3 Ways to Start an Influencer Marketing Program

April 26, 2023 // Public Relations

In recent years, influencer marketing has become one of the most effective marketing strategies for businesses of all sizes. Simply put, influencer marketing involves working with individuals who have a large following on social media to promote products or services. These individuals, known as influencers, can help businesses reach a wider audience, build brand awareness, drive sales and foster long-term relationships with customers.

The benefits of influencer marketing are undeniable. But the concept of influencer marketing can feel intimidating, especially for companies that have never been in this space. It can seem risky, hard and expensive. And to be honest, it can be. But it’s also impactful, trackable and necessary if a brand is looking to evolve and, frankly, stay current at all.

Successful Influencer Marketing: What Does it Take?

Successful influencer marketing involves more than just finding an influencer with a large following and paying them to promote your brand. It takes time to build long-term partnerships based on trust and authenticity. It also requires products and budget resources to compensate influencers for their time and effort to create quality content that resonates with their audience. Moreover, it involves the willingness to relinquish control and allow influencers to create content in their own style and voice.

By investing time, products, budget and trust in building partnerships with the right influencers, businesses can create sustainable marketing campaigns that build brand awareness, loyalty and credibility over time.

So, is influencer marketing worth the investment? You bet it is.

Diving In: 3 Ways to Get Started

Starting an influencer marketing program can be tricky because it involves facing the unknown. But once you overcome those initial fears and get the ball rolling, you’ll be motivated to continue. If you’re not ready to launch into a full-on influencer program (like Toro), here are some practical ways to ease into it.

1. Go down a rabbit hole and explore.

It’s important to explore different social media channels and see who’s using your products or competitive products, as well as what type of influencer content is being created in your space. Here’s why:

  • By looking at who’s using your products or similar products, you can identify potential influencers who have already expressed an interest in your industry.
  • By analyzing the type of content that influencers are creating in your space, you can gain insights into what types of content your target audience is interested in and create more effective influencer campaigns that resonate with your audience.
  • Social media moves fast, and what’s popular today may not be popular tomorrow. By keeping an eye on what influencers are creating in your market, you can stay on top of the latest trends and adjust your influencer marketing strategy accordingly.
  • By monitoring the content being created by influencers promoting competitive products, you can gain insights into what’s working well for your competitors and switch up your own strategy as needed.

At PM, we recommend starting a conversation with a marketing partner who knows the ins and outs of influencer marketing and can use deep experience and valuable tools like CreatorIQ to help you identify, assess and explore opportunities.

2. Leverage your existing PR efforts and use trade shows for influencer relationship building.

The long-term, relationship-building fundamentals of media relations and influencer relations are similar — and creating lasting relationships with influencers the same way you do with editors usually yields the same positive results.

Trade shows are industry gathering spots and offer excellent ways to network. So, if you’re meeting with media members to showcase your latest offerings, you can connect with influencers who attend trade shows as well, feeling them out to see if what’s good for them is good for you before any commitment is made. Here are some tips:

  • Before attending the trade show, research the influencers scheduled to attend. Look for influencers in your industry who may be interested in your products.
  • Reach out to the influencers you are interested in meeting before the event and introduce yourself. Let them know you’ll be attending the trade show and ask if they would meet with you for a quick chat.
  • Attend relevant sessions at which influencers are speaking. Afterward, introduce yourself. Be genuine and interested in their work. Don’t just pitch your business; try to build a relationship with them.
  • After the trade show, follow up with the influencers you met. Thank them for meeting with you and offer to send them more information about your business.

Most importantly, don’t be intimidated! Many influencers are just as eager to work with you as you are to work with them. And remember, building relationships takes time and effort. Don’t expect to secure an influencer partnership immediately. Take the time to build genuine relationships with the influencers and establish trust, and you’ll create a successful influencer marketing program for your business.

3. Start small, test and learn.

Starting with a few low-profile influencers, trying a temporary arrangement like a seasonal product loan, piloting an influencer-adjacent program or making a modest influencer network buy can be smart strategies to consider for several reasons.

  • Working with a few low-profile influencers can be a great option for lower-cost influencer marketing programs because these influencers may be more willing to work with smaller budgets and may be more open to forming long-term partnerships. And while low-profile influencers may have smaller audiences, they may also have a more engaged and loyal following, which can result in better conversion rates for your brand. The influencers who have 500,000 followers can come with a hefty price tag, while the influencers with fewer followers require much less and still let you reap the benefits of their dedicated following.
  • Trying a temporary arrangement like a seasonal product loan allows you to test the waters with an influencer without committing to a long-term partnership or significant financial investment. You can work with an influencer for a shorter period, such as during a product launch or seasonal campaign. This can be especially useful if you are unsure about the effectiveness of influencer marketing for your brand or if you are working with a limited budget.
  • Media buys on influencer channels are an example of an influencer-adjacent program. This approach involves paying to have your ads placed on an influencer’s social media or content platform, and can include sponsored posts on Instagram or Facebook, pre-roll ads on YouTube videos or banner ads on an influencer’s website. These types of media buys let you leverage the influencer’s existing audience and reach many potential customers — and are effective if you don’t have the resources to run your own influencer marketing campaigns, as they allow you to piggyback on the influencer’s existing reach.
  • A modest influencer network buy is a strategy where you purchase a small or moderate number of influencer posts or content from a platform. Often used by companies with tighter budgets who are looking for a cost-effective approach, it involves working with around 10 – 20 mid-tier influencers with moderate followings in a specific industry. While it may not have the same reach as a larger-scale campaign, it can still be effective for you to connect with your target audience and generate awareness and engagement.

In our experience, these tactics have proven to be a great fit for companies seeking relatively lower-cost, lower-pressure strategies all around. Starting small allows you to test and learn without making a significant investment up front. You can try out different strategies and see what works before committing to larger influencer partnerships or campaigns.

Let’s do this.

Looking to get started in influencer marketing? Reach out to us today and we’ll be here to guide you through it, every step of the way.

This article was published before January 2024 and does not reflect the consolidation of Performance Marketing, Vector Haus, and Blue Traffic into Anthologic.