How many people stop you in the street to rave about a store they’ve never been to? Are they intercepting you on your morning walk to tell you about the best coffee that they’ve never tasted? Let’s assume that no one is going out of their way to recommend something they haven’t used.

So why are so many companies paying for mentions and reviews from influencers on Instagram that have never even heard of them? 

The answer is simple—the return on investment is significant. For influencer marketing campaigns, the return on investment can be as high as 11x compared to other traditional advertising!

These campaigns become even more effective when the influencers already have a connection to your brand because they can tell your story better than anyone else. According to this consumer advertising survey, 61% of users would respond to an ad from a brand they’ve already used. Influencers are able to reach their audience in an organic and fresh way that doesn’t feel like advertising. As a marketing channel, the influencer space is set to grow to over $10B by 2020.

According to Influencer Insights, influencers are effective because they play up the parts of psychology associated with decision making. They are appealing to your desires for credibility, social proof, conformity, and belonging in order to prime your decision and help you convert. Seth Godin has even coined the term “consumer tribes” to show the relationship between influential leaders and groups of like-minded individuals, united by both the leadership of the group and their shared ideals. So when an influencer posts about a certain product, followers are wired to accept the information provided by that thought leader.

In creating authentic and trustworthy influencer content, brands need to stop shelling out the big bucks for influencers that don’t have any connection to their story. They are paying for numbers like follower count and engagement, but that won’t necessarily convert to sales and new customers. Instead, it’s better to work with influencers who are already your fans.

To find these influencers, you’ll need a tool that can easily sift through your data to find your most influential customers. For instance, Carro is a free Shopify app for this purpose. And while software can do a lot of the heavy lifting, you still need to know what traits to look for.

Once you have found your most influential customers, you need to start building relationships with them.

1. Send an email.

The best way to connect with an influencer? Send a message! Often influencers clearly post their business email, but you can also direct message (DM) them on a social platform.

Thank them for their purchase or for following your brand, and let them know that you’re interested in working with them. A brief, but clear, message is also enough to start a conversation with your potential influencer partners.

2. Invite them to collaborate.

Those influencers who are interested in working with you should have a clear way to get started. Some software (like Carro) lets influencers shop your store and submit product requests, so that they can easily share the products that they are excited about with their audience. You may also want to send them any products that are new releases, any products that you are looking to heavily promote, and any promotional materials that will help them better understand your messaging and story. The better you prepare your influencers, the better content they’ll be able to make and share.

3. Use and share their content.

Influencer content is worth its weight in gold for brands. Their content can be used in social ads and other paid advertising to create authentic messaging for your brand. Influencer content should also be incorporated into the design of your website. Whether you are sharing their images in your product listings or embedding an Instagram gallery on your homepage, these images help to promote your brand with authenticity and provide social proof to your site visitors.

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via @ShopApricity on Instagram

4. Remember to pamper your influencers.

The larger an influencer gets, the more they are bombarded with asks from brands, plenty of whom are likely your competitors. That means you’ll need to work hard to keep an influencer’s love. Many brands send influencers free products or even take them on incredible trips in order to get attention.

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via @RawBeautyKristi on Instagram

The truth of the matter is, though, that you don’t have to shell out massive amounts of money on trips to Tahiti to dazzle your influencers. These trips and free swag tell influencers they’re on a brand’s “PR list,” but it doesn’t build a personal relationship. Rather than relying solely on automation to run your influencer marketing campaigns, appoint a contact person to manage and foster relationships with your influencers. This person can then go the extra mile to dazzle by:

  • Sending the influencers gifts/cards for their birthdays or other milestones.
  • Listening to influencers’ feedback to adjust campaigns or methods. (Influencers complain frequently about their feedback being ignored by brands.)
  • Providing additional content creation resources.

Using Your Influencer Marketing Team

Once you have established relationships with influencers who already love your brand, you’ll be able to create a consistent stream of content that can help you reach new audiences and turn their fans into your customers.

Your influencer marketing team can: 

  • Share content live from your in-person events.
  • Share your sales events or coupon codes so that their audiences get great deals.
  • Create epic content for your paid social ads.
  • Host giveaways that increase both the influencer’s and your brand page’s followings.
  • Create co-branded products that the influencer can promote.
  • Build your review program with honest reviews of the products your influencers already bought.

As you can see, influencer marketing covers a broad spectrum of promotions that mobilize your best customers as a marketing team that enthusiastically shares your brand. Finding these influencers within your customer data is vital to creating an influencer team that truly loves your brand and wants to promote your products.

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