Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian and Kendall Jenner are leading influencers, but out of reach to most startups. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP Images)
Working with influencers has now become part of many consumer brands’ growth strategies, but this way of reaching consumers is still so new that there is plenty of room for error. While the Kardashian/Jenner clan is known for shifting product and dresses worn by Meghan Markle sell out in minutes, most brands, especially startups, cannot reach these mega stars. They are left with millions of influencers, dispersed across a multitude of channels, each naming their own price for promotion, often without much proof that their content actually drives sales. Brands are often running to keep up with changes in features and algorithms and end up wasting money. Even though today's digital channels are supposedly easy to track, U.S. department-store magnate John Wanakamer’s words still ring true, even if they were said in the 1800s, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.”
At Enty, a platform where consumers get on-demand feedback from professional stylists, we have worked with influencers across channels, using different content and payment methods. In general, when we get it right, the quality of consumers we get via influencers is higher – they tend to love our proposition more and spend more time and money on our platform, than those who come via paid digital marketing channels such as Facebook. However, getting it right is a process of trial and error, and much more difficult than simply putting up creative into the Facebook Advertiser tool and pumping in money.
For startups especially, growth through influencers can a better strategy, since Facebook and Google are expensive tools. But startups have to know how to work with influencers, otherwise their tiny marketing budgets will be wasted.
Engagement is more important than the number of followers
To get real results for your marketing campaign, whether it is sales or brand awareness, look at how an influencer’s followers interact with their posts, rather than at the headline follower number. If people are commenting on the posts that mention your brand, you can be certain that they are aware of it. In general, influencers with higher follower counts have fewer comments on their posts. Consumers are interested in the semi-famous person as eye candy, but do not take their product advice very seriously because it is no longer relevant to their everyday lives. Someone with 12,000 followers is usually still a person consumers can relate to, and are therefore more likely to consider their product recommendations.
The Yoke Network, an influencer marketing platform, recommends that companies work with as many nano-influencers as possible. Nano-influencers, those with 2,000 – 10,000 followers, are not often approached by brands, and can become happy and willing promoters simply in exchange for free use of your product.