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3 Ways to Intelligently Use Influencer Marketing for Your Ecommerce Business

Even though “influencer” is a new term associated with social media, brands have been using people of influence, a.k.a. celebrities, long before Instagram and even the Internet. Some brands, like Nike, even developed separate sub-brands that become iconic, standalone status symbols like Air Jordan apparel.

But, thanks to Internet influencers, you no longer have to partner with big-name celebrities to get your band promoted. Influencer marketing allows even smaller brands to reach their target audience directly. Influencer marketing can become one of the best and cost-effective ways to expand your reach, grow brand awareness, and trigger more sales. 

This article will give your eCommerce business three strategies to ensure your influencer marketing efforts bring tangible results and help your store grow.

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#1 Partner with the right influencer

Scouting the right partner

Finding the right influencer to partner with is the first step you need to take if you are interested in promoting your brand. While finding influencers isn’t difficult, identifying the right partner for your brand is a bit trickier.

Even though the number of followers and post engagement is important, the first thing you need to focus on is brand relevance. If possible, you want to partner with an influencer within the same niche. 

For example, if your store sells fishing equipment, it would make sense to partner up with a famous local fisherman or an outdoors enthusiast. Even if they have 10x less followers  compared to a major travel blogger, their audience will much more likely  buy from you. 

Only after you identify influencers with the right follower base, you should look into other metrics, such as:

  • Engagement – post engagement will tell you more about the follower base and the influencers themselves. If you notice a disproportionate ratio of likes to comments, or you see the majority of comments on posts are generic and sent from suspicious profiles, that’s a huge red light and a likely sign of a fake influencer.
  • Newsletter – if the influencer has a newsletter, be sure to subscribe. The quality of their newsletter will tell you a lot about them. You will see how often they send emails and the quality of the content. You’ll  also be able to learn more about their approach to their target audience. Newsletters are also great for promoting affiliate products, and the email signature area is one of the most underused opportunities to insert links, so keep an eye on that too.
  • Sponsorships – checking past or present sponsorships is an excellent way to determine if the influencer fits your brand. For example, if an influencer is not particularly picky and will promote any brand for the right price, you might want to reconsider partnering with them. On the other hand, if you find an influencer who only promotes products they personally like, you can count on their followers trusting such recommendations.

Focus on existing customers with an established follower base

If you have regular customers who are first to praise them in the comments, and they also happen to have a solid follower base and post frequently – these are perfect candidates to become your partners. 

Even if their profile isn’t the biggest, the fact that they are willing to praise and promote your products even for free means a lot – they are true fans. All you need to do is send them your new products as soon as they arrive, and they are likely to promote them. Later, as your brand and profile grow, you can even offer them a sponsorship.

#2 Diversify your promotional strategy 

Looking at big brand campaigns will probably get you thinking about going straight for sponsored posts. However, smaller brands reaching out to micro-influencers usually lack the budget for this kind of marketing. Squarespace, Dollar Shave Club, Skillshare, and similar brands are already well-known and have millions of dollars to spend on big-time influencers and even celebrities. Playing that type of game from the get-go is very expensive and unwise. 

Fortunately, (micro) influencer marketing opens several other opportunities, and you don’t have to rely only on sponsored posts to make it work for your brand, on the contrary.

Product seeding

We have already talked about contacting your existing loyal customers and turning them into influencers by sending them your new products. This is one form of “product seeding.” Whenever a company sends free products to individuals without asking for anything in return, we are talking about product seeding.

While you can’t count it will happen every single time, influencers who try and like your product are likely to share it afterwards. They are also aware of product seeding and know that it can result in partnerships.

Even though giving out your products for free without asking anything in return might seem too opportunistic, seeding is one of the cheapest forms of marketing. After all, you already own your products, if they are physical. And, if they are digital – even better! 

Whenever you send your products, make sure to introduce your brand as well. This is a great way to build relationships with influencers. For instance, you can consider a specific business card design or a personalized note explaining the company behind a specific product. Don’t hesitate to share your values as this can also impact influencers’ impression of your product.

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Look for different forms of demonstrations

When choosing influencer partners for your eCommerce business, it is wise to find a person who often publishes content such as:

  • Reviews
  • Comparisons and product roundups
  • Tutorials and How-Tos
  • Demonstrations
  • Unboxing

Even though videos are the most popular and most effective for this type of content, blogs still work and are usually much more affordable, so look to diversify across platforms.

Content of this type will demonstrate your products’ usefulness and compare them to others in your niche. This will mean consumers who may be looking at your competitors’ products might end up buying yours. But, beware – it also goes the other way around. 🙂

Offer several earning methods to potential partners

You should also diversify ways influencers can earn commissions from promoting your products. That way, you will prevent losing a potential partnership only because an influencer uses a specific type of promotion that you  don’t have. Here are some popular options:

  • Affiliate links – clicking on an affiliate link is super easy, and it will immediately guide a customer to your site and apply for a discount. You have an option to install a cookie on a customer’s browser, allowing you to target them with ads later.
  • Promo codes – are another effective option, which is also very easy to track.
  • Products on stock for giveaways – if an influencer wants to organize a giveaway of your products, make sure you are ready to deliver the best experience to the winner, as they are likely to share their opinion once the prize arrives.
  • Pay per post – some influencers will only accept upfront payments to release a specific type of content. This is risky, as you need to invest in advance. However, if they have an established audience and are great at what they are doing, it might be worth it.

#3 Focus on results, not vanity metrics

While getting a ton of likes on promoted posts is nice,  that alone doesn’t mean much. Sure, it might raise brand awareness, but in influencer marketing, it’s imperative to stay zeroed in on ROI

Fortunately, some forms of affiliate marketing, such as affiliate links and coupon codes, are very easy to track. You will get advanced stats that will tell you which partner got the most conversions and how many people were brought to your website via referral traffic.

If you use Shopify, its dashboard will give you most of the stats you need. Google Analytics is also a great option. You will see the source of traffic in detail and will be able to compare each of the partners, but also different types of posts to determine which is the most effective.

While likes and comments on the influencer’s post itself don’t mean much, it’s an entirely different story if people start following your brand, as you will be able to market to them directly. If they start subscribing to your newsletter, even better, as your email list is your own property. 

Aside from affiliate links, promo code conversions and the number of followers and referral traffic, other important key performance indicators of influencer marketing are engagement on your own posts, but also brand mentions and the use of your hashtags.

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Wrapping up

Choosing who to partner with, diversifying your approach, and staying focused on results is a relatively simple recipe. But, even though it is simple in theory, once you start working on it, you will quickly realize it requires a good amount of work to materialize.

However, if you manage to apply strategies you just learned right, they will definitely bring results and help you harvest influencer marketing to its fullest, skyrocketing the number of sales your eCommerce business makes. The sooner you start doing it, the sooner it will start paying off, so start working on your influencer marketing campaign today.

About the author

Helga Zabalkanska is a CMO at Newoldstamp (500 Startups backed) and MySignature. She has over 10 years of experience in digital marketing with a data-driven approach. Helga is a startup enthusiast and SaaS lover.