Guest Article by Brandon Lewis, President of Win More Patients
Influencer marketing is one of the hottest social media marketing trends with more than 14.5 million sponsored posts in 2016, according to a Mediakix study. The numbers are not yet in for 2017 but Mediakix predicts there will be more than 21.7 million sponsored posts on Instagram. Instagram influencers are the active users who are considered tastemakers and curators in their respective interest areas. A single promoted post can reach a huge audience– oftentimes an audience that’s much larger than what a small brand or local business can hope to reach on its own. The cost for an influencer post? Depending on the influencer, costs can range anywhere from $50 to $1 million.
At first, Instagram influencer marketing can feel like a bit of a Catch-22: well-known companies already have strong brand reputations. They don’t need to convince thousands of people to follow their brand; people do so already. On the flip side, lesser-known companies, like a local small business, typically struggle to build enough momentum to get over that initial follower hump. Even if the company is consistently posting great content each day, if there’s no one to like or interact with the content it can feel like shouting into a void.
Here’s the good news: you don’t need to have a huge budget to harness the power of Instagram influencer marketing. Recently, I spoke with Simon Golestan, the founder of the Instagram growth service The Millennial Marketers, to discuss his go-to strategy for kick-starting Instagram engagement.
Here’s how Simon recommends small businesses get started.
1. Identify the right influencers.
Sure, your business may not be able to shell out $1 million for a major influencer ad, but what about $50 or $100?
“Niche pages are a good entry point for small businesses,” says Golestan. “These cost a lot less than major influencers. There are hundreds of pages that are in the 200k follower range that charge $20-$200 for a simple post. Start here.”
Golestan advises checking out each page’s engagement and comments to make sure you’re buying from a reputable seller with real followers. The sure sign of an active page is a lot of people tagging their friends. If the comments are generic or look like a bot posted them, steer clear.
Finally, don’t be fooled by follower numbers. Audience engagement matters more than audience size. The more engaged an audience, the higher the ROI. For example, if an influencer has one million followers, but only averages 1,000 likes or comments per posts, their engagement rate is 0.1 percent, a pretty low rate. Aim for influencers with an engagement rate of at least 0.5 percent or better.
2. Reach out.
Many smaller pages and influencers are happy to work directly with brands. Other influencers are best reached their agencies representing their page. These agencies take a cut of the sponsored content post but can provide invaluable guidance reaching influencers, preparing content for publication and streamlining the posting process.
“Instagram is all about authenticity,” says Golestan, who cautions, “Some agency services are no better than spam. Real engagement starts with an authentic understanding of interests and activity. Don’t just follow users for a day and immediately un-follow them if they don’t follow you back. Build a relationship with them through genuine engagement. Comment on interesting content, ask questions, and get curious.”
When you reach out, assess brand fit. Who has the influencer endorsed in the past? Do these brands and products align with your business values? Opt for influencers who use their power wisely and only work with select companies. An influencer who will run any sponsored ad won’t have the same impact as an influencer who is more selective.
3. Set clear goals.
Like any marketing strategy, if influencer Instagram marketing is going to be effective, you need to be clear about your goals before getting started. Do you want to gain more followers? If so, Golestan recommends making it clear in the sponsored post why people should follow your feed. Cross-branded sponsored contests are a popular option. With these, influencers encourage their followers to like a brand’s page in exchange for a contest entry. If you go this route, you’ll also need to ensure the contest is compelling enough for a large audience to enter.
If you’re trying to convert prospects into sales, consider offering an exclusive discount code through the influencer’s post. Keep your focus on driving sales.
“Be clear about your purpose in advance,” urges Golestan. “Going for both followers and sales often leaves you with sub-optimal results that aren’t sustainable long-term.”
4. Tweak your post.
Just because your Influencer post failed to generate traction doesn’t mean influencer marketing can’t work for your business. Golestan shared with me one of his favorite influencer success stories that started as a failure.
“A good friend of mine advertised his company on one of the pages I follow,” shares Golestan. “The caption mentioned some details about the business along with the Instagram handle that users could check out. After the post ran, my friend called me and told me how he had wasted $300 on an ad that didn’t bring a single customer.”
Golestan’s friend went back to the drawing board and tweaked the influencer ad specs. The next time he paid for sponsored content, he drove 30 sales in recurring monthly revenue. How? Instead of advertising his Instagram page in the caption, he simply told Instagrammers to visit the link in the bio of the page he was advertising on. It’s the simple things that make the big differences.
5. Comply with sponsored post guidelines.
It’s a best practice and government requirement to tag sponsored posts as “#ad” and “#sponsored”, but many influencers fail to comply with this requirement. Instagram just launched the new phase of its branded content tool that enables influencers and celebrities to better identify posts sponsored content posts.
As of early November 2017, any account with access to Instagram’s “Insights Data” will have access to this branded content tool. Instagram will also send notifications to remind influencers to use the “Paid Partnership” tag. This tag is designed to make it easier for influencers to readily identify which of their posts is sponsored content.