with a brand.

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5 tips to nail your next influencer marketing campaign

Influencers are absolutely looking to gain something in this potential partnership, whether that is to increase traffic to their content, try out a new product or simply bring relevant information to their followers. By keeping in mind what is important to your influencer, while also remaining flexible towards their suggestions regarding creative content, you will better position yourself for a successful influencer marketing campaign.

Inspire or hire?

We now know that influencers work with businesses for a variety of reasons, but what does this mean from a cost perspective? Should you expect that these influencers would work based on their own inspiration (pro bono) or that you will need to hire them and provide compensation for their work?

Looking into the costs associated with influencer marketing, it is important to remember that influencer marketing campaigns can be flexible depending on the types of influencers that you use, the length of the project and their motivation for participating.

While YouTube stars might cost upwards of $1 million, local influencers can range from $50,000 down to accepting free samples of a new product line in exchange for their work. No matter how much your budget allows for, the ROI earned from influencer marketing is incredibly efficient. According to a study from Tomoson, marketers are earning $6.50 for every $1 they invested; a return that is encouraging more and more marketers to increase their use of influencer marketing activities.

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Influencer Marketing Study

The same study also showed that 50% of marketers saw better customers, meaning customers that are more loyal, spend more money and talk more frequently about the business. Influencer marketing is, without a doubt, an effective tool for bringing in additional revenues, driving sales and increasing traffic to your websites and social media pages. Regardless of the budget that your business is able to dedicate to the campaign, you should see a high ROI and positive results.

Best Practices for Influencer Marketing

According to a study by Sysomos, more than 74% of marketers are planning to incorporate influencer marketing into their overall marketing strategies over the next 12 months. To be sure that you are implementing this powerful marketing tool effectively, below are the 5 best practices to keep in mind.

  • Reward influencers for the work they’ve done and maintain a strong, working relationship with them to set your business up for ongoing or future partnerships.
  • Keep your content real and honest by minimizing photoshopping, special effects and editing. The majority of bloggers gain followers for their honesty and credibility, so be sure that this is maximized instead of compromised in your campaign!
  • Tailor your strategy to the platform. Influencers and content vary across Facebook, Instagram, blogs, and Twitter so be sure to follow the “rules” of the platform so you can reap the greatest benefits.
  • Measure the success of your campaign to know how to tailor future influencer strategies for your brand.
  • Stay engaged with your followers and continue to post valuable content across all of the platforms that your company maintains. Not only will this help to sustain existing customers, but it will also serve as a warm welcome to those that your influencer campaign is bringing in.

When it’s all said and done, influencer marketing is one of the hottest tools in the marketing world today. It provides easily tracked metrics including ROI, new sales, brand sentiment and reach, all without requiring that a business invest beyond its means.

Our Top 5 Favorite Influencer Marketing Campaigns

Influencer marketing can be a bit of a tricky business (that’s why we offer influencer outreach as one of our many digital marketing services). While some brands still struggle with the idea, there are others that are doing great, innovative influencer marketing campaigns that have helped them move the needle for their sales, their cause, and other goals.

Here are five of our favorite influencer marketing campaigns over the past few years.

Honest Tea’s #RefreshinglyHonest campaign

For five years now, Honest Tea has been engaged in an informal social experiment to find out how honest Americans are across the country. The company sets up unmanned, pop-up stands that offer Honest beverages for $1 – on the honor system.

After the pop-up event is completed, company personnel tally up the number of people who actually gave $1. This tally is included in their National Honesty Index, which rates cities and towns throughout America. (In case you were wondering, in 2015 Atlanta and Indianapolis won the honor of being the country’s most honest cities.) Info about the pop-up stands, the index, and more are shared across social media using the hashtag #RefreshinglyHonest.

So how does this tie into influencer marketing?

Well, it does so in a really cool way: by having a unified physical and digital presence, the #RefreshinglyHonest campaign is able to work with local influencers in the various cities they set up in.

And there’s another aspect to the campaign, too. Honest Tea encourages social media users to share their own #RefreshinglyHonest moments – unposed, unfiltered, you get the idea – on their social media profiles. Among the influencers who’ve been spotted on Honest’s Instagram feed is Becca Tilley, a reality celeb from season 19 of The Bachelor.


Every industry can use influencer marketing, but the fashion industry is particularly suited to this marketing strategy. There’s a huge number of style bloggers online, many of whom have loyal followings, and smart fashion brands have realized that partnering with these influencers is a must.

That’s what the Gap has done with their online fashion hub The site consists of catalog-worthy posts by high-profile fashion bloggers – like Refinery29, Jamie Bauer, and Milli Midwood – styling Gap items.

There’s also a section called #styldby You where social media users can share their own Gap looks with the world by using the hashtag #styldby.

By partnering with bloggers and fashion influencers, Gap has been able to increase its reach exponentially. For a snapshot of what we mean by that, look at Refinery29 – they’ve got 969,000 Instagram followers that they’re sharing their posts with on a regular basis.

Birchbox’s Instagram takeovers

Birchbox, a beauty and grooming product subscription service, is a pro at influencer marketing – especially on Instagram.

They’ve started doing Instagram takeovers, which is when a brand gives an influencer control over the brand’s Instagram account for a day. Blogs have been using this idea for years, and print publications for much, much longer – it’s basically like inviting someone to be a guest editor.

Birchbox has partnered with several influencers for Instagram takeovers, like Christina Jilber of Jouer Cosmetics. She hosted a takeover for Mother’s Day 2015, where she posted photos of her life in L.A. and offered a giveaway of some of her products.

This campaign was able to give both Birchbox and Jouer Cosmetics a wider audience, plus promote higher engagement from both brands’ followers.

Tyson Foods’ Why Should Cookies Have All the Fun?

If you remember seeing pictures of chicken nugget snowmen online at some point, chances are they were from this campaign. This holiday-themed influencer campaign was aimed at mommy bloggers and asked them to create fun, holiday cookie-style shapes with…Tyson chicken nuggets.

This is one of those ideas that seems kind of risky on the outset. Really? Are mommy bloggers really going to decorate chicken nuggets like snowmen and reindeer and then share pictures online?

The answer was a resounding yes. Tyson ended up with almost 9 million impressions across social media, not to mention a complete clear-out of their stock of nuggets within just a few weeks.

Toyota’s YouTube partnership with Rhett & Link

The redesign of a reliable, un-flashy car isn’t all that exciting. That’s probably why when Toyota redesigned its Camry, the company reached out to the YouTube comedy stars Rhett & Link to test drive the car – all on film, of course.

What they thought was just a test drive ended up taking them to a motocross course where they drove through a ring of fire while dirtbikes raced around them – among other things.

That video was posted on Toyota’s YouTube channel where it did fairly well. The real payoff, however, came from Rhett and Link’s mention of the video on six episodes of their daily YouTube show, Good Mythical Morning, which totaled 10 million views.

Johnnie Walker’s Instagram campaigns

Scottish whiskey and Instagram don’t necessarily seem like a natural fit for each other, but when you’ve got a budget like spirits label Johnnie Walker, anything’s possible.

The whiskey brand is famous for its epic influencer campaigns, which have involved flying Instagram influencers to places like Shanghai, Iceland, and Scotland to experience various aspects of the Johnnie Walker brand. The company has also invited Instagrammers on to its sailboat, the John Walker & Sons Voyager, to enjoy a day on the water and learn about whiskey.

According to one influencer who participated in the Johnnie Walker boat experience, one reason these campaigns have worked so well is that Johnnie Walker takes a respectful, hands-off approach to these excursions.

That’s a vital part of an influencer marketing strategy – you’re not hiring these people, after all, so you don’t get to tell them what to do – but it’s not always as closely adhered to when the campaigns involve the kind of money required for international flights, accommodations, etc.

Want to learn more about the basics of influencer marketing? Read our post “Influencer Marketing, Outreach, Digital PR: What’s the Difference?” and then move on to “How to Find the Right Influencer for Your Brand.”



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