How To Get Going With Influencer Marketing As a Small Business

What is the difference between your startup and an internet scam? Well, selling actual products is one big difference and having a long-term vision for growth is another. 

But, how do you let consumers know that? And, how do you get in front of your target audience anyway? This blog will show you why influencers are a great move for a startup of any size.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, you probably have at least some idea of how influential social media is and how many people use it.

  • Facebook grew by 12% in 2020 to boast over 2.41 billion monthly active users.
  • Instagram passed 1 billion users in 2020, and Pinterest had around 89 million users.
  • Consumers are 71% more likely to purchase a product or brand recommended on social media.

But, does influencer marketing really work?

You’ve probably seen an influencer before that made you roll your eyes. You thought, how ridiculous—does that even convince anyone of anything? The problem is: that probably wasn’t an influencer trying to target you as a consumer. Influencers build up a circle of followers interested in their perspective and respect their aesthetic or advice.

report from Nielsen’s Consumer Trust Index found that 92% of consumers are more likely to believe influencer marketing than traditional marketing. This means your startup can benefit from 11x the impact when you use influencer marketing to target potential customers!

Who Should Use Influencer Marketing?

small businesses cover


Really, influencers cover every industry and social media platform. Of course, a blue-collar mechanic’s account will look a lot different than a big city housewife.

No matter what industry you are in, your buyers are probably on some form of social media. This is where you need to start.

Most brands use ads to spread their brand influence. However, influencers offer a real perspective to an audience that believes them. Small businesses can get a much more authentic and less-contrived result with influencer marketing.

How to Use Influencer Marketing as a Startup

startup culture

First of all, it’s important to realize that bigger does NOT equal “better” when it comes to influencer marketing. This is a huge myth when it comes to startups with a humble advertising budget. You can’t afford to hire Kim Kardashian—so, is it even worth it?

Yes. Yes, it is.

You need to find influencers who are within your niche and are talking to your target audience. Some of the smallest influencers (nano-influencers and micro-influencers) have the biggest engagement rates.

Instead, you want to look for influencers who really connect with their audience. Ideally, you will also find influencers who naturally match your brand aesthetic so you can use this content on your own platforms without breaking your style or flow. Here are some tips for starting your first influencer campaign.

Lean on Your Buyer Personas


Before you set up any influencer marketing campaigns, you need to know who you are targeting and where they are spending their time. Are your leads on one social media platform more than another? Is there an influencer in another industry targeting your audience? The more you can define about the real people who make up your best buyers, the more likely you are to target the right crowd with your influencer strategy.

Remember, a dream customer means nothing if they aren’t really your top buyer. Don’t assume you know things about your target audience, or you will likely miss the mark with your strategy. As you consider influencers, look at their audience demographic and not just the demographic of the influencer themselves.

Define Your Brand Style

whats your brand

You also have to know who you are as a company to fully benefit from an influencer. Nail down your brand values and style to match the products or services you are going to deliver and appeal to your target audience. Your branding will show off who you are through your content, voice, and marketing strategy.

For example, if you pick a funny and irreverent influencer, but your brand is serious and no-nonsense, then the fit may not be right. Or, if you are a creative brand that chooses a straightforward influencer, you might be frustrated with the result.

When you know who you are as a company, you can choose the influencer who works within your brand style and produces work you will be proud of.

Select a Diverse Team of Influencers

team in your small business

Just because you target a very specific audience doesn’t mean you should use one influencer type. Now, more than ever before, you must show all kinds of different people connected to your brand. Look for ways to break the barriers of age, color, race, gender, and ability level with your campaigns.

You might have to look a little harder to identify influencers to provide minority representation, but it absolutely matters to your minority audience. Using diverse influencers will help you break into new audience circles you may not have even known about.

Don’t Micromanage Your Influencer

A big reason you want to choose exactly the right influencers comes down to trust. You expect quality content that matches your preferences and trust your influencer to deliver without your hand in the pot. Influencers hold their position because they have already learned how to navigate their platform and appeal to their audience. You want to provide an untethered assignment that won’t stifle their influence.

Different brands are going to have vastly different expectations. What might seem like a rush-job to you could look like a candid and unscripted review to another company. Or, what may seem strange and uncomfortable to you might be part of a social media trend another startup founder would recognize and appreciate. Every brand has its preferences, so it’s best to know yours before searching for influencers.

Then, choose an influencer you can trust to create an idea that works with your audience. The last thing you want to do is try to create a heavy set of guidelines or step in and reject a bunch of pitches because you are nervous about the angle. This is why it is so important to pick an influencer who already makes content in line with your branding. Don’t try to force an influencer into your box—search for an influencer who already creates the kind of work you want to see.

Consider Your Offer

offer from your small business

How appealing is your offer? Influencers aren’t typically desperate for work and will turn down offers that aren’t appealing. You need an offer that is fair and helps your budget get the most return for your investment.

Offering free product is great, but unless you have a really large and expensive product, it isn’t usually enough to make most influencers bite. Many influencers will have a rate, but you can also set what you think the value of your project should be to see if they are willing to meet your price.

For a social media post, you could spend anywhere from $100 to thousands. You are paying for the influencer’s time, photography skills, expertise with social media, and target audience. If you have trouble getting people to take on your job, consider offering a larger payout or reducing some of your instructions.

This is also a good time to consider how you will boost the post. Boosting the influencer’s post can help give them a little more exposure while getting your review into the limelight. However, this does change the cost of the campaign, so make sure you consider advertising as part of the overall deal before you make one.

Set Your Expectations

Micromanaging and setting guidelines are two different things. You should have a CTA (call to action) you want the influencer to push to their audience. Are you asking them to visit your website? Buy a certain product? Sign up for future deals through your email list? Go visit your brand’s social media page through a tag?

Your guidelines for an actionable call should directly tie to your startup’s goals for each influencer marketing campaign. If you are targeting a new audience with little brand awareness, pushing for a sale may not be the right move. Choose a goal that is the most logical next step for the audience you are targeting via the influencer.

Plan to Follow the Rules

Trying to skirt FTC rules can get you (and the influencer) into a lot of trouble. For example, did you know that the influencer needs to include a mention about their post being an advertisement in the first line? While you don’t want obnoxious rules for your influencer instructions, you do need to require FTC compliance.

Most influencers are going to be glad about this inclusion, since they could face trouble if their account isn’t following the rules. If a brand doesn’t understand compliance, it may not be happy with an influencer trying to disclose a sponsored post.

Measure the Outcome

measure outcomes of campaign

What’s the point of using an influencer if you don’t see results? While you may not increase sales immediately following an influencer campaign, you may boost views, engagement, and social interaction. Keep track of your campaign results to get a sense of ROI (return on investment). Before the campaign starts, consider the key performance indicators (KPIs) that will help show the value of the campaign. You can use customized links and coupon codes to provide valuable insights on where certain traffic is flowing in from.

It’s important to remember that influencers aren’t sales reps. Your influencers will help sway their audiences to view your brand more favorably and trust your company if they are looking to purchase. Building brand awareness and reputation are extremely valuable for your startup. So, you may not see a spike in sales right away, but the right influencers are going to help build sustainable growth for your startup.

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