Can Influencer Marketing Work for Your Brand?

  •    Professional freelance writer and journalist who focuses on science, technology, marketing, business, politics, education, and technical writing.

Influencer marketing is extremely trendy, but can it work for small businesses and solopreneurs? Definitely. For small businesses with physical products, micro influencers that are in the right niche can be particularly powerful.

Let's walkthrough how influencer marketing works for small businesses and solopreneurs, how to find the right influencers for your brand, and how to pitch them your product.

Influencer marketing for small businesses and solopreneurs

Influencer marketing allows you to leverage the original, user-generated content of another professional to benefit your brand. The influencer posts about your brand, business, service, or products, and not “for" you directly; it's all in their own voice to their own built-in, opted-in audience. This is a shot of authenticity surging past the endless streams of paid ads that we all ignore. Influencers are like friends we trust telling us about things they honestly believe are awesome.

And by the way, the influencer marketing strategy that works for small businesses and solopreneurs isn't about paying millions to A-list stars. It's about finding the right person in your niche who has pull. That's why it's often cheaper than traditional advertising — and more effective.

How to find your influencer

Set clear goals. To get this right, understand the results you're looking for and how influencer marketing will support your goal. Your strategy should follow the goal.

Know your audience. You need an absolute lock on who buys your service or product, or who you want to buy it, because unless you know where, when and how they consume information and make decisions to buy, you can't choose the right influencer.

Context. You went to school with Oprah, and she can retweet your message to millions, hooray! Except, you're selling hardware that tekkies can add onto video gaming consoles to “unlock" them. Context matters more than reach. Find influencers in context by monitoring social media, searching and following hashtags, and setting Google alerts for your keywords. When you find someone who posts about your niche all the time, reach out to them, give them reason to post about your brand.

Reach. Once you find a few potentially great fits in context, you do want to ensure they have sufficient reach. Use tools like BuzzSumo, Buzzstream, Ahrefs, and MozBar to find out which sites people are going to most. When you find sites that are both in context and have high authority, chances are good that you've found another potential influencer. You can also look for niche-specific bloggers this way and confirm how much traffic their site gets with your tools.

Micro-influencers. Remember, huge celebs are not always (or even usually) the answer. Micro-influencers are lesser known, but have serious, engaged followings that are on point for your brand. More businesses are succeeding with micro-influencer activations than celebrity campaigns.

Actionability. How often do your influencer's followers do what they suggest? Influencers are more likely to cause action when they are contextually aligned with the brands they're collaborating with, and reach enough people. Check their comments sections for posts with photos and other relevant feedback that shows actionability.

Choose the right influencer. You are looking for your brand's true love — someone who can reach your audience with total credibility, and who will love your brand. Your influencer should be excited to hear from you, because they love the product or service so much (or they soon will).

Reach out and pitch your influencer

Mention them. If you've got an amazing photo of your product or a fabulous piece of press, share it, and mention your target influencer. Better still, mention them by referring to their opinions or a previous post they did that's related to what you're posting now, or include them in a high-quality curated list.

Foster a collaboration. If your influencer is an expert, host an AMA starring them; your software brand can host an ethical hacker, for example. If your product and the influencer are a really nice match, ask them about a joint product campaign they can lend their name to.

Guest posting. Ask for the influencer to post on your blog, or to post on theirs. You can even interview them for a podcast or video that can go on both blogs.

Send them something. Without asking them to write or post about it, send them your product. You picked them because you know they'll love it; if they do, this will pay off, and you will have genuine buzz you didn't pay for.

Speaking of money...don't. Although some influencers do get paid, that kind of strategy can blow up in your face. Instead, send the influencer the product or allow them to use the service free of charge, but don't pay them. About 70 percent of businesses pay influencers either rarely or not at all, and that's because this keeps the buzz and the relationship genuine. Influencers should say that they got the product or service from you gratis, but that their opinions are their own — and if you don't pay them, they will be.

Work it

Now that you've connected with your influencer, nurture that connection. Collaborate with your influencer. Listen to their feedback as they are speaking to the heart and soul of your target audience. Then enjoy the authentic connection you're making with your customers!