The Influencer Marketing lessons I’ve learned working with 400+ influencers
Influencer marketing is here to stay. Over the last few years, it’s been one of the hottest topics in marketing and it’s not going anywhere. Here’s a crazy stat: the industry is expected to jump from a market size of $14.27 billion in 2022 to an insane $143.10 billion by 2030.
That’s a lot of money. And it’s a sign that if you’re not taking influencer marketing seriously, you need to start.
But despite this massive growth in the industry, influencer marketing is still the wild west. There are no rules, no standards, and a lot of confusion. In my experience working with over 400 influencers in the past five years, I’ve seen how pricing, sales expectations, recruitment, agencies—everything—is all over the place.
So that’s what I want to walk you through in this article: the lessons I’ve learned working with 400+ influencers so you can know how to navigate this marketing industry.
What Makes a Quality Influencer?
Everyone wants to be an influencer. And thanks to the help of algorithms and people’s huge appetite for constant social media content, it’s now relatively easy to gain a large following.
But just because someone has a large following doesn’t mean they’re a high-quality influencer who can help companies boost sales and increase market share. The social media space is flooded with content creators and so finding a high-quality influencer is much like looking for a needle in a haystack.
So, what makes a good one? Quality influencers:
Have a genuine, authentic connection with their audience.
Connect with their audience via multiple successful mediums (i.e., social media, podcast, newsletter, storefront).
Have a niche and/or consistent messaging and style.
Provide insane value to their audience - solving problems for them related to their niche.
Have a strong “personal brand.”
Are successful building their own platforms or products because their audience will support them.
Do not overwhelm their following with ads that don’t align with their personal brand.
Note that none of these things have to do with follower count. Too many companies seek out influencer partnerships simply because of the number of followers the influencer has. But those followers mean nothing if they aren’t influencing their audience. Engagement is the key, not followers.
Influencer Strategies That Work
When looking for that “needle in the haystack” quality influencer, it’s important to keep in mind your goals as a company. There are some influencer strategies that work, and others that don’t.
Rule of thumb for influencer strategies: focus on authentic and genuine connections. This is both between the influencer and their audience and the brand and the influencer. People are getting smarter and can sniff out a disingenuous ad or partnership quickly. So, authenticity and vulnerability are the most important aspects of any influencer strategy.
From here, there are a few things to keep in mind:
Align your strategy with your goals. If you’re looking for general brand awareness, then it might work to partner with an influencer with high followers and views. But if you want to convert sales, you need to look for someone with a history of selling.
Good ways to know if the influencer can sell is by scouting out their email list and programs they sell to their community, as well as other channels such as youtube and podcasts.
Work with multiple influencers. One-off posts are rarely successful in driving brand awareness or sales. Instead, you need to create a consistent wave of influencer posts in the same niche or circle so that your target audience is exposed to your brand.
Influencer marketing strategies that work follow a simple formula: find an influencer with an authentic connection to their audience, get clear on your goals (sales or awareness), and work with multiple influencers in the same niche.
Influencer Recruitment Software and Agencies
I’ve already said how challenging it is to find high-quality influencers, and one piece of the confusing puzzle is recruitment software and agencies.
Recruitment software are programs that help you recruit and reach out to a massive number of influencers to help brands find potential partners. The danger with these is if abused they will not be personal or genuine—exactly the opposite of what we should try to do with influencer marketing.
My fear with many of these softwares gaining traction is they will ruin the authenticity of the market and create way too much spam mail from brands to the creator.
In saying this, I do highly recommend using one right now because you’ll have an early mover competitive advantage, but get ready for the saturation.
Recruitment agencies function as the middlemen between brands and influencers. Good agencies will take the time to get to know both and ensure there is a good fit between brand and influencer, as well as only show quality influencers to brands. Bad agencies will act almost like recruitment software, just reaching out to everyone and anyone and not care about the brand's goals or results.
Building a relationship with a great agency is one of the best things you can do.
If brands decide to use either of these routes, they can’t forget the golden rule of influencer marketing: form genuine connections. I think the best recruitment approach is to have an outreach strategy—know who you’re looking for, what your goals are, and what type of influencer is aligned with your brand. Then, go out and start building relationships with influencers. See what they’re all about, check out their audience engagement, and reach out. Nothing can beat genuine connections and a solid relationship between brand and influencer.
Influencer Marketing Pricing
Pricing is one of the most confusing components of influencer marketing. It is seriously all over the place! And neither brands nor influencers have any idea how to approach it.
I’ve noticed that a lot of creators will have very high prices for branded content, but the reality is that as the market becomes more saturated, prices are going to be driven lower and lower. Brands will keep “shopping” around to find influencers who will fit their budget. I never recommend paying too high for creators if the objective is awareness, because you can get that for very cheap or even for no cash and just in exchange for your product. Especially with TikTok and IG reels, you can hit home runs with smaller (cheaper) creators that make great content that goes viral. You can also reuse this content for your own socials, but more on that in my next article (subscribe to my medium for more.)
That’s why both brands and creators need to be clear on their goals and the value they provide. For this reason, I favor a “walk-run” approach when working with influencers. Basically, I offer a lower price for a one-off post and then once they’ve proven their value, I pay them closer to their monthly asking price and form a long-term relationship with monthly deliverables. Most influencers are willing to do this because they can prove their value and gain a long-term client. This is a solid way to ensure brands are paying for value and not an inflated price based on high follower counts. With all of that said, paying a premium for good influencers is one of the best investments you can make for your brand, as they’ll drive 6-figures + in sales for your business long term. The key is finding those influencers and validating your product or service will resonate with their community.
Right now, influencer marketing is like the wild west — there’s no real standards or rules. But, as the industry continues to develop and grow, it will start to settle into some patterns and norms. Both brands and influencers need to understand their goals and the value they bring to the table to form solid, productive, and profitable partnerships.
And, like most things in life, the key is to be real. Influencers need to focus on building authentic relationships with their audience, and brands need to find influencers who do that! And if you can do that, influencer marketing is sure to be a successful and profitable marketing strategy for many years to come.