Influencers are the fastest growing form of digital marketing. Why? They help to amplify everything that is already good about social media marketing. When businesses go onto Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms, they aim to increase their sales – but they should also aim to grow a loyal audience by making genuine connections with their audience.

Social media lets you interact with your customers and potential customers directly, to the point that they no longer see you as a corporate entity, but a brand or business that they can trust. They already trust influencers. They have been entertained by them for free, and will feel loyalty to businesses who support them as much as they do. As soon as the audience sees people they trust on social media endorse you with a comment or a share – then they will start to trust you more.

Influencers are people who put out content to a loyal audience. This could be people with subscribers on a YouTube channel, a well read blog post – or even someone who has a lot of followers on Twitter or Instagram. People subscribe, follow or like them because they produce content that they enjoy. If they endorse your business, they will take it as a recommendation from a friend, rather than a business.

Start Small

You are a small business – so you should start small with influencers. When you think about influencers, you might think about people with hugely popular video streams or a massive amount of followers. You don’t want to approach these people for a couple of reasons. The first is expense – people with large followings charge large amounts of money. The second is value – large influencers have less engagement for they money you spend on them than ‘micro-influencers’ with a 1,000 to 10,000 following.

Micro-influencers can are liked 5 times more often, and commented on 13 times more than influencers with a million or more followers. They are also 6.7 more efficient in terms of engagement. Why? Just like your business, they want to grow – so they put in more effort. They also seem more approachable than ‘celebrity’ influencers, so people feel more secure in connecting to them.

If there are people that you like and follow – then you might want to think about approaching them directly as influencers. If they are people who like your products or services, you may even be able to do a deal which is based on you providing them goods or services in kind rather than paying cash (which you still need to account for when you do your taxes).

Use a Vendor… Or Don’t

There is no one vendor who has won out as the best to get the attention of influencers. There are hundreds of small agencies, because they all have personal relationships with the influencers they recruit and represent. It’s worth doing a little hunting to see which vendor is best suited to your needs and branding. If you need somewhere to start, then have a look at a website like Tribe, MAVRCK or gnackapp, or use an influencer search tool like Buzzsumo or Anewstip.

You don’t have to use a vendor. You can approach people directly, but looking at these vendors gives you an idea of what the market rate for influencers is. Remember, if you go through a service you can only access the influencers that they have on their books. Most people are still largely unaware of the benefits of micro-influencers, including micro-influencers themselves. You might have a thousand followers on Instagram, and haven’t thought about making money from it. How would you react if a brand you liked offered you a influencer deal?

Know Your Brand and Theirs

Influencer marketing relies heavily on you knowing the branding of your own business. You need to know the kind of company you are, and the kind of image you want to present. If you don’t have these things in place, you will start using influencers that don’t really connect with your business. If you sell secateurs, you want to work with someone who is interested in gardening. Do you want someone young, or someone old? A ‘punk gardener’ or someone who looks after their garden. Who is going to best appeal to your audience, and who will have the most genuine connection with your brand?

You also have to know the area of your appeal. If you are a local company, then you will have to find people who have a sphere of influence that also includes your business. If you are based outside London in the UK – there’s little point in hiring an influencer in Maine, USA – no matter how well their branding matches with yours. If you are a small business with a global reach, then you need to focus on people who have a specific interest in your business – you should be the one to solve their problem.

Consider Your Platform

You also need to think about the platform that the influencer is creating their content on. If you sell beautiful products, then you might want to think about approaching someone with a following on Instagram – as the visual nature of the posts suits the needs of your business. If you offer a service that requires some explanation – then you might want to consider someone who writes a blog or hosts a podcast.

Think about how you will share their content as well. Will it look better in your Facebook feed to share an Instagram picture or a link to a blog? Where do your audience have their attention. If your brand has high engagement on Twitter – then you might want to concentrate on that platform. If you use your common sense, then you will get the most out of your influencers.

Put The Content in Their Hands

For a small business, one of the most expensive things to create is good content. You need a good writer, someone who is good at art or photography and someone who can produce videos. It’s easier to produce content now than it has ever been, but it’s still hard to create good content. The great news if you use influencers, is that they produce the content for you.

It can be in the form of a blog, or a video – or a series of sponsored posts that go out in front of their audience. These are things that you can share or repost within your social media feed – and pay to boost – extending your reach. The more aligned your brand is with your influencer, the more chance that they will create content that will really help you to sell your brand. Not only is the content more trusted by the audience who follows your influencer, there’s a good chance it will be more entertaining than something you could produce yourself in-house.

Don’t Be Afraid

People are afraid of things they’re not sure of. People aren’t sure about using influencers. That means you will have an advantage over those people if you use influencers. They provide a great return on investment – and you can start small and scale accordingly if they work for you. It can also be scary putting the reputation of your brand in the hands of people you don’t know. So get to know them.

Just like social media is great for building genuine relationships with your audience, it’s a great place to forge bonds with your influencers. The better you communicate with them, the better a job they will do for you in promoting your business and creating content for it. They may even be able to make recommendations for other influencers to use when you decide to scale your influencer campaign.

Influencers are no longer people who can only be approached by large companies for large sums of money – ‘micro-influencers’ can be used by the smallest business – and scaled to grow with them. Influencers represent a new kind of marketing – and they also represent an opportunity. An opportunity to reach your audience, and an opportunity to set yourself apart from your competitors.

Author Bio:

Zachary Jarvis is a Digital Marketer with one thing on his mind: Results.

Uninspired by the never ending talk of ‘vanity metrics’ in the world of digital marketing, Magnate was founded – the ‘Social-First’ marketing agency.

On the very rare occasion he isn’t watching Step Brothers in his spare time – you’ll find Zachary in the thick of social platforms, learning what makes us tick.

This is driven by a fascination (perhaps a slight obsession…) with market trends and consumer behaviours.