Businesses are quickly learning that the best way to market their brand is not through themselves but through social media influencers. These influencers can create unique content and reach people the brand wouldn’t have been able to on their own through social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube. Before influencer marketing, any campaign a business wanted to create would entail pricey camera equipment, the hiring of models, photoshoot locations, and the headache of putting it altogether. Now though, marketers can simply pass along their requirements to influencers who will do it all for them.

Knowing where to start when it comes to influencer marketing can be daunting. For this reason, we’ve put together a beginner’s guide to get you started.

The Benefits of Influencer Marketing for Brands

Influencer marketing has completely exploded and is expected to grow to a $5 billion industry by 2019. Five. Billion. It’s no wonder then that everyone is trying to get in on the action. With the complete takeover of the Internet, digital advertising and social media marketing is the perfect marketing marriage. As traditional marketing methods are becoming things of the past (and increasingly fruitless), brands just can’t afford to not participate in this hugely popular trend.

With just about anything in life though, there will be naysayers. Just like the people who don’t believe climate change is a thing (Hello, Irma) or that we didn’t actually land on the moon (lol), there are some who don’t believe that social media (or “influencer”) marketing works. There are, however, several benefits of influencer marketing that simply cannot be disputed. If you’re wondering whether influencer marketing is worth it, keep reading.

It Increases Brand Reach and Awareness

Whether you’re a large corporation or a small start-up, growing is the most important (and challenging) thing. That’s really the whole point of marketing – for people to learn about and interact with your brand. Marketing strategies like digital advertising are great ways to do this but can sometimes be costly. For small businesses especially, reaching the largest pool of people at the lowest price tag is key. Really, everything in life at the lowest price tag is key (#McDonaldsDollarMenu amirite?).

Influencer marketing has completely revolutionized the way brands can target their market. Not only are they now able to reach millions with the tap of a finger, they can publicize their brands to niche audiences for a more targeted exposure. Collaborating with influencers who have highly engaged niche followings allows brands to market to specific demographics. This both increases brands awareness and efficiently attracts a new crop of potentials customers to your brand.

It’s Believable

People are flooded with marketing messages all day, every day. Sure, some are effective. Most of the time though, these messages are going in one ear and out the other. Not only are marketing tactics often predictable (and thus annoying), they’re not trustworthy. As consumers, we’re very aware that brands will do and say anything for our cash, regardless of whether it’s true or not. This makes brands as messengers very un-credible and ineffective.

Social media influencers are in a different boat. They are highly trusted by their followers. Are you more likely to buy protein powder because some radio ad told you to or because you saw your favorite fitness guru (with the washboard abs) using it on Instagram? The washboard abs. Always the washboard abs.

According to marketing studies, over 90% of consumers trust the word of a friend over that of the brand when purchasing a product or service. And…ya, duh. Though most influencers are indeed being paid, an endorsement from them is much more poignant than one from the company itself. Basically, people would rather see someone else toot your horn rather than you do it yourself.

Because an influencer’s personal brand and word is necessary to their continued success, it isn’t in their best interest to promote products that suck. For this reason, followers perceive that their endorsements come from thorough product reviews and testing. In short, because these people trust the influencers they follow, they’ll trust the brands they collaborate with.

It Results in Unique Content

When hiring an influencer, you’re also gaining their creative juices. That sounds gross. Oh well. Successful influencers got that way because they produced and shared content that people liked. It’s obvious then that there’s no one better to create the content than the influencer themselves. While guidelines are important to provide them so that the post is on-brand, giving them full creative control ensures that the content they create will be both unique and effective with their audience.

This content will not only resonate well with their following, it’s something that the brand can re-post and re-use (with permission) for their own audience. User-generated content (UGC) is received much better than brand-generated content. Win-win.

You’ll Gain Higher Visibility

Marketers are quickly learning about the high numbers of people using ad blockers. What these ad blockers mean is that the boatloads of money and time brands are investing in campaigns is falling on blind eyes. Luckily, influencer marketing is a nice little loophole.

Since social media (non-celeb) influencers are seemingly just regular people with a ton of followers (and exponentially more awesome lives than us), people don’t see their partner posts as ads. This is because these influencers are promoting brands in a creative and artistic way that doesn’t look like a pushy promo. Because people are voluntarily following these influencers and are genuinely interested in their message, brands don’t need to worry about their marketing spend being wasted on blocked content. This means that you’ll be able to more accurately reach your core target market which then translates to better conversions and a higher ROI.

It’s Cost-Effective

The biggest selling point of influencer marketing for any business out there is how cost-effective it is. This high return of investment comes from better customer acquisition, conversions, and brand awareness. While the price tag certainly varies from influencer to influencer depending on what type of partnership the brand is looking for, it’s almost always a better deal than marketing the old-fashioned way. So how much does it really cost? The answer isn’t black and white but we’ll do our best to give you a clear idea.

Despite the lack of standardization when it comes to pricing, working with influencers pays off more than traditional marketing strategies. It’s been measured that for every dollar spent on influencers, there is a return of about $11. In the marketing world, that’s an insane number.

For more, check out “5 Signs It’s Time for You to Invest in Digital Marketing.”

How to Become a Social Media Influencer

The aspirations of youth once reserved for stuffy careers in law, accounting, or medicine are quickly shifting to something a little more new-age; influencing. Being an influencer on social media platforms like Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, or Facebook is becoming more and more main stream.

When it comes to choosing this career path, it seems like a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t want to sleep in, take some pictures, get free stuff, and get paid good money to do it? Not so fast. While it certainly seems glamourous and fun, more work goes into it than you’d think. Take a travel influencer for example. While their photos may exude relaxation, lavish vacations, and exotic foods, what you’re not seeing is the 14-hour flight crammed in economy, the time spent trying to get that one good shot, and the difficulty trying to pay your rent with that “free” vacation.

Master the Ropes

When you see a beautiful shot posted by your favourite influencer, hours and hours likely went behind that. First, they need the idea. After seeing if it could logistically work, they need to put a plan in action. Between location scouting, required props, outfit, and lighting, that’s already hours spent for just one photo. And that’s the easy part. After getting the shot or video you want, you have the tedious task of editing and cropping to make it as consumable for the masses as possible.

If you don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to photography and editing, this process takes a whole lot longer. Learning your craft as an influencer is necessary because if you don’t produce quality, creative content, someone else will. It’s a fight for followers and attention and the person who puts in the most work will box you out of the market.

Get the Right Equipment

Influencer content is about quality, not quantity. While iPhones are great for posting on-the-go content to your Instagram feed, it’ll only take you so far. The most successful influencers put a lot of time and expertise into making their photos look professional-grade. Posting awesome content requires a good computer, camera, lighting, backdrop, and editing program. You don’t necessarily need to spend a ton of money right off the bat, but getting top of the line results will require some investment.

Be Patient

While there are certainly some overnight success stories, they are few and far between. Growing as an influencer with a legit and engaged following takes time. Most successful influencers have a slow and gradual growth. Often, their journey started off with years of hard work with little to no recognition. That’s why it’s important to love what you’re doing. If you continue pursuing your passion regardless of the immediate success, you’ll thrive. Instead of chasing the numbers, focus on producing great content on a consistent basis.

Engage, Engage, Engage!

Posting cool content on Instagram simply isn’t enough to be a good social media influencer. One thing all thriving influencers have in common is that they put a lot of work into engaging with their followers. Whether they’re liking photos, answering questions, doing an Instagram Live, or holding contests, you need to be active to keep your followers’ attention. And if you don’t, someone else will.

Be Authentic

In a time where just about everything we see on social media is fake, it’s become very easy to spot whether someone is being authentic or not. If you’re not being genuine, your followers will notice. While it’s great to show off your best side on social media, people appreciate rawness too. Sure, a photo of you with 10 pounds of makeup on in a super staged pose is cool, but what’s cooler is getting a glimpse into your real, unfiltered life.

Finally, never ever forget to stay humble. The absolute worst thing is when someone gets too big for their bridges and loses sight of where they came from. Don’t forget that it can go as quick as it came and you’re just one click away from losing your followers.

Influencer Marketing Price Tags

Let’s start with the basics. The average price per sponsored post is about 300$. Of all the types of influencers, model accounts bring in the highest paychecks and often have the most followers. Photographers and fitness accounts are also relatively popular.

Generally, men charge more per post than women. This is probably because they’re used to getting paid 25% more in the workplace for absolutely no reason. But let’s not get into that. When it comes to follower counts, influencers with upwards of 100k followers can earn close to $800 per post while influencers with 1k followers will earn only about $100 (and that’s being generous). How many followers an account has isn’t the only thing that carries weight though. Engagement is also super important. If someone has 100k followers with 10 likes and 1 comment from their mom, chances are they won’t get hired. Subject matter, quality of content, and expertise also factor in to influencer pay grades.

What They’re Paying the Big Guys

It’s been reported that influencer and beauty guru Michelle Phan earns upwards of $3 million a year. This doesn’t even come close to others though. The richest (non-celeb) influencer of all is Felix Kjellberg- aka PewDiePie– who earns about $12 million per year. Excuse me while I cry into my hair.

Influencer Pricing Strategy

Since influencers can’t compare their own pricing with others, it’s often a guessing game. They’ll typically base their fees on what they’ve been offered in the past or what they feel their effort is worth. While this can be confusing for marketers who can’t figure out why 2 influencers with the same number of followers charge different prices, one thing to remember is that the brand has the upper hand. It’s simple supply and demand. Since there are thousands of influencers actively trying to grow their brand, if the influencer you want is out of your budget, chances are you can find another one who is willing to work for less.

On average, marketers should plan to pay anywhere between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars per post depending on the effort and expertise required. This is for an influencer with a strong following and good engagement.

Once you’ve determined your influencer marketing budget, keep it close to your chest. Let the influencer provide the price they believe is fair- this number is often lower than the bid you’d offer them yourself.

For more, check out “Top Highest-Paid Celeb Influencers on Instagram.”