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You may have heard about Influencer Marketing, but what is it and how can it help your marketing strategy?

Here’s an overview of what influencer marketing is, how impactful it is as a marketing strategy and how you can use influencer marketing for your local business. 

What is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is the modern-day equivalent of a “celebrity spokesperson” endorsement of your business, products or services. However, instead of appearing on TV or magazine pages, influencer marketers are found online, typically on social media, YouTube or blogs. According to Hubspot71% of consumers are more likely to purchase based on social media referrals like the ones made by influencers. And a study by MuseFind showed that 92% of buyers trust an influencer more than they do an advertisement. 

These “influencers” have large followings of loyal fans. The great thing for you is that their fans don’t really consider these people celebrities but see them more like everyday people that have “gone viral.” This keeps the influencer real and genuine in the eyes of their followers, and most influencers stay true to that. 

When your business partners with an influencer, you are essentially asking that person to mention or promote your product or business in one of their social media posts, videos or blog posts – but in a very natural, organic, non-salesy way. These influencers have earned their followers’ trust by being genuine, and most are not going to give that up for a quick buck to blatantly promote a product. So it has to be subtle. If your local business has a product or service that fits in line with a local influencer, it could be a match made in marketing heaven. 

And with social media platforms like Facebook starting to lock down their algorithm, making it more and more difficult for companies to have organic reach, partnering with an influencer who has a dedicated audience is a great way to show off your business to a group of people who is already paying attention. 

How to Find Local Influencers

When people think of influencers, most people think of the Kim Kardashians of the world. But chances are there are influencers in your backyard, in your own city – you just have to find them.

As an example, the teenagers in my city follow a kid that went to a local high school. His nickname is Flyy. Flyy has a YouTube channel called Flyy Does YouTube where he plays practical jokes and does other funny stuff (sometimes there is language that he bleeps out – or should bleep out -- but all in all it’s good fun.) The kids LOVE Flyy and it shows with his whopping 97K subscribers! (Not bad for a 19-year-old kid from Cedar Rapids, IA.)

FlyyDoesYT

Flyy plays pranks and other goofy stuff around the city of Cedar Rapids, IA, with his friends, and often local businesses are included in his videos. For instance, in his Christmas video, he makes rounds through various drive-through restaurants in the city dressed as Santa Claus.

In one scene the kids drive through a locally owned Burger King restaurant. Not only do they verbally mention that they’re at the Burger King, they talk about the menu and what they want to order. (Even if you were watching the video with the sound off, you would know where Flyy and his crew were eating):

Now, do you think teenagers in Cedar Rapids will be hungry for Burger King food after watching this video -- especially when they see how well the employees took this good-humored spoof? Or the next time they want to get a burger, will they be more likely to stop at the Burger King “that Flyy went to”? You bet! Smart businesses in the area that cater to teens would be wise to give Flyy a call and see if they could coordinate a video recording at their business. 

The secret is to find influencers in your city with a large following of your ideal customers. These influencers can be other businesses, local individuals, a local stand-up comic, a band, local entertainers, public speakers, sports coaches, public figures, etc. The point is, you don’t have to look farther than your own community to find influencers who might be willing to partner with you in your marketing efforts.

What Happens After You Find an Influencer? The Magic of Influencer Marketing Begins

Once you find an influencer you want to work with, you need to decide on the “payment.” Sometimes influencers will work in trade (i.e. exchange merchandise, products or services for them mentioning your business) and others want monetary payment. So there will need to be some negotiation on your part. The number of fans the influencer has will also impact how much you will have to pay. 

Once you agree on the terms and payment, you would then coordinate the “event” (whether it’s a photo, image, video, post, etc.) For instance, if you own a local restaurant and find a local Instagram food influencer that has a lot of followers that you want to work with, you would schedule a time for that influencer to come into your restaurant, give her your usual royal treatment and let her do what she does best – either take pictures of your delicious food, make a video at your restaurant with your food as the centerpiece or let her take in the food, atmosphere, your staff’s hospitality, etc. and then she will go home and weave your restaurant’s food into her next blog post. 

The magic happens when the influencer tags your company in their next piece. The goal is to drive traffic to your social media channels or directly to your business, so you get new followers and new customers!

The FTC Guidelines for Influencer Marketing

You may be asking yourself, “What does the FTC have to do with influencer marketing?” Actually, quite a bit. With the rise of influencer marketing, the FTC wants to make sure that people seeing the “pitch” about your business know that it’s a paid endorsement (no matter how subtle the endorsement is.) 

Both you and the influencer need to clearly disclose that there is a relationship between your brand and the influencer, and the FTC has created influencer guidelines for doing that. These rules are especially important for Instagram posts because typically people look at Instagram posts on a mobile device where they can only see the first three lines (unless they click “more” – which they rarely do while on the go.) The FTC guidelines require influencers to disclose a “sponsored’ post above the “more” link. 

As a business, when you share the influencer’s post about your business, you also need to mention that there’s a partnership as well.

Influencer Marketing Will Become More and More Popular

With the internet becoming more crowded and social media becoming an ever-increasing source for product and purchasing suggestions, influencer marketing is only expected to become even bigger. As a local business, you should scope out and partner with your local influencers before your competitors do. Chances are, they’re not even thinking about this marketing strategy – yet. And I hope there’s a Flyy in your city. Good luck!

About the Author(s)

Sherry Bonelli - Early Bird Digital Marketing

Sherry Bonelli, owner of early bird digital marketing, is a nationally recognized local SEO expert and digital marketing professional. She is a guest columnist for leading digital marketing websites, like Search Engine Land, Moz, SEMrush, GeoMarketing, SCORE and others.

Owner, early bird digital marketing