Influencer Marketing 101: How to Start an Influencer Program

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How to win in today's creator economy

So you want to get into influencer marketing? 

That’s amazing!

Influencer marketing is one of the best ways to drive brand awareness, get authentic content, and create some major brand love. 

But we understand it can be a bit intimidating to get started, so join us as we go through the process of creating a step-by-step guide to show you how to start an influencer program. 

Download your free influencer marketing strategy template. 

Print a copy and fill it out with all the details as you start planning your influencer marketing program. 

Influencer Marketing Strategy Template
Click on the image to download and print a copy.

Transcript:

Your Step-by-Step Guide to Creating an Influencer Marketing Program 

  1. Set your goals: List your overarching goal and 2-4 KPIs to track.
  2. Identify your audience: Write a note of the demographics of the group you’d like to reach. 
  3. Pick your social media platforms: Identify at least one platform you’d like to work in. 
  4. Research creators: Write down at least five creators you’re thinking of reaching out to. 
  5. Reach out to creators: List your confirmed creators. 
  6. Write a campaign brief: Make a note of at least three pieces of info you’ll put in the brief.
  7. Send the briefs to your creators: If they had any comments on your brief, write them here.
  8. Track campaign performance: List your chosen KPIs and the data you’ve collected for them. 
  9. Optimize: Brainstorm at least two ways in which you can optimize. 
  10. Nurture your partnerships: Have you reached out to your top creators in a while? Send them a message if you haven’t. 
  11. Analyze and share results: Share your results with leaders. Write down any comments they had.
  12. Brainstorm for your next campaign: You must have a ton of amazing ideas for your next campaign by now! List them here. 

Now it’s time to get started. 

1. Set your goals. 

Before you can build out a roadmap to success, you first need to define what that looks like for your brand. 

Common objectives for influencer marketing programs 

Awareness 

Building awareness means getting your brand in front of as many people as possible and inspiring meaningful interactions. You want to showcase your brand to the world with the goal of turning people into fans. 

Conversions 

Increasing revenue and making sales are some of the most common conversions. Other conversion goals include email sign-ups, form submissions, ebook downloads, and more. 

Content 

This goal involves getting original user-generated content (and usage rights for it!) to help feed your marketing and branding efforts. UGC is a priceless asset for brands that don’t have big budgets, especially considering how much more affordable it is than working with professional designers. 

Website traffic 

Effective influencer partnerships generate leads and drive traffic to your website. Once someone clicks onto your website, you can retarget them and help them move down the funnel. 

Reputation 

To build a good reputation, you need to focus on strengthening your brand image and building trust amongst your customers and fans. Curating widespread positive sentiment toward your brand among your target demographic is one key way to boost your reputation. 

Found the right goal? 

Perfect. Now it’s time to figure out how you will measure your success in achieving the goal. We’ll do this with key performance indicators (KPIs). 

For example, you can measure success in building awareness through the number of impressions and engagements your creators’ posts received or your branded accounts’ follower growth. 

It’s smart to pick a few KPIs so you can get a more rounded view of your success as you go. 

2. Identify your audience.

The more you can describe your ideal customer, the better equipped you’ll be to find the right creators for your product or service.

Key demographics usually include location, gender, age, socioeconomic status, marital status, and level of education. But it’s the interests of your target customers that make influencer marketing powerful.

What are their hobbies? What kind of content do they like to engage with the most? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you partner with creators who can get their attention. All you need to do is look for creators whose followers’ demographics and interests are similar to your target audience.

Someone holding a smartphone with Pinterest on it
What kind of content does your ideal customer enjoy?

3. Determine your social media platforms for influencer marketing. 

You can run an influencer marketing campaign on any social media site or even a creator’s blog, but you need to choose the platforms that are likely to bring the best results. Base your choice on your goals and your target audience.

For example, you probably wouldn’t want to advertise a product for people ages 50 and older on TikTok. And you would post a 15-minute video about your product on YouTube, not Instagram. 

This is a necessary step in planning your influencer marketing campaign. Only once you have picked your platform(s) can you start identifying relevant creators. Most influencers may have a presence on multiple platforms. However, you need to find the ones with a really strong presence on the platform(s) you have chosen for your campaign.

4. Find the right content creators. 

What to look for when researching content creators 

Relevance

When you research creators, your top priority should be to make sure that your potential partners create content that is relevant to your brand, products, or industry. This will ensure that your offerings or marketing messages are relevant to their followers.

If not, your messages are likely to reach people with little or no interest in your brand or products. 

However, don’t feel like you have to put yourself in a box, either. If you know your target audience has a strong interest in another niche, consider working with creators that fit in that category. 

For example, Kosas partnered with an oil painter to highlight their foundation. The content was still relevant (it showcased several different shades of the product) but was unique and stood out, too. 

@fritzdoesart Reply to @kosas GIVEAWAY! Follow Kosas and me, tag a friend, and 5 winners will receive the foundation 💛 #Kosas #KosasPartner #foundation #makeup ♬ original sound – fritzdoesart

Resonance 

The next step in your influencer research should be to make sure that your potential influencer’s posts resonate with your style and values. If there’s a stark contrast between your brand’s personality and the influencer’s, it’s not likely to go down well with your audiences. Such collaborations will appear to be forced and inauthentic.

So, go through some of your potential influencer’s posts to get an idea of their personality, voice, and values. If they resonate with those of your brand, you’re good to move on to the next step in your creator research.

Authenticity 

Go through some of the sponsored content posted by your potential creators and see if they come across as pushy or spammy. Do the captions on these posts reflect the influencer’s expertise or authority in their niche? Or do they simply serve to promote the products without adding any real value to their followers?

@the_pastaqueen Pesto Genovese, a love letter to Disney and Pixar’s new movie. Luca. #ad #pixarluca #pesto ♬ original sound – The Pasta Queen

Aesthetics

The next step in your influencer research should be to check how aesthetic your potential influencer’s content looks. Do their posts appear creative, tasteful, and attractive? Do they use good lighting and have strong editing skills?

Here’s an example of a beautifully crafted post from Wendy Nguyen.

Consistency 

When you conduct influencer research, you should also check how frequently your potential influencer publishes content. The more active they are, the better for you.

Greater activity from an influencer keeps their followers more engaged. If you find that your potential influencer publishes content erratically with long periods of inactivity, they’re probably not the right choice for you.

Reach

Now it’s time to look at some of your ideal creators’ data. Their follower counts are important for determining how many people your branded posts may reach. 

Engagement

One of the most important steps in your influencer research should be to find your potential creators’ engagement rates. This is even more important than their follower counts.

A creator might have thousands of followers on Instagram. However, if you only find a few hundred likes, comments, and shares on their posts, it’s a cause for concern. This is an indication of how well their followers are receiving their content. 

So, if the engagement rate is poor, collaborating with that creator may not do you much good.

5. Reach out to creators. 

Once you have a list of your potential influencers, you need to find a way to contact them.

However, before reaching out, you need to warm up to them to increase your chances of getting favorable responses. Follow them on social media and engage meaningfully with their posts. You could even connect with them on LinkedIn.

Social media 

This is the easiest and most casual mode of communication with influencers. Once you’ve made a presence in their comments, you can contact them directly by sending a message on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter. If they agree to collaborate, you can switch over to emails.

However, it can be easy to miss direct messages, so if your creator has an email listed, use that instead. 

Emails

According to a Crowdtap survey, 41% of influencers have reported getting 5-15 unique pitches every week. So you need to craft really compelling proposals to stand out.

Don’t forget to follow up if a couple of days have passed and you haven’t heard from them. Ideally, you should send a couple of follow-up emails before moving on, but don’t go overboard! You don’t want to annoy them.

What should your pitch be like? 

You should personalize your pitches as much as possible. Use your creator’s name, and add details you like about their content. You can use this as a premise to explain why you’re reaching out to them.

Briefly touch on general aspects of the partnership (maybe which products they could receive or the payment structure), so they can tell if it sounds like a good fit for them. 

And always end your email with a clear call to action that informs them about the next steps.

6. Create a campaign brief.

Creating a proper campaign brief is essential. It will help you provide the right information to the creators and can prevent a lot of confusion or back-and-forth conversations. 

Start your campaign brief by introducing your brand, and include key points you want your creator to focus on. 

Tell them about your campaign goals so that they can shape their content plan accordingly, and provide detailed KPIs that you’ll use to measure results.

Another important element of your campaign brief is your content guidelines. 

As a marketer, you need to ensure that the influencer-created content aligns with your brand’s messaging and overall campaign strategy. Don’t be afraid to add things you want them to avoid in their content, too! 

You should also include: 

  • The type of content you want (Instagram post, TikTok video, etc.) 
  • The amount of brand or product visibility you expect to see
  • Any specific features of your product or service that you would like them to emphasize
  • The timeline to submit content for review or the date they need to post the content
  • The content rights you will have as the brand 
  • Any campaign-specific hashtags you would like them to include

Finished steps 1-6? 

Check out Influencer Marketing 102: How to Run an Influencer Marketing Program to keep that momentum going.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can start an influencer program by following these six steps: 

  1. Set your goals for partnering with influencers. 
  2. Define your target audience. 
  3. Determine which social platforms you’ll work on. 
  4. Find the right influencers. 
  5. Reach out to the influencers. 
  6. Provide campaign briefs to guide your partners.

There are three main ways brands pay influencers: 

  • Flat fee – This arrangement involves paying an influencer a set free for a specific number of posts.
  • Commission – Paying through commission means that your creators get a percentage of each sale they help you make. Brands may track this with custom discount codes or affiliate links. 
  • Product gifting – This involves sending creators free products as payment. 

Many brands use a combination of these methods to pay their creators. 

A successful influencer program relies on research. You need to research your target audience, the social platforms they spend their time on, and the creators you want to partner with. 

Working with data increases your chances of success with influencer marketing.

Influencer marketing can be very profitable. In fact, 34% of advertisers said that influencer marketing generates more ROI than other marketing activities. 

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