What is Influencer Marketing and How Does it Work?

Remember when you would ask a friend what they would recommend pertaining to a certain product or service? Or when you would use Yelp or really any verified review to determine your next purchase?

Yeah, me too. Times sure have changed.

Now, you scroll through social media to see what someone recommends. From a blogger, to an influencer, to a celebrity, to your friend, Karen, it seems like we're overwhelmed by people's opinions and promotions.

Fun Fact: I’m considered an influencer myself, and I still find myself being overwhelmed by the amount of sponsored posts on my feed.

Welcome to influencer marketing.

Social Media Influencer

It’s a trend that is rapidly growing and doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon and can be a great inbound marketing strategy. Because of this growth, there are many potential opportunities for your business to take advantage of, and most digital marketers are jumping at the chance.

Are you?

In today’s digital world, having someone influential participate in the promotion of your business is crucial. You can leverage their ability to influence others to create credibility and build trust with your existing customers and expand your customer base to include your influencer’s audience.

The business impact of an effective influencer marketing campaign can be immeasurable. Not only can you increase sales, but you can create far-reaching and long-lasting brand awareness. And, with 49% of today’s consumers depending on influencer recommendations when making purchasing decisions, this trend cannot be ignored.

What are influencers?

Well, let's start from the beginning.

Celebrity marketing and endorsements have been around for awhile. Without celebrities like Marilyn Monroe being a spokesperson for companies, influencers wouldn’t have their jobs today. So essentially, celebrities opened the door for influencer marketing.

But exactly what is an influencer?

An influencer is someone who utilizes social media so efficiently that he or she has built an engaged audience that listens and respects their recommendations regarding products and services. Influencers are social content creators with a group of dedicated fans that follow them religiously for their consistent content.

By posting social content across various platforms to present your brand to their followers, social media influencers provide value to their audience. They are sharing a brand they trust in hopes that it can be of benefit to their audience in some way. This relationship between an influencer and her audience is built solely on trust. The audience believes that what is being shown to them is something the influencer stands behind and uses. If they were shown something that was not reputable or of bad quality, they would lose faith in that influencer and ultimately unfollow them.

It might sound crazy, but untrustworthy social media posts can cause an influencer to lose their credibility and influence. It can all be gone in a snap of your fingers. This is why influencers are typically very picky about who they choose to partner with.

How can influencer marketing help my business?

Think influencer marketing isn't really worth it?

Think again.

According to research, close to 86% of women rely on social media for advice when making a purchase, while almost 50% of all consumers rely on recommendations made by influencers.

Influencer marketing statistic

Businesses, on average, earn $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing. This even goes up to more than $20 for every dollar spent in the top 13%, according to another study.

A good influencer will make sure their posts are original and will include engaging content, helping to build trust and engagement with your audience, helping you reach your business goals.

It is so important to set specific goals, detailing what you want to achieve. So, let me ask you, “What are you trying to accomplish?”

The answer to this will differ greatly between brands. For example, goals can include increasing your website visitors, followers, brand awareness and/or sales, BUT this answer will point you in the direction of the influencer you need.

Think about it. You’re getting your brand in front of an audience you may never have reached, and the influencer is doing all of the legwork for you. They are creating the relevant content and promoting it to their followers. You just have to make the right offer.

What are the different types of influencers?

Now that we have defined what an influencer is, let’s make it a little more complicated. I mentioned the “right offer” and that offer is dependent on the type of influencer you choose to partner with.

There are various types, so let’s break it down.

1. Celebrity Influencers: These are the oldest types of influencers, as celebrities are constantly and consistently used for endorsements. They typically have over 1 million followers on a given social channel. You can see this with the Doritos brand partnering with Post Malone or even with Matthew McConaughey working with Lincoln, the car brand. Celebrity endorsements can be very successful, BUT at the end of the day, they are very expensive. For example, according to Hopper HQ, Dwayne Johnson, The Rock, makes $1.01 million from a single Instagram post. The other major issue with using a celebrity endorsement comes from the assumption that the person promoting your product uses your brand. If it is a product that doesn’t seem to fit, people will look away and not make a purchase because they feel like they are being lied to. Going forward, they will be suspicious about anything that comes from your brand or the influencer. This means the person that you choose to partner with HAS to be a good fit. If not, it will cause more harm than good.

2. Macro-Influencers: The next level in the chain would be macro-influencers. These people typically have between 25,000 to 1 million followers. They also have a very large following, comparable to that of a celebrity, but instead of being a celebrity, they are known as experts in certain niches. If you were to ask a random person at the grocery store if they knew who a particular macro-influencer was, the chances are very high that they would have no idea. The value to utilizing this kind of influencer is that they still come with thousands of followers and they are typically cheaper than partnering with a celebrity. Don’t expect the price difference to be substantial though. These are highly respected experts in their fields and have made a name for themselves long before you ever reach out. Their cost will directly reflect their knowledge, influence and reputation. You have two chances to partner with them - either you bring a very enticing incentive to the table or they are genuinely a supporter of your brand and want to work with you.

3. Micro-Influencers: This is the largest segment of influencers by far. To the average person they are unknown, but inside their niche, they are regarded as experts and are highly respected. Even though this may be the case, micro-influencers may not have the largest followings, with this number normally falling between 5,000 to 25,000 followers. But this shouldn’t be a turn off. Micro-influencers typically have higher engagement rates. This is the group that is often known as being the best group for an influencer marketing campaign because they have a larger following than a normal person, your consumer, but not to the point of a celebrity where they are not open to smaller business deals.

4. Nano-Influencers: The newest to emerge is the nano-influencer, who are influencers whose accounts have as little as 1,000 followers. BUT, before you dismiss this group, their followers are beyond trusting and take everything posted as “Bible.” Their engagement rates are typically off of the charts!

Types of Influencers Infographic

Now that you know the various types, it's up to you and your budget to determine which works best for you. I know we all love a good deal, but don’t jeopardize your marketing in order to save a few bucks.

Moral of the story: NEVER work with an influencer just because they are famous or cheap.

Who are you trying to influence?

Before you start your search for an influencer, you have to research your target audience. If you never define this, you will struggle and most of your marketing will be in vain.

When you enter into an influencer collaboration, make sure the person is passionate about your brand and can help you achieve your goals. Not only do they need to be passionate, but they need to have direct contact with an audience that is your audience. To spell it out, you shouldn’t partner with a fitness guru when you sell junk food or sweets. For this partnership to be effective, you need to contact influencers who influence your target audience and who have shown they can create effective brand content.

How to find the right social media influencer

To find the right influencer you have to identify who will become the best advocate for your business to their follower base. You want real business results, and the influencer or influencers you choose can make all the difference.

So let’s break down “influence” a little bit deeper so we can define exactly what’s needed. At its core, influence is made up of three attributes: relevance, reach, and resonance.

In terms of relevance, always make sure an influencer has an audience that matches your target market and posts content relevant to your business.

The next attribute would be the reach. This refers to the number of people that become accessible to you because of the influencer's audience. This is huge! Many influencers will have niche audiences that span across the globe and across age groups. Remember, don’t be fooled by the largest number of followers. The other attributes are just as important.

Resonance is how influential your prospective influencer is with their audience. What is their engagement rate like? This will be an identifier for how well their audience will interact with and respond to your brand. This means their followers identify with the information that they are posting.

You want to make sure that the influencer you choose can act as more of a partner, not an employee. You have to respect his or her opinion, because what they do has obviously been working for them and their channel.

aspects of social influence

Another big question is, “What are you willing to spend?” Getting celebrity endorsements, like Kylie Jenner or The Rock, will cost you an awful lot more money than it would be to contact someone with upwards of 20k followers. BUT, if you have the money to get your business in front of a Hollywood audience, you are guaranteed a large return because of the extensive reach and high engagement rate that comes from their status.

How can you find influencers?

The good news is that you've got both paid and free options.

1. Organically: The cheapest way to find an influencer is to search for and build relationships with influencers on your own time and turf. Even though it is the cheapest, it is the most time-consuming option. The best place to start would be with a simple Google search for people in your industry. If you are having trouble here, or just want to go a different route, you can also search by using hashtags. This will bring up anyone who uses that particular hashtag in their posts.

Extra Note: You want someone who is using the right hashtags so your target audience is seeing the right content.

For both searches, keep a track of whose name constantly comes up. This is who you want to work with.

2. Using Platforms and Agencies: This is the paid option. You can employ the services of an agency or an online platform specifically designed for this to help you find an influencer and reach out to them. Do you need help finding the perfect influencer for your business? We can help! Contact us today to begin the process of partnering with an influencer.

Either way you choose to search, do your research. Be sure to identify how often a potential influencer is sharing sponsored content. Find an influencer with a good mix of organic content (non-paid content) and sponsored/paid content. This balance keeps their followers interested and engaged.

How to approach an influencer

If you don’t want to pay an agency or an online service to reach out to influencers on your behalf, be prepared to invest more time reaching out to influencers. Normally, to create a successful partnership, you’ll need to build a relationship with the influencers you are interested in, not just do a cold reach-out.

With my own personal experience as an influencer, it means the world (and starts a relationship with me) when you follow my page and start to show interest in my work and my life by liking, commenting and sharing my content. You can do this on your platform of choice so an influencer becomes aware of what platform you might be willing to partner with them on. All of this begins the process of building a relationship with them, and they become aware of you and what you do. After a while, once the relationship is established, you can begin to pursue the partnership.

approaching an influencer

It has been argued that there are just three steps to a positive influencer outreach.

Step 1: Most importantly, you will need to explain the benefits of partnering with your company. It starts with, “What benefit will an influencer get from working with you?”

Step 2: In this offer, you need to provide details of exactly what you’re looking for and what you’re wanting to accomplish. This eliminates confusion when creating content that is consistent with your branding. As an influencer myself, I can say, influencers never want more “work.” Let me clarify. Normally, we are open to new partnerships, but we want that transition to a collaboration to be seamless and easy. If I feel like I’m doing extra work to try and make this partnership work, I’m out. It isn’t worth it to me when there are companies that are very accommodating and clear on their deals.

Step 3: Clearly defining timeframe and deadlines is huge. If you don’t give me a date, I won’t make it urgent. I have companies that want something ASAP or done by this date, and I make them a priority. If I feel like you can wait, you will be pushed to the bottom of the list. No offense to you or your company, but I don't know how important or urgent your project is unless you communicate that to me. If you give me a deadline, I will be more than happy to get it done by that date, just make sure it’s realistic and feasible.

When you reach out regarding a potential partnership, make sure that you share very clear expectations, identify the most important channels, and enter into the conversation with an effective strategy.

How to pay Instagram influencers

Getting an influencer to market something on their channel is all about making the right offer. This offer can fluctuate heavily depending on their reach and commitment to creating custom, consistent content for your brand. Make sure you decide on your budget and what ultimately makes sense for your business and goals.

One thing to keep in mind: Influencers DON'T work for free.

When you approach an influencer about a collaboration, remember, you’re accessing their audience and asking the people they influence to buy your product or use your service. They typically won’t give you access for free, and you shouldn’t expect them to.

I speak from experience when I say that brainstorming, creating and publishing relevant content takes time, effort, knowledge and skill. It is a full time job. You have to understand that your offer has to be worth it for an influencer to take the time to promote your brand. Also, most influencers will only work with you if they believe in your product.

If you’re working with an established influencer, they normally can’t be bought off with “free products,” unless they have some sort of relationship with you and want to support you in more of a “friendly” way, not a business deal. Typically, these will be less specific and more laid back. Being able to pay an influencer the right price definitely works in your favor, but…

What is that right price?

what is the right price?

Sometimes, pricing is out of your hands. Established influencers will send you a press kit that details their pricing and types of collaborations they do.

There are several other factors that can impact influencer rates.

1. Usage: When an influencer creates content and shares it to their page, it’s still theirs. They maintain ownership. If you want full access and control of that content once it is posted, this can affect the rate. Most will allow you to use the images they post and tag you in. It is so important that you do have access and can use influencer content made specifically for your company. What good is the relevant content if it can’t be repurposed and shared on your page or website? Obviously, this will be much harder when you get into celebrity endorsements and partnerships. So keep this in mind when deciding who to work with.

2. Campaign Size & Timeframe: If you’re wanting a short, one-time post, obviously the cost will be exceptionally less than a year-long deal, so be aware that the length of the partnership will have a direct impact on the rates of the influencer. You are also paying for the space on their feed during this time - think of it as an advertisement in a magazine or a billboard.

3. Exclusivity: Some companies want influencers who won’t partner with a competing brand or industry. If you’re one of these, be prepared to shell out more money. If you want an exclusive partner, be prepared to pay the difference. This limitation on partnerships is referred to as an “exclusivity clause.” Most influencers will agree to not work with competitors for a specific length of time as long as the price is right.

how to pay an influencer

Here are a couple payment models when approaching how payment will be distributed to the influencer:

1. You can go after a commission structure, which only pays influencers once someone has made a purchase using their link or specific promo code. This helps you keep track of sales and helps you identify what works best for you. The issue with this is that sometimes people don’t choose to use the code or the link, so an influencer could be creating great brand awareness for you while their code-based sales don’t necessarily reflect that.

2. You can also provide a flat fee in exchange for their service. Sometimes influencers will have their rates set, but some will be willing to work with you.

At the end of the day, you have to determine your marketing communication budget and what you’re willing to spend. For example, do you want them to share content on their story daily or twice a week? Each of these will have different costs..

Uh-oh. I've lost control.

Something to be aware of, is that influencers typically create their own original and engaging content made specifically for their audience.

Their reputation is already established, and most won’t be open to following detailed directions on what exactly their post should look like. You’ll need to allow for creative freedom and remember, they are building their own brand in the midst of helping you build yours. Let them do what works best for their brand - that’s how they built the audience you’re trying to reach.

Red flags you cannot ignore

Influencers must identify sponsored content so their audience knows they were compensated for that space on their feed or timeline. If an influencer is not crediting their sponsored posts, AVOID THEM at all costs. Their page is in jeopardy of being shut down because they are not following the guidelines and requirements set forth by the platform they are on.

FTC guidelines for influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is ultimately a game, so of course, there are rules. If you live or work in the United States, your rules are decided on by the Federal Trade Commission, or the FTC.

Do you want to get in trouble with the FTC? Probably not. So...


When researching and deciding on which influencer to approach, make sure their past sponsorships are clearly communicated. This means that on each sponsored post, the sponsorship has to be marked. According to the FTC, even videos must have written and verbal mention of the collaboration.

For an influencer, using the hashtags #ad or #sponsored will work as long as they are visible.

What about the amount of followers?

The number of followers an influencer has should be taken into consideration, but it shouldn’t be the make-or-break factor when deciding on an influencer partnership, because, unfortunately, some people buy followers, giving the look of an inflated follower count. On the flip side of the coin, even if the large number of followers are genuine, this doesn’t mean that the person has influence over them. If their audience is not engaging with their content, they are just wallpaper on their audience's feed, and this is something you don’t want for your business. You’ll achieve nothing.

These are people who paid to obtain a certain number of followers, even followers that are bots or fraud accounts. This normally can be uncovered in the engagement rate of the influencer. If the accounts aren't real, they won’t interact with the content being posted, meaning a low engagement rate.

As a rule of thumb, engagement rates tend to decline as follower numbers increase. Obviously, there are always exceptions to the rule, but this tends to be the norm.

scales of engagement

Why am I telling you all of this? As a business, you need to find influencers who have a good balance of a larger following along with decent engagement and a highly relevant audience. While your first instinct may be to run and try to grab the person with the largest following or as much as your budget allows, be careful. You can get more engagement conversions from an influencer who has a higher engagement rate even though they may have less followers. At the end of the day, it’s about conversions that lead to profit.

Content Marketing vs. Influencer Marketing vs. Brand Ambassadors

There is a difference between content marketing, influencer marketing and brand ambassadors. While this difference can be easily identified, they are closely related.

Content Marketing refers to the process of designing, creating and publishing content made for a target audience in order to meet a specific business goal. Content marketing more refers to the creation and distribution of content for brand awareness, including influencer marketing in the distribution/publication process.

Influencer Marketing refers to working with a person who has garnered a large, dedicated following to distribute content where the content is normally created by the influencer in order to meet a specific business goal. You are ultimately paying an influencer to distribute the content, not necessarily the creation. The benefit is typically their audience, not their graphic design skills, although there can be some crossover between the two.

There is one section of influencer marketing that we haven’t discussed yet: brand ambassadors. This is a person who advocates and spreads the news of your brand. Brand ambassadors increase your brand awareness simply because they support what you do. You know how they say word-of-mouth is the best form of lead generation? It’s the truth. And brand ambassadors do this for your company.

This is where your custom hashtag comes into play. This is something brand ambassadors can use to help increase brand awareness even more. Brand ambassadors can also be classified under the category of micro-influencers with the only difference being that they nominate themselves for this role; they aren’t hired or asked by the company directly. To be honest, retailers love this sector. They get user-generated content and aren’t paying anything. It’s just free advertising!

brand influencer audience cycle

So what do I need to take from this?

If you are interested in influencer marketing and still have questions, contact us to schedule a consultation. We’ll help get you on the right track.

Think about how many people you can target with the “perfect match” influencer and what the results could be. It is so much easier to find an influencer to work with than trying to reach and build an engaged audience on your own.

As an influencer, my advice to you is to not rely solely on the number of followers. Pick someone that can be authentic and passionate about your brand. They will work with you to push your brand even farther into success. Someone who uses your product or service is more likely to recommend it to their followers wholeheartedly and authentically. The last thing you want is someone to post content that is forced and inauthentic. You can lose a lot of trust with your audience that way, and you’ll be spending money to harm your company, instead of help it.

No matter how you look at it, customers trust influencers more than business or brand names. They know it’s a real person behind the keyboard, not someone just trying to make a sale, even though that may be the case. Regardless, it’s in your best interest to partner with the right influencer and to do it the right way to make sure your vision gets the chance to come to life. The ROI can be exponential.

Want to learn more about influencer marketing and how it can help your business? Contact Fortibus Marketing today to learn more!

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