Influencer marketing and partnering with bloggers might feel like marketing tactics that only big brands can use to promote their products or grow awareness of their event, launch, or cause. But the good news is that both of these marketing tactics are definitely within reach for small businesses, too. Brand content marketing specialist, Marcea Cazel, is here to explain more about what it means to partner with influencers and bloggers for a business, and why and how small business owners should consider these marketing options. Marcea kindly answered these 7 questions interview-style below.
How to Work with Influencers & Bloggers as a Small Business Owner
Q: What is a blogger and what is an influencer?
A: A blogger is someone who writes articles on their own website about any variety of topics. Some bloggers write about lifestyle topics (which is a variety of topics such as cooking, family life, etc), some are what are called “Mommy bloggers” who write about life with kids, some are travel bloggers and some are fashion bloggers. There isn’t a limit on the types of blogs and people can really blog about anything.
An influencer is someone on social media who has a following that respects what they say. All influencers aren’t bloggers and might just post on social media. All bloggers are not influencers and might not have a good following on social media or might not be on social media at all. Influencers come in a variety of levels.
Q: Can you explain a bit about what is involved with working with an influencer or blogger and why a small business may want to?
A: Having an influencer promote your product, especially on a local level, is an excellent way to get the word out about your products. It’s also an inexpensive way to advertise in comparison to traditional advertising.
Working with a blogger or influencer is really a business agreement for the blogger/influencer to promote the business’ product to their followers and readers. The business is responsible for paying the blogger, providing them with product they can use to give their opinion on and giving the blogger good information about the product and what your goals are.
Notice how I said “pay the blogger”. A lot of businesses feel like the blogger/influencer should be happy to get free product. And sometimes that’s great, but there’s a difference between a free pizza to promote and free maid service for 6 weeks in exchange for a review. There’s a lot of time, effort and creativity put into creating blogs and social media posts. Bloggers and influencers also have behind the scenes costs they have too. The more you ask of the blogger, the more you should pay them. It’s okay to have a small budget of say $75 and a certain amount of product. But don’t be surprised or offended if someone comes back and says they charge $150 a post.
The blogger’s responsibility in the relationship is to provide clear images of the product in use on their social media sites and/or blog. They should also be engaging with the audience responding to the posts and blogs and answer any questions people might have about the business.
Speaking of images, those images below to the blogger/influencer unless you spell that out in your contract. It’s okay for you to share their posts through a reporting tool, but it’s not okay to use their pictures in your advertisements without a prior conversation about it. Most influencers/bloggers will sell you the rights to the images if you approach them about it.
Your contract should spell out exactly what the expectations of the blogger are. That includes how many times (if any) the product should be blogged about, when payment will be rendered, how many social media posts are expected, keywords that should be used, hashtags that are required on social media, accounts to tag on social media and if there’s any verbiage that needs to be used. Where there’s not clear expectations laid out is where resentment between the two parties comes in. And when I say contract, it doesn’t always have to be a full-on legal contract. Some bloggers require a signed legal document because they’ve been burned in the past and will let you know if they have one they’d like you to sign. But a lot will work off of email trails.
Q: What are the different levels of influencers?
A: There are four categories of influencers that they’re usually broken into: Nano Influencer, Micro Influencer, Macro Influencer and Mega Influencer.
Nano influencers are great for small businesses. These are the influencers that have small numbers of followers but their followers respect what they say. They’re also usually hyper-local so a lot of their followers might live in the business’ area. Don’t overlook this group. They can sometimes be easier to work with and won’t have worked with other businesses that are your competition. They also might charge a little less for a campaign since they haven’t worked as much with businesses (you’ll be able to tell by their posts). Nano influencers usually have between 500 and 5,000 followers on Instagram.
Micro influencers will have a larger following than a nano influencer, but they have worked with businesses in the past and have good traction and engagement on their posts. They’re usually used to the requirements that businesses are asking for and sometimes their images might look more professional or they have the ability to create video for their posts. There is no set number for what makes a micro influencer but it’s usually someone with less than 50,000 followers.
Macro influencers have between a high number of followers, upwards to 1 million. Some are celebrities and some are just excellent influencers who have built up their businesses. Mega influencers are the Kim Kardashians of the world – anything they post gets a hit and they can charge tens of thousands of dollars for each post.
Neither macro nor mega influencers should be a target for a small local business to work with. If your product is national and you feel you have to have a huge influencer work for you, there are companies you can hire that facilitate this. Businesses shouldn’t approach these influencers blindly as these influencers work with agencies you pay to monitor their posts, traction and will provide a report to you each month on their progress.
Q: What are some ways to work with influencers and bloggers?
A: There are a variety of ways that small businesses can work with influencers and bloggers:
- Have them write a post on their blog – this approach doesn’t work with every business. Generally, these are done for product reviews, businesses such as amusement parks, hotels or roundups about the city the business is located in.
- Have them post on their social media channels – the posts should be done on the social media channels that the business also participates on so that their business can be tagged (that’s when you use the @ symbol and the handle of the business so people can click and get to their channel). If the blogger is on TikTok and the business isn’t, it doesn’t make sense to require the blogger to post on there. If they do anyway, that’s a bonus!
- Sponsor a product giveaway – the blogger or influencer posts about your product and then hosts a giveaway for their readers. Be sure that your rules of entry are specific, that the influencer is following the rules for the social media channel they’re hosting the giveaway on. And most importantly, be sure the prize is given away. I used to participate in a Twitter party for a local group and over the course of a few years won two prizes. I never received either of them even after contacting the group that hosted the giveaways. While I should have contacted the hosts, because it is strange that I didn’t get either of them, it’s an industry I work in and didn’t want to cause an issue. But when I hear the name of either of those companies, it leaves a bad taste. The best way to combat that is to send out the prize yourself, what is what I used to do when I would provide giveaway products. It ensures that I can make sure the product arrived and I could also put a little thank you note inside as well from the company.
- Sponsor a night out at your business specifically for local bloggers. This is great for business such as restaurants or amusement parks. I often get invited to Busch Garden premieres and I love attending because they make the bloggers and influencers feel special, I get to see my fellow bloggers and free entry and food! Sponsored nights work well for product premieres, grand openings or for holidays that mesh well with your business. Give everyone who attends free food, drink coupons (if you’re a restaurant or business that usually has it), a small goody bag and maybe even a gift card to use at a future date. Have a raffle while everyone is there and some entertainment. Also provide them with a hashtag specific to your business and/or the event so you can keep track of all the social media posts.
- Provide a coupon code specific to each influencer or blogger for a percentage or monetary amount off a purchase. Having a specific code allows you to track who is sending in customers based off of their posts and blogs.
Q: What’s the best way to find influencers and bloggers to work with?
A: One good way to find influencers is locate an influencer who is willing to send out requests to their friends. A lot of bloggers belong to private Facebook groups and can send out requests in there with your criteria.
Another way is to start digging through social media via hashtags. This is where the time comes in. It can take a lot of time finding and sorting through hashtags to locate influencers, checking their traction, making sure their photos are good, visiting their websites and then sending them an email. There’s also time involved in negotiating fees, following up on questions and monitoring if posts were made by due dates. Looking for influencers can take a lot of time to research and follow-up. So, if a business doesn’t have a significant amount of time to dedicate to that, they should retain a contractor who has experience finding and working with influencers.
I’d highly suggest that businesses send an email to the blogger/influencer rather than sending them a direct message on social media. It’s much more professional and then the blogger can keep track of their requests and requirements in one place.
Q: How does a business know if they found the right influencer/blogger to work with?
A: Businesses that aren’t familiar with the influencer model will sometimes base their decisions solely on the number of followers the influencer has on social media. In theory that sounds great – if one local influencer has 20,000 followers on Instagram and another local influencer has 800 followers, then you should pick the one with the larger following, right? Not so fast . . .
Influencer A with 20,000 followers consistently has posts that get 250 likes and no comments. Influencer B with 800 consistently gets 45 likes on their posts and averages 5 comments. The traction of ‘A’ is 1% while the traction of ‘B’ is at 6% – which would you rather have? A traction rate of between 3% and 6% is really good. Anything over 9% or 10% is excellent (and doesn’t usually happen on a regular basis on one channel these days due to algorithms).
The way to figure out an influencer’s traction is look at their latest post and add up the number of comments and likes (subtract any comments the influencer made – even though that creates traction, you’ll get a better read without them). Then divide that number by how many followers the influencer has. Do this for about 8 to 10 posts over about a 2-month span and you’ll have a good idea of what their average traction on posts is.
In addition to traction, notice if they are commenting on what people are saying on their posts. A good influencer will respond back to their follows on comments regularly. See if they their posts are all about pushing their own product or their posts are well rounded, while still staying in the genre that they write about. As I tell people, it’s called social media for a reason. You don’t want to go to a party and hear someone talk only about themselves. Notice if they’re criticizing local businesses or other bloggers/influencers. Decide by looking at the posts if that’s the person you want representing your business online.
If you find a blogger you think you want to work with, visit their page. Is it easy to navigate? Do they have it set up for mobile view or when you’re on your phone are the pages cut off? Do they have social media share buttons to help promote themselves? Are their images clear? Are they advising their readers when they have received product in exchange for the post or when they have affiliate links? It doesn’t have to be a site that looks like it cost thousands and thousands of dollars to produce, but a site that looks professional and maintained is important.
Q: What has been the most fun or interesting campaign you’ve worked on?
A: It wasn’t a typical influencer campaign because they didn’t really exist at the time, but many years ago when I handled donations for Microsoft’s Atlanta office, we gave away a bunch of Office software to one of Magic Johnson’s after-school clubs located in the city. I got the opportunity to attend the opening and meet Magic. It was a great way to promote a product and help a great organization at the same time.
More About Marcea Cazel
I’ve worked in brand content marketing for 20 years for companies such as Microsoft, Whole Foods Market, and AAA. In addition to working in marketing, I also have a travel blog called My Cornacopia where I write mostly about traveling around Florida and visiting African-American museums. I started my blog because a need for a creative, non-work related outlet and love to get to know the state I’ve lived in for so long.
I’ve worked from the marketing side seeking out and working with influencers and also have worked with brands from the blogger side, so I have a unique knowledge of both sides of the coin.