5 Tips for Winning with Influencer Marketing


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For small and even medium-sized businesses the use of social media influencers is still a relatively new area of marketing. Most smaller brands don’t even use influencers to their advantage, because they believe that it’s too expensive or likely to be ineffective. Yet nothing is farther from the truth. Influencer marketing is still experiencing tremendous growth and current trends indicate that this will only continue.

With all that in mind, how can we “win” in the marketplace with influencer marketing and use influencer marketing to help our business grow? Here are a few quick tips that should help get you started or improve the effectiveness of your current influencer marketing program.

It’s All About Relationships

Really, I can’t say this enough. Some influencers out there will treat their status as an influencer primarily as a way to make money. Every business that engages them to market their stuff is just another paycheck, another commodity. Although these transactions – and I’m calling them transactions on purpose – sometimes can be beneficial for a business, they aren’t ideal. Especially with smaller businesses, relationships are much more important than just pay to play transactions.

Down the road, if you treat an influencer well then they’ll treat you accordingly. In other words, give them something they love, and they’re likely to keep using it and talking about it. I have a few products like that, where I started out with a social collaboration and I’m still talking about these companies years later. When these types of engagements are done right, they can be gifts that keep on giving. That results in the best ROI out there.

Conclusion: One-time transactional relationships are not the key to winning at influencer marketing. Long-term collaborative relationships are.

Use Influencers to Increase your Exposure

In some ways, the objective of all marketing is to increase your exposure to potential customers. That’s because the greater your exposure, the easier it is to sell your products and services. Who’s going to buy something if they haven’t heard of it? Now, more than ever, social media exposure is a critical part of marketing. Even the smallest of businesses can benefit from being well-known on the local social media networks. Maybe it hasn’t completely replaced word-of-mouth, but social media has taken a similar role.

Unfortunately, social media exposure is more difficult than ever to gain with paid advertising. Ad blockers and desensitization to traditional ads have reduced the importance of sponsored search and in-feed ad blitzes. Generally, the best way to counter this shift is by taking advantage of the human element: ads might get “tuned out,” but people generally aren’t. Not only that, but the proper use of influencers allows their personality to come through in branded content.

Conclusion: Leverage influencers to incite word-of-mouth and accelerate brand exposure to social media communities.

Niche Influencers? They’re Important Too

Who are niche influencers? Generally, they’re the ones who appeal to smaller, but specific, audiences. Niche influencers these days are commonly referred to as micro influencers or even nano influencers and represent some of the most popular influencer marketing trends.

For instance, a niche influencer might be the owner of a local craft store. She has a nice Instagram following, and writes a blog on the shop website. People read that blog, and follow the Instagram account, because they’re looking for craft ideas. If you’re selling the same types of craft materials that she carries, you could reach out in hopes of a post on your products. She has influence over people who would be interested in your wares. Another example might be an antique car collector who blogs about his hobby. If you sell replacement parts or offer custom body work for that type of car, then this might be the sort of person you can reach out to and see where you can collaborate for mutual benefit.

Conclusion: Social media influence isn’t just about sheer size of community. It’s all about the reach that a particular person has in a community that you want to reach, no matter how niche it might be.

Your Audience? They’re Key to Success

No matter how well you choose and collaborate with influencers, you should never forget that social media marketing is all about the audience. With so much content out there, everyone is clambering for engagement and individual attention. They’re trying to sell their brand, promote their ideas, and tell their story. Sometimes it’s done with blog posts, and other times with an expertly crafted Instagram story. Yet no matter how well each advertisement is put together, without the personal touch it’s just another ad.

Need to break the mold? It’s easy, so long as you keep your audience in mind. Influencer marketing in particular is all about the people who will read the influencer content. They like to feel informed or helped, not sold. When working with influencers, remember that they know their audience much better than you do, and they’re making that audience yours for the campaign. For that reason, it’s important to collaborate and take what the influencer has to say seriously.

Conclusion: Learn from influencers as to how to best engage with the community you want to reach.

Don’t Solely Rely on Agencies or 3rd Parties

Especially for small businesses, influencer marketing is most effective when the influencer gets to know more about your company, including your leadership. In particular, consider letting them interview those at top that might interest them. While agencies are great for helping you identify influencers and shaping your overall marketing strategy, if you’re a boutique brand then much of the company’s value is tied to your personality. A major reason for customers to purchase from you is that they aren’t just another number or a new sale, but a real person. Capitalize on that by becoming a real person to them, instead of a faceless man or woman hidden behind an agency. Influencers are great at helping you do this, and in so doing they become part of your marketing team themselves. In fact, one of the most powerful benefits of influencer marketing is that it allows you to attract a direct group of consumers.

Conclusion: Open up your internal team to collaborating with influencers and let your brand experiences influence the influencer.

What’s your best tip for working with influencers? I’d love to hear about your experiences.


  1. Do you think influencer marketing works with every niche? To be honest, I am a bit skeptical about it. I am working for an intranet provider and our audience mainly consists of top-level business people, mainly in the tech business. I wonder if this target group is as open for influencers as.. I don’t know.. Millennials searching for cosmetic products.

  2. Hi Erika, Yes it works in every niche. You just have to reset your mindset as to who is an influencer. Who influence top-level business people in the tech business? Where do they go for information? Do keyword searches for information they might be looking for and you might find bloggers who influence them. Or Twitter profiles. Or LinkedIn profiles. Everybody is getting information from all sorts of sources these days, and these are influencing them.

    I will say for B2B companies influencer marketing is, in addition to traditional forms of influencer engagement, often about engaging with your ecosystem partners who yield digital influence as well as leveraging your employees, especially your sales people, in an employee-as-influencer program (formerly known as employee advocacy).

    A number of B2B tech companies such as SAP and VMware invest money in B2B influencer marketing – if you are still on the fence do some searches for B2B influencer marketing. My article above was not focused on one particular industry thus the broad perspective.

    For more perspective on how I definen digital influence, listen to my podcast episode on the subject here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/836002/2573200

  3. Great article. We just started an eccomerece human hair etension business. How do we go about finding an influencer for a start up or what business can we piggy back or partner with to promote our business.
    appreciate any auggestions. A bit ooverwhelmed right now

  4. Thanks Sharon! I am sure there are tons of influencers that you can work with. My new book (https://nealschaffer.com/ageofinfluence) will offer you a complete playbook for influencer marketing, but until then I would start by searching for people who are posting pictures of their hair extensions, probably using related hashtags. You can also find others who are really into their hair and will use hair-related hashtags. In other words, if you were your targeted customer, and they were really into their hair, what hashtags would they use when they post? This will help you find people, and from there you can see their following and community engagement. There are also loads of influencer marketing tools and marketplaces that can help you as well, so make sure you check out my post on that as well: https://nealschaffer.com/influencer-marketing-tools/. Hope the advice helps!


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