What Is Influencer Marketing? How to Develop Your Strategy

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Develop a strategy to leverage the growing trend of influencer marketing for your brand or business.

[Featured image] A food influencer holds a cake and smiles in front of a video camera.

Chances are, if you’ve been active on any social media platform in recent years, then you have encountered influencers. Maybe you’ve seen a fitness vlogger selling workout clothing or a beauty blogger recommending a new night cream. Influencers are people who use their own authority or insights on a specific subject to convince a target audience to take some action.

Though the term is relatively new, the concept of an “influencer” is not a new phenomenon. People have long been swayed to buy things because famous people talked about or used them. But as the everyday use of digital platforms has risen, brands have leveraged influencer partnerships with real people to seamlessly integrate their business messaging into our news feeds.

In this article, we'll discuss what influencer marketing is, whether it's right for your business, and how to develop an effective influencer marketing strategy that aligns with your marketing goals.

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is when a business collaborates with influencers to promote their brand across social networks such as Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube. It's a form of social media marketing and may be a piece of a business's broad digital marketing plan.

Influencer marketing can be an effective way to reach your target audience. To their followers, influencers are generally seen as knowledgable and trustworthy figures, so they are likely to trust their brand judgment and product recommendations. Working with influencers can enable you to benefit from the goodwill they've built with their followers.

Types of influencers

These days, companies are turning to "everyday" influencers who deliver authentic content and engage personally with their followers, and who are more likely to drive a strong return on investment (ROI). Everyday influencers are generally categorized into different tiers, based on their follower count. They may be:

  • Nano-influencers: 10,000 followers or less

  • Micro-influencers: 10,000-50,000 followers

  • Mid-tier influencers: 50,000-500,000 followers

  • Macro-influencers: 500,000-1 million followers

  • Mega-influencers: over 1 million followers

Influencer marketing examples

For Coursera, choosing influencers started with selecting a handful of high-performing Coursera courses that had high conversion rates, and then making sure to choose influencers that aligned with the content’s audience. Here are a few examples of influencer marketing:

Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate: Alex the Analyst enlightens followers on his path toward becoming a data analyst on his Youtube channel, which has over 190,000 subscribers.

First Step Korean from Yonsei University on TikTok: KoreanHoon, who has over 2.2 million followers, recommends this course because it is online, self paced, and has an easy-to-follow curriculum.

First Step Korean on Instagram: Korean Hamin touts the benefits of this course, which offers a certificate of completion that learners can put on their LinkedIn. He engages with his fans by answering questions in the comments


Is influencer marketing right for your brand?

Since 2016, the global market for influencer marketing has gone from $1.7 billion to an expected $21.1 billion in 2023, and over 83 percent of marketers surveyed for Influencer Marketing Hub’s 2023 benchmark report believe influencer marketing is effective [1]. Working with influencers can be a lucrative opportunity if it is right for your brand. 

However, in order to experience the benefits of influencer marketing, you’ll want to consider a few things:

  • Does it align with your target demographic and the platforms they use?

  • Does your brand fall under the common types of influencer products or services?

  • Can you afford influencer marketing?

Let's take a look at how you might answer each question.

Influencer marketing target audiences

Not every demographic uses social media in the same way, and demographics even vary across platforms. Think about who your potential customers are, the types of platforms they're likely to use, and whether they're likely to engage with social media influencers.

Generally, according to Influencer Marketing Hub’s 2023 benchmark report, the majority of Instagram users are 25-34 years old, while TikTok users tend to fall under the 13-24 age range. On YouTube, over one-fifth of video views come from males aged 25-34 [1].

It's worth conducting a complete market analysis to determine whether your target audience uses social media, and if your brand’s target demographic falls under one of these categories, then you might try experimenting with influencer marketing.

Common types of influencer products and services

Besides demographic and platform alignment, you’ll also need to consider whether your brand falls under the common niche categories for influencers. Some popular niches in influencer marketing include:

  • Lifestyle

  • Fashion

  • Beauty

  • Celebrities and entertainment

  • Sports

Cost of influencer marketing

Finally, it's important to consider your influencer marketing budget. Overall, Influencer Marketing Hub reports that 43 percent of brands spend less than $10,000 annually on influencer marketing, while 11 percent spend more than $500,000 [1].

Individual rates will vary widely depending on the industry and influencer, and you can reach out to potential influencers about pricing before sending serious inquiries. Here's a general overview of influencer rates [2]:

Type of Influencer# FollowersInstagramTikTokYouTube
Nano10,000 or less$10-$100$5-$25$20-$200
Macro500,000-1 million$5,000-$10,000$1,250-$2,500$10,000-$20,000
Mega1 million or more$10,000+$2,500+$20,000+

Sending free products is fair compensation if the product or service is valued at or more than the influencer’s typical rate, as long as it’s agreed upon. Otherwise, there’s little obligation for them to post content about your brand. 

How to create an influencer marketing strategy

Now that you’ve determined that influencer marketing is right for your brand, you’re ready for the fun part. Here’s how to develop an effective influencer marketing strategy. 

1. Define your goals and target market.

Much like any marketing strategy, your first step is to outline your marketing goals. Some common influencer marketing campaign goals are to reach new target customers, increase product consideration, and drive sales [3].

Set specific, measurable campaign goals that you can track through reporting on the systems or platforms you choose to utilize. Remember to consider your budget and timeline as you experiment with your first campaign.

Next, consider how you will measure success. At this point, you may want to determine some key performance indicators so that you can easily determine whether your strategy helps you achieve your goals. Depending on your goals, you may decide to track metrics such as engagement rates, new followers, or sales data.

Watch this video from Meta on establishing SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) for social media marketing strategy:

2. Research the landscape and find your influencers.

The most effective influencer marketing strategy is to identify the right influencers for your brand—those who resonate with your target audience. Research the landscape of influencers. Key criteria to use to determine if an influencer is a good fit include resonance, relevance, and reach (the 3 R’s, as Hootsuite calls it). Spend some time on each platform observing influencers in your field and how they promote similar brands. 

  • Resonance: The level of engagement they can create

  • Relevance: How well their content aligns with your brand messaging

  • Reach: The number of people you can potentially reach with an influencer’s following

Additionally, before you start working with influencers, take a moment to research the competitive landscape. Are your competitors working with influencers? If so, with whom and in what capacity? 

3. Contact and connect with influencers.

Just as the relationship between consumer and influencer is based on trust and loyalty, a brand interested in exploring influencer marketing should develop positive relationships with influencers.

Create a shortlist of influencers that align with your brand and allotted budget. Follow and observe their content for a few days, interacting organically with likes or comments when appropriate. Then, when you’re ready to request a partnership, send a direct message, or an email if their address is listed in their bio. Some influencers have managers or work with influencer marketing agencies, so you’ll need to approach them first with a brief pitch.

When reaching out, be sure to personalize it to each influencer and emphasize their potential value to your brand. In your pitch, you’ll want to provide information about your brand, why the influencer could be a good fit, what you’re hoping to achieve with the campaign, and potential benefits beyond the payment.

Here's an example:

“Hi [insert name], I really loved your video on [topic] and how it helps/inspires your audience to [insert activity or purchase]. We would love to partner with you to [idea here] and [drive sales/create brand awareness/etc.]. If you’re interested, let me know and we can set up a time to chat.”

4. Collaborate to create content.

Once you’ve established a deal, the influencer will create their own content around your product or service. They might explain its benefits or how to use it.

Because influencers operate independently and create their own content, you’ll want to be sure they’re integrating your messaging in a way that aligns with your brand. While you can agree on certain types of content and provide a few guidelines, the influencer typically has creative control over the execution of the video or post, unless otherwise outlined in your deal. (Who has creative control is one differentiator between influencer marketing and traditional advertising.)

5. Track the metrics of each campaign.

After launching your influencer campaign, you’ll want to track how they do over time. If you choose to use several different platforms, you can compare how well each campaign does on each platform. Experimentation is key in the early stages of influencer marketing.

Whenever possible, instruct influencers to include affiliate links or UTM codes that enable you to track how many clicks and sales are being generated. This enables your team to know how much return on investment (ROI) each influencer delivers. 

The campaign should be measured by more than just engagement rates. Tons of likes and comments don't necessarily translate into sales conversions, but they can be considered as strengthening brand awareness. 

Fun fact: The power of influence

According to Civil Science, 14 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds (Gen Z) and 11 percent of millennials bought something in the last six months because of an influencer recommendation, despite low trust in influencers among the general population [4].

The mere exposure effect may play a role, since people spend so much time scrolling through social media; seeing a product advertised seven times can create familiarity and trust in a brand.


6. Refine and revise your strategy.

Close monitoring of your influencer marketing campaigns will provide insights to help you make decisions going forward. 

  • Did a particular product perform better with one influencer over another?

  • If the influencer has multiple platforms, which one converted more sales?

  • How much engagement and conversions did you receive?

These are questions you can use to refine your strategy and make influencer marketing a successful part of your marketing plan.

Get started with Coursera

Keep building your marketing knowledge with Coursera. Learn about online marketing strategy from industry leaders. Check out Google's Digital Marketing & E-commerce Professional Certificate and Meta's Social Media Marketing Professional Certificate. Complete courses completely online and at your own pace. Register today for free to start your seven-day all-access trial.

Article sources


Influencer Marketing Hub. “The State of Influencer Marketing 2023: Benchmark Report, https://influencermarketinghub.com/influencer-marketing-benchmark-report/.” Accessed March 24, 2023.

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