Whether you love them or loathe them, influencers are here to stay. In 2022, platforms such as TikTok, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook are all expecting some increase in ad spend on their platforms, and the technology and electronics sector is driving much of that. The estimated overall spend on that sector is expected to increase by 11.5% in 2023, with many businesses using influencers to drive people to their products.
What Is an Influencer?
An influencer is anyone who can drive engagement with your product or service through social media via their following. As a result, there may be many influencers who may have an outsized impact on your buying and spending habits.
Of course, social media was originally envisaged as a way for people to connect with each other, typically friends and family. If you got a recommendation from a friend about a particular product and it helped you make a buying decision, you have been influenced, and that friend is an influencer.
Social media influencers simply do this on a much larger scale – influencers are expected to generate around $11.7 billion by the end of 2022. There are, of course, many people who want to break into this type of job, and you often hear about the more annoying ones. That’s partly why the term influencer often has negative connotations. Anyone can claim to be one, just as much as anyone can claim to be a marketing expert. The question is this: Do they have the experience or following to back that claim up?
Are Social Media Influencers Relevant to MSPs?
Most are not, but there are some who may be of interest. The age of positioning isn’t dead, after all, and the wrong influencer will completely miss your target market.
That’s one of the reasons why it’s difficult for businesses to often get influencer marketing right. Instead of choosing someone with a high follower count, businesses must decide what demographic follows that influencer and whether those marketing efforts are worth it.
The typical influencer following is aged between 16 and 24, and many of them are just entering the workforce. However, there are many influencers who have a much wider following. Some target the niche you need and the age demographics you want.
Determine What Goals to Achieve
The first step is to determine what goals you want to achieve. This is marketing 101, so we won’t explore it too much.
Decide whether you want to draw visitors to your website, get visitors to complete a specific call to action (such as downloading a white paper or booking a timeslot) or simply improve your own page’s footfall. Make sure that these actions are specific and measurable.
In most cases, you can use a UTM code (urchin tracker module) as part of any link, which allows you to see where traffic is coming from. This allows you to measure your goals.
Define Your Demographic
You know the sort of person who you deal with on a daily basis — you may even have built up a profile of that person. So use that to define what their viewing habits are and who they might listen to. With these extra steps and little research, you’ll create a versatile and useful marketing tool: a buyer persona.
To reach your target audience, don’t forget to include how they consume entertainment — is it typically through YouTube, or do they prefer Instagram? For many MSPs, their typical buyer personas will be older and those with full-time jobs. As a result, they might listen to select podcasts or perhaps watch YouTube more often and have a presence on LinkedIn.
These are the channels you’d want to explore first.
Define Your Influencer
Your influencer of choice will likely be defined by their audience demographic. Some marketers prefer to spread their net far and wide, reasoning that any engagement is positive engagement. More savvy marketers on a budget, however, look at how to best use their marketing budget.
The three Rs of influence are:
If you’re looking to create buzz around a software product or for telecoms, you don’t want to be looking at fashion influencers, for example. You’re more likely to need a software or tech influencer.
That’s where relevance comes in: Is it relevant to their typical market?
Reach is easier to define — how many relevant people can you reach through their follower base? In some cases, smaller may be better, as smaller influencers have higher engagement. It’s this engagement that can prove extremely valuable. It’s fairly obvious that an influencer with 15 million followers cannot ever engage with each follower on an individual basis. One with 15,000 has a much better chance of engaging with them and responding appropriately to questions.
Resonance is similar to relevance, but it’s subtly different. Resonance is whether it will appeal to the target audience. You might have an excellent product that’s highly relevant to an audience, but if the message or the product doesn’t meet certain criteria, it might simply be ignored. This could be the case if your accounting software is highly relevant to people who follow a thought leader in conservation but fails to quantify basic green standards.
Determine Genuine Influencers
There are, of course, a lot of scams out there. You’ll need to check:
- The amount of engagement they have vs. the number of followers
- Content quality
- Endorsement history
- Audience demographic vs. typical target demographic
An influencer with 20,000 followers who only manages to get a couple of comments per post may have paid for their followers or may not be sufficiently engaging to retain followers. Look for influencers who manage at least 1%+ engagement on their posts ((comments+likes)/followers). Anything above 3.5% is very good.
Content quality is debatable. At the very least, it must be relevant to the audience the influencer claims to be reaching. For software and B2B markets, it needs to be relevant to thought leaders and those able to make purchasing decisions.
Endorsement history is easy, but it’s the least relevant for many. Check who the influencer has worked with before (should be easy to search for everything that includes an advert). Consider that smaller influencers may not have worked with brands before, though.
Audience demographic is a major concern. If you’re looking to reach out to those who are decision-makers, an influencer whose audience is 18-24 may not be the best option.
Major red flags include influencers with irregular posting schedules, very high likes but very low comments (usually 500:1 ratios and higher) and very high follower counts compared to their number of posts.
Testing Influencer Marketing
You may wish to test how well an influencer works for your audience. Start following the influencer online, and share occasional posts by them with your followers. You may find that their posts perform well, or you may even get some of their followers following you as well.
Do this for a few influencers that you feel are of interest to your audience to create comparisons.
Like any marketing, you can reach out to an influencer via email, suggesting a collaboration. Be clear about what you have in mind, even in the subject line of the email. You can usually find their contact details in their profile. Be clear about who you are (if they don’t know already) and be open for a discussion. You’ll want to schedule a discussion about your goals and your marketing campaigns as they stand.
More established content creators and influencers may have a specific marketing person to handle these discussions.
Paying your influencers is crucial, but you’ll want to determine whether that influencer is within your budget. A simple post from a smaller influencer could be anywhere from $100 to $500, but larger ones with bigger reach will usually charge more.
B2B audiences are often small, but they have the potential to pay off big. So take that into consideration.
Some influencers work on a per-purchase basis. Consider using an offer code to track this.
Once you’ve identified your influencers, your marketing must meet legal requirements across your target markets.
There’s been a big backlash against influencers promoting products that they’ve been paid to promote, and it’s not always clear that there’s a financial link between the influencer and the product. Regulators around the world have stepped in to force influencers to disclose when something is an advert — which is critical, as around 61% of consumers are likely to trust a recommendation from a friend, family member or influencer. Only 38% are likely to trust a recommendation from a brand.
While laws are always changing, these are the regulations as of the time of writing.
France: Adverts must be clearly labeled as such, and the presence of #ad is not enough. As a result, they must indicate if they’ve been paid or compensated to promote a product within the text or orally if it’s a video or podcast as well.
Germany: The law is a little unclear, but there is a requirement for “adequate labeling.” To be safe, influencers should use “Anzeige” or “Werbung” at the beginning of any post or a clear statement at the beginning of any spoken content.
Italy: Here, the IAP sets the rules, requiring transparency of adverts. In general, any advert where payment is made, the influencer must put a clear statement at the beginning of the content that it’s advertising (advert, promoted by [brand] etc.) If the payment is the free use of a product, they must insert “product sent by [brand]” or an equivalent phrase. They must also insert “advertising” or “sponsored by [brand]” as one of the first three hashtags. The onus is on the brand being advertised to ensure the influencer complies with this.
Spain: The industry regulator is Autocontrol, which requires up-front labeling of all adverts, including influencer marketing. This means adverts must state that they’re advertisements up-front, and they must also be labeled as such in the hashtags. There must also be a way to complain about non-compliant adverts to the Autocontrol advertising panel.
Switzerland: The SLK enforces advertising laws, requiring clear statements about sponsorship or paid advertising. Like many countries, what counts as “clear” isn’t specifically outlined, but good practice is to note any paid advertising (whether monetary or otherwise) up front without the user having to click through on a “more” button.
UK: Influencer marketing is regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority, with adverts clearly labeled as such. There’s also a distinction between paid advertising and advertising where the product is a gift.
United States: The FTC regulates influencer marketing, requiring that influencers must reveal their relationships with brands within their posts. This includes those that have personal or work-related ties to the brand, such as employees. Disclosures must be made upfront and cannot require users to click “about me” or where someone has to expand a post by clicking “more.” In addition, viewers must have enough time to read the disclosure if it’s text on an image or in a video. A more comprehensive guide is available on the FTC website.
Like all laws, these are subject to change, so if you’re not sure about current local requirements for influencer marketing, please talk to a legal professional. And there are specific rules in most markets for age-restricted products and whether you can make comparisons or not.
Create Your Campaign
Once you’ve determined your influencer and what you can and cannot do, you need to create a campaign. This could involve:
- Event coverage
- Product review
- Video about specific features
- Giveaway (although be very careful about local giveaway requirements)
- Signal boosting
Event coverage: This is where you promote a specific event that’s aimed at marketing your product. You might consider how the influencer can encourage customers to participate in a tradeshow or a specific local event that you’re attending as a sponsor. The possibilities are surprisingly large.
Product review: Here you have to be a bit careful as product reviews can be a minefield. You need to provide the product or service, and the influencer has to provide their honest opinion on it, including the downsides. If only the good side of the product is covered, it can come across as inauthentic.
Video: This could be a use video or a demonstration of a specific use case. These can be tricky because again, they have to be carefully promoted to come off as authentic. As a result, you’ll need to collaborate with the influencer to showcase those features in their best light.
Giveaway: A giveaway is simply that: you send people products in exchange for a specific action, perhaps a like or subscribing to your channel. This could involve merchandise or it could be a free subscription. There are usually a lot of rules around giveaways that vary across countries, so make sure you review them carefully to ensure you’re compliant.
Signal boosting: This is often the promotion of a new product or service. It could also be for a charity associated with your company. Typically, it involves post sharing, and it’s usually the easiest way to start with influencer marketing.
All of these can be combined to create a cohesive campaign, and you can also use traditional advertising channels with them.
At this point, you’ve defined your metrics, got your influencer and created content around that influencer’s brand. It’s now time to set your plan in motion. Set specific delivery dates for your content, and monitor performance. Review your key metrics and see how the content is performing. You may wish to adjust your campaign if you find that a specific topic or campaign type works better than others — this is a normal part of marketing.
Influencer marketing has the potential to pay off big if it’s used right. For more tips on marketing, subscribe to our free magazine!