Influencers for SMEs: A Guide

Influencer marketing is big.

What started as a nascent trend has evolved into a successful and effective marketing strategy, with brands like Pepsi, Walmart, and L’Oréal leaning on it heavily in their campaigns.

But influencer marketing isn’t solely the domain of big brands with big budgets. Small businesses and solo enterprises too can benefit from influencer-led marketing campaigns.

Rather than using expensive macro-influencers like Kim Kardashian or Jake Paul, small businesses can use micro-influencers to grow their brand. Quietly popular social stars with moderate but closely-knit social followings, micro-influencers can be a huge boon to even the smallest of online businesses.

Here’s the rundown to help you on your way to starting a fruitful micro-influencer partnership for your online store.

What are influencers?

Influencer marketing is the practice of businesses partnering with renowned social media stars to promote their brand, product, or service.

These influencers garner massive followings on social media, building their fanbase by sharing useful or entertaining content and nurturing genuine, meaningful relationships with their followers.

Influencers are, broadly speaking, divided into two groups: macro-influencers and micro-influencers.

Macro-influencers consist of the likes of Lele Pons or Logan Paul, social stars with follower counts often ranking well above 100K. Consequently, brands seeking collaborations with macro-influencers can expect to pay top dollar for the privilege.

At the other end of the spectrum lie micro-influencers. These individuals typically have a much smaller fan base than their macro counterparts, between 10-100K followers each.

Micro-influencers occupy much more specific niches than macro-influencers, and while their follower count is small, it is the weight behind this that makes them so valuable to SMEs.

Why should I use micro-influencers instead of macro-influencers?

As a small business owner, partnering with a macro-influencer is probably out of your price range. They often command fees in the high thousands, making such collaborations the domain of big multinationals rather than solo enterprises.

But a micro-influencer partnership can provide a range of benefits for SMEs too.

Where macro-influencers boast high follower counts, the relationship between the two lacks depth. Research shows that the ratio of likes and comments to followers hits it peak when a user reaches 1000 followers.

And when that figures reaches over 10K, follower engagement actually plateaus. When an influencer’s follower count reaches such high levels, it becomes harder to nurture the sense of community that micro-influencers enjoy.

Consequently, micro-influencers boast deeper, more genuine relationships with their followers. Despite having fewer followers than macro-influencers, the content micro-influencers share is received on a deeper, more sincere level by their audience.

As a result, brands collaborating with micro-influencers can expect their campaigns to have a deeper impact than a partnership with macro-influencers.

In a nutshell: the more followers an influencer has, the lower their engagement.

Macro-influencers occupy broader niches, or are only popular by virtue of being famous. Micro-influencers on the other hand typically occupy specific niches: fitness, cosmetics, cooking, and so on. As a consequence, their followers engage more with their content by virtue of enjoying the specific sub niche.

Don’t be put off by apparently low follower counts: influencers are a vital asset for growing your business, even for SMEs.

Where can I find micro-influencers in my niche?

There is a range of free or affordable tools available online for small business owners to find micro-influencers within their niche.

If it’s within your budget, a dedicated influencer marketplace such as Upfluence or HYPR might be your first port of call. These platforms are designed specifically for connecting with influencers, and provide a wealth of metrics and data to help you find the right social star for your brand.

But for those seeking a more affordable option, a content research tool such as BuzzSumo is a good alternative. By searching for keywords related to your industry, you can find the latest popular content published in that niche.

These results often come with useful information such as follower count, domain authority related content, and engagement levels on social media.

This data can be filtered to exclude large publishers from macro-influencers. As a result, you can identify those publishers who are actively creating and sharing relevant content – your potential micro-influencers.

When you’re selecting an influencer, consider the following factors:

How can I use micro-influencers to help grow my audience?

Once you’ve found an influencer that best suits your brand, reach out and collaborate with them. There are a number of ways you can work with influencers to boost your small business, such as:

Create influencer-led product reviews

Micro-influencers enjoy an intimate, trusting relationship with their followers. As a result, an influencer’s thoughts and opinions are respected by their audience. Their word is gospel, so when they praise a brand, their followers listen.

As a small business, you can exploit this. Encourage your influencer to review your product through a video or blog post. When they praise it publicly online, their engaged network of followers will listen. It’s social proof at its finest: high praise from a respected influencer carries weight, and can boost sales and increase your social following considerably.

Receiving such praise is as simple as offering a free sample to your influencer. Pitch it to them as you would to an investor. Lead them to your product or service’s positives rather than letting them discover it for themselves.

Be warned though: don’t try to force a positive reception.

Influencer endorsement works best when it is sincere. Their followers know the influencer inside and out, and will detect hollow sentiment from a mile off.

Build hype for giveaways, competitions, and freebies

Competitions are perfect for building your social following and email subscriber count. They’re easy to do and popular with customers: simply ask for a like, share, or email address sign-up for the chance of winning a prize. For small businesses, this is a quick win.

Getting your competition to a wider audience can be difficult for a small business in its nascent stages. But asking your influencer to lead your competition makes this easier. With an influencer’s significant ready-made following, your giveaway can reach a wider audience with ease.

Customers are sometimes cautious about giving their email address to a business they haven’t heard of before. But when a respected influencer endorses it, that apprehension is removed.

Tell a story around your brand, product or service

Part of micro-influencers’ allure lies in the genuine nature of their follower relationship. It has depth and meaning, and as such it carries far more weight than those of their macro equivalents.

This is important because consumers today are much more aware of marketing than in the past. Bombarded with advertising messages everyday, they frequently switch off when faced with a brand message.

Not so with micro-influencers. When a marketing message is delivered via micro-influencer content, customers are far more likely to pay attention to it.

Encourage your chosen influencer to talk about more than just your products, speaking about your brand as a whole instead. They should discuss in depth what makes you different, what your USP is and how it sets you apart. Such a message from an ostensibly third-party source will be received with more engagement than if you were to say it yourself.

Key takeaways

Influencer marketing is a powerful advertising tool used by brands the world over to drive sales and enhance engagement.

But it’s not just the likes of Coca-Cola or Nike who can benefit from the power of influencers. By partnering with micro-influencers, your small business can steadily increase brand awareness and online revenue.

Influencer marketing is affordable and effective, especially in an increasingly digital age. Take the time to find the perfect influencer for your brand, one who can both enhance your marketing while guiding it in their own inimitable style. It’s a worthwhile time and financial investment that can elevate even the smallest of businesses - yours included.

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