“Influencer marketing (also influence marketing) is a form of marketing in which focus is placed on specific key individuals (or types of individuals) rather than the target market as a whole. It identifies the individuals who have influence over potential buyers and orients marketing activities around these influencers.”
Put simply: it’s finding the people in your community with a strong social media presence and following and working with them in building a robust word-of-mouth campaign. Big, national brands have been doing it for years, and it’s proven to be quite successful at getting their message out organically.
Why is it effective? Consider your own buying habits: If you’re looking for a new restaurant to try, a specialized doctor, a recommendation for a hotel in a town you’ll be visiting, or the best new washing machine, where are you going to turn first? Your friends’ opinions on social media. These are the opinions you trust above and beyond those of anyone else because they’re authentic. Therein lies the beauty of influencers—their followers trust their opinions because they’ve cultivated and grown a community either through their blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter, or Instagram accounts.
Big, national brands have been working with influencers for years now, and there’s even a whole industry (from software platforms to influencer agencies) dedicated to it. But can a small, locally owned business tap into using influencers in their marketing efforts?
Running a small, local influencer campaign is quite simple if you plan it out and know what you’re looking to achieve. Here are a few ideas that you can use within your industry:
If you’re part of a nonprofit or involved in running a community-wide event or festival, you can tap into your local blogging and influencer community to help promote your initiatives. If you’re running a fundraising campaign, you can provide them with your own written stories, which is a great way to get exposure when you may not have a budget to pay them for his or her help—especially if it appeals to the influencer’s philanthropic side. I did a few influencer campaigns for our State’s zoo that were a great success and enjoyed by all involved.
If you’re hosting a community event, fair, or camp of some type, you can offer the blogger/influencer a place in the event in exchange for his/her review and post on his/her experience or VIP tickets to the event as well as tickets he/she can use to give to his/her followers. I’ve been successful at organizing these for new restaurants and galleries to help gain and spread awareness.
Retail shops are great for working with influencers, and many will do it in exchange for a store credit or gift cards. Some ideas for working with influencers in your store could range from private shopping event/parties (which will bring in not just the influencer, but his or her followers as well) to personal shopping experiences to VIP exclusive events or savings. One client I worked with wanted to target an audience that may not have been aware of the appeal of their clothing to that particular group. They ended up with delighted new clients and the clients now know what the boutique has to offer them!
Whether you’re a restaurant that is opening or an existing one launching a new menu or perhaps a new identity, tapping into the influencers and foodies in your area is a great way to get your message out to the community. Private dinners for just that group where you show them the ins and outs of the restaurant as well as the menu offerings is just one idea. Another idea is to invite them in with a friend (or more) for their own dining experience. You can offer gift certificates to them as giveaways to their followers as well as a thank you to them for their work. This is such an easy way to win new guests and introduce new menus.
Working with influencers is a trend that you’re going to see continuing to grow. People are naturally more inclined to listen to the opinion of a real person over the marketing message that’s been crafted at a corporate level.