Have you ever considered how much impact a glossy advertisement has on your desire to actually go to a store and purchase that item? Now picture an Instagram product post you like from an influencer you follow. What is the likelihood the post piques your interest enough for you to want to buy the product?
According to a recent study on U.S. consumer online behavior impacting in-store purchase decisions by Collective Bias, the answer is 30%.
Of the 14,000 adults surveyed, 30% of consumers are more likely to purchase a product endorsed by a non-celebrity blogger than a celebrity.
Of that number, 70% of 18 to 34 year olds had the highest proclivity for “peer” endorsement. And as for traditional advertisements with your favorite celebrity in it? Only 3% of consumers would consider buying a product in-store if it was endorsed by a celebrity.
Both approaches utilize beautifully styled photography, but influencer marketing completely outshines advertising when it comes to sales conversions, leads and brand awareness. It’s all about that authentic peer-to-peer word-of-mouth content to get your brand noticed and purchased!
What does this all mean for you? It means it’s time to take a hard look at your influencer marketing program, and build one that helps grow your brand awareness and clout.
And it’s totally doable whether you have a sizable or shoestring budget. Below, we outline exactly how to find the right ambassadors for your brand, and craft authentic partnerships with them that will go the long run.
*We use influencers and ambassadors synonymously.
Take stock of who’s interacting with your brand organically.
A brand ambassador need not be an A-list celebrity you have to pay millions of dollars to. In fact, chances are a superfan will drive more traffic to your website than a major influencer, and will do it willingly for free. They are real people with real lives who are using your product on a daily basis and loving it.
You can’t get more authentic influence than that. This can be as simple as looking at your last year of sales and seeing which customers were repeat buyers. Check if they have an engaged community presence and offer them product in exchange for word-of-mouth marketing and social media posts.
You can also find influencers directly on Instagram. Check for those already following and interacting with your brand. If you’re a start-up with a small budget, focus on micro-influencers—those who have a following on Instagram of 50k or less, but have a strong engagement (read: a good number of non-bot comments).
There’s no rule of thumb as to the minimum number of followers, engagement is what matters most here!
Bonus if they have an actual blog. If they write about your product on both their instagram and the blog, that’s extra eyeballs and traffic back to your website. The more social platforms they can share on, the better…as long as those platforms are where your target audience lives.
According to AdWeek, “60 percent higher campaign engagement rates are driven by micro-influencers; those campaigns are 6.7 times more efficient per engagement than influencers with larger followings, which makes them more cost effective; and micro-influencers drive 22.2 times more weekly conversations than the average consumer.”
Micro-influencers are more likely to be more generous with their offering and want to work with you to make your campaign really successful, and they tend to nurture their relationships with their followers more because there are fewer of them.
Do they align with your brand ethos?
To build an authentic brand ambassador program, check that each superfan and influencer’s brand ethos resonates with your target audience. Brand ethos includes beliefs, values, niche, style, personality, interests and audience.
An authentic influencer has a community of followers loyal to him/her because they stay true to their brand and engage with their audience on a deeper level. A good brand ambassador choice for you will thus be someone with a consistent brand ethos that’s similar to your brands’. If you have a luxury organic skincare and they’re regularly posting discounts, sales, contests, and giveaways, then that’s a red flag that there may not be alignment there.
Maybe you have an ultra sleek and minimalistic home goods line but the influencer is all about bright colors and maximalism. Be clear on what your brand represents and who your target audience is. and partner with influencers that reflect those same values.
You’ll find that the stronger the alignment is, the more authentic the content, and thus the better the engagement and ROI on your brand ambassador partnership.
Test the influencers out!
Start by sending a thoughtful pitch email to the influencer offering your products for them to try out. Allow them time to use and test the products as they wish. Never demand a post or write-up if you are not paying them for the sponsorship.
Offering gratis product is the bare minimum cost of participating in influencer marketing. Remember, the influencer puts a lot of time and money (in the form of photography equipment, studio time, etc.) into crafting a beautiful blog post, video or Instagram story, so be generous with the package of products you send if you are not able to pay them. Once they’ve received your products in the mail, feel free to follow-up and ask for their feedback.
Once they post about your product, track down the social post, blog post or vlog and in a spreadsheet jot down the stats. Include the date of post, # of likes, shares, comments, etc. Then look at your website analytics to see if you’ve had a spike in traffic around the date of the post.
If you’re happy with the results of their post, continue to share anything new coming down the pipeline with them, or consider offering them an ambassadorship with your company. And don’t forget to thank them for the feature! To really start to see the impact of your influencer partnerships, you’ll need to
Build your ambassadorship program
You’ve found authentic influencers who believe in your mission and values, love your product, have great engagement and their presentation of your brand has driven traffic, engagement or sales. Great! Now, incentivize them with an offer to be your brand ambassador.
Consider offering them a commission, a discount to their followers, inviting them to a special brand event, free product, etc. You can also utilize them for hosting events and pop-ups, doing instagram takeovers, contests, etc.
Collaborate with them on creating a completely new product where they play a more strategic role in the launch. Are you launching a new product? Do you have an ongoing campaign you want support on or a charitable component?
The options are endless and will ultimately depend on your brand needs, budget and their availability. Once you’ve hashed out the details, put a contract in place and voila, you’ve just set an authentic and organic brand ambassador program for your brand.
You may be tempted to sign up for any one of the slew of influencer/commission programs out there. Don’t get bogged down with a platform yet. Their functionalities are cumbersome and an added cost you just don’t need yet. For now, keep track of your influencers in a spreadsheet.
Additionally, from experience, I’ve found influencers are less likely to want to participate in a partnership if they have to sign up on yet another platform (assuming they aren’t already on it), set up an account just to get paid for a small partnership.
To really start to see a larger impact from your influencer marketing strategy, you’ll want to build reciprocal and thoughtful relationships with influencers. They’ll become genuine social advocates for your brand and for you as a founder. It’s really quite similar to building strong and authentic relationships with the press. At the end of the day, genuine relationships are at the core of long-lasting business success.