If you’re a business owner on social media, you’ve probably heard of influencer marketing.
You’ve also probably had the idea already that if done right, influencer marketing can help your business generate good brand awareness and exposure to your target audiences. Influencer marketing can also help boost revenues with influencer endorsements.
But which influencer do you work with?
With so many content creators out there, who do you choose?
How do you choose the best influencer for your brand?
Where do you find them?
How do you find the best influencer marketing platforms for your business?
This guide will answer all these questions and more.
We’ll start with the basics of who are considered influencers and what influencer marketing really is, then move on to more aspects of working with influencers and doing influencer marketing.
Dive in to find out more.
What Is An Influencer?
An influencer is a person who posts content on social media that is typically focused on a certain industry and has a voice that resonates with the target audience of that industry.
They have established their credibility within a certain niche in this industry, so social media users in this niche follow them and engage with their posts.
The influencer then uses their authority to connect with larger audiences in this niche on different social platforms. They have the ability to influence these users into becoming consumers of products that they use and recommend.
In effect, an influencer is one of the movers and shakers of social media. Sometimes, they are celebrities. Oftentimes, they are not. At least they started out as non-celebrities, but they later became famous for being influencers, so they became celebrities in their own right.
So far, the top ten overall influencers based on their total number of followers on Instagram, Facebook, and X (formerly Twitter) are:
- Cristiano Ronaldo, Portuguese soccer athlete, 886 million followers
- Selena Gomez, American actor and musician, 689 million followers
- Taylor Swift, American musician, 527 million followers
- Ariana Grande, American musician and actor, 508 million followers
- Justin Bieber, Canadian singer, 494 million followers
- Leo Messi, Argentinian soccer athlete, 492 million followers
- Kim Kardashian, American reality TV star, 450 million followers
- Dwayne Johnson, American wrestler and actor, 435 million
- Kylie Jenner, American reality TV star and businesswoman (Kim Kardashian’s stepsister), 399 million
- Katy Perry, American musician, 395 million
What Do You Really Mean By Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is a business collaboration between influencers and brands to promote the brands’ products and services. Since social media started, these partnerships have been going on, first informally but now more formally, through documented business agreements.
Influencer marketing is a form of social media marketing. It is a hybrid of both old and new forms of marketing: using the concept of celebrity endorsers from the old form and placing them into the social media content-driven marketing campaigns of the new form.
As of 2023, businesses make an average of $5.02 return on investment (ROI) for every dollar spent on influencer marketing. The top 13% of these businesses generate $20 or more ROI for every dollar spent. Investments in influencer marketing are set to hit $21.1 billion, up 29% from 2022’s $16.4 billion.
Influencer marketing, though, is not about quick results. Similar to social media marketing and content marketing, it takes time and a strategic, slow-and-steady approach.
Influencers spend time building their brand and cultivating their audience. They are protective of their reputation and their followers who trust them.
In the same manner, influencer marketing is about building your brand’s authority, credibility, and thought leadership in your industry. It’s not so much about selling your products and services at once as building trust among followers who would be loyal and engaged in partnership with the influencers you select.
Influencer marketing is essentially about marketing first to influencers so you will be able to reach their followers and subscribers. If they like you and see your brand as a good fit for their audience, and if they trust you, they might decide to partner with you.
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Why Choose Influencers As A Marketing Channel?
Choosing influencers as a marketing channel can let you promote your products and services on a very limited budget. If your business has just launched and you can’t yet afford to invest in paid channels, and especially if you have a young target market, influencer marketing is a good way to go.
Considering that 42.7% of internet users now use adblockers because 22.3% find the number of ads excessive, another 22.3% find them irrelevant, and 19.9% find them intrusive, not to mention that paid ads are expensive, influencer marketing is a less intrusive and cost-effective strategy to reach your target prospects. Most brands spend less than $4000 a month or $50,000 a year on influencer marketing.
According to HubSpot’s 2022 Marketing Industry Trends Report, influencer marketing is the most popular and effective trend with the highest ROI in generating authentic content for businesses, establishing social proof, and building brand awareness.
Influencer marketing has the second highest ROI of up to 7% among five marketing trends, following short-form video content (10% ROI), followed by social media and search engine optimization/SEO at 6% ROI each, and content marketing at 4% ROI.
Influencer marketing also helps you save money, especially when you partner with micro-influencers. Influencers are more trusted by family and friends, especially among Gen Zrs. They help establish long-term relationships with target audiences and inspire purchases among loyal and engaged followers.
Influencer marketing also boosts your search visibility since influencers allocate links back to your site on their content. Google considers backlinks to be one of its most important signals for search ranking.
Do People Really Trust Influencers?
Trust in influencers is growing, especially among young audiences. Millennials and Gen Zers who said they trust social media influencers grew from 51% in 2019 to 61% in 2023.
According to the 2023 The Influencer Report, half (51%) of the influencers Gen Zers listed as their favorite were considered unique, not only in posting beautiful or aspirational content, but also in being authentic, smart, and fun.
This trend may also be attributed to the fact that anybody can be an influencer. The main characteristics that define influencers in consumers’ minds are that they post entertaining content or share inspiration.
Almost three-quarters of Millennials and Gen Zers follow influencers on social media. They say social media is where they most often learn about new products that they’re interested in.
What Are The Different Types of Influencers?
Typically, influencers are categorized according to their number of followers. These are the ranges for the number of followers an influencer has to be classified as nano, micro, mid-tier, macro, or mega influencers:
- Nano influencers: 1,000 to 10,000 followers
- Micro influencers: 10,001 to 50,000 followers
- Mid-tier influencers: 50,001 to 250,000 followers
- Macro influencers: 250,001 to 1 million followers
- Mega influencers: More than 1 million followers
The larger a following an influencer has, the more they will charge for sponsored posts and endorsements.
Although they have a smaller reach, choosing nano-influencers for influencer marketing is now a growing trend. Nano-influencers are seen as more authentic by their followers, and they excel with their high engagement rates. They are also more cost-effective and flexible to work with.
If your brand has a hyper-focused and young target market and a very limited marketing budget, nano-influencers are the best types of influencers to work with.
How Do I Choose The Best Influencer For My Brand?
There are nine basic steps to ensure you choose the best influencer for your brand:
1. Understand your target audience.
Before you start searching for influencers to best represent your brand, you have to know who you want to reach.
Create buying personas for your target audience. Include the demographic (age, sex, location, education, race, income, etc.) as well as the psychographic (social status, attitudes, opinions, interests, aspirations, online behavior, etc.) characteristics of your target customer.
This will help you narrow down your search for influencers to those that have followers and subscribers with these characteristics.
2. Ensure the influencer is relevant to your target audience.
Analyze an influencer’s pattern of content to find out if they would be interesting to and resonate with your target customer, given the buying personas you’ve created.
Put yourself in your target audience’s shoes. Would this influencer and their posts gain your attention, interest, and following, too?
Check a sampling of their followers’ and subscribers’ profiles. Do they reflect similar profiles to what your target audience would have, too?
3. Choose your niche or desired reach.
A niche is a specific segment of consumers who share certain characteristics with one another. They are a different, smaller market from a mass market, but they are more likely to engage and purchase.
Choosing your niche typically involves identifying the unserved or underserved segment of consumers in your industry that competitors have largely ignored or have not served well.
If fashionistas are the mass market, sustainable fashion aficionados are a niche market. If athletes are the mass market, long-distance runners are a niche market. If food lovers are in the mass market, vegetarians are in a niche market.
Research the influencers who have followers and subscribers in your niche. If you want deeper engagement to build relationships with a small but active and loyal number of consumers, choose nano-influencers and micro-influencers. If you want to reach as many people as possible, choose mid-tier and above influencers.
4. Check their followers and engagement rates.
The engagement rate is a metric that measures how often an influencer’s followers or subscribers engage with their content. This is typically reflected in their number of views, likes, comments, and shares, which are part of their audience insights.
An engagement rate between 1% to 5% is good enough.
Engagement rates don’t necessarily increase when an influencer has more followers. In fact, it’s more difficult to engage more people than less. Smaller influencers actually have higher engagement rates than larger ones. There is always a tradeoff between potential reach and actual engagement.
Engagement rates are a key metric because they indicate how many people are paying attention to and interacting with an influencer and, ultimately, your brand if you partner with that influencer. Engagement rates help you determine the likelihood of prospects’ trust, loyalty, and eventual purchase of your products and services.
An influencer who has low engagement rates means that fewer people are interacting with their content. It follows that if you partner with them, you will have fewer people to “influence.”
5. Make sure their content aligns with your brand.
Shortlist influencers whose content aligns with your own brand. The influencer you eventually choose to partner with will represent your brand. Make sure their brand reputation and the content they post are what you’d want your brand to be associated with.
6. Check how much the influencer charges.
From your shortlist of influencers, reach out to each of them and ask for their rates. They will usually have their contact details in their bios, with links to their management companies if they have one.
If they don’t have visible contact details, direct message them. But it is best to send them a professional email with information on your business, details of your marketing campaign, what you’re aiming to achieve with your campaign, a timeline for the posts you need, and your budget. Those interested will respond with their rates.
For an idea of the rates influencers charge, Instagram influencers’ average rates per post are in the ranges of:
- Nano influencers, $10 to $100
- Micro influencers, $100 to $500
- Mid-tier influencers, $500 to $5,000
- Macro influencers, $5,000 to $10,000
- Mega influencers, $10,000 and above
7. Choose the right platform.
Each influencer marketing platform offers different features and benefits. You have to be clear about what you want your influencer marketing campaign to do, then find the platform with features and benefits that best support your campaign objectives.
Do you want your campaign to go viral? Does your marketing campaign include an “always-on” ad? Do you want potential customers to get redirected to your website?
Depending on your target audience, desired reach, and other objectives, you may want to implement a combination of social media campaigns to maximize your brand visibility among your target audiences.
8. Watch out for these red flags.
Before deciding on a partnership with an influencer, practice due diligence by looking into their background, especially if there have been any controversies associated with them.
Also, look into whether they always disclose ads and sponsorships. It’s against the law to post undisclosed ads and sponsorships. You don’t want to partner with influencers who violate laws.
Some other red flags for influencers to avoid:
- Unusually low engagement rates in proportion to the number of followers or subscribers they have (which can indicate that they may be buying followers)
- Oddly high follower growth rate (again, they may be buying followers)
- Unusual number of bots in comments (identified by the number of spam comments, which also indicate that they may be buying followers)
- They use filters or alteration editing on sponsored posts (potentially misrepresenting the products they are selling and misleading customers)
- Inconsistent and unclear communication about their terms of engagement
- Increasing rates or changing the terms of your arrangement out of the blue (you will, of course, only know this once you’ve engaged them, so it’s best to avoid this by paying attention to the other red flags above first)
9. Craft a strong outreach message.
From your shortlist of influencers, create strong outreach messages personalized to each of them to make them want to work with you.
Market to them first. You want them to represent you because they also believe in your brand and your product.
An important outreach is interacting with their posts yourself through your business’ social media account. This includes liking and commenting on their posts with thoughtful, relevant comments. This shows them that you put effort into getting to know them better by engaging with them first before you even formally reach out.
In your formal outreach, aside from presenting your brand, your marketing campaign objectives, and your budget, make sure you elaborate on how your partnership can benefit them and their brand.
It is best to also send free marketing material to each influencer so they have more information to consider in deciding whether they want to work with your brand.
An influencer who is selective with their endorsements and only promotes products they actually use and enjoy will appear more trustworthy to their audience, which would also benefit your brand.
How Does An Influencer Marketing Platform Work?
An influencer marketing platform helps you find and connect with influencers who are relevant to your brand, manage communications with them, drive sales through promo codes and affiliate links, and monitor analytics to measure the ROI of your influencer marketing campaigns.
Essentially, this is how influencer marketing platforms work:
1. Your influencer marketing success depends on how your campaigns achieve your objectives, such as product awareness, increased traffic, or conversions and sales. So, define your objectives clearly, with your targeted customers identified.
2. The influencer marketing platform then identifies those influencers who have your targeted customers as their audience and subscribers.
3. The influencers you choose then create online conversations around your brand to reach a more significant market segment and help you achieve your influencer marketing objectives.
Influencer marketing platforms are automated software using multiple filters, such as demographics, interests, and audience, so you can quickly evaluate the right social media influencer for your brand. These filters also let you detect suspicious activities and spot fake followers.
Working on artificial intelligence (AI) technology and machine learning, influencer marketing platforms also help you monitor the real-time posts of your selected influencers and efficiently manage the influencer payment process and product gifting. They quantify the individual and aggregated performance of influencers by calculating impressions, clicks, shares, reactions, referrals, direct sales, and other relevant metrics.
Influencer marketing platforms are SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms that streamline all of your influencer marketing campaigns. They provide services from access to the database of influencers across different social media platforms to calculating their reach and engagement. They enable small and large businesses to save time searching for relevant influencers and reduce other overhead costs in managing their influencer marketing campaigns.
What Is The First Influencer Marketing Platform?
The first influencer marketing platform in the world is PayPerPost, which was launched in 2006 by BlogStar Network’s Founder and CEO, Ted Murphy.
BlogStar Network started the idea by manually collecting the email addresses of bloggers into a database, then sending email blasts to these bloggers and individually negotiating with each blogger based on their responses.
Murphy got the idea to do this from his observation that a small but growing class of independent creators was beginning to have a remarkably strong influence on public perception. At that time, Murphy founded an interactive agency that practiced what they called “eSeeding.” Basically, this involved having Murphy’s eSeeding team teach message board moderators and MySpace celebrities and asking them to share brand content in exchange for a gift card or promo code.
In 2005, Murphy created a viral and award-winning campaign that helped launch the BlogStar Network. However, BlogStar Network’s very manual process could not help it scale. Murphy knew he needed to employ technology to scale marketing using influential creators.
In 2006, PayPerPost was launched. It was created by engineers as an automated self-service marketplace for marketers and bloggers to transact with each other. It was the first marketplace to pay bloggers to create content for brands. At that time, most blogs had no advertising. YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter have not introduced monetization models yet.
This was the beginning of influencer marketing platforms as we know them now.
Today, there are plenty of influencer marketing platforms.
In the last five years alone, 1,360 influencer marketing-focused platforms and agencies have entered the market. In 2016, the influencer marketing industry was only worth $1.7 billion. By the end of 2023, it’s expected to grow exponentially to $21.2 billion, indicating the influencer marketing industry’s robust health and prospects.
Which Platform Is Used Most Commonly By Influencers?
Instagram is the biggest influencer marketing platform, with 67% of the top 50 social media influencers in it. Half a million influencers are active on Instagram. There are around 20,000 to 40,000 influencers with more than a million followers on Instagram.
The average engagement rate on Instagram is 2%. Around 68% of marketers use Instagram for influencer marketing, with 18% saying Instagram offers the best ROI for influencer marketing. The Instagram influencer market size will be $2.3 billion in 2022.
YouTube comes second with $948 million in influencer marketing spending. There are 3,000 to 23,000 influencers with more than a million subscribers on YouTube, with an estimated 1.5 million influencers.
The average engagement rate on YouTube is 4%. Around 36% of marketers use YouTube for their influencer campaigns, with 47% of marketers expected to use YouTube for influencer marketing by 2025. YouTube influencers comprise 30% of its top 1,000 channels.
TikTok comes third with $774.8 million in influencer marketing spending. There are around 50,000 influencers on TikTok, with an average number of 1,000 followers.
TikTok influencers with over one million followers have an average engagement rate of 14%. The majority of TikTok influencers have around 50,000 to 100,000 followers. Around 42% of marketers use TikTok for their influencer campaigns, and an estimated 55% of marketers are expected to use TikTok as part of their influencer marketing campaigns by 2025.
How Do I Choose An Influencer Marketing Platform?
There are these six key criteria for choosing an influencer marketing platform that best fits your brand:
1. Reliable and authentic influencers
Check if the platform you’re considering has a database of authentic influencers who have the credibility and expertise that match your brand’s voice. Check also if these influencers have authentic target audiences that overlap with your ideal customer persona.
Influencer authenticity is about the extent to which an influencer’s content and persona align with their real-life personality, beliefs, and values. Influencer authenticity builds trust and credibility with the audience. When people perceive an influencer to be authentic, they are more likely to engage with their content and see them as a dependable source of information.
Legitimately authentic influencers will have:
- An organic and consistent growth of followers over time
- High and consistent engagement rates
- Original, high-quality content showcasing their personality and expertise
- Good reputation and positive reviews from previous collaborations and clients
- Have a media kit and analytics that provide detailed information about their audience, reach, performance, and rates.
2. Social media channels covered
What social media channel is the platform you’re considering covering? Each social media channel targets a different type of audience. It’s important that if your target audience is mostly on Facebook, then the influencer marketing platform you’re considering should also cover the Facebook audience in its database.
The best influencer marketing platforms cover all social media channels, especially the top ones, such as Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, and X (formerly Twitter). This enables you to manage your influencer marketing campaigns more smoothly from a single platform.
3. Brands who’ve used the platform’s services
Find out which other companies use the same platform you’re considering. Read case studies and reviews to determine how that platform has helped other brands and what the features and benefits they liked and disliked about it are. Assess whether these are the same outcomes your brand needs to fulfill your influencer marketing campaign objectives.
4. Platform features
Several platforms offer distinctive features such as integration with eCommerce stores, tracking competitor campaigns, content discovery tools, the ability to run multiple campaigns simultaneously, and more.
Determine whether your campaign really needs those features or not, and shortlist the platforms with features that best fit your influencer marketing campaign needs.
5. Platform metrics
What metrics does the platform you’re considering use to measure influencer performance and campaign ROI? Review the quantity and quality of the platform’s data, such as impressions, clicks, and shares.
They should have key influencer marketing metrics, such as those for:
- Audience growth
- Brand awareness
- Click-through rate
- Conversion rate
- Engagement rate
- Follower count
- Follower growth
- Follower growth rate
- Referral traffic
- Return on investment (ROI)
Check also if you can create customized discount codes to track your sales.
6. Easy to use
The platform you eventually choose and use must be easy to understand and operate, or you will spend more time just figuring out how to use it before you can begin running a campaign. In business, as in life, time is gold as it is a non-renewable resource.
Check out our recommended list of 24 best influencer marketing platforms for 2024 that fit these criteria.
The Future Of Influencer Marketing Platforms
The global Influencer Marketing Platform market size is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31.32%, increasing from $13,577.06 million in 2022 to $69,643.93 million by 2028.
The leading key players identified in the Influencer Marketing Platform Market 2023 report are:
- Social Beat
The most widely used downstream fields of the Influencer Marketing Platform market are:
- Search and discovery
- Campaign management
- Influencer relationship management
- Analytics and Reporting
The report also points to key areas of industry development:
- New collaborations
- Product launches
With these robust prospects for influencer marketing platforms, it can only mean that influencer marketing is positioned to grow as vigorously as well in the next decade. In fact, experts predict that influencer marketing is the next big digital growth strategy.
Influencer Marketing Platforms’ Prospects: Implications For Business
What these dynamic growth prospects for influencer marketing platforms, as well as influencer marketing, mean for your business is essentially two-fold: the growing culture of direct marketing online, the rise of over-the-top (OTT) platforms, and even more social media consumption in the near future.
Direct marketing online and influencer marketing
Several trends converge to make the culture of direct marketing online expand and flourish: increasing demand for content-based marketing and live interactive video sessions, which is also due to the explosive rise in social media users because of the boom in the use of mobile devices (smartphones, e-readers, camera phones, ultra-mobile PCs, etc.) worldwide and the increasing penetration of high-speed internet.
This means that social commerce and authentic influencer marketing will become key marketing strategies driving business growth.
Direct marketing requires more time, money, and personal attention. To save on these resources, brands turn to influencers, increasing the demand for influencer marketing platforms.
With the increased integration of advanced technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data, data analytics, and machine learning, influencer marketing and influencer marketing platforms are here to stay and lead the way.
OTT platforms and social media consumption
OTT platforms use technology that delivers streamed content over the internet. Where before, consumers would take out cable subscriptions from their cable TV providers who supply the programming availability, today, internet users simply sign up to OTT platforms and access their content over the internet.
This caters to the increasing demand for content-based marketing and live video sessions from vigorous social media consumption.
The most known and availed of OTT service is video streaming from OTT providers such as Amazon Prime, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube, and audio streaming from Spotify. In the internet messaging space, popular OTT providers are Slack, Signal, Telegram, and WhatsApp.
The implications of this for business are OTT marketing and advertising as key marketing strategies, which intersect with influencer marketing.
In 2020, when Amazon Prime Studios promoted a romantic drama film, Chemical Hearts, it partnered with TikTok star influencers Chris Olsen and Ian Paget, who created content referencing the film.
Netflix used influencer marketing effectively, too, when it promoted Blood and Water, which became a number-one series in 30 countries. Since the film had no A-list Hollywood celebrities starring in it, Netflix hired an agency for an influencer-led approach to boost authentic engagement and build anticipation for the series.
Similarly, Disney+ launched an influencer campaign to launch Frozen II in the United Kingdom. It worked with parenting influencers to create content for Instagram several days before the launch to promote its app and increase sign-ups to its online streaming service.
Tidal Waves Of The Future
With all these to look forward to, it’s now strongly advisable for any business that wants to grow and scale by riding the crest of these tidal waves of the future.
Businesses can now seize the opportunities that influencer marketing platforms provide.
With influencer marketing platforms today, it’s easier for businesses to find the right influencers for their brand, craft authentic collaborations with them in developing compelling content, track and measure campaign performance, and nurture long-term relationships with both influencers and audiences.