Influencer Marketing: A Guide to Developing Your Strategy

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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

Smiling woman holding cake in front of video camera

Chances are if you’ve been active on Instagram, Tiktok, YouTube, or even Facebook or Twitter 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 use their own authority or insights on a specific subject to convince a target audience to purchase a product or service.

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 endorsements that integrate seamlessly into our news feeds.

These days, companies are turning to “everyday” influencers that deliver authentic content and engage personally with their followers, who are more likely to drive return on investment (ROI) as part of a brand’s digital marketing plan. 

This article will guide you to determine whether influencer marketing is right for your business and how to create an effective influencer marketing strategy.

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is the promotion of a brand’s products or services by a popular user or public figure on media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube. These influencers are trusted or knowledgeable figures in a niche community with a loyal follower base, and followers who identify with or trust their opinion will likely want to purchase the brand. Influencers might sell their own merchandise directly through their platform or will leverage their audience to promote other brands. 

Just as the relationship between consumer and influencer is based on trust and loyalty, a brand interested in exploring influencer marketing should develop relationships with relevant influencers. The most effective influencer marketing strategy is to identify the right influencers for your brand—those who resonate with your target audience. 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.

Since 2016, the global market for influencer marketing has gone from $1.7 billion to an estimated $16.4 billion in 2022 [1]. Over two-thirds of US marketers used some form of influencer marketing in 2021, expected to increase to 72.5 percent this year [2,3]. Working with influencers can be a lucrative opportunity if it is right for your brand. 

Is influencer marketing right for your brand?

To determine whether influencer marketing is right for your brand, you’ll want to consider a few things:

  • Whether it aligns with your target demographic and the platforms they use

  • Whether your brand falls under the common types of influencer products or services

  • Whether you can afford influencer marketing and how much to budget for it

According to Influencer Marketing Hub’s 2022 benchmark report, Instagram ranks best with female users between the ages of 25 and 34 (Millennials), while TikTok resonates most with females 24 and under (Gen Z). YouTube was best for males, especially millennials, as they comprise almost a fifth of all YouTube viewers [1]. If your brand’s target demographic falls under one of these categories, then you might try experimenting with influencer marketing.

Besides demographic and platform alignment, you’ll also need to consider whether your brand falls under the common niche categories for influencers. In 2021, lifestyle brands comprised 13.8 percent of influencer marketing, with beauty at 8.56 percent, music at 8.27 percent, followed by photography and family. Lifestyle includes food and cooking enthusiasts, travel and adventure seekers, and more [1].

Finally, can you afford it? If you are a small business owner, you’ll want to know how much it costs to hire influencers. On average, industry experts suggest $1,000 per 100k followers on Instagram, adjusted according to reach and relevance [3]. For YouTube, $100 per 1,000 views is standard [3]. For TikTok, expect to pay $5 to $25 per post for nano-influencers, and $2,500 and up for mega-influencers (more on the distinction later) [4].

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 Your 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 goals. Who do you want to reach by adopting influencer marketing? One of the main objectives for brands hiring influencers is to reach new target customers. Expanding your social media marketing strategy to include influencers can broaden your reach considerably. 

Next, what are your key performance indicators? Are you seeking general brand awareness, or hoping to increase sales conversions? Driving sales is the third most common goal for influencer campaigns after reaching new target customers and increasing product consideration [3].

Set specific, measurable goals that you can track through reporting on the systems or platforms you choose to utilize. You may decide to set different goals for each of your products, according to customer segmentation and business needs. You’ll need to allot a budget and timeline to experiment with your first campaign.

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

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Learn how to set goals for your marketing strategy.

2. Research the landscape and find your influencers.

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

Research the landscape of influencers, too. 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), as well as cost. Spend some time on each platform observing influencers in your field (lifestyle, beauty, food, etc.) 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

  • Types of influencers and costs, determined by follower count and platform [4]:

Type of Influencer# FollowersInstagramTikTokYouTube
Nano10,000 or less$10-$100$5-$25$20-$200
Micro10,000-50,000$100-$500$25-$125$200-$1,000
Mid-Tier50,000-500,000$500-5,000$125-$1,250$1,000-$10,000
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+

These rates will vary widely depending on the industry and influencer, but this information should give you a ballpark idea of typical costs. You can reach out to potential influencers about pricing before sending serious inquiries. 

4. Contact and connect with influencers.

Get organized and 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 might have a manager, so you’ll need to approach them first with a brief pitch. When sending a DM, be sure to personalize it to each influencer and emphasize their potential value to your brand. Here are good and bad examples of messages to send influencers:

  • Good: “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.”

  • Bad: “Hey, we think you’re awesome. Contact us for a special opportunity!”

In your formal 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.

5. Collaborate and 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. While you can agree on certain types of content and provide a few guidelines, the influencer has creative control over the execution of the video or post. 

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

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6. 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 (using urchin tracking modules, 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 on the post. Tons of likes and comments do not 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 [5].

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.

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7. Refine and revise your strategy as needed.

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

Coursera offers courses, specializations, and professional certificates to help you build your marketing knowledge, like the Digital Advertising Strategy Specialization from University of Colorado Boulder. 

If you're exploring a career in influencer marketing, Meta’s professional certificate in Social Media Marketing will provide a deep dive into the world of digital marketing. Learn how to create, manage, and evaluate your advertising campaigns on social media in seven months or less, all online and at your own pace.

 

Article sources

1. Influencer Marketing Hub. “The State of Influencer Marketing 2022: Benchmark Report, https://influencermarketinghub.com/influencer-marketing-benchmark-report/.” Accessed April 7, 2022.

2. Emarketer. “Influencer Monetization 2021, https://www.emarketer.com/content/influencer-monetization-2021.” Accessed April 7, 2022.

3. Hootsuite. “Influencer Marketing Guide: How to Work With Influencers, https://blog.hootsuite.com/influencer-marketing/.” Accessed April 7, 2022.

4. Influencer Marketing Hub. “Influencer Rates: How Much do Influencers Really Cost in 2022?, https://influencermarketinghub.com/influencer-rates/.” Accessed April 7, 2022.

5. Civil Science. “Trust in Influencers Isn’t High, but Gen Z Is Still Buying Their Products, https://civicscience.com/trust-in-influencers-isnt-high-but-gen-z-is-still-buying-their-products/.” Accessed April 7, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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