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What is influencer marketing? Grow your social media reach

7-minute read

A woman watches an influencer on their mobile phone
Rosanna Parrish

Rosanna Parrish

1 May 2024

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Social media is an increasingly important part of our lives, and with it, so are influencers. If you’ve ever been relaxing after a long day of work, scrolling through your Instagram feed and found yourself opening a new tab to check out a product you just saw, you may have just experienced influencer marketing.

So why not implement an influencer marketing strategy in your small business? In this article we cover the influencer marketing definition as well as how to develop your own strategy.

Keep reading to learn how to create your own influencer marketing campaign – whilst following the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) guidelines.

Influencer marketing explained

Influencer marketing is when a business works with an influencer to create content and advertise to new audiences across social media. To understand influencer marketing, you first need to understand what an influencer is – as well as their specialist skill set.

Influencers are online creators who are popular on social media and know how to use it to their advantage. They’re creative and internet-savvy and have usually built up a loyal online following who often buy the products they’re promoting.

But it’s not as simple as sending your business’s products to an influencer and asking them to post them. Authenticity is key to influencer marketing – so you’ll need to find an influencer whose brand matches your products, and whose audience trusts them.

Your chosen influencer will then create content to influence others to buy your product. This could be a simple product review, an unboxing video, or tutorial on how to use it.

No matter the content output, you’ll need to make sure that both you and your chosen influencer are following the guidelines laid out by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Working with the Advertising Standards Authority

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) regulates all advertising in the UK to make sure that they’re all following the same rules. It’s not unique to influencer marketing, but you do often hear about the ASA in regards to influencer marketing due to how easy it is to break the rules.

When working with an influencer, you need to make sure that their posts follow the ASA guidelines. For example, if you’re gifting your product to an influencer for a review, or offering monetary compensation, the influencer needs to make sure that this is clearly stated in their post.

This also includes if you hire an influencer to act as a brand ambassador for your business. Any incentive or relationship, no matter how small, needs to be disclosed.

According to the ASA, some acceptable ways to mark a post as a collaboration between an influencer and a business include:

  • #Ad
  • #Advert
  • #Advertising
  • #Advertisement
  • #AdvertisementFeature

You can read the full ASA guidelines for influencers here.

Benefits of influencer marketing

While you may usually relate influencer marketing campaigns to larger businesses, there are plenty of benefits for small businesses using influencer marketing to grow their business.

Grow your customer base

If you know your products are particularly popular with a specific demographic, or you’re hoping to target another, finding an influencer whose audience matches that demographic could increase your sales.

For example, if you’re a designer who makes sustainable handbags, collaborating with a sustainable fashion influencer could be a good match due to your business and their audience sharing similar values.

But influencer marketing doesn’t just have to revolve around fashion. Perhaps you manufacture custom products for cars – in which case, a car influencer would be a great match for your business.

Cost effective

Influencer marketing can also be a cost effective way to market your business. This will depend on a couple of factors, such as:

  • popularity of influencer – an influencer with a higher follower count will usually charge more for sponsored posts
  • type of collaboration – you may agree to pay an influencer a fee to post about your business, or you may choose to send them your product for free in exchange for a review, the latter of which is likely to have a better return on investment
  • type of post – a series of videos will likely cost more than a mention on Instagram stories, for example

4 steps to develop your influencer marketing strategy

If you’re still interested in trying out influencer marketing, it’s important you develop a proper influencer marketing strategy. It’s not a one size fits all approach, so follow the below steps to make sure you’re getting the most out of any collaborations – including expert tips from a professional social media manager.

1. Understand your audience

As mentioned above, you need to make sure the audience you’re targeting is a good fit for your product or service. Understand your target audience through market research and then cross reference this with insights into any influencer’s demographics.

Some influencers will be happy to share these insights with you when agreeing on brand deals, but otherwise you can get a good understanding by taking a look at the accounts who engage most with their posts.

Danielle Read, Social Media Manager at Simply Business, says: “A good tip is to not pay too much attention to follower count – as this doesn't always translate to high engagement.

“Between inactive accounts and bots, a high follower count doesn’t necessarily mean a large audience. Looking at recent likes and comments can help you see the most engaged users.”

2. Finding the right influencers

Other than influencer demographics, you also need to make sure you’re picking the right personality for the job.

Danielle agrees, saying: “Authenticity is key to influencer marketing, so make sure that any influencers you work with are a genuine fit for the products or services you’re looking to sell.”

Some things to consider include:

  • brand loyalty to competitors
  • if they use similar products
  • if previous sponsored posts seem authentic
  • whether their brand fits with your own – consider their style, tone, and values

And when thinking about the type of content to post, trust your influencer’s expertise. Danielle adds: “Don’t be too prescriptive with what you would like an influencer or content creator to post about your business.

“Influencers have grown an engaged following because they understand what their audience want to see, so trust is needed if an influencer is creating content about your brand. Make sure you have a strong feedback and sign off process to ensure you’re both on the same page.”

It’s important to build a good relationship with the influencers you work with, as this could portray your brand in a positive light. They may even continue to promote your brand outside of any agreed paid advertising.

3. Setting goals and objectives

Your influencer marketing strategy will differ depending on what you hope to achieve. Do you just want to increase your brand awareness? Or are you looking to drive sales? Perhaps you want to expand to a new target audience?

Whatever you decide, it’s crucial to identify these goals early on in the process, as clear objectives will help you when it comes to choosing the right influencer to work with.

Read more: How to set business goals: top tips from successful entrepreneurs

4. Measuring success

As with any marketing strategy, you want to make sure that your hard work pays off. Measure your success by monitoring the performance of your influencer marketing campaigns to determine whether this is something you want to continue investing in.

You can use social media engagement rates, but also an increase to your website traffic or sales. To see exactly how people are finding your website, you could consider using a UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) code. This is a piece of text at the end of a URL in marketing campaigns which allows you to see your traffic sources.

You could also offer a discount code for the influencer to give to their followers, allowing you to see how many sales came directly from their content.

Working with an influencer marketing agency

If you’re interested in developing an influencer marketing strategy but want some expert guidance, working with an influencer marketing agency can help. These agencies specialise in connecting influencers with the right businesses, taking away a lot of the research mentioned above.

Influencer marketing agencies will usually have an in-built network of influencers they’ve worked with before. Not only can they help find you the right influencers, but this also helps to avoid potentially collaborating with creators who use fake followers or have a bad reputation in the industry.

These agencies can also help you when it comes to tracking data and measuring your campaign success and offer advice on any legal or ASA guidelines relating to influencer marketing.

But of course, working with an influencer marketing agency isn’t free. So while you’ll be receiving additional support, you’ll be paying for it and potentially seeing less return on investment.

It’s also important to choose an influencer marketing agency that specialises in what you want to achieve. For example, Fanbytes specialises in TikTok marketing which would work if you wanted a more video-focused collaboration.

Read more: What is outsourcing? A simple guide for small business owners

Influencer marketing examples

Still looking for some influencer marketing campaign inspiration? There are plenty of examples of brands using influencers to grow their reach in a creative way.

Simply Business have recently started partnering with small business owners and content creators to create a series of videos. We’re enjoying the creative collaboration and chance to reach a new audience.

Check out one of our videos below and view the rest on our TikTok account – you might even discover your favourite new small business.

Should you try influencer marketing?

Whether or not you want to try developing your own influencer marketing strategy will depend on your target audience and how active they are on social media. If they’re not, other forms of marketing may be better suited to your business.

You’ll also need to do some competitor research to see whether your competitors are using influencer marketing – and how successful their campaigns have been. While blindly following trends isn’t the best approach, having a strong understanding of what's working in your industry can help inspire you going forward.

Ultimately, whether you should try influencer marketing for your small business depends on your specific circumstances and objectives. If you do decide to give influencer marketing a go, make sure you start with a clear strategy and have realistic expectations.

And don’t forget to use the opportunity to be creative, try something different, and have fun.

More small business marketing guides

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Photo: Kaspars Grinvalds/
Rosanna Parrish

Written by

Rosanna Parrish

​​Rosanna Parrish is a Copywriter at Simply Business, specialising in legal and HR content. Trained at London College of Communication, she has been creating content professionally for eight years at publications across the UK and Spain. Starting her career in health insurance, she also worked in education marketing before returning to the insurance world. Rosanna also writes about wellbeing in the workplace. She lives by the sea and does her best writing in coffee shops.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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