By Jennifer Green, CEO & Founder

Projected to reach a value of $15 billion by the end of 2022, the social influencer industry and its impact are not to be underestimated. In a marketing landscape increasingly driven by social media, influencers can help brands and their products to shine through the haze of online oversaturation and overconsumption. People are listening.

According to a study conducted by Business Insider, 70% of all U.S.-based internet users follow influencers, with 17% reported to have purchased a product solely based on an influencer’s post—within one month.

Clearly, collaborating with an influencer can have an incredible return on investment, opening new avenues for a brand to connect with its target audience. But partnering with an influencer is not without its risks. Influencers have built their revenue streams on sponsored posts and often exchange posts for free products. For companies with higher-priced products, carefully investing in the right influencer, with the right audience, is essential to ensuring your valuable product, time and effort don’t go to waste.

Here are some tips on how to maneuver the flourishing social marketing industry and maximize your influencer investment.

Don’t rely on numbers

Choosing the right influencer isn’t just a numbers game. While celebrity status may seem flashy and tempting, an influencer’s follower count can often be deceiving, especially when they can easily purchase their way to recognition.

A large audience is insignificant without interaction. What truly matters is engagement. High engagement, low bounce rates and heavy website traffic are clear indications that an influencer’s followers are genuinely interested in what that person has to say, instead of scrolling past their post, and in turn, your product.

Investing in an influencer that may have a smaller audience, but larger engagement is a worthwhile risk to take–according to a study conducted by Matter. The study reports that only 17-22% of consumers prefer celebrity influencers, while 60-70% prefer influencers with relatable personalities. Influencers with smaller audiences readily compensate for their limited numbers with more featured coverage. Many spend the time to build authenticity, ensuring they are seen as reliable and trustworthy sources.

60-70% of consumers prefer influencers they can relate to.

Researching your influencer is key

Locating influencers with an active audience is just the beginning. Finding the right influence for your business is also about fit. Here are some probing questions to consider:

  • Does the influencer’s audience align with your ideal brand audience? Who is your brand’s prospective audience?
    • What are the demographics?
    • Where and how do they buy?
    • Where do they get their information?
    • What products do they lean toward?

An influencer that specializes in food and restaurant reviews, for instance, isn’t going to be an effective source for a company selling furniture, regardless of audience activity. For high-end consumer products brands, an influencer with an audience primed to spend on luxury goods would be a better fit.

  • Does the influencer stay current with what your followers are interested in? Here’s where understanding your prospective customer really matters. By keeping an eye on your customers’ social media discussions and trends, you’ll see which influencers are in the know. Those worth investing in will be following and reporting on and sharing the same trends.
  • Does the influencer present products professionally and thoughtfully? Showcasing your products in a transparent and relatable—but still unique—manner requires the right influencer with an understanding of your brand and how it can best be translated to fit their audience.

Once you’ve identified your ideal customer and how they shop / what they care about, you can better fine-tune your influencer network and put your products in front of those that would likely be more receptive.

Give up control

Social media consumers, presented with an incessant barrage of online posts, have learned to comb through the massive onslaught to find relevant content.

With the fairly new phenomenon of “influencer fatigue,” users have grown tired of constant promotional posts. Content must be perceived as genuine and unique to allow consumers to pay attention.

For a post to feel authentic, it must fit the personality of the influencer. Users are ever skeptical of overt product placement, especially if they rely on a channel for “clean” content. A post that looks out of place will send a warning sign of an insincere partnership.

To combat this insincerity, a brand should allow influencers to have a degree of creative control over their post. According to the Matter study, 61% of users trust friends and influencers, while 38% trust recommendations from a brand on social platforms. Brands can even pay influencers to do social postings for them to build trust on their own accounts.

Allowing influencers to exercise creative freedom will ensure a better consumer interaction with your brand.


Create a story to support the sales journey

A post is more likely to make an impact on a user if it is supported by a story. When an influencer connects your brand’s products to their personal life and experiences, the post becomes much more honest and trustworthy. According to a report by Forbes, credibility and trust are key to authentic influencer marketing. And if there is a strong enough story angle, consumers will connect with a brand on a more emotional level, creating brand loyalty.

Creating a “behind the scenes” approach or even offering exclusivity through a giveaway are also unique ways for a consumer to be part of the brand experience and help them feel invested in your products or offerings. And allowing consumers to provide feedback and interaction points, through the influencers’ platform, means brands get insight into what appeals to consumers and drives them to buy.

Track analytics and metrics

After you have done everything you can to set up the influencer partnership for success, the last measure is tracking the performance of the post or social share to determine ROI.

By tracking KPIs such as campaign reach, traffic to your website, audience engagement and social leads, you can ensure that the campaigns are running smoothly, and you are working with the right influencers. Also using a unique UTM code for each campaign helps you track which campaigns are pulling—and which aren’t. This will allow you to adjust or change the campaigns accordingly.

Brands can also utilize digital tools to incorporate social media checkout and shopping integrations into influencer posts to engage with shoppers ready to buy.

The influencer industry is only going to continue to grow, and there is no better time or opportunity for brands to ride this momentum and take advantage of this unique relationship. With a little bit of research and planning, your investment with an influencer can often pay off in terms of brand recognition—and ultimately, sales.