Business

How to Use Influencers for Your E-Commerce Business in 5 Steps

Are you trying to boost brand awareness, get more social media followers, or increase sales for your e-commerce business? If so, why not find influencers to help promote your brand and its products on social media?

It’s no surprise that the coronavirus pandemic has left most of us shopping online more often than ever before. In the US alone, consumers spent $861 billion online in 2020, 44% more than they did in 2019.

So for e-commerces looking to attract new customers, now is a great time to do so. With 3.6 billion users worldwide, social media seems to be a great way to reach those prospects. And influencers can help you with that strategy.

1.  Define your goal and campaign details

The first step in any marketing campaign is definition. You have to clearly establish your objective. Do you want to get more sales? Impressions? Web traffic?

In addition to your campaign objective, you need to define your target audience. Who do you want to reach with this campaign? Where do they come from, what age are they, what do they like? Your target audience will directly affect the social channel and influencers you choose.

Finally, think about things like your timeline and budget. Does this campaign revolve around a specific date, like a product launch or holiday sale? And how much do you have to spend on the campaign?

When you’re evaluating your budget, make sure to consider the following types of spending:

  • Incentive for influencers (free products and fees)
  • Shipping on any packages you send to influencers
  • Fees for agencies, influencer marketing platforms, or any other outsourced work

If you want to learn more about how to define your campaign, check out this influencer marketing guide.

2.  Find influencers who are right for your brand

Once you’ve defined your campaign, you can start searching for influencers to help bring it to life.

Where to find influencers

There are three methods you can use to find influencers, depending on the budget and resources you have available:

  • Search directly on social media (free, but the most labor-intensive)
  • Use an influencer marketing platform (subscription-based, provides search and analytics)
  • Hire an influencer agency (the most expensive option, but the most hands-off)

Using an influencer marketing platform. Source: Heepsy.

Whichever method you choose, always analyze influencers’ performance metrics before you make any decisions. If you search on social media, you’ll have to either manually calculate these metrics or ask influencers for their media kit, which should contain this data.

If you hire an agency, they will find and vet influencers for you. And when using an influencer marketing platform, the software provides analytics for you to evaluate in the moment.

Influencer performance metrics

When analyzing influencers, there are some key metrics to pay attention to:

  • Follower count – this affects the influencer’s reach and price
  • Growth over time – to see how they attracted their followers
  • Engagement rate – the level of interaction between an influencer and their audience
  • Post metrics – average likes, comments, views
  • Audience demographics – the age, gender, country, language and interests of the influencer’s audience
  • Audience authenticity – the quality of the audience and percentage that exhibit bot-like behavior

Influencer fraud cost marketers $1.3 billion in 2019 and continues to be a real problem in the industry. Thankfully, these metrics can help you spot fraud, if you know what to look for.

Beware spiky follower growth, in the absence of a giveaway or viral moment. Organic growth is slow but steady. Sudden jumps in followers can be a sign that the influencer bought them.

An example of healthy, organic growth. Source: Heepsy.

Likewise, look out for extreme engagement on either end of the spectrum. If it’s very low, it shows either fake followers and/or a lack of interest from real followers. Extremely high engagement can show the influencer purchased fake likes or comments.

Finally, looking at the quality of the audience can reveal bots. Bots tend to not have profile pictures or biographies, and very little to no content. Also, their names and comments may sound unnatural.

Influencer voice and style

The metrics listed above are relatively easy to assess, as you have data to analyze. On the other hand, some aspects of influencer profiles can’t be evaluated so mechanically.

In addition to healthy metrics, influencers have to align with your brand. This means that your brand and the influencer have to fit together logically. Ask yourselves questions like:

  • Is their content up to my quality standards?
  • Can their voice communicate my brand’s message?
  • Do they uphold my brand’s values?
  • Does their style complement that of my brand?

Choosing someone who meshes with your brand will lead to a more authentic collaboration that makes sense to followers.

3.  Set up influencer discount codes and trackable links

Negotiating influencer collaborations should include any specific publication requirements you have for their content, like brand mentions, hashtags and links.

For e-commerces, that should also include influencer-specific discount codes. These coupons can bring in sales, or at least get people on your website browsing your products.

When preparing discount codes, keep these tips in mind:

  • Make them specific to the influencer and easily recognizable. Brands typically use the influencer’s name.
  • Keep them short and sweet. Most people will copy and paste the code, but if they can’t, you don’t want them to abandon their cart because of an overly complicated coupon.
  • Use block capitals. This makes the code stand out, and also helps eliminate confusion between lowercase characters (rn and m, for example).

These codes are great for analyzing your results, too. Later on, you can look at which influencers brought in the most sales. Who performed better, for example: Instagram influencers or Youtube influencers?

Mommy influencer @raising_a_red_head promoting her discount code, LEO10, on Instagram. With the code, followers can save 10% on baby clothes at @_munchinandco. Source: Instagram.

In addition to coupons, set up trackable links so that you can monitor where your web traffic comes from. This way, you can see which influencer brings the most visitors to your site,

To set up these links, you can either use UTMs, which work with Google Analytics, or link shorteners. These services allow you to brand your link and then track it with the platforms’ built-in analytics.

4.  Monitor influencer media and track the campaign

After you launch your campaign, it’s time to monitor it. You don’t want to miss any influencer media or campaign results.

If influencers mention your brand or use your branded hashtags, you should be able to see all the media published for your campaign, which you can then download. If you’ve agreed on this with influencers, you may also want to repost the content to your own social feed, or directly on the product pages of your e-commerce site.

Another way to collect published media, and also track the results it brings in, is with a campaign monitoring software. You tell the program which influencer handles and hashtags to monitor, and it downloads the media and gathers data on impressions and other metrics.

Whatever method you choose, make sure you collect as many results as possible, and compile them all in one place for easy analysis. The more data you have, the better you can see the full impact of your campaign.

5.  Analyze results and measure your success

Finally, it’s the moment to see if you’ve been successful or not.

First, summarize your total investment in the campaign: influencer incentive, agency/subscription fees, shipping and handling costs, and whatever else you spent money on.

Next, collect all the results you gathered. Depending on your campaign’s goal, you’ll want to look at things like:

  • Sales, revenue, and profit
  • Impressions
  • Web traffic and clicks
  • Uses of influencer coupon codes
  • New followers
  • Content your republished

Finally, measure one against the other: did the benefits outweigh the investment? For campaign goals like sales, this is easy to see. Compare the total sales to what you paid influencers, and see if you came in under or over or broke even.

For branding campaigns that work more with impressions, it might be a bit more difficult to measure your success. As an example, let’s say you paid an influencer $75 to post about your products.

Because of their 20,000 followers and past content performance, you estimated around 10,000 impressions on the post. Therefore, the cost per thousand impressions, or CPM, would be $7.50.

But, let’s say the influencer was so excited about your products that they ended up creating one post and two stories. In total, their content garnered 28,000 impressions. Now, the CPM is $2.68, meaning you successfully exceeded your expectations.

Conclusion

Influencer marketing can benefit brands of all industries, but due to increases in online shopping, e-commerces are particularly well-positioned to take advantage of the strategy. Just remember to always plan your campaign, search thoroughly for the right influencers, and use data to help you track your success.

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