Influencer marketing has become the most popular trend in 2018 marketing, mainly because of Instagram’s explosion over the past few years. Influencers are hardly new, as we remember the days of Marilyn Monroe smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes and Brett Favre in his Wrangler jeans. However, the influencers of today are not the mainstream celebrities that we were used to 10-15 years ago and most of these influencers have built brands from Instagram and YouTube. We wanted to find out more about influencers and how you can effectively use them to grow your brand, so we reached out to influencer marketing expert Carson Jones to ask a few questions.

Q:Carson, you have worked with brands and run influencer campaigns, but what is an influencer?

A: The definition of an influencer isn’t defined by the number of followers someone has and a lot of people don’t understand that. The true definition of an influencer is someone that can push out a message and get people to actually take action! I have seen people that have over a million followers on Instagram, but when they post a product, it may only convert a few sales. On the other hand, I have worked with influencers that have 8-10,000 followers that can convert 40-50 sales. It really comes down to quality, not quantity.

Q: How can you tell the difference?

A: You must do your due diligence, and sometimes it’s not a perfect science. Instagram has become so bot/algorithm driven that even if someone has 15-20 comments, a lot of those may not even be real people. You want to look at the likes but also look at the quality of the comments. Are people leaving thoughtful responses or do they look generic? Most influencers these days have also converted to a business style profile, so when you reach out, especially if you are willing to pay, you can feel comfortable asking if they would share their reach/demographics with you. You will waste a lot of money and time if you are simply paying influencers based on their followers.

Q: What’s the best way to reach out to influencers?

A: If they are truly an influencer, they are probably getting a ton of requests via DM and email. However, if you can be creative and put actual effort into it, they will notice. They are used to getting the automated “Hey, love your page. We would love to send you our product” BS. We use a 5-step approach to reaching out to influencers. 1. Follow them 2. Like 3-5 photos 3. Leave a thoughtful comment 4. DM 5. Email

Q: What do you mean by thoughtful comment and what kind of messaging should we be sending?

A: Something that stands out and engages with the post. For example, if you are a local business looking to connect with a food blogger and they post about a smoothie shop down the street, something along the likes of “That smoothie shop is fantastic! We’re actually in that neighborhood as well, have you tried their apple mango smoothie yet?” Say something thoughtful and potentially engaging. Questions are the best way to get answers. The comments are not the place to say WORK WITH US.. save that for steps 4 and 5.

Q: How should you ask in a way that gets their attention without seeming to pushy or automated?

A: Money is the quickest way to get a response! If you find an influencer that you really want to work with, reach out to them and let them know you are interested! Tell them you would love to have them into your location, or send you a product, etc (whatever your business is) and follow up by letting them know that you are willing to pay for them to share about their experience. 99% of the time, if your product/service is great, they will give glowing reviews that will ultimately help you make an impact on a local/national level. It’s important that they try your product before you offer to pay though because there is no reason to waste your valuable resources if they are not interested.

Q: How much money should we be offering?

A: This depends on the influencer and your budget, the quickest way to find out is to start asking. Start with an arbitrary number like $100. You will find that some influencers will want $500 for a post, while others will be excited about the $100. These are people you are speaking to and all of them are in different positions. Some know exactly how to measure their audience and others are just excited to make a quick $100 and get some free stuff. If you play the numbers game by asking a lot of influencers, you will begin to understand the value of your product and the influencer’s audience.

Q: What’s the best way to measure results from an influencer campaign?

A: The best way to measure the direct results is with a promo code! However, I always caution that you may only break even or lose money on the front end of your first influencer campaign. Just as with any advertising, it can take multiple exposures for a market to take notice and customers to become aware of your brand. If you are going to commit to this route, commit to running at least 5 campaigns with quality influencers before you assess if it’s working or not. The other nice thing about these campaigns is that influencers take high-quality photos and know how to create content. With most influencer campaigns, you are purchasing the rights to those photos, meaning you can use them on your website, in ads, on your own social channels, etc. Creating quality content is a hurdle for any business, but working with influencers can help you accomplish that while helping your overall branding and immediate sales strategy.

If you have questions for Carson about influencer marketing or the digital space, feel free to reach out via his website or on twitter @carsonjones1.