Once upon a time, tens of millions of people would gather around televisions at the same time on the same night to watch the latest episode of whatever show was the current hot commodity. Everyone would share the same viewing experience—including the commercials, and the next day, they would trade notes on what they watched with their coworkers, often around the company water cooler. Heck, the biggest deal shows would even make headlines…in the daily newspaper that everyone subscribed to. 

Then, things called the Internet and streaming happened, and everything changed. Now, we all watch different shows, at different times—often not on televisions but, instead, on tiny, powerful computers we hold in our hands and without the commercials whenever we can avoid them. 

Technology has fractured the marketplace. Sure, we’re connected and online all the time, but we’re curating very individual, customized experiences based on our preferences. There aren’t four major TV networks anymore; there are hundreds of thousands of media outlets across digital networks, YouTube, and social media platforms. There aren’t superstar celebrities of the scale many of us grew up with; there’s a sea of influencers, each with small-but-mighty followings instead of concentrated throngs of raving fans. 

…And this is where our conversation as it applies to your business comes in. What’s a retailer like you supposed to do to connect with customers and earn their attention in this fractured, ever-evolving marketplace? Are these “influencers” you keep hearing about a source of any opportunity for your business? 

An influencer may or may not have what most of us would consider celebrity status; some notable influencers have relatively small followings. However, they consistently hold clout with the targeted groups who follow them. And by “hold clout”, I mean they can affect opinions and sway purchasing decisions. There’s even a new type of marketing that’s sprung up in relation to the potential impact of influencers—not-so-surprisingly called influencer marketing. People like me seek to stay apprised of influencer marketing’s potentially viable role in helping business leaders like you sell more stuff.

Here’re some key points to note:

Influencers are legit and influencer marketing is worth considering. I could regale you with more stats and facts than the word count of this article would allow to substantiate that influencers do, indeed, motivate followers to buy things. In various studies, it’s common to see findings that state well over 50% of consumers have made purchasing decisions based on the advocacy of an influencer that they follow on social media. 

Influencers are relevant now and will be more prevalent and prominent in years to come. Younger consumers, particularly those in Generation Z, prefer influencers over celebrities. They report being much more compelled by the authentic influencers with smaller, organically acquired followers than by major celebrities with massive followings earned through more ‘mass market’ means. As Gen Zers are now entering the workforce and will eventually become your next crop of customers, understanding the role of influencers in promotion and messaging will be important.

Many influencers are biz savvy. Even if they’re known for being down-to-earth and very accessible, and they’re aware why they’ve earned the moniker. Many influencers across all demographics, areas of interest, and walks of life are parlaying their prominence into paychecks. From sponsored social media posts to appearances at live events and many other opportunities in between, influencers are wielding their motivating power for financial gain—both for themselves and the brands hiring them. 

Why should you consider getting in the game? 

It’s a big wide world out there. It’s challenging to be seen and heard without a spotlight and some amplification. Rallying online influencers to promote your brand can be the equivalent of turning on the many spotlights and sharing the mic with a chorus of brand advocates. With influential people carrying your banner, you’ll have less heavy lifting to do to share your message.

Picture that it’s the first day of a sale or special product offering. You spread the news per usual via all your channels—of course. However, you supplement the announcements by bringing influencers on boards to share with their circles. There’s the potential for reverberating messaging with this approach: “she tells two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on...and so on.”

Sound intriguing? Here are tips to get started.

  • Redefine what you might think of as an influencer—and pinpoint who’s ideal for you biz.
  • Ditch the expectation of ginormous follower counts and fixation on becoming besties with the biggest HGTV stars. It’s reasonable that your best brand advocates will be local folks with a tight tribe but loyal followers.
  • In this era in which there’s a growing preference for influencers over celebrities, you can benefit from the closer proximity to the right groups of people. Better to find 50 people ready to buy than 5000 just browsing.

Start with who you know...and who knows you.

Parlay your years in biz in your community and your existing social media presence that have already merited you positive connections and relationships with influential people. You are probably in touch with the influencers now and just need to dial the relationships up a notch.

Find these existing connections by mining the lists of designers you’ve worked with for show houses and parade of homes events. Review your email subscribers. Call to mind the personalities that stand out in the professional chapters and biz organizations you participate in. Head to Instagram and identify the accounts with the right content and followers—particularly accounts already following yours. 

Hopefully, you are using social media, email marketing, your sales efforts, and presence at area events to interact with your key influencers today (and if not, get busy to change that!). Getting into influencer marketing is much more natural and effective when the paths between all the potential parties involved are paved.

Make situations mutually beneficial.

Here’s some straight talk for you: come out of the gate expecting few favor and ready to compensate for influencers’ participation. Compensation may be monetary or product/service trade; you decide what makes sense for your biz. I recommend you set a budget for what you will pay for sponsored posts and state that number upfront when approaching your local influencers. Many smaller influencers may not have set rates, so you can define cost parameters from the get-go. Perhaps best of all, addressing compensation on the front shows you value influencers’ voices—and that will go a long way in nurturing their brand advocacy far beyond paid opps.

Name it and claim it.

Similarly to setting a fee upfront, define what you need of the influencers even before you approach them. Maybe you want to sponsor one Instagram post and two mentions in Stories. Perhaps you’d like an influencer to email their list of followers to share your news. It’s much more effective to start conversations with your preferences outlined; again, it helps you lead the situation. 

Price your requests based on what works for you, within your budget—not necessarily based on what you read to be going rates. Frankly, rates for sponsored posts are all across the board. Name your offer and negotiate from there if needed.

Be wise about what’s required.

Influencers must state when a post is sponsored content. Never assume the influencers you’re working with are informed of the regulations; guide wording and remind of required disclaimers so your campaign runs properly and smoothly.

Keep the good vibes going for long-term rewards.

Make it standard operations to engage with influencers on social media. Comment on their posts, and share their content (being sure to tag them and state proper attributions). Whether there’s any paid posting in your future, these basic social practices—ya know, “golden rule” standards—are essential to making digital marketing hum. You often get what you give, so give good support and friendship with your targeted market and await the same in return.

Need some help influencing your decisions about influencer marketing? Get in touch with me anytime to talk about ideas for your business; find me at msg2mkt.com.