Influencer Marketing: A Guide For SMEs


Are you tapping into the power of influencers? From YouTube stars to Instagram celebrities, there are plenty of people online who could spread the word about your business. We explore how to make the most of them, guide on influencer marketing for SMEs:

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Online influencers such as bloggers, Instagrammers and YouTube stars can boost the popularity of the products and services they choose to talk about – yet many SMEs have not yet harnessed their power.

“Influencer marketing has taken off in the fashion industry, but other sectors have not taken notice of how it applies to them,” says Hannah Kathleen Hawkshaw, a Dublin-based influencer who has used her expertise to found Branding Marketing Results.

“At the end of the day, people buy from people, so if you can create strategic partnerships with key influencers – whatever your industry – you’re going to be able to build your brand effectively because your ideal clients are hearing the message from people they want to listen to.”

Sinéad Carroll, who runs the Irish Blogger Agency, agrees that an influencer’s credibility is a powerful factor.

“There are lots of benefits of running an influencer marketing campaign,” she says. “It’s not pushy, it allows niche targeting, it boosts SEO with influencers creating quality backlinks, it provides value, generates relevant leads, drives conversions and aids content strategy.”

Recommended reading: How Small Businesses Can Use Influencer Marketing in 2019

A cost-effective strategy

Feedalpha, based in Tullow, County Carlow, is a content-sharing social media platform for businesses of all sizes, from SMEs to corporates. It works by finding trending content its clients can share online, saving them time and boosting their audience engagement. Since its launch last year, Feedalpha has built an impressive global customer base at very little cost – all by using influencers.

Co-founder Gary Evans says: “When we launched, we needed a way to get a foothold in a very busy industry. We came up with two options, both of which involved influencers.”

Option one, which was tailored to the Irish market, was to use social media experts who had their own followers and influence online.

“First we set up a website, hired an awesome social media person and started looking at the who’s who of social media in Ireland. We used a series of webinars we ran with social media experts. The power of amplification, piggybacking off the experts’ own followers, helped us reach completely new audiences organically. Each expert shared links to their webinar, which resulted in a flood of traffic to the site. Couple this with lead capture and retargeting via social media, and we had a readymade target list.”

Feedalpha’s influencers needed to be real people with real skills: the aim was to give people watching the webinars actionable things they could take away and apply to their business. 

“You need influencers who resonate with your message, and whose audience will also resonate, in order to launch a successful campaign”

Hannah Kathleen Hawkshaw, founder, Brand Marketing Results

“There was no selling on any of these interviews,” says Evans. “We wanted to add value to the conversation instead of just pushing our product online. What we found from running these types of interviews is you end up with a very engaged community, people who talk about your brand and invite others to join in. They also start using your product – and that’s without ever doing the hard sell.”

Feedalpha’s second approach was aimed at achieving global brand recognition. It set about compiling a series of tips from global social media experts.

“These types of posts are not new but can be very effective in attracting lots of brand-new visitors to your blog,” says Evans. “We asked about a dozen or so influencers for their top tips for social media and nine came back, and all of a sudden we had a page full of content from some of the best minds in social media ready to publish.

“You get quite a few benefits from running a campaign like this. First, it’s free – the majority of people who have made a name for themselves in social media are really cool people and love to help others out. Plus, you end up with some of the best content available that's really up to date and works when you apply it to your business. And you get to leverage the influencers’ huge following when you hit publish.”

A win-win arrangement

Of course, not all influencers will give you something for free. In Hawkshaw’s experience, each case is different.

“Sometimes payment is the easiest way of doing it initially but there might be other avenues that are more viable and appealing to both parties – it’s just a matter of having the conversation,” she says. “I’ve worked with brands before where the opportunity has been interesting in its own right.”

An example might be the chance to be in a room with people who are good contacts for the influencer – so be on the lookout for ideas that can help them further their brand, too.

Working with influencers: five tips for SMEs

1. Consider what your brand stands for

“You have to know your key values and how you want to be perceived in the market,” says Hawkshaw. “Knowing this information will allow you to make an informed decision when selecting someone to go out there and be an advocate of your brand.”

2. Only choose suitable influencers

“You need influencers who resonate with your message, and whose audience will also resonate, in order to launch a successful campaign,” says Hawkshaw.

3. Don’t discount influencers with smaller followings

“The biggest mistake businesses make is to go for big-name celebrities who may be totally irrelevant to the type of product you sell,” says Carroll. “The majority of our database consists of micro-influencers (1,000 – 20,000 followers). Micro-influencers may hold a smaller reach than their larger counterparts but a big benefit of these influencers is that they usually hold very high levels of engagement, relevancy and trust among their followers and that can prove very powerful.”

4. Create an outreach strategy

“It’s really important to understand what your value proposition is, because a lot of brands want to work with influencers,” says Hawkshaw. “What are you doing to make your offer more appealing?”

5. Cultivate a long-term relationship

“Sometimes brands establish the connection but then they don’t really focus on building a long-term partnership,” says Hawkshaw. “The best way to have the biggest impact is to have someone who is consistently going out as an advocate of your brand.”

Recommended reading: 4 Things You Need to Know About Influencer Marketing

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