Over the past few months we’ve spoken to dozens of social media experts across Europe on The Content Mix podcast, several of whom have offered invaluable tips on collaborating with influencers. In this post, we’ll present nine effective influencer marketing strategies based on their experiences.

If you’re ready to reap the rewards of influencer marketing, here’s where to start.

1. Identify the influencers who you want to work with

Shaheen Samavati, CEO of VeraContent, and Niki Albon, head of creative at Cherry Pick Talent, discuss how to get influencer partnerships right, including how to find the right influencer for your brand during this podcast episode.

Today’s market is saturated with influencers, and more and more are appearing every day. This means you have endless options—but not all of them will be right for your brand. So how do you choose which ones to work with?

Influencer agencies can be helpful, but if your company (or budget) is small, you’ll have to make this decision yourself. Remember: although the number of followers matters, influencers’ content and engagement rates are often much more important.

“The quality of an influencer’s content and their relationship with the audience is imperative to develop an effective campaign.” Alessia Coletta, global brand manager at Trainline

See also: How local influencers can help you grow your brand globally

Three steps to find the right influencer for your brand:

1. Identify prominent voices in the area you want to target. If you work in fashion, for example, look for the latest trends and see which influencers are talking about them.

2. Analyze each influencer’s posts, values and background, plus previous campaigns they’ve participated in. Their overall image must be aligned with your brand identity.

3. Calculate their engagement rates by dividing the average number of interactions (comments or likes on a post, for example) by their total number of followers.

Now that you know who these influencers are, what they stand for and how they engage with their audiences, you can develop a plan for reaching out to the ones who might be a good fit for your brand.

Download our free guide to hiring, onboarding and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with freelancers around the world, based on our experiences at VeraContent:

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2. Find the right platform to focus on

Most popular influencers integrate content across different channels like Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and more. Each platform is suited to different formats, approaches and audiences—and this has to inform your influencer marketing strategy as well.

Ask yourself: Why would your target customer create a YouTube account? What do they expect to find on Facebook? Does your campaign match their expectations and meet their needs?

“In the case of TikTok, brands shouldn’t push content that’s hyper-branded or too polished, as it’s a lighter and less serious space compared to other mainstream channels. Also, its users are younger than those of any other platform.” Jo Burford, global head of marketing at Whalar

If you want to focus on one platform, Instagram is the obvious choice (especially if you’re targeting millennials). In addition to images and stories, it also includes a shopping feature that makes it easier and faster for users to purchase products.

Bet on new and emerging platforms

Instagram may be a safe choice, but there’s something to be said for taking risks in new arenas:

“Identify the new format, the new thing, and go there before the big players do. This is your chance, because you won’t be able to emerge in a space where big brands are already investing millions. You have to be clever in your choice of networks and the way you show your content.” Rudy Dupuis, global social media strategist

3. Take the size of your brand into account

The size of your company should be directly proportional to the popularity of the influencer who endorses you. That doesn’t mean you need to have the same number of followers; it just means you should be realistic about the scope of your influence.

Company size can also affect the methods used to find influencers:

“Big brands should always work with influencer agencies. Smaller brands should use trends or discovery features on social media platforms like YouTube and Instagram to find effective micro-influencers.” Alessia Coletta

What’s more, your choice of influencer may depend on your campaign objectives: 

“Macro-influencers are used to drive brand or product awareness, so you can look at the number of views. Micro-influencers have a stronger connection to their audience, so KPIs might include clicks or sales conversions.”David Robson, global community and influencer manager at Deep Silver

4. Maintain authenticity by working with micro-influencers

You might think that more followers equals greater success, but many brands—and not just small ones—actually prefer to work with micro-influencers.

Micro-influencers can have anywhere from 1,000 to 100,000 followers, which might not seem like a lot. But studies show that they often have higher engagement rates than mega- and macro-influencers, because they’re perceived as more relatable and trustworthy.

Foster a sense of trust

These influencers create trust by giving the public a glimpse into their lives; their followers’ loyalty is justified because they get something in return. When people feel a personal connection to influencers, they’re more likely to take their endorsements seriously. It’s like getting a recommendation from a friend rather than a celebrity.

“[Micro-influencers] interact with consumers and customers—often people they’ve met in real life—who are very interested in listening to what they have to say. We don’t want our influencers to be too branded; we want them to be authentic.” Piera Valentina Toniolo, social media pro at Estée Lauder

One brand that has implemented a successful micro-influencer campaign is Sperry. The brand invited 100 influencers who were already spotlighting their shoes to create content for the brand’s official account. This was a win-win deal; the influencers got massive exposure, and the brand got quality content for free.

9 effective influencer marketing strategies, according to experts
Source: Whitney Shelhamer on Instagram
9 effective influencer marketing strategies, according to experts
Source: Sperry on Instagram
9 effective influencer marketing strategies, according to experts
Source: Jarrett Prez on Instagram
9 effective influencer marketing strategies, according to experts
Source: Sperry on Instagram

5. Convert loyal customers into brand ambassadors

The Sperry campaign described above is also the perfect example of capitalizing on existing audience members who are perfectly primed to promote your products. If your brand already has a high engagement rate on social media, you may not even need to hire an influencer—your next brand ambassadors could be right under your nose.

“If you actually spend time getting to know your loyal customers, they can become your influencers for half the price that you’re spending on big influencers.” Keshia Solomons, founder and social media manager

Everyone’s an influencer

Another brand that has taken full advantage of this influencer marketing strategy is Glossier. In the eyes of CEO Emily Weiss, the best recommendations come from “real people” who aren’t receiving any financial incentive. That’s why the brand focuses on reposting content from regular customers, rather than super-polished influencer accounts.

This strategy is clearly working for Glossier. A few years ago the brand’s Instagram account had just over 300,000 followers, and today it has 2.7 million. In 2018 alone, its revenue grew by more than 99% and there was an 86.7% increase in buyers, thanks in large part to social media.

9 effective influencer marketing strategies, according to experts
Source: Glossier on Instagram
9 effective influencer marketing strategies, according to experts
Source: Glossier on Instagram
9 effective influencer marketing strategies, according to experts
Source: Glossier on Instagram

6. Give influencers creative control

Once you’ve found an influencer to work with, it might be tempting to tell them exactly what kind of content you want them to produce. But according to experts, you should suppress that urge:

“It’s vital to give influencers as much creative control as possible, because they know their audience better than anyone else. Give them a broad framework to work within and let them create content that they know will resonate with their viewers.” David Robson

The advantage of influencer marketing is that you’re advertising your brand through the conduit of a trusted source; someone your audience already feels a personal connection to. In turn, you have to trust them to know how to communicate with that audience.

For a great example of how to give influencers creative control, check out Subaru’s campaign with popular YouTuber @devinsupertramp. The video that he created has almost 1.3 million views to date, and showcases the Subaru brand within the context of his usual content.

Source: @devinsupertramp on YouTube

7. Get creative to stand out from the crowd

Creative thinking is always an asset, but it’s especially important in a market as saturated as influencer marketing. While this strategy seemed revolutionary a few years ago, today’s audiences readily accept it. But they’ve also grown accustomed to it—and therein lies the challenge.

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has driven even more brands toward social media marketing, making the competition more fierce than ever.

“Many influencers are talking about the same stuff with the same aesthetic. It’s difficult nowadays to see people really acting outside the box, and this is what I usually ask from the influencers we collaborate with.” –  Piera Valentina Toniolo 

Generate some controversy

One truly unique recent campaign came from the Spanish eyewear company Multiópticas. It enlisted influencer moms to spark curiosity about a new product line: cribs and highchairs with integrated screens to entertain children. The influencers’ followers were shocked, and controversy ensued.

Days later, Multiópticas revealed that it was a hoax. In fact, the fake company’s Instagram page reads “Luckily our products don’t exist yet.” The purpose of this campaign was not to sell a product, but to reinforce the company’s values in a counterintuitive way. And the key to the whole operation was influencer marketing.

9 effective influencer marketing strategies, according to experts
“What you see in the photo is a cradle with 4 integrated screens. I’m reserving my opinion (I’ll tell you what I think later) because now I’d like to hear yours: I want to know if this product has really been created in response to the demands of today’s parents/babies…” Source: @verdeliss on Instagram
9 effective influencer marketing strategies, according to experts
“You thought our products looked crazy, right? The reality is that 1 out of every 3 parents buys a device with a screen for their child before the age of 4.” Source: Spfuture on Instagram

8. Develop a mutually beneficial relationship based on shared values

When it comes to choosing an influencer, it’s vital to find someone who’s aligned with your brand identity and core values. And that goes both ways; financial compensation isn’t the only reason why influencers will want to work with you. Every influencer has strategically designed their image, and they need to stay true to that identity.

Your marketing campaign should offer influencers an opportunity to strengthen the bond with their audience, enhance engagement and attract followers—but it should also be enjoyable. You need to create a positive experience, and show them that you genuinely want to work with them because you respect what they do.

In May 2018, the Spanish clothing brand Stradivarius invited a group of influencers to the island of Capri. They used this opportunity to create a seasonal campaign called #TheSummerExpedition, based on content created by influencers like Valentina Ferragni.

9 effective influencer marketing strategies, according to experts
“Italian summer.” Source: Valentina Ferragni on Instagram

Clearly, this was a mutually beneficial project for both the brand (which reached her 3.7 million followers) and Valentina, who got the opportunity to create engaging content for her audience (not to mention an island getaway).

9. Make the most of each influencer relationship

Once you’ve established a relationship with an influencer, don’t miss out on any opportunity to collaborate. Rather than just sticking to the typical format where they post a photo to promote your product, have them record a video of it, post a story about it, or incorporate it into an interactive poll.

If you’re planning to host an event (in person or online), invite the influencer to attend and create content about it. You can even ask them to collaborate on future projects, eventually transforming them into a loyal brand ambassador. 

For example, Amazon España has recruited influencer Laura Escanes to be a brand ambassador. Her profile encompasses fashion, beauty, travel and motherhood, creating a broad audience with varied interests—the perfect match for a company like Amazon.

For this year’s Black Friday promotion, Amazon asked Laura (along with several other influencers) to collaborate on a live event. Not only did she help promote it in advance, but she also did a live video to unpack a gift box the company sent her. This generated a much greater opportunity for audience engagement than a single branded post would have.

Implement influencer marketing strategies to succeed

If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that no one can predict what the future holds. But we’re willing to bet that influencer marketing will continue to grow and evolve, with brands finding increasingly creative ways to capitalize on it.

If you’re looking to level up your social media game, it’s a surefire way to boost engagement, drive visibility and connect with your followers. Remember: stick to your values, never compromise authenticity, and strive to create relationships that benefit everyone involved.

With these nine strategies—straight from social media experts—you’re well on your way to making the most of influencer marketing. Now get out there and make it happen!

Looking for more effective influencer marketing strategies?

Check out our full interviews with the experts featured in this article:

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