As consumers cut their cable cords and further despise snail mail, a new brand recognition powerhouse has emerged. Instagram influencers are becoming an increasingly important component of advertising budgets in 2019. Seen as an effective catalyst for getting a brand mentioned more in on-and-offline discussions, marketers are unsurprisingly eager to try their hand at it.
But how do you find the right influencers, and at what cost? Will it be produce results? Should you do it in-house or hire an agency?
Determining if your brand should even be considering Instagram influencers
These are some of the questions marketers ask themselves when they gauge whether they should tip their hat to the 18-year-old Instagram influencer with 400,000 followers.
All fair questions to have. After all, these influencers become an extension of your brand and oftentimes the first touchpoint you’ll have with potential customers. For decades, we’ve been in control of the message we put out.
We’ve been telling consumers who we are. But now, they’re telling each other who we are. The conversations they have between themselves are far more impactful than what comes from the horse’s mouth. Of course you’re going to tell them that you’re the greatest, of course you’ll claim to have the best products and lowest prices. They expected you’d say that.
If done strategically, the right brand to influencer pairing can have a similar effect on your target market as a conversation around the dinner table would. High quality influencers have deep connections with their audiences. Not only do people aspire to be like them, they’ve established trust and respect.
An unbiased view on Instagram influencers
I may be a strong advocate for influencer marketing because I’ve seen it work, but in this article, I’m going to give you a totally unbiased view on whether or not partnering with Instagram influencers makes sense for your brand, and if it’s something that should be done in-house.
At Intro Fuel Marketing, we only partner with clients that make sense to be working with influencers on social media. We’d rather have a portfolio of clients seeing incredible results, than one filled with those who can afford us, but shouldn’t actually be working with us in the first place. Point is, some brands just aren’t the right fit for this space.
For example, I recently spoke to a prospect that had to manufacturer, package, and physically mail product to each of their recurring 60 Instagram influencers each month. They admitted that it was very time consuming and that they hadn’t been providing any structure or guidelines to their content creators. The complexity of their business model meant that it was more time consuming than it was actually worth to their bottom line. This is a scenario where other digital marketing tactics would provide a better return on investment. There’s an opportunity cost in spending that much time on influencer marketing.
Now, I want to help you decide right away whether this is something you should pursue. To make it easy, I’ll break down each of the areas you need to consider for both physical products and service-based businesses.
Brands that sell physical products are what most of us are used to seeing promoted on social media. The fashion, makeup, and fitness industries have been partnering with influencers pretty much since the beginning.
The best types of products to promote with influencers?
- Relatively low-cost and high perceived value
- Low shipping cost
- Simple to explain to people
- Ideally, are not part of a saturated market
- Easily displayed within a photo
- Is not so small it gets lost within the picture
The more criteria your brand checks off, the better. Now, the most difficult products to promote with influencers? Here are a few examples:
- Furniture — difficult, but not impossible! Just look at Endy Mattress
- Jewellery — difficult to distinguish in a photo and typically have high costs
- Cologne & perfume — hard to envision what the product is like with a photo
- Automotive parts — expensive to ship; not easy to source influencers
- Complex tech gadgets — difficult to scale influencer campaigns in this niche
I won’t sugarcoat it, the majority of service-based businesses won’t see large scale success with influencer marketing if a more traditional approach to it is taken. So to all the landscapers, plumbers, and chiropractors — consider reading this article I wrote for Talking Influence on how SME’s can partner with influencers locally, with little-to-no budget. Capital or labour intensive services simply can’t afford to offer content creators free services and financial compensation in exchange for content posted on their social channels.
So what service-based businesses make the most sense involving themselves in influencer partnerships? Well, if your service is unique, scalable, and has a low variable cost — you might just be a good fit. Here are a few ideal characteristics:
- Low variable cost
- Scalable, doesn’t require extensive labor or financial resources
- Easily displayed within a still image
- Simple to explain to people
- Unique and engaging
Now, to give you some examples of the service-based businesses that work well with influencers:
- Mobile applications
- Food delivery
- Fitness, health, & nutrition
- Rewards programs
- Ride share
- Online educational courses & software
- Hotels & travel
- Digital products
Instagram influencer relationships can’t be complicated
It must be simple for you to find and partner with relevant content creators on a consistent basis. To make influencer partnerships worthwhile, you need to be consistent. The odd post here and there from random content creators won’t be worth the time and financial commitment. So if you find it difficult and time consuming to find influencer partnerships because you’re looking for such a specific type of content creator, you should likely focus on other digital marketing tactics. There are certainly exceptions for this, but it’s uncommon.
With influencer partnerships, you should be able to spend your time on building relationships and ensuring they have the best possible experience with your brand. You should work with them to create content that effectively communicates what your brand is about, but in a voice that resonates with their audience because it comes across as natural an unforced. You don’t want to have to spend all your time on the logistics of running influencer campaigns. If it takes you a significant amount of time to deliver your product or service to an influencer, you should rework your strategy or hire a consultant to help you determine the best approach.
In-house influencer marketing teams — are they right for you?
Alright, now that we’ve discussed the brands and services that’ll see the most success in influencer partnerships, let’s now touch on whether in-house teams or outsourcing to agencies makes the most sense for your business.
My goal in this section is to give you a totally unbiased opinion on which strategy makes the most sense for your business. To be completely transparent, our agency offers both campaign management and consulting for in-house teams. So we’re not here to convince you one way or another, and if the only thing we walk away with is helping another business decide what will best help them achieve their goals, that’s enough for us. What goes around, comes around, right?
It begins with whether or not you have an employee who is experienced in this industry. If you do, I’d recommend asking them if they’re comfortable building an influencer portfolio and an in-house team. Why? Well, it’s a lot to manage by one person — even with an influencer marketing platform that helps you manage and report on campaigns. If you have someone who is overseeing a variety of responsibilities and your brand’s influencer marketing campaigns is one of those, I’d be confident in saying that there is room for improvement. Remember, consistency is key. We consider small campaigns being 20–30 influencer activations each month — certainly a lot to manage with one person if they’re responsible for campaign conceptualization, influencer sourcing and management, as well as reporting and optimizing.
That said, if you have a dedicated and experienced influencer marketing manager and at least one supporting team member, I’d recommend running campaigns in-house. Find a platform that allows you to easily discover influencers, manage relationships, and track and measure KPIs.
In contrast, if you don’t have a team member who is experienced and comfortable in running influencer campaigns, it might be best to outsource to an agency or a consultant. When you factor in product/service cost, influencer compensation, and employee salary — it could even be more cost effective to outsource, depending on the scale of your campaigns. With this route, you also benefit from the experience of an influencer agency or consultant — not to mention you free yourself up to focus on other aspects of your business.
While every brand, product, and team are different, this article should give you a good indication as to whether or not your brand should partner with Instagram influencers. The more time you spend with the logistics and management, the less time you spend on what actually leads to results.