She had a look of unbelief in her eyes. “You only wore homemade clothes and your family raised all of your own food?”
“Yeah,” I responded, feeling amused. “If there’s a zombie apocalypse, you can come to my place. I’ll keep us alive.”
We laughed together. She made zombie jokes and I grinned. I knew I hadn’t shared the real shocker with her yet.
I hadn’t explained how I had adhered to strict dress standards as a 17 year-old-girl without questioning them. She would have been flabbergasted to hear how the leader of our youth group forbade all of us girls to wear flip flops because it might have made the boys think about something other than our feet.
The power of influence
It’s hard for many people to understand how a few leaders could influence an entire group of people to live such an extreme lifestyle in 2017, one which replicates living standards from the 1800s.
However, something alarming is happening in many sheltered groups — more and more people are leaving.
Power-hungry leaders are losing their following and they can’t figure out why. They are losing to the “nobodies”, the people they have overlooked. These are the people who believe differently from them. They are people who influence their own personal circles. The influence of one “unnoticed” individual has the potential to spread more rapidly through the use of social media.
This is nothing new. Throughout history, leaders have mistakenly underestimated the power of “micro influencers”.
What is a micro influencer?
Micro-influencers are everyday consumers who have 500 – 5,000 highly engaged followers around relevant topics. (Source) As part of the millennial generation, I believe that I can and will change the world. I deeply believe in the power of micro influence.
Take myself and my friends as an example. My friends and I all support each other’s small businesses. Last week I posted on Facebook to ask my fellow business owner friends to comment on my thread with their products or services. That same evening I ordered natural laundry soap from a friend who posted in that thread. I watched multiple folks connecting with each other to chat about and purchase each other’s products.
“Today, at more than any other time in history, research is is finding that the behaviors of younger generations are influencing the behaviors of older generations — from the use of technology to spending behaviors.” (Source)
In our parents’ generation, effective marketing involved large corporations talking at people from a slick TV ad or a giant billboard. Today we don’t fall for the hype of a flashy ad. In fact, if you come at us with a well oiled sales pitch, we’ll probably laugh at you.
We have the ability to research things for ourselves. Many of us care about what we are supporting through our spending.
The cost of displaying ads on billboards and TV hasn’t gotten cheaper, but today, those ads aren’t nearly as effective as having five of your friends post photos with raving captions about your new product on Instagram.
Millennials like Derek Palizay are at the forefront of this shift in marketing. Don’t get left behind.
Influencer marketing isn’t free
Urban Southern has now collaborated with influencers over 20 times, and we almost always give our product to an influencer for free. Sometimes we have paid for a collaboration. The leather in our bags is not cheap, so our investment is way up there by now.
We don’t always get sales from a collaboration, but we can track any sales through a custom coupon code that we give an influencer to share with their audience.
In the past, when a collaboration has fallen completely flat without even any new followers, we began to realize that the influencer we worked with was not engaging and/or they had purchased a following. This is why it’s so important to do your homework and have a plan.
1. Know who your ideal client or customer is
If you’ve read any amount of marketing advice, you’ve heard this. You might be tempted to scroll right past this point to get to the rest.
However if you haven’t done the work to create a profile of your ideal customer, please do it now. Get to know their wants and needs. You should know where they like to hang out online and what inspires them.
2. Create a map for targeted, niche specific influence
For our brand, Urban Southern, we created a map with two niche specific areas of influence. We have a primary focus and a secondary focus on our map.
Since our brand is based in the southern U.S.A. and most of our customers are mamas like ourselves, we honed our attention on finding influencers from specific geographic areas and bloggers or stylists who provide value for our ideal customer.
Having an “Influencer Map” will make your decision making process so much easier. Even though you may love Miss Suzy’s beautiful Instagram profile, if she’s completely outside of your targeted niche you will know she’s not the right fit. You can then quickly move on without wasting her time or yours.
3. Find influencers who will be a good fit for your brand.
Where do you find good influencers to work with?
- Start with existing customers (if you have them), acquaintances, friends, and family. Choose the people that represent your idea customer and best fit within the map you created earlier.
- Research Instagram hashtags. Find influencers within a niche that fits with your brand and the map you created.
Common online niches of influencers on Instagram include lifestyle bloggers, travel bloggers, mommy bloggers, fashionistas, artists, techies, food bloggers, fitness enthusiasts, female entrepreneurs.
“Use the top Instagram hashtags that have an engaging community behind them and are specific to your audience. Look and see what Instagram hashtags your audience, competitors, and industry leaders are already using. The narrower the scope of the hashtag, the more engaged the users are.” (Later.com)
When you search for a hashtag, you’ll see related hashtags pop up beside it. Write these down and engage with them to see if they are a good fit for your brand.
Here are a few niche specific hashtag groups as an example:
#travelblogger #travelblog #travelgram #travelphoto #travelbloggerlife #wanderlust #solotraveler #traveldiaries #neverstopexploring #instatravel #cityscape #travelblogging #dametraveler #girlswhotravel #roamtheplanet #stayandwander #exploretocreate #travelstoke #worlderlust #beautifuldestinations #openworldmagazine #modernoutdoors #discoverearth #liveauthentic #travelgram #keepitwild #earthfocus #portrait #artofvisuals #finditliveit
#thetrendybarista #coffeeschool #SlickBartender #coffeeshop #coffeecatering #instacoffee #coffeegram #coffeetime #coffeeaddict #coffeelovers #coffeeart #coffeelife #coffeecup #baristaschool #latteart #coffeelove #coffeebreak #baristalife #peoplebrewcoffee #ilovecoffee #needcoffee #cotd
#foodblogger #instafood, #nomnom #foodies, #foodstagram, #foodgasm #foodphotography #foodlovers #foodstyling #vscocook #vscofood #glutenfree #foodislife #foodnetwork #devourpower #eatfamous #feedyoursoull #EarthStream #feastagram #heresmyfood #cheatday #dietstartstomorrow #foodietribe #foodandwine #cameraeatsfirst #yougottaeatthis #beautifulcuisines
#nonprofit #nonprofitsrock #educationmatters #givingback #volunteersneeded #volunteerspotlight #volunteer #literacy #backtoschool #supportteachers #bethechange #createabetterworld #unleashyourgreatness #awareness #howeyeseeit #awarenessiskey #giveback #makingadifference #nonprofitwork #philanthropy #charity #givewhereyoulive #socialgood #socialjustice #socialjusticewarrior #educationmatters
#dedeeplyrooted #communityovercompetition #pursuepretty #thehappynow #makersmovement #abeautifulmess #madetocreate #borntocreate #callingallcreatives #makersofinstagram #momentslikethese #liveauthentic #coloraddict #flashesofdelight #acolorstory #mybeautifulmess #bosschick #whereiwork #abmhappylife #huffpostgram #thatsdarling #nothingisordinary
#ecofriendlyliving #healthytips #healthyliving #nontoxic #familylife #toddlersofig #naturalliving #naturalparenting #parenthood #motherhoodunplugged #motherhood #momlife #humansofjoy #healthykids #toddlerlife #childhoodunplugged #nursingfriendly #bumpfriendly #loungelove #stylishbump #nursingmama #motherhoodrising #stylethebump #letthembelittle #babyontheway #pregnancyfashion #teammotherly #momtobe #littleandbrave #candidchildhood #momswithcameras #momitforward
As you stalk the hashtags and accounts within these niches, you’ll find group accounts on both Instagram and Facebook that support specific niches such as the Rising Tide Society, Makers Movement, or A Beautiful Mess. Look for influencers within these online groups.
Find the communities that align with your brand and get involved. If they have local meetups, attend them. Find influencers within these groups and collaborate with them.
Look for influencers who will influence folks from a geographic area. For example, if you have a southern brand, you’ll find plenty of bloggers throughout the south who are passionate about collaborating with other southerners. You can scout hashtags around geographic areas, events, or local points of interest.
Find new local influencers at local blogger meet ups. You have the opportunity of scouting them out before they know what you do.
Bonus: By meeting influencers in person, incognito, you’ll get to hear what their frustrations are when they work with brands. Invested influencers care about the quality of what they recommend to their followers. Micro influencers typically create their content on the weekends as a hobby and it takes time and effort. They have to know their collaboration will be worthwhile to them, as well.
4. Remember: Less is more
Don’t think that popularity equals profitability.
We have often found that collaborations with influencers who only have around 1k or less followers have been the best. Here’s why: those folks have a more dedicated following.
“According to a recent Ad Age study, Instagram accounts with less than 1,000 followers have a “like” rate of approximately 8%, while accounts with 1,000 to 10,000 followers have a rate of 4%.” (Source)
5. Take time to establish a relationship with influencers
Don’t rush into a collaboration. When you find an influencer who fits your criteria, get to know them. Ideally, it’s good to hang around and interact with them over the course of a couple weeks.
Get a good idea of who their followers are. Are their followers real? It’s pretty easy to spot purchased followers as you scroll about halfway into their follower list and start tapping names to discover spam accounts. Sometimes you can use an online tool such as http://www.followercheck.co/ to quickly find out whether someone has purchased followers.
Pay more attention to an influencer’s comments than their likes or followers. If your prospective influencer is genuine and offers value consistently on their platform, you can trust that a collaboration with them will be likely be valuable.
6. Logistics of a successful collaboration
Now let’s get down to business.
You’ve done all your homework and you’re ready to collaborate with your influencers! It’s really important to keep track of each collaboration. A simple Google spreadsheet can help you stay organized when you’re starting out.
Once you’ve decided to collaborate with someone, they should agree to your contract which outlines the terms of your collaboration before you move on to the next step.
A contract agreement may include the following:
- What your influencer will receive in exchange for working with you.
- When the item will ship. (You should be ready to ship your item as soon as possible. Pay attention to the way you package your item—you should treat this as though this is a sale to your ideal customer.)
- Specify that you want them to post an unboxing video when they receive your package and post it on their Instagram Stories, making sure to tag you.
- Specify how many times you want them to mention you on their social platforms within a specific time period. Example: Over the next 4 weeks, you’ll post 2-4 images to Instagram/Facebook with [product], making sure to mention and tag us. Publish your blog post within 30 days if you have a website and link back to our website.
- Provide them with a custom coupon code or an affiliate link that they can share with their followers. This way you can track the amount of link clicks or sales you receive from the collaboration.
- Specify that they will provide you with a link to their blog post, if they write one. Give them a deadline.
- Specify that they provide you with any full sized image files along with the rights to use them for your own promotions.
Clearly defined expectations are key to a successful collaboration.
This process will be too involved for some bloggers and influencers but that’s okay, you will weed out the ones who aren’t invested or passionate about your product.
Pro Tip: Collaborate more than once, especially when you find an influencer who is the perfect fit for your brand. A one-off collab really doesn’t make the most of a relationship with an influencer and after you’ve taken time to invest in the relationship, you should be thinking strategically about how you can involve them again. When an influencer’s audience gets to see multiple products and multiple mentions, the value of your collaborations with them multiples quickly.
Real life example: Urban Southern has established a small but loyal customer base in San Diego, California through ONE influencer (@houseofaqua) who has continuously mentioned her love for her leather Market Tote. It’s incredible!
The Power of Word-of-Mouth Marketing: Effective influencer marketing has that proven, word-of-mouth impact on folks with a much broader digital reach through the means of social media.
“92% of consumers trust word-of-mouth more than all other forms of advertising.” (Source)
Don’t think primarily transactionally when you work with influencers. You’re building a community: Involve your influencers in your brand through the passion you have for what you do. Invest in the relationship you have with them. Remember that you are building a community around your brand!
Remember the Modern Marketer standard: Value over everything.
Are you harnessing the power of influence for your brand with micro influencers?
With over 22 moves between New York and Tokyo, Meg Delagrange currently finds her home in the always-beautiful Denver, Colorado. Meg is the Marketing Director at Urban Southern where she is strategically building a strong brand presence both online and offline. She communicates the core values of the company's brand through both visual and written content that first and foremost meets the needs of their audience. After hours, you may find her painting in her studio or sharing heart to heart thoughts on Instagram.