Influencer marketing strategies to use in 2021

Want to increase your brand awareness and generate more sales? Find out how influencer marketing can help, and the strategies you need to be using in 2021.

If you are on any social media platform, you cannot escape influencer marketing. We are seeing more and more sponsored posts on our profiles time and again. And predictions show that it is only likely to grow more. 

You can see influencers promoting everything from shoes and makeup, to home decor and even luxury cars they are driving across different channels. From feed posts to Instagram stories, TikTok to YouTube videos, they are everywhere.

Genuine influencers are only there to help people find the right brands and brands to find the right audience. Influencers post about their favorite brands and products they love.

Yes, they do certainly hope for a brand collaboration in the later years, however, initially, it’s purely done out of love for the brand. There are no monetary benefits for an influencer till the brand doesn’t reach out personally, yet they put in their time and effort. 

The word ‘influencer’ might seem like something that is being used a lot lately, as they increase in number almost by the day. However there are many challenges that brands face and even some influencers face when properly ‘influencing’, and that is authenticity.

Fifteen years ago, when PayPerPost started to pay bloggers for branded content, experts were skeptical. They didn’t believe that the content created by influencer would be real enough. It was considered to look a little too promotional. And this is a stigma that stays with the industry still.

But when done properly, influencer marketing can be incredibly powerful. The only thing brands need to understand is the fragility of influencer marketing. It must be well-planned and carefully managed.

In this article we explore what influencer marketing is and how to get it right.

What is influencer marketing?

So, what exactly is influencer marketing? Influencer marketing is a marketing strategy that brands use to promote their products on a large scale with the help of recommendations and/or endorsements from influencers online and on social media.

You can find a wide range of influencers on social media today. People with a following who look up to them and aspire to aspects of their lifestyle or looks.

These influencers, aka content creators, are often approached when brands want to expand their reach, and want to get their name and products in front of the kind of people who follow them. This can lead to both brand awareness and conversion. You can think of influencer marketing as a referral but on a larger scale. 

Influencers share snippets of their personal life and stories about their days. They try to naturally fit in and promote the product they are being paid to promote. This helps others understand how your brand’s product will make their lives easier when it’s used in real life. However, as a brand, you can also ask your influencer partners to promote your brand openly. 

Things have vastly changed for influencers and content creators since 2006. Back in the early days, it was a great side income source, but not usually enough to be relied on as a full-time income. Today, influencers are paid well enough to consider this as a full-time role. They can even make a significant amount of money from their brand partnerships.

Of course, there are other paid forms of advertising, like PPC campaigns (here is a list by Digital Web Solutions for examples). But while these can help build connections throughout your marketing funnel, little hunamizes your brand like influencer marketing.

You have plenty of social channels at your disposal, each famous for different influencers and industries. If you are looking to promote your brand using videos, TikTok and YouTube are the way to go. But if you wish to share long-form educational posts, you should opt for Facebook or LinkedIn or even blogging.

Instagram is the place where you get little of everything – photos, videos, guides, and even stories to share short life stories. This platform is mainly ideal for eCommerce.

So, why exactly should you be thinking of working with an influencer? 

The benefits of influencer marketing 

If you are not sure why you should consider getting a digital content creator on board, here are a few reasons.

Reach and expand your target audience

One of the biggest challenges faced by any brand is reaching potential customers. If you are not able to tap into the right market segment, making sales will become tricky. 

Influencer marketing can give you a huge boost advantage here. You just have to find the right influencer for your brand and build a relationship with them that enables you to promote your offering to their audience. But don’t just rely on their follower count as a guide to their reach – check their engagement rate too. For example, some of the top USA influencers have a lower number of followers than others but a higher engagement rate that can even get up to 50%.

You must understand you will be able to reach the audience and reap its benefits only if influencers are actually ‘influencing’ people. If an influencer’s followers are not connecting or engaging with the content being put out, the entire purpose of the partnership will be void.

It’s also important to ensure they have genuine engagement, and haven’t paid for bots and fake accounts to comment or like. So look at the accounts commenting and liking their posts. Do they look like real people who would genuinely follow and engage with this account?

You must also check for the kind of audience that an influencer has and if it is the right audience for your brand. This is a crucial step, otherwise you are at risk of targeting the wrong segment. 

This form of marketing is beneficial for brands looking to expand their reach. Find the right influencers, who have a genuine following who truly enjoy engaging with their content, and you could hit the jackpot. If these influencers promote your product you can get your brand in front of thousands of potential customers.

Create valuable partnerships 

In the world of business, building a solid network is invaluable. When you approach an influencer with a deal, that’s a step towards building important partnerships. If things go your way, you have a chance to become a major part of the lives of many followers of that influencer – and can deliver an impressive return on investment (ROI).  

If you manage to build a strong relationship with an influencer, you can also start to attract the attention of other influencers in the same niche. Finding more people in the same niche to promote your products will help expand your reach exponentially and generate even more sales. 

Get it right, and influencer marketing can be a win-win strategy for everyone. You get a powerful marketing and branding channel, the influencer earns money and their followers get introduced to new products and brands they love.  

Boost brand awareness 

Influencer marketing is primarily undertaken to make the audience aware of your product. Yes, brands can make use of their own social media platforms to do the same. But the traction they get and the scale at which brands get attraction are simply mind blowing with influencer marketing. 

Think of these influencers as a reliable medium to reach your audience and tell them about your product. And only can you reach more people, but when an influencer talks about your brand, it has more impact. 

This is because an influencer’s followers look up to them for recommendations and suggestions. They think of them as their friends. Now, if a friend or someone we trust has a suggestion to make for us, we are more inclined to follow through than when a brand promotes its attributes through more traditional marketing.

So, while the main goal of influencer marketing is usually to boost brand awareness, influencer marketing can often also help in lead generation and conversion. 

Build trust and establish leadership

Trust is what helps sell a product. If your users/customers can’t trust you, they won’t buy from you. And before they can trust you, they want to be able to understand why you’re better than others. 

When you get an influencer on board, their recommendation can do wonders for your brand. It induces that sense of trust among the audience that you are searching for.

Moreover, if an influencer is using your product instead of your competitor’s, this will also help establish your brand as authority. They can put your offers in the spotlight, start a trend with your brand, and grab all the attention you need. 

Drive conversions and generate qualified leads 

We have already discussed how influencer marketing strategies are a great source of brand awareness. Now, if this strategy is planned well and if you select the right influencers for your brand, you can easily drive conversions and sales.

Many social media users look up to these influencers to get recommendations and referrals. This makes it a little easier for influencers to be more persuasive and generate leads. 

Another good thing about influencer marketing is the authentic and real feedback they can share by observing the consumer patterns. If your product isn’t performing well in the marketplace, your influencers can let you know. and may have some insights as to why. You can then use this new information to research more and make the necessary changes. 

So, yes, influencer marketing has a plethora of benefits, and can be incredibly beneficial for your brand. If you are all set to begin your influencer marketing journey, here are a few trends that you should have at your fingertips. 

The latest influencer marketing trends  

It’s always important to keep up with the latest marketing trends. Here’s what’s new and current in influencer marketing.

A mix of micro and macro-influencers 

Gone are the days when just follower count alone mattered. As the number of influencers increase, so does the amount of shady practices. This often means gaining ‘fake followers’. Practices like follow4follow or paying to follow a page are making it difficult for genuine followers to get the attention they deserve. 

Often, accounts have a good number of followers, however what they lack is engagement – or real engagement from real followers and fans. With poor engagement, you won’t be able to gain the traction you are hoping for. So you need to be very careful when identifying influencers. 

This is where basing your decisions simply on follower size can be a mistake. While it’s great to have a big name share your product with tens of thousands of followers, it can joe just as powerful picking a micro-influencer, as they often have a great rapport with their followers. 

Micro-influencers are people that have followers in the hundreds or thousands, rather than hundreds of thousands or even millions. These bring high engagement and make the collaboration work for you. For this reason, many brands are now using a mix of good and relevant micro and macro-influencers. 

Video marketing 

Video marketing is among the most popular forms of content that is being used by influencers today. Videos are entertaining and have the capability to keep people hooked for a longer period of time. Social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok have helped to make video marketing popular. 

Another important thing to consider is the algorithms of social media platforms. Most algorithms require your audience to spend a certain amount of time on the post to figure out if it’s relevant and valuable for them. If your post surpasses the requirement, there are chances it’ll be more visible to users with similar tastes.

Videos help with that. Since they require a user to play and actually watch the videos for a few seconds, it enables you to achieve what algorithms are looking for. 

Another reason why videos are so well-used is that they are the ultimate source of entertainment for many. Entertainment is one major reason for using the web for many users. Influencers you choose can actually create an elaborated review of your product and help your customers learn more about your brand. 

This will help you bring more traction and work in your favor when it comes to the algorithms, and is why there are plenty of brands that are using videos today. 

Realness and authenticity

As influencer marketing has matured, we’ve seen stories of fake personas, and celebrities endorsing products they haven’t even used. As a result, audiences have become more cynical, and influencers are making the effort to demonstrate how real and authentic their social media account is. Authenticity is highly valuable.

So, to keep their account authentic and real, many influencers will often share a few things they didn’t like about a product. And that’s completely okay as it helps the iraudience understand it’s not all scripted. It makes it more real.

If a video or a post shared by an influencer seems phony or scripted, it will be perceived as an advertisement and, if the product has some problems, people will accuse the influencer of being misleading. This can ruin an entire campaign and destroy your reputation and that of the influencer. 

For this reason, it’s best to let an influencer review your product if they genuinely like it. If they do, it’s best to keep it real and talk about things they genuinely find good about it. The more honest and real they are, the more positive impact your campaign will have. 

Long-term relationships 

Approaching and recruiting an influencer takes effort. It’s a time-consuming process and requires the right messaging to make you outshine others in their inbox. 

So once you have an influencer on board, it’s best to keep working with them for as long as possible. Gone are the days when hopping from one influencer to another was considered a go-to strategy as a means to expand your reach. Today, it’s best to build strong and long-term relationships with a handful of influencers that fit well with your brand – and vice versa.

As a plus, the longer you work with influencers, the better they understand your brand and your product. Over time, they can genuinely start sharing actual reviews and recommendations with their audience. This brings the traction that you have been in search of, sometimes even more. 

Diversity and inclusion 

2020 saw a rise in social activism. This led to the lack of diversity in influencer marketing hit the spotlight, and several brands were held accountable for unfair plays. 

Consequently, today, influencer marketing is slowly becoming more diverse and inclusive. People from different sections of society are being approached by brands for sponsorships. 

But as a brand, this isn’t enough. While influencer marketing is witnessing the difference being made, it is important for brands to consider making diversity and inclusion a major part of every aspect of their business. 

So you should consider working with diverse influencers while making your products and brand as a whole more diverse and inclusive as well. 

Value-driven content 

Customer habits have changed. Their purchase decision is no longer directed by urgency or limited edition. Instead they want value and authenticity. 

It’s about going beyond algorithms now. It’s no more just about doing SEO keyword analysis by using tools like Rankwatch to be able to rank on top. Yes you might rank, but if you are not providing value you won’t be able to survive for long. 

Your influencers should be sharing how and what they feel about the product. But they should also talk about how it’s helping solve problems and target the pain points of consumers. And as we’ve already covered, it’s important for influencers to keep things real when it comes to promoting your brand. 

This type of content is value-driven. It’s not about how expensive or cheap a product is or how an influencer is promoting it. It will be about how it helped an influencer solve a similar problem that a user is facing. 

How to create an influencer marketing strategy in 2021

So now you know the kind of content that you should be putting out. But how do you plan for it? Just like for any other marketing strategy, you have to be methodical and thorough with every step you take. Here’s how you to create an influencer marketing strategy in 2021.

Define your goal 

Every marketing strategy starts with a goal, as you are aware. So before you hop on influencer marketing trends and strategies, make a point of defining your goal. It could be anything. It’s true the ultimate goal is to generate sales, but there are other goals that influencer marketing can help achieve easily. Here are three goals to consider.

1) Brand awareness

Brand awareness is the first stage of a sales funnel. This is where the customer’s journey starts. After all, if your audience is not aware of your brand, how can they possibly make a purchase? So it is among the most crucial steps of every marketing journey. 

You can bring relevant influencers onboard for this stage of the funnel. If they have a good engagement rate and a great rapport with their followers, the chances of brand awareness turning into sales are also high. 

Also, this is the time when you should be talking about the benefits, uses, and versatility (if any) of your offer. 

2) Expanding reach 

Imagine you are now at a stage where you want to find more people who fall into your target group. Influencer marketing can definitely help with this. 

It’s a great strategy to tap into the social circle of influencers. Unlike giveaways or contests, where you can reach the social circle of your audience, in influencer marketing, recommendations by influencers often help you reach thousands of their followers that can definitely work in your favor. These can bring desired results and help improve sales as well. 

The more people know about you, the higher are the chances of improving your return on investment. 

3) Lead generation

You could also keep lead generation as your ultimate goal. Influencer marketing is a great way to boost your lead generation efforts and convert leads into sales. You can make use of this strategy to establish a nurturing campaign. With influencers, help your prospects learn more about what you are selling. 

You can also ask your influencers to directly add a link to your page or website and you can take the wheel from there. 

Another reason to establish this goal is that it helps direct your messaging. Every stage in the funnel will have a different messaging and if you know who you are targeting, you can direct the messaging accordingly. 

Establish your KPIs 

Once you have your goals in place, your next aim should be to define KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators. 

When you perform a task, you need to check the results. One of the major reasons is to analyze if your efforts are fruitful or they need to be strategized. When you have key performance indicators in place, this analysis becomes a little less complicated. 

These are the metrics that you monitor throughout your influencer marketing campaign. It is against these metrics that you can analyze how well your campaign performs. 

If you’ve decided your goal is to make your audience aware of your brand, you can use the number of followers and website traffic as your KPIs. If your objective was generating qualified leads, you should monitor the number of sign-ups during the nurturing stage of the funnel. 

To track sales, you should give a unique URL (link) or a promo code to your influencers. This will make it easy to differentiate the sales from different influencers and even those sales you made because of your other organic efforts. 

Choose the right platform 

Once you have your goals and KPIs set, it’s now time for the most important decision – the platform. 

Every platform has a different set of leading macro and micro-influencers. You need to now decide which one(s) you are ready to go for. 

How do you do that? The simple answer is research, research, and a little more research. The first step of this research should be to identify which platform(s) will help you achieve your goals. You also need to consider the form of content that will work best for your goals – short-form or long-form? Videos or static posts? 

Another thing to keep in mind is the platform your audience is most active on. This is perhaps the most vital factor out of all. You should figure out the platforms that are known for your industry. Not every platform is for everyone. 

Let me give you an example. 

For the fashion industry, it’s mainly about visuals and appeal. Thus, Instagram would be the best channel. Whereas, when it comes to SaaS or the tech industry, you need a platform that’s more professional. That’s where LinkedIn comes into the picture. 

Choose your influencers and start connecting 

Once you know which platform you are opting for, you have to now figure out the right influencer from that platform. You simply cannot work with just anyone. 

You must find relevant influencers that you know will deliver the results you expect. This decision also depends on the level you are at currently. If you are a small-scale business, it won’t make sense to find a macro influencer or an elite celebrity for your brand. It will be a costly affair. 

You can find micro-influencers instead. A micro-influencer is someone with around 5,000 followers. More often than not, such influencers make it a point to keep engaging with their audience. Since they’ve just started out, they put their heart and soul into offering only the best to their audience. 

Of course, as and when you grow, you can scale gradually. But initially, it’s best to start low. Also, you won’t always find someone who is willing to promote your brand for free. You have to keep the budget in mind when finding influencers. 

A few factors or a checklist that you should keep handy when selecting your influencer include: 

  • Frequency of posting by that influencer 
  • Their beliefs and values
  • Whether their style suits your requirement 
  • Engagement rate 
  • How serious they are when it comes to their profession 
  • Their past brand partnership

At first, this may seem a lot to keep track of; however, thanks to influencer marketing’s buzzing popularity, many software companies are launching influencer marketing platforms to help out businesses in their search. Tools like Grin, Humanz, or Upfluence have a large variety of features and filters that will provide you with the answers to the questions above without much hassle really. Humanz even enables brands to generate and save the whole campaign data on its platform.

Once you have this in place and you know the right people you want to reach out to, it’s time to craft the right message to build a connection and pitch the partnership. 

Set a precise budget 

When it comes to influencer marketing, it’s easy to overspend. This is done all in the hope of ensuring your campaign is performed perfectly. To avoid that, it’s better to set a budget. Find an estimated cost needed to spend on this campaign and stick to it. 

Once you have the budget set, you cannot just leave it and let the campaign perform, as you do with paid advertising. For influencer marketing, you should pay attention to details. Make sure your influencers are delivering what they have been asked to. 

Keep a track of how things are performing, how much you’re spending, are your influencers meeting the deadlines, and more. 

How can influencer marketing help your brand?

Influencer marketing is one of the most popular strategies that brands today are leveraging. It has been proven to be a great tactic when brands are at the awareness stage, and when planned and executed with proper attention to detail. 

In order to be successful at influencer marketing, you must first establish a goal and then choose the right influencer to help you reach that goal. Don’t just select any old random influencer to work with. Do your research. After that, make sure you are setting a budget and adhering to it because it’s easy to overspend. 

Lastly, keep monitoring and tracking your results. After all, without understanding how well your campaign is performing, how will you make sure your efforts are paying off? 

Photo by Karsten Winegeart