Although influencer and micro-influencer marketing have been two of the hottest trends in the past few years, a new alternative has emerged called “(influential) advocate marketing” that is increasingly showing its powers. In this blog post, we’ll cover the differences in these three strategies, and how to identify influencers, micro-influencers, and influential advocates for your products.
In the recent years, traditional online marketing tactics such as paid display ads have become less effective due to ad blockers and ad fatigue resulting in lower click-through rate (CTR). To overcome these challenges, marketers hire celebrities and social media stars who have hundreds of thousands to millions of followers to drive awareness, and in some cases, directly promote product purchases.
Because influencers are typically careful in crafting sponsored posts to retain their authentic voices and align with their followers’ interests, these posts are often perceived as more trustworthy than traditional advertising. In fact, influencer marketing has become the most trusted channel to advertise.
As the popularity of influencer marketing rises and brands compete for a limited number of super-successful influencers, so does pricing, which can reach up to $ 300,000 per post. On the other hand, each influencer may promote multiple products at the same time, ultimately decreasing the very authenticity that brands are hoping for.
Depending on your objectives, target users, and budget, influencer marketing can help you reach a broad audience to increase product awareness.
While some brands like to work with big influencers, others find that micro-influencer marketing generates a better return on investment. Micro-influencers have between a thousand to a hundred thousand of followers.
It is important to understand that micro-influencers often are not the less-famous versions of their celebrity counterparts. Many micro-influencers are hyper-specialized, covering very specific niches, and their followers look towards their content for guidance.
As stated in a study by Dr. Jonah Berger from the Wharton School, the author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller “Contagious: Why Things Catch On”:
Micro-influencers are not traditional celebrities, but rather individuals who work in their category or are truly knowledgeable, passionate and authentic and are seen as a trusted source when it comes to recommendations for what to buy.
Authenticity is a key advantage for micro-influencer marketing, driving up to 10x engagement rate compared to other methods. The engagement rate also typically results in additional organic impressions through re-posts and shares. In fact, in a study by Markerly:
Influencers in the 10k-100k follower range offer the best combination of engagement and broad reach, with like and comment rates that exceed influencers with higher followers.
Micro-influencers are also more willing to partner with brands at a lower fee than celebrities. Often, free products or vouchers are enough to nudge them to post about you. New York-based influencer platform Bloglovin surveyed 2,500 influencers and found that:
84% of micro-influencers charge less than $250 per branded post on Instagram; 90% charge less than $250 per branded Facebook post.
How to find influencers and micro-influencers for your product?
1. Use Instagram hashtags or Google search
Find influencers that are right for you by searching directly on Instagram using hashtags, for example: #perfume. The first results tend to be posts with the highest engagement, so they are a good starting point. Then take note of the other hashtags in these posts that are aligned with your products’ values to narrow down your list of influencers.
Alternatively, you can use Google search to find these influencers. Example: “perfume site:instagram.com”.
2. Use an Instagram search engine
Instagram search engines create a searchable list of all Instagram users and enable you to find influencers based on number of followers, keywords, industries, location and engagement rate. Some examples are Upfluence, NinjaOutreach, and Klear.
3. Use Instagram management services
These services directly manage hundreds of influencers, so you don’t have to do the legwork of reaching out and finding an agreement with each individual influencer. However, this approach comes at the cost of between 10% to 20% of what the influencer charges. Typically you can search, manage and pay directly on these sites. Some examples of these services are FameBit & Refluence.
Besides identifying the right influencers that resonate with your target users, marketers should also remember to leave influencers the creative freedom to maintain the authenticity and relatability with their followers.
Advocate marketing, or advocacy marketing, is usually defined as “a form of marketing that emphasizes getting existing customers to talk about the company and its products.” (source: link)
While the term “advocate marketing” is not new, what we are covering here is “influential advocate” marketing. If influencer and micro-influencer marketing focuses on looking outward to hire someone to talk about your product, advocate marketing focuses on searching inward for influential customers within your customer base.
What if some of your customers, who love your products and services, are also influencers and micro-influencers?
Your goal as a company should be to turn every customer into an advocate, but not all advocates are created equal. What if some of your customers who love your products, also happen to be influencers and micro-influencers? The reach and influence of such customers would be at least tenfold compared to others.
When a Youtube influencer Casey Neistat (with over 7 million followers) introduced BoostedBoard in one of his videos simply because he loved the product, not only did he increase the product awareness, but also created interest among his fanbase that generated sales for BoostedBoard. BoostedBoard responded quickly (e.g. when Casey broke his boards, the CEO himself sent Casey a new one) and now has an official collaboration with Casey for upcoming products.
Knowing when an influential customer uses your product can help you determine appropriate engagements, promotions, and follow-ups. Since they already use and love your product, their marketing posts would be more authentic and they might be more willing to work with you at a lower fee.
Lastly, these influential advocates can help you weather the storm during difficult situations. Since they are also users of your product, their opinions are more relatable and trustworthy to your customer base.
Knowing when an influential customer uses your product can help you determine appropriate engagements, promotions, and follow-ups.
How to identify your influential advocates?
Option 1 — Google search:
A delightfully easy but painstakingly tedious way. Simply Google their name and/or their email address to find their social media profiles. The advantages of this method are: it’s straightforward, most people already know how to do it, and it’s free. On the down side, this is not scalable as your customer base grows. It is also difficult to manually verify the identity of the search results.
Option 2 — Social media monitoring:
There are many tools to monitor mentions of your product or hashtag on Twitter or Instagram (such as Hootsuite or Keyhole). Using this information, you can go through your customer database and match these influencers with your customers to see what they ordered or when they signed up. The advantage here is that some companies already pay for such social media monitoring services (check with your PR team). However, matching these social media accounts with your customer database is still a manual process. More importantly, you might overlook influential customers who have used your product but have not posted about it online.
Option 3 — Analyze your brand’s Twitter/Instagram followers:
You can analyze your followers for influencers or micro-influencers that can help you spread the word about your product. You can use tools such as Followerwonk or services provided by marketing agencies to identify and map your followers. Similarly to Option 2, the disadvantages lie with the manual matching process against the customer database and overlooking customers who are not yet following your brand on social media (i.e. new customers).
At UserGems, we automate the influencer/micro-influencer identification process for you so you can receive real-time information about your customers without manual searching (option 1) or matching (option 2 & 3). UserGems provides comprehensive, up-to-date customer intelligence across multiple platforms (including Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, AngelList). With UserGems, you are able to determine who your customers are and how influential they are. This information is available as soon as a customer signs up on your website or purchases a product. This allows you to quickly determine an appropriate way to engage with the influencer and enhance their experience with your brand.
Once you’ve identified influential customers, you can enhance their experience and gain an opportunity for them to become your brand’s advocates. Some examples of ways to enhance your customer’s experience:
- Upgrade their shipment to same day delivery.
- Add a hand-written card to their shipment for a personal touch.
- Add some freebies to the order.
- Recommend or offer discounts for related services.
- Offer an exclusive access to your new products or events.
- Offer them an affiliate program.
Now that you have influential advocates who are willing to work with your brand, make sure they get as much benefit out of this relationship as you do. Since they are also your customers, involve them in product-related discussions for feedback and feature suggestions. Most importantly, don’t forget to treat their followers right. After all, it’s your influencers’ reputation that’s on the line.
And there you have it: How to identify influencers, micro influencer, and advocates for your products. We’d love to hear your feedback and questions, please comment in the section down below.