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Guide to Influencer Marketing for Ecommerce

13 min

Influencer marketing has earned its place as a key marketing channel for ecommerce brands due to its impressive return on investment, high influencer engagement rates, and relatively inexpensive cost of producing quality content.

In this article, I will share with you the best practices for working with influencers on Instagram.

The described approach will help you look at influencer marketing as a systematic and predictable channel for attracting customers.

You’ll also be able to confidently launch your own influencer marketing campaign, no matter if you’re trying to build brand awareness or increase sales in your ecommerce.

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is a type of social media marketing that uses endorsements and product mentions from influencers – individuals who have a dedicated social following and can affect the purchasing decisions of others because of their authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with others’ audience.

Influencer marketing works because of the high amount of trust that social influencers have built up with their social media followers and fans.

Example of an influencer marketing campaign (paid partnership) on Instagram.
Source: Instagram

Don’t know if you should go with influencer marketing or affiliate marketing? Read our guide!

Why bother with influencer marketing?

Brands can achieve their goals with influencer marketing by leveraging the credibility of influencers through sponsored collaboration.

Many ecommerce companies have launched their brands with great success by partnering with influencers, just like these familiar names: Glossier, Naked Juice, and Audible. 

89% of marketers say ROI from influencer marketing is comparable to or better than other marketing channels, and 63% of marketers intended to increase their influencer marketing budget in 2021.

That said, with the right influencer marketing strategy, you can achieve:

  • Increase in brand awareness
  • Increase in sales
  • Lead growth
  • Follower count growth
  • Customer base growth
  • Ability to enter new markets

With the foundations covered, let’s get to how to part and learn how you can find the right influencers for your first influencer marketing campaign.

There are many more reasons to invest in a reliable influencer marketing campaign – we discuss the most prominent ones on Operation: Automation – our one and only marketing podcast!

How to find the right influencers for your influencer marketing campaign in 5 steps

How to find the right influencers for your ecommerce brand on social media.

1. Define your influencer marketing campaign goals and strategy

The most common goals are:

  • Increased brand awareness and recognition
  • Lead generation and sales
  • Grow social presence
  • Collaborative content creation

If you want more people to learn about your new product (goal: brand awareness), don’t try to get sales right away. When we are interested in coverage, we can give more freedom to the influencer. It’s the creator’s job to figure out which content hits the audience better.

If your goal is sales or subscribers, then you’ll have to prepare a landing page or your Instagram account so that users can easily buy from you or opt into your campaign.

Depending on the goal of your campaign, you’ll need to use a different set of metrics to measure its effectiveness.

For example, if you’re after brand awareness you’ll be better off by focusing on the engagement your campaign generates. And if you’re after sales, you’ll want to look at how many people converted using your influencer’s discount code.

In terms of strategies. We’ve noticed three influencer marketing strategies that deliver the best results for online brands:

  • Product seeding. The strategy when you send your product to influencers for review, as a gift, or for a fraction of the cost.
  • Discount codes and affiliate links. The strategy when you track purchases made on the recommendation of an influencer using the Influencer’s personal affiliate code. The influencer makes money from every sale he or she recommends.
  • Paid collaboration. The strategy when you pay for the placement of an ad post in the influencer’s feed.

2. Define your target audience

Define your target audience.

It seems obvious, but sometimes we do not do the most obvious things and because of this, we get the wrong results.

Define your target audience as much as possible.

If your ecommerce brand has a customer avatar, perfect.

The more you know about your prospect, the easier it will be for you to run an effective influencer marketing campaign.

Describe the age, gender, interests, country of residence of your target audience.

3. Define your ideal influencer portrait

Create an influencer's portrait.

Who could be your ideal influencer?

Describe his or her gender, age, type of activity.

Determine the number of influencers and their sizes.

Based on your budget, roughly estimate the number of influencers you will need for your campaign and their size.

Influencers by tiers

We break down influencers into five main influencer tiers by the number of Instagram followers.

Example of an Instagram mega-influencer.
Instagram mega-influencer: Charlidamelio
Mega-influencers & Celebrities (over 1M followers)

They often have a very mixed audience with various topics of interest. Their relationships with them is more distant compared to other groups of influencers. They have the biggest reach but the lowest trust.

Example of an Instagram macro-influencer.
Instagram macro-influencer: Zacklugo
Macro-influencers (100K – 1M followers)

They are famous in a local community, you can think of them as a “mini-celebrity.” Their content is usually high-quality and is comprised of a certain passion or topic.

Example of an Instagram micro-influencer.
Instagram micro-influencer: Susiejtodd
Micro (5K-20K followers) and Mid-tier influencers (20K-100K followers)

They have a more niche audience that is highly engaged with the deeper connection. Micro-influencers are present in almost any sector: health and fitness, food, entrepreneurship, fashion, and beauty to name just a few prominent categories.

Example of an Instagram nano-influencer.
Instagram nano-influencer: k_w_y_n_beauty
Nano-influencers (1K-5K followers)

They are regular consumers who are passionate and willing to share but have little influence.

In the table below, you can see the actual estimated price, engagement rate, likes, and comments for different tiers.

Influencer tiers - price, average engagement rate, average likes, average comments, and reach.

Nano and Micro-influencers have higher engagement rates, lower prices, and reach.

Mega influencers have a lower engagement rate but higher price and reach.

We advise you to start your campaigns with Nano and Micro-influencers to test the message and outcomes.

Discount Strategy Quick Cheat Sheet

Bonus guide

Not sure when and what kind of discounts you should offer to your customers? Plan a perfect discount strategy for your store with our easy guide!

Download guide

4. Find Influencers

The easiest and most effective way to find influencers for your campaign is to use dedicated services like HypeAuditor.

There you can search by keywords, characteristics of your target audience, or category of influencers.

Using these tools can significantly reduce the time it takes to search for influencers and ensures you’ll find the best quality candidates for your campaigns.

If you don’t have access to such services right now, then you can search for influencers by searching for hashtags on Instagram, use your existing base of engaged customers, search for influencers using Google, or use specialized platforms where they offer their services.

Social followers growth for the last 12 months chart.

Pro tip: Don’t look at the number of subscribers as a static figure. Influencers who are growing rapidly are preferred. Look at the dynamics of recruiting subscribers. Avoid negative influencers.

5. Choose the best influencers from your shortlist

Once you have a list of pre-selected influencers, you need to check their accounts more thoroughly.

On average, you need to review 16 pre-selected accounts to approve one influencer for a campaign.

What to look for when choosing an influencer?

  • Engagement rate
  • Comments rate
  • Influencer content quality
  • Audience quality

You should decide if influencer content overall aligns with your brand.

Keep in mind that a perfect influencer should have a genuine need or connection with the product for authenticity.

Choose the best candidates from your shortlist.

Look at the content, scroll down the feed, subjectively see how the influencer aligns with your ecommerce brand values.

Look at the graph of the followers growth, if you see sharp spikes there, after which there is an outflow of subscribers, then most likely this is either the purchase of followers or participation in a giveaway. In any case, you should be more careful about such influencers.

As a rule, after a giveaway, there is a significant churn of subscribers (from 20% of subscribers who came during the giveaway).

Make sure that the influencer posts regularly. If the influencer didn’t post for more than 30 days, then this can reduce the reach and engagement rate of their new posts.

Make sure the influencer doesn’t advertise too often. If the influencer has more than 50% of the content that is advertising in his feed, then it is better to avoid such influencers.

Engagement rate tells you what kind of relationship influencers have with their audience. 

Comments are critical.

Influencers who respond to their audience have a stronger bond with their followers. Look for influencers with a lot of authentic comments who communicate with their audience.

Reach out to the influencer

It is better to communicate with a social media influencer using your business email address.

Introduce yourself – tell about your brand, why you are interested in an influencer, and why do you think the influencer is right for promoting your brand.

Remember, the influencers get a lot of emails. So don’t get discouraged right away.

Describe in detail what you want from the influencer. If you have no idea about the cost, then ask the influencer for the cost.

It’s important to discuss who makes the content and what the guidelines are. If the influencer’s meant to make the content, do they need to follow a strict script or can they be creative?

You’ll also want to discuss how and when is the payment made and how you can use influencer content.

For a solid influencer contract, keep the following in mind:

  • Influencer Creativity – Give influencers creative freedom and refrain from controlling their process and voice too much. By stifling influencers, sponsored content won’t resonate with their audience. Trust what has worked for them in the past, and consider them an extension of your brand.
  • Ownership Clause – Don’t reshare or repurpose influencer-generated content without seeking their permission first. At the outset of a campaign, brands should define the terms of the partnership and explicitly state that they intend to reuse the influencer’s content for marketing purposes. Be sure also to specify the duration of content ownership.
  • Brand Messaging Directives – Inform creators of the campaign’s main goal and the message you want them to convey. This helps eliminate the back-and-forth of disorganized influencer campaigns that don’t have predefined objectives, and it also prevents influencers from missing the mark with brand messaging.
  • Specific Deliverables – To ensure a smooth influencer marketing campaign, brands need to communicate what they envision, including visual/audio elements, talking points, and the format of those talking points. This will help brands avoid a catastrophic disconnect between expectations and execution.
  • Clear Deadlines – Set deadlines for deliverables to ensure the campaign runs as planned. This includes defining the duration of the campaign, the deadlines the influencer must deliver content for brand approval, and the dates and times the influencer must share the sponsored content.
  • Exclusivity Clause – Outline a time frame for influencers that prohibits them from engaging with your competitors. If you fail to define these terms and your influencer partner works with a direct competitor the week after your own collaboration, their content’s positioning will be less impactful and trustworthy.
  • FTC Disclosure – Require influencers to clearly disclose the sponsorship to ensure they comply with FTC guidelines. This may mean providing the verbiage influencers need to use, whether written or verbal. On Instagram, using the #ad is usually enough.

Run your influencer marketing campaign

You have selected influencers, agreed on cooperation, approved creatives, and all that remains is to conduct an influencer marketing campaign and analyze the results.

Keep your finger on the pulse during the company. Track the output of posts either manually or with the help of special services, like the HypeAuditor Campaign Tracking.

Remember that influencers are creative people and may not always be punctual, so it’s best to monitor posting to ensure your campaign goes to plan.

After the campaign, be sure to collect and analyze the metrics that are important for your goal, these can be: purchases, engagement rate, reach, likes, and comments.

Identify the influencers who performed the best and work with them in your next campaigns.

The campaign does not stop when the post is released in the influencer’s account.

Let’s now briefly look at some Instagram marketing success stories.

Case studies showing the effectiveness of influencer marketing

Influencer marketing campaign success story - Youfoodz.

Youfoodz is an Australian fresh meal company that wants to make healthy eating easier for everyone. When they wanted to promote the launch of their new winter menu, they decided to work with Instagram influencers specializing in health, fitness, and food.

They partnered with a total of 81 influencers to highlight their healthy and convenient menu options. These influencers created 167 pieces of content for the campaign. In addition to this, they also shared more than 162 Instagram stories during the campaign.

These pieces of content generated almost 70,000 direct engagements and more than 500,000 impressions. The campaign was able to reach almost 1.5 million people across Facebook and Instagram. With the help of Instagram Stories, the influencers were also able to create authentic and “in-the-moment” content that engaged the target audience.

Influencer marketing campaign success story - KOA.

KOA is a beverage manufacturer of a sugar-free, calorie-free fruit juice that looks exactly like water.

KOA engaged the seven influencers as brand advocates. KOA contacted each influencer, offering products and information about the health benefits of the line of drinks. 

Each influencer was gifted a month’s supply of the drink and no monetary exchange. As brand advocates, the influencers were asked to promote the drink based on merits.

The program’s success was ensured by the level of work done in identifying the influencers with the same values as the brand.

The campaign reached over 483,000 people through the seven influencers. KOA reported an immediate 200 percent sale increase, a figure that would grow to 500 percent through the campaign. The brand’s account gained 10,000 likes. This is an exceptional outcome for a brand working with a small number of influencers in a strictly gifting-only campaign.

Use generated content

You can promote the content created by the influencer using branded content promotion Instagram tools.

For example, you can add their post to your official company account as a story and save it as a highlight.

On top of that, you may also want to use the content on your website and other marketing channels, including your email marketing campaigns.

The rationale behind it is that content produced by influencers is more credible and can serve as good social proof for your target audience.

Influencer produced content used by a brand.
Source: Frankbody

Some final thoughts

Influencer marketing is developing rapidly and if you have not yet tested it as a channel for attracting customers for your ecommerce brand, then it is high time to do it.

Especially, since it’s affordable and often doesn’t even require monetary investment on your side.

Now that you’ve read this guide, you should be able to launch your first influencer marketing campaign with confidence.

And once you’ve done it, be sure to share your experience with us here on this very blog!

Nick Baklanov
Nick Baklanov
Nick Baklanov is Marketing Manager at HypeAuditor, an influencer marketing platform. He has 5+ years of experience in influencer marketing and public relations, has a passion for data, is a father, husband, and a lifelong learner.