Influencer Marketing
Influencer Marketing: Everything Brands Need to Know

Influencer Marketing: Everything Brands Need to Know

January 24, 2019
9 min read

Who are these influencers, anyway?

Are they celebrities? Do they come from some political background?

Well, no! In a nutshell, anyone with a decent following on any social platform can be an influencer. Companies are paying these self-made people to endorse their brands, commissioning collaborations that help them attract new followings.

Let’s list out the things that any brand marketer worth her salt must absolutely know about influencer marketing.

Quick Takeaways:

  • Micro influencers are more effective because they spend more time interacting with their followers.
  • Videos reach more people than written posts and get more attention.
  • Brands want people who can authentically deliver their core message.
  • Brands are monitoring the ROI of influencer marketing compared to other channels.

Why Are Influencers So Important to Brands?


  • Have vast online audiences. Take Zoella, the 26-year-old fashion and lifestyle vlogger with millions of followers, a record-breaking debut novel, and her own beauty line. Want to get your makeup brand noticed?
  • Are independent. These digital celebrities all started as indie content creators with something to say. They aren’t signed by record labels, associated with businesses, and they are not obligated to voice content that is aligned with advertisers like other celebrities. At least not yet.
  • Their audiences are enthusiastic. Influencers, in many cases, spent years building up their legions of avid fans. The people who follow them are passionate about their particular niche.
  • People love them because of their authenticity. They don’t feel like sold out celebrities selling everything from breakfast cereal to lipstick. People trust them. With the oversaturation of ads, online influencers have become a breath of fresh air for consumers.

And for marketers. They provide a unique opportunity for inbound marketing. Influencers allow marketers to get their brand out there in the best possible way. With subtlety, yet reaching millions.

Micro-Influencers are Making a Mark

Companies often target influencers with the largest followings because their potential reach is greater. But lately, even those with lesser following are being paid as influencers.

Why? Because lesser known people are more accessible. Influencers with smaller followings spend more time interacting with their followers. And while there are many reasons why online conversations are effective, in this case, if a brand is associated with an influencer who interacts, it adds to its credibility.

Micro-influencers bring a more “common” touch to brands, making them more accessible and increasing the conversation around them. Their followers also trust their recommendations, ensuring a better conversion rate. This group of influencers are also more affordable, giving you more bang for your buck.

Video Content is Key

These days, many are constantly running short on time. In turn, visual content reaches far more people than written posts. More than 60% of the internet deals with videos and having an influencer go live with a product is a great act of brand marketing. Influencers can wear a fashion brand in one live feed and unbox a product in another.

The key is to making the video look as real as possible. Because videos attract more attention than static posts, many brands are integrating more live video into their influencer campaigns in 2019.

4 Myths About Influencers That Need to Be Broken

Before you go about finding influencers and what tools can you use to find them, let’s first take a look at some of the common myths about influencers, so you know exactly what (and not) to look for in an influencer.

Myth #1: Influencers are anyone with lots of followers.

An influencer who amplifies content is not necessarily someone who has a huge following. The influencers you want to look for are those who respect your work and content, and are passionate about the topics your content focuses on.

These influencers should also have an audience who is interested in the types of content you create, and they should be an engaged, active audience who regularly replies and shares others’ posts.

Myth #2: Social shares solely depend on influencer sharing.

The number of social shares a piece of content receives depends more on the domain where it is published than on the influencer sharing. When it comes to amplification, influencers who have a stronger domain distribution are more powerful in driving traffic to your content than simply having them share it socially.

To prove this, BuzzSumo tested out with two of his own posts published on Social Media Today and the BuzzSumo blog. He found that his blog on Social Media Today on average had over 500 shares, whereas the post on BuzzSumo had about 155 shares.

It’s not necessarily because the content on Social Media Today is better, but simply because the domain Social Media Today has a much larger, engaged audience who is actively reading and sharing content.

Steve also looked at the content produced by Rand Fishkin, the founder of Moz, who has over 250,000 followers on Twitter. In the past year, Rand has published his articles on several sites, and on average they received 1,639 social shares.

The articles Rand published to the Moz blog, however, received an average of 2,688 shares, which is 1000 more shares than the other sites he posted to.

Larry Kim, the founder of WordStream, also saw significantly higher shares for his posts on than on the WordStream blog.

These examples show that an influencer’s publishing domain and blog authority matter more than the follower count when it comes to content amplification.

Myth #3: Social reach is everything.

Reach shouldn’t be the only number you look at, engagement is even more important when it comes to amplifying your content.

As Mark Walker, Head of Content Marketing at Eventbrite, has said, “Someone with an engaged following of 1,000 will do more to amplify your content than someone with 10,000 social connections they don’t engage with.”

Influencers who have a higher re-share rate have a bigger impact on content amplification compared to those who have a huge following but a less engaged audience.

Now that you know what to look for in an influencer to help amplify your content, how do you actually go about finding them?

4 Steps to Finding Influencers

Whichever influencer management tool you choose to use, you need to find influencers who are passionate about the topics you write about and are willing to help amplify your content. Here are 4 ways to help you find them:

Find amplifiers of heavily shared content.

You can do this with BuzzSumo’s top content search or other similar tools. If you are using BuzzSumo, click on the “View Sharers” button for a top shared post. Sort sharers by average retweets and you will find the amplifiers who have the highest average retweet rate.

Finally, click on “View Links Shared” to see if this individual regularly shares content related to your topic. If they are passionate about your topic, they would be sharing a lot of content related to it. You can also just type in a keyword and click on the “Influencers” tab.

Find authors whose content is heavily shared.

If an influencer is really passionate about your topic, they likely write about it too. You can also find these influencers with BuzzSumo top content search. This time, look for authors of heavily shared content. If you have a paid version of BuzzSumo, you can run a Top Authors report for a specific topic or domain, and this will give you a list of the most shared authors, the number of articles they have written and their average social shares.

Find influencers who have high authority, distribution and re-sharing rates.

Using BuzzSumo or other similar tools, get a list of influencers relevant for your topic, and look for those with a strong domain authority as well as high re-sharing rates. These are influencers who can truly help amplify your content.

Find influencers who amplify your content and your competitor’s content.

Use the tool of your choice to find influencers who are already amplifying your content as well as your competitor’s content. These are amplifiers who you want to build or maintain a relationship with.

Now that you have your list of influencers, you should reach out and ask them to help amplify your content, right? Wrong.

Building Relationships and Winning Influencers

If you don’t have a pre-existing relationship with the influencers you’ve identified, the most important thing to do first is to build that relationship. Follow and engage with them, share their content, and even try to connect with them in real life if you can. Invest time in helping them, whatever their objectives may be. Be as helpful as you can to these influencers, give and don’t ask.

You may also want to target second-tier influencers first. They may need your help more than the big influencers with large following. Those big influencers are approached by people very frequently, so by focusing on the second-tier influencers who are really passionate about your topic, you will likely have greater success with connecting and building a relationship with them.

You can approach your identified influencers to help with content amplification once you have developed a trusted relationship with them. One of the best ways to do this is by involving influencers in the content creation process. While your ultimate goal is getting influencers to amplify your content, the co-creation project should focus on creating value for influencers as well.

Is the ROI of Influencer Campaigns Really That Fantastic?

Measuring ROI (return on investment) is an important aspect of evaluating any marketing campaign, including those that involve influencers. In order to develop effective strategies and determine which influencers are right for their objectives, brands are keeping track of what methods create the highest return value.

Evaluating the social analytics of these campaigns help them determine which influencers, platforms, and posts are working, allowing them to continuously improve upon their influencer marketing efforts.

One of the most thorough studies on the ROI of using influencers was done as a collaborate effort by TapInfluence and Nielsen Catalina Solutions. They followed the marketing efforts of a fortune 500 food company. Here are the results:

  • Influencer marketing yields an annual ROI of $23, compared to the $4.30 of the brand’s best performing banner ads
  • For every 1000 views, influencing brought in $285 in incremental sales
  • Influencer campaigns brought in 11 times the ROI of traditional advertising over the course of a year

Other studies have found similar results. A poll of marketers by marketing software as a service agency, Tomoson, found that on average, businesses see a $6.50 return on investment. The top 13% of respondents exceeded $20 for every dollar invested.

The influencer effect exists beyond the sphere of internet celebrities. In general, consumers have increasingly been listening to the input of those on their social networks and other word-of-mouth sources when it comes to making purchases, and increasingly ignoring ads. 92% of consumers trust their peers and trusted authorities. On the other hand, consumer trust in paid advertising has diminished by one-fifth over the past decade.

Yes, the ROI of influencer marketing is that fantastic, at least right now it is.

Is the Gold Rush Sustainable?

While influencer marketing is an ROI force to be reckoned with right now, it holds within it a paradox that may lead to its undoing.

  1. Right now the ROI is so high because influencers aren’t that expensive. Many marketers have found that the real value is with the micro-influencers – those with less than 100,000 followers. These individuals tend to be very true to their niche and are more interested in promoting quality products then selling out for a brand they don’t believe in. They also are often approachable, ‘real’ people, which is much of why their audiences appreciate them so much. How long will the compensation amongst micro influencers be reasonable enough to garner such unbeatable returns?
  2. The core reason that consumers listen to vloggers, bloggers, and social media-ites is because they trust them. These content producers stuck to their craft and their message, which is exactly why they yield so much influence. Will fans continue to trust them when they start to pitch more and more products?
  3. Another interesting aspect of the influencer space is the rise of follower fraud. Some influencers have been caught buying followers to win the rat race of “Who’s more visible?” This has created a challenge for brands who want to work with influencers whose followings truly have the potential to be interested in their products. A couple of years ago, Instagram took measures to crack down on the issue, putting priority on active engagements and interactions over number of followers.
  4. Or what about when influencers literally get ‘bought out.’ This was what happened with Casey Neistat, a YouTube celebrity with 6 million followers. Neistat sold his company to CNN and begins his era as a purchased influencer with a wonderfully honest, humorous and informative video on the transition – and an explanation for stopping his vlog. Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute predicts that there will be more paying and less partnering with influencers. As long as influencers can manage to stay true to their authentic roots, fans are likely to follow.

How realistic is it, however, for independent creative individuals and teams to retain their independence once they have to answer to a larger organization – that does have to align with a certain agenda? Isn’t this like trying to force a round peg into a square hold?

If these three conditions begin to fizzle as described above, the great power of influencer marketing may begin to lose its pop. There is still a lot to be done in this area, with countless micro and macro influencers to tap into and infinite campaigns to be developed by creative marketing teams. But like any other wave, the crest must eventually be matched by an equally imposing dip.

Create Original Content Worth Sharing

While influencers can help amplify your content, the key to ensuring people will read and share it is creating valuable content that is worth sharing. This means conducting your own research and writing original content on your chosen topic, and becoming an authority and expert in that space.

This is hard work, but in the end, you’ll have quality content that people will actually want to read and share, including your influencers.

Are you interested in engaging and converting new customers for your business? Contact me here and let’s talk about how we can help.

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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula", and Founder of Marketing Insider Group. Recognized as a Top Content Marketing expert and Digital Marketing Leader, Michael leverages his experience from roles in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as his leadership in leading teams and driving growth for thriving startups. Today, Michael delivers empowering keynotes on marketing and leadership, and facilitates actionable workshops on content marketing strategy. Connect with Michael today.

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