Influencer marketing is a powerful way to build brand authority, grow awareness, boost traffic and acquire new customers. Brands who collaborate with influencers typically see a return on investment of $18 per $1 spent — which is considerably higher than other marketing channels.
As a brand manager, you’re almost certainly familiar with influencer marketing, and perhaps you’ve already run some campaigns. Nevertheless, there’s always more to learn in order to get the most out of this increasingly popular tactic.
In this article, you will find best practices and case studies from top brands — and we’ll share how to create an effective influencer marketing strategy to help you meet your brand goals.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is a type of social media marketing that uses product placements and endorsements from content creators and bloggers, also known as influencers.
The majority of influencers operate on social media channels such as TikTok and Instagram, and many have their own blog or YouTube channel. Top influencers have spent years producing quality content, carefully growing their audience, and building a close relationship with their followers. If an influencer endorses your product or advocates for your brand, this can give your brand a huge boost.
Influencer marketing works a bit like celebrity endorsements or product placements in movies. Let’s say you’re the brand manager for a fashion brand. Twenty years ago, you might have run a magazine or television campaign with a well-known supermodel wearing your jeans.
These days, you might opt to get the “popular girl next door” to wear them in her Instagram story.
In some ways, it's a bit like affiliate marketing — but instead of working with a brand to sell products & services in exchange for a commission, influencer marketing usually focuses more on big-picture KPIs like brand awareness and consideration.
Why Influencer Marketing?
Have you ever found yourself watching someone on YouTube or Instagram using a product — like styling their hair, making coffee with a new espresso machine, or even driving a sports car — and you start thinking how that product could help you?
Then you’ve seen an influencer in action.
1. Brands can use influencers to reach new audiences.
Someone who’s unfamiliar with your brand and isn’t following your social media channels is unlikely to see your content — but they might be following an influencer with whom you can collaborate.
By partnering with influencers, businesses can amplify their brand messages and distribute product information to acquire new customers.
2. Influencer marketing is more authentic.
Instead of openly “selling” a product like a traditional ad, an influencer shows themselves actually using the product and talks about the benefits.
This feels almost like a genuine recommendation from a friend, which is more authentic than traditional brand advertising. Read: positive social proof.
3. You can target specific audiences.
Many influencers focus on a specific niche — such as health, beauty, travel, or motherhood — and share this knowledge with their followers. By posting content on a particular topic and acting as a helpful resource for followers, influencers position themselves as people of authority in their particular niche and build a following of interested users.
Brands can capitalize on this relationship to reach specific consumer segments — such as moms, foodies, travel lovers, and more.
Examples of Influencer Marketing
Let’s dive into some case studies demonstrating how top brands successfully collaborate with influencers.
About the Campaign
In 2017, L’Oréal UK collaborated with 2,000 female influencers to promote the L’Oréal Pure Clay Mask. The aim was for real women to post photos, videos, and reviews across a wide range of social media channels — including Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.
Why it Worked
The campaign reached over 740,000 users and was especially popular on Snapchat. The cosmetics brand revealed that their Snapchat efforts, as part of a wider influencer campaign, generated a 51% lift in sales of its clay mask.
By getting real women to share their experiences, the brand managed to raise awareness of their new skincare product in a way that resonated with their target audience. It was more authentic than a campaign with well-known celebrities or influencers with a huge following.
The brand realized that micro-influencers and “normal” social media users with a smaller following of family and friends are uniquely positioned to influence the purchasing decisions of those around them. You don’t necessarily need an influencer with millions of followers for your campaign to be effective.
2. Nature Made
About the Campaign
Nature Made, a vitamin and supplement brand, partnered with micro-influencers in various niches, including health, wellness, moms, and foodies for their #HealthyTogether campaign.
Influencers shared advice on how to create a daily routine that works for you and build healthy habits.
Why it Worked
Prior to the campaign, the brand conducted research into their consumers’ lifestyles and found out that 77% of people say their schedule gets in the way of their healthy habits.
They provided influencers with the insights from the survey and tasked them with creating authentic content, using a mix of photos and videos to create engagement and build trust — resulting in more than one million engagements overall.
The campaign was successful because the brand and the influencers they partnered with genuinely wanted to help people lead healthier lifestyles. By empowering influencers to help their audience solve actual problems they are facing, the content provided real value which resonated with the target audience.
About the Campaign
Coffee brand Nespresso partnered with Italian digital entrepreneur and Instagram influencer Chiara Ferragni to celebrate the launch of the new Nespresso Vertuo coffee machine and capsule range.
As part of the campaign, Chiara Ferragni and Nespresso co-created limited editions of the Vertuo and Essenza Mini coffee machines, glass and travel mugs, and the Aeroccino milk frother. The collection retains Nespresso’s signature sophistication, but the baby pink is unmistakably Chiara Ferragni — as seen in the above Instagram post.
Why it Worked
Chiara Ferragni was a perfect fit for this campaign. Being Italian, she’s a self-professed “big coffee drinker” and is passionate about recycling and sustainability. With over 25.6 million followers, Chiara Ferragni has an extensive reach — which enabled Nespresso to run an impactful campaign that successfully generated awareness for their new product range and enabled them to position themselves as a modern, sustainable coffee brand.
Now we have seen how top brands, both large and small, collaborate with influencers, let’s dive into how you can create your own influencer marketing strategy.
How to Create an Influencer Marketing Strategy
1. Set the right goals
What do you want to achieve with your influencer marketing efforts? Whether you are aiming to reach new target customers, drive sales, or improve brand perception — ensure that you set clear goals and have KPIs and tracking in place to measure them.
Your influencer marketing campaigns should be in line with your overall marketing strategy and support key business objectives. This is an important step: Thinking carefully about your expectations will help you find the right influencers, choose the best channels, and set a realistic budget.
2. Decide on a budget
How much are you prepared to invest in your campaign? Brands usually fund their influencer collaborations from their overall marketing budget. If you have run influencer marketing campaigns before, you can look at historical data to predict the expected ROI and set a budget accordingly.
If it’s your first campaign, you might want to start small and build up your influencer marketing program gradually once you have enough learnings to ensure your influencer activities are profitable.
3. Find the best influencers for your brand
Your choice of influencers will depend largely on your target audience and your own brand values.
To find the right type of influencers for your brand, you need a deep understanding of your audience. What traits do they share? What is important to them? Where do they look for information? Looking at your brand’s audience personas can help you find content creators and bloggers with a community you would like to reach out to.
It’s important to stay true to your brand values. Before reaching out to influencers, be sure to vet them thoroughly. Which brands have they partnered with in the past? What is their content like?
For instance, if one of your brand values is “sustainability”, then it makes sense to collaborate with an influencer who is environmentally conscious. This is important so that the content they create for your brand is authentic and resonates with their community, aka your potential customers.
4. Make the collaboration official
Once you’ve found the right influencers for your brand, and they’ve agreed to work with you, the next step is to sort out the paperwork.
This covers payment as well as any other terms and conditions, such as exclusivity. While this may not be the most exciting part, it is extremely important.
5. Launch your campaign
This is the fun part — the influencers you have chosen to partner with can finally start creating content for you! It’s important to brief the influencers on your campaign goals, brand values, and brand identity — so the influencer understands your expectations and how to represent you on social media.
It’s usually best to brief influencers then give them creative freedom — as they know their community best and are aware of what kind of topics and formats perform well. Once you are both happy with the content, the campaign can go live.
6. Measure and analyze
Once your campaign is live, it’s important to keep an eye on the performance so you can step in and make any changes if needed. Depending on the goals of your campaign, you’ll usually want to track KPIs like reach, engagement, and sales.
But it’s not just about the numbers. Be sure to check qualitative data as well to see how the audience is reacting to the content. Hopefully, they will respond positively and you will see a lift in brand awareness and brand perception.
The influencer and your own social media team should step in if there are any questions or discussions. If your brand follows these steps, you’ll be able to create a powerful influencer marketing strategy that helps you meet your wider brand and content marketing goals.
Tips for Influencer Marketing Success
Here are a few more tips to ensure you get the most out of your collaborations and campaigns with influencers.
1. It’s not all about follower size.
The best influencers for you might not be the ones with the biggest following. Micro-influencers with smaller, highly-engaged audiences can offer great opportunities for businesses to amplify their brand message.
Micro-influencers on Instagram demonstrate an average engagement rate of 3.86%, compared to 1.21% for mega-influencers. Smaller influencers are often more accessible and open to collaborations with a new brand.
While their reach might not be huge, their community is often all the more loyal and engaged — which can result in a highly effective and impactful collab.
2. Watch out for influencer fraud.
Over a third of brands claim to have been affected by influencer fraud. Ensure you have processes in place to protect your brand.
One key indicator is engagement rate compared to the number of followers. If the influencer has lots of followers but few comments, or only spammy one-word comments, then the followers might be fake. There are third-party social media tools and influencer marketing platforms that can help you verify the data and do a background check on the social media influencer.
3. Keep it authentic.
Authenticity is the key to successful influencer marketing. Trust and credibility play a critical role here. Is the influencer considered a trustworthy source of information in their niche? And are they genuinely a fan of your brand?
Influencers should practice what they preach and be the right fit for the products and services being promoted. If they’re genuinely enthusiastic about your product, that will shine through when they recommend you and share content about you.
Remember: Their audience will be able to tell the difference!
4. Think long-term.
Try to cultivate a long-term relationship with influencers. This will seem more genuine and is more likely to resonate with the audience.
So, treat your influencers well and give them reasons — besides payment — to keep coming back for more collaborations.
5. Be sure to track your campaigns.
67% of brands measure the ROI from their influencer campaigns. It’s important to track and analyze the results so you know what’s working, and what’s not.
These insights can fuel your future collaborations and ensure you get the most out of your influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing is one of the most powerful marketing tactics in the modern brand manager’s arsenal. Collaborating with influencers opens up exciting possibilities for brands to win over new customers and improve brand awareness and perception.
To pull off a great influencer marketing campaign, you need a solid strategy, the right influencers to work with, and a deep understanding of your target market and audience.
If you truly know your customers and their needs, then you’re well-positioned to select perfect influencers for your brand and create impactful campaigns your audience will love.