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Influencer Marketing for Small Businesses

influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is a priority for brands in 2017. In 2016, influencers emerged as a powerhouse for brands looking to reach millennials in the personalized, authentic way that they desire. Celebrity endorsements have always been a tool for marketers with the right budget, but influencer marketing takes this concept to the next level. It combines star power with the more casual endorsement you get from word of mouth – social media influencers are typically much more connected to and familiar with their fans than A-list celebrities are. While some social media stars command big pay checks from the huge brands they work with, there are thousands of micro-influencers that are more easily accessible to small businesses with limited budgets.

Influencers with millions of followers aren’t right for every brand. Micro-influencers in specific industries are not only more affordable for smaller businesses, they’re more likely to reach the people who will become actual customers. Micro-influencers are often cheaper for businesses to work with, and may even do partnerships for free products or services. In exchange, they can offer direct, personal connections with consumers businesses may struggle to reach efficiently otherwise. Their reviews of products are much more authentic than major influencers with millions of followers that they definitely can’t connect with individually.

How to Find Micro-Influencers

You can find influencers who would be a great fit for your business in a variety of ways, ranging from free options to purchasing tools built for this purpose.

  • Start with your own followers: Take a look through your own fans on social media. For followers who have a few thousand followers of their own, and are already fans of your business, a partnership with your brand could be a natural choice for them.
  • Connect with local bloggers: Google is your friend here – search for popular local bloggers in your area. If their content is a fit, check out how they prefer to connect.
  • Hashtags: On Instagram and Twitter, browse popular hashtags related to your brand’s products. Chances are, some of the top tweets come from influencers in these topics.
  • Buy a tool to help: Buy a subscription to a service like Klear to get a more in-depth look at who holds influence in your industry.

 

What to Expect

When working with influencers, it’s important to pursue an authentic, mutually beneficial relationship. Treat influencers with respect, and they’ll be more open to working with you. Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Research how the influencer prefers to be contacted, and respect what types of partnerships they’re willing to do.
  • Do your due diligence and research the influencer’s history and past brand sponsorships. This can help avoid a crisis for your brand later.
  • Plan to build a relationship over time. Influencers may not be open to a partnership right away, even if you’re willing to pay. They need to get to know your business first, and understand if it works with their brand.
  • Make sure all posts from your influencer clearly state their relationship to your brand – transparency pays off with your audience and avoids legal issues.
  • Ideally, plan for a long-term relationship and not a one-off sponsorship.

What to Know About Instagram Stories

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The Controversy

Instagram’s unveiling of its “Story” feature caused some waves in the social media realm. Critics of the feature say Instagram is attempting to take over Snapchat’s specialty, a sentiment that was echoed by some Snapchat employees. Fans of the new tool believe that Instagram has improved upon Snapchat’s original story concept by making the feature more user-friendly. Snapchat and Instagram have a history, or rather, Instagram has a history of copying Snapchat. Mark Zuckerberg tried to buy Snapchat in 2013 for $3 billion—by informing Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel that Facebook was releasing an app identical to Snapchat in a few days. That app was Poke. Never heard of it? That’s because it failed. Snapchat said “no thanks” to Zuckerberg’s offer. Later in 2013, Instagram (owned by Facebook) launched the direct photo messaging feature, which is a close copy of Snapchat’s photo sharing concept. Why is Instagram copying Snapchat? Are they really just trying to improve their platform, or is this a way to knock Snapchat out of the game? You can decide that for yourself, see the video below for an in-depth breakdown of the Instagram vs Snapchat saga.

How Instagram Stories Work

Instagram users can post a story one of two ways, either by swiping to the left anywhere on the feed or by tapping the small plus sign in the left corner of their feed screen. Once the story is live, the viewers are determined by your profile’s privacy settings. If your Instagram profile is public then anyone can view your story. On private profiles, the viewers are restricted to those who follow your account. There is a way to hide your story from specific users if you want to be more selective. Instagram also has a section of its Help Page dedicated to Stories.

How Instagram Stories are Different

It’s worth noting that while Instagram Stories are different than Instagram videos and photos, they’re essentially identical to Snapchat Stories. Instagram stories function differently than Instagram videos. Stories disappear 24 hours after they have been posted (which is also the main comparison point between Instagram Stories and Snapchat Stories). Additionally, Instagram stories allow users to see who has viewed their video or picture. This is different than Instagram videos and photos, which only shows the number of likes and views, but not the specific users who viewed them.

So What?

In a world of constant updates, additions and platform restructuring, another social media change might be easy to overlook. However, it’s important not to do so. Regardless of the identical nature of Instagram and Snapchat stories, the Instagram’s new feature is likely to increase their appeal. An article by AdvertisingAge reports that the Instagram Story platform appeals more to brands because it allows for a more integrated strategy versus utilizing both Instagram and Snapchat platforms. Instagram is known for being brand-friendly and the addition of stories only made it more so. The story feature allows the sometimes faceless manager of the account to add a personal touch with their followers. The Instagram story is a new tool that can be utilized to strengthen brands and build connections.

How a Portland Company Put Instagram to Work

Poler

What’s your social media protocol at this point? The standard Facebook and Twitter with the occasional LinkedIn post? Is it productive or does it feel like it’s going out into the vacuum? With social media platforms, use and trends constantly shifting, standard doesn’t necessarily mean effective. The opportunities are endless when you’re willing to step away from the usual and try something creative. Take Poler, a Portland-based outdoor goods company, as an example.

Poler Stuff: Outdoor Gear

Started in November 2011, Poler Stuff began offering a modest collection of tents, backpacks and apparel via an e-commerce site. A departure from the super technical bend of most outdoor gear, Poler’s items are aimed at “travelers, couch surfers, regular surfers, skateboarders, snowboarders, bicyclists, parents, kids, car campers and anyone else looking for something that looks good, is a good value and is all about having fun on road trips and in the outdoors.” Eschewing ads or catalogs, they used creative photo essays to showcase their gear and more importantly, the Poler lifestyle. Grown entirely through word of mouth and social media, Poler has gone from those humble online beginnings to a flagship store in downtown Portland, a devoted following around the world, an ever-expanding line of offerings, and collaborations with companies like Stumptown and Nike that sell out in days.

Poler

A Social Media Star

Their Instagram presence is especially noteworthy. Early on, Poler established a few hashtags to promote their gear and the outdoor lifestyle. Using #campvibes (inspiring camping photos), #adventuremobile (interesting recreational vehicles), and #beneaththebrim (shots from below the brim of their signature trucker hat) to label Instagram posts, they soon created a unique situation. Not only were they sharing photos with these tags, but fans of the brand were consistently using the tags on their own photos as well. Poler began to cull and repost their favorite images from followers and were soon able to keep up a steady stream of posts featuring their gear in beautiful, exotic locations around the world. Fans are excited that their photo is selected to be shared with the Poler community at large, and the company is provided with free advertising. It’s a win-win. Currently boasting over 100,000 followers and at least 4,000 likes per post, Poler is getting consistent positive exposure and engagement without spending a dollar.

It’s a pretty inspiring model. How could you put your fans to work for you? Poler’s path may not work for everyone but it’s a good reminder that when it comes to planning your social media strategy, it can pay to think outside the box.