Keep It Local: Influencer Marketing for Small Businesses 

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Influencer Marketing Best Practices

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When you think of influencer marketing, you may think of celebrities endorsing products and brands with big name recognition and even bigger budgets. 

But in reality, this marketing technique is accessible to anyone, regardless of whether you’re running a big or small business or operating locally or on a national scale. 

Small, local businesses can (and do!) succeed with influencer marketing every day. Here’s an in-depth look at how influencer marketing for small businesses works. 

Why should local businesses partner with influencers? 

There are a ton of benefits for local businesses staking their claim in the creator economy, from building more brand awareness in their communities to earning more revenue. 

Stand out in your community. 

Whether you have a lot of competition or just don’t have a ton of brand awareness, creators can help introduce your brand to locals and showcase the benefits of doing business with you. 

Share your brand story. 

Creators are expert storytellers, and they can use these skills to highlight your business in a meaningful way. According to research, we are able to retain 70% of the information we receive through stories, but only 10% from data. Sharing your brand story can associate certain emotions with your company, boosting sentiment and sales. 

Boost your local SEO. 

Getting a top spot in Google Maps is a dream come true for any business, and so is snagging a coveted placement on the first page of Google search results. While there are over 200 factors that can affect your site’s rank, check out how influencers can impact some significant SEO quality signals: 

  • Backlinks: If several high-quality sites link to your brand’s website, Google will likely rank you higher since its algorithm looks at the links as a form of social proof. Partnering with local bloggers can help you earn some awesome links and generate more web traffic. 
  • Reviews: Businesses with a lot of positive reviews on Google are more likely to end up in the Map Pack (the three Google My Business listings that appear when you search for something nearby). Working with creators to fuel a review campaign can be a great way to get a ton of authentic and trustworthy ratings to boost your position. 

Why authenticity is key for small businesses working with influencers 

The most effective influencer partnerships rely on strong relationships and a love for the brand and the product or service. If your creators work with you just for the paycheck, their messaging will fall flat. 

Seek out creators who actively use your brand and talk about it online. They can become some of the best brand ambassadors because their followers can sense their genuine excitement. 

If you’re a relatively new company, send your products to local creators, and ask them to consider a partnership if they like the items. While this may cost a little more in the long run, the results will be well worth the upfront investment. 

How affordable is influencer marketing for small businesses?

Small businesses can absolutely afford to participate in influencer marketing. In fact, influencer marketing can be very economical if you know how to do it right. And with an average ROI of $6.50 for every dollar spent on influencers, it should definitely be a technique in your marketing toolkit. 

Beyond that, working with creators can help you save money in other areas of marketing. For example, if you negotiate for content usage rights with your influencers, you can repurpose their photos and videos in other marketing channels, like paid ads, emails, and your website. This can save money you might otherwise pay to a production team. 

Two coffee shop owners discussing influencer marketing for small business over a laptop

Tips for influencer marketing on a budget 

These tried and true tactics are essential for lowering the cost of running an influencer marketing campaign for your small business: 

  • Partner with local creators. The more followers a creator has, the more they’re likely to charge for a collaboration. And creators who have a lot of followers outside of your community won’t do you much good, anyway. Instead, look for people who have followings concentrated in your town or city. And don’t be afraid to partner with people with smaller followings as long as they tend to have strong engagement rates
  • Start with a small team of creators. If you’re running your first influencer marketing campaign, keep it small. Creators typically develop high-performing, authentic content when they have a relationship with the brand they’re promoting. Focus on building those strong connections from the start. Eventually, when you see success, you can expand your program. 
  • Gift products and experiences. Some smaller creators are more than happy to accept a free product or experience as payment. However, if you’re working with more prominent creators, you may need to offer monetary incentives as well.  
  • Free influencer marketing tools for small businesses 
  • Another great way to save money on an influencer marketing program is to take advantage of the wide range of free tools on the internet. Google Sheets offers an excellent (and free) way to track your creators, the content they produce, and the results you see from your program. 
  • GRIN also offers a suite of free tools that can help you analyze and choose the right creators, including: 
  • GRIN’s Web Extension: Instantly access metrics like engagement rate and average likes per comment for each creator’s profile you look at on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Pinterest. 
  • Fake Influencer Tool: Avoid partnering with creators whose audiences are mostly bots with the help of this tool that gives you a credibility score for a person’s social account. 
  • Influencer Comparison Tool: Stuck between two creators? Add their handles here to get a side-by-side comparison. 
  • And much more! 

What social platforms should local businesses use? 

The right social platforms really depend on which your ideal consumers use. If your target audience is people in their 50s or 60s, TikTok wouldn’t be the right place. And if you’re looking to capture the attention of Gen Z, you might want to skip Facebook. 

Define your target audience, then research the leading social media platforms to see where your audience likes to spend their time. 

And as a local business, you have a few more options than a national brand. For example, Nextdoor might not come to mind when you think of influencer marketing, but many people turn to their neighbors for recommendations for all sorts of products and services. If you can partner with trusted community members, you can endear more people to your brand with the help of Nextdoor. 

How to find local influencers 

Now comes the fun part—finding the perfect creators to partner with. Now that you know which social platforms you want to use in your influencer marketing campaign, open up the apps and start searching. 

Use hashtags to find local creators, whether they’re #HoustonProud or into #SacramentoStyle. Search location tags of local landmarks from which creators may share photos, too. Just be sure to avoid any tourists and non-local creators. 

You can also search for local bloggers by Googling “[city]-area bloggers.”

And if you’re looking to venture to a more niche platform, like Nextdoor, look for people who are active in the community and earn a lot of engagement on their posts. 

No matter where you look, though, you need to do some research. Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Do they fit your niche? 
  • Would they find value in your product or service? 
  • Does their aesthetic match your business? 
  • Do they have a strong engagement rate? 
  • Do they interact authentically with their followers? 

Additionally, consider looking for creators who are already talking about your brand online. If you can recruit genuine brand fans, you will immediately have some of the best spokespeople on your team. Plus, they may be more willing to work in exchange for free products if they truly love your brand. Search any branded hashtags you have to see what people are saying. 

How to reach out to influencers as a small business

The first thing to do once you find a creator you want to work with is check their bio, whether it’s on a social media platform or their blog. If they list an email there, use this to reach out. 

If they don’t have their email posted, see if the platform supports direct messaging. If it does, send them a quick message; if not, see if they have accounts on other social platforms that do support messaging. 

Tried all three, and still can’t find a way to contact them? It may be time to move on to other prospects on your list. 

Once you find an ideal way to send a message, it’s time to craft the perfect note. Here are a few tips: 

  • Keep it short and sweet. We’re all busy and don’t have time to read paragraphs of text. Keep your initial outreach to a maximum of four sentences.  
  • Personalize the message. Use the creator’s name, and compliment them on something you like about their content. 
  • Introduce your brand. Explain who you are and what you do. You can also share why you think they would be a great partner for your business. 
  • Add a CTA. Make it as easy as possible for the creator by giving them an action to complete to show their interest. It could be messaging back with a simple “I’m interested” or sharing their rates. 

And if the creator doesn’t respond right away, don’t be afraid to follow up. Send up to two more messages over a period of time so you can gauge interest and get on their radar. If they don’t respond after the third message, it’s best to move on and try someone else on your list. 

Key takeaway: Small businesses can benefit from influencer marketing. 

Working with local creators can help your business grow its brand awareness, content bank, and ROI and help guide people down the marketing funnel. So what are you waiting for? 

Are you ready to stake your claim in the creator economy? Discover more helpful tips and resources from the experts at GRIN. 

Updated: October 2022

Frequently Asked Questions

Influencer marketing does work for small businesses. Brands with small marketing budgets can reach out to small creators with high engagement rates to drive the most value for a fraction of the cost of a large influencer marketing campaign. 

Small businesses can find influencers to work with by searching social platforms and blogs for creators who match their aesthetics and values. After that, reach out through a direct message or an email to gauge interest in a partnership. 

We recommend looking for nano and micro influencers since they tend to have lower costs and higher engagement rates.

Local businesses can benefit greatly from partnering with local influencers to promote their brand and drive sales. Look for influencers whose followers are concentrated in your community to get the most value.

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Written by Sarah Conrad

Originally from San Antonio, Sarah studied advertising at the University of Houston and decided to stay in the city upon graduation. She is particularly interested in SEO for social media platforms and tracking the latest influencer content trends. When she's not putting pen to paper, she's baking, painting, or hanging out with her dog.