Josiah Wedgwood started the ball rolling. Back in the 1760s he added royal endorsements to his pottery to show customers they could trust his tea sets. In the early 1900s, Mark Twain put his name to pens. Later, Ty Cobb would beat Michael Jordan to athletic endorsements by marketing tobacco.
From Doris Day pitching Harvester road rollers to George Clooney selling coffee pods, we’re accustomed to seeing celebrities offering products they think their audiences will enjoy—and earning money from it.
What’s changed in the last few years is the nature of celebrity. People no longer need to write classic books, hit home runs, star in movies or wear a crown to build an audience whose buying decisions they can influence. They can publish their content on platforms like Instagram and YouTube, and build those audiences themselves.
For businesses, the result has been a huge expansion in both the range of possible endorsements and depth of those endorsements. Companies don’t need to approach movie stars with requests to use their names. They can just contact someone with a big Instagram account, and ask them to influence their followers to buy the products they make. This year the value of the influencer marketing industry is expected to reach $6.5 billion.
Much of that money has flowed from consumer-facing businesses, and in particular cosmetics firms, food companies, and the hospitality industry. These are businesses with photogenic products whose images are easily shared on Instagram or shown on YouTube. They also have the kind of young markets found on those social media platforms. It’s a good match.
But other industries are also looking to benefit from influencer marketing, and at the same time businesses that have used influencer marketing are showing concern. They’re worried that they might be paying for fake followers and inflated figures. In one recent study, nearly two-thirds of respondents who had used influencers said that they had direct experience of influencer marketing fraud.
Together, those pressures have created a new opportunity for non-traditional influencers. These are people who may have small followings or who have built an audience in a particular niche market. Instead of aiming to attract millions of young people who love pranks or new lipstick ideas, they may have audiences of just a few thousand who like making cushions or who need carpentry advice. Those audiences might not be a direct match for a product but they do overlap.
“Having seen her work we knew she would be a good brand fit given the fun and color,” Sarah Gustat, vice president of marketing at the brand’s parent company, told the website. “It felt like a reflection of the Sparkling Ice brand and really brought the campaign to life.”
The content didn’t match on its face. Scrinkl creates videos about art; Sparkling Ice makes cocktails. But Scrinkl did bring a number of features to the brand that made buying her influence worthwhile: the demographics overlapped; the style of the brands were in sync; and Scrinkl’s engagement levels were high, a sign that her audience is genuine and that she has the ability to move them. Sparkling Ice was very happy with the result, and didn’t have to turn to an expensive drinks influencer to achieve them.
Finding non-traditional influencers who can help your business takes a little time—but it can also be fun.
Skip Google and head straight to a social media platform, especially Instagram. Search for the keywords or hashtags related to your product then do a deep dive. Instead of stopping at the biggest influencers, look through their followers and see who else they follow. Those additional accounts represent a new entryway into your market. Identify a handful of influencers with interesting content and high levels of engagement, then approach them with an offer.
Because they’re still small, that offer won’t need to be huge. Some influencers have been known to take free samples as payment for promoting a product. (If you’re trying to create a long-term relationship, you might want to go bigger than that though!)
And make sure that you know what your call to action will be, whether it’s clicking a link, following your own account, or taking up a special offer. You want to be able to measure the effectiveness of the influencers you use.
You might not be able to land a royal endorsement, but you should find that you’re able to move an audience and influence sales.
- Hear Joel talk about Influencer Marketing 101 on “The Heartbeat of Main Street”
- Learn how to vet influencers for your small business with guidance from Mari Smith
- Consider using micro-influencers to drive business in a local market. Mari Smith explains how.
About Joel Comm
As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.
Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.
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