How even small businesses can harness the power of influencers
Aimee Sloggett was thrilled when social influencer moms Cat and Nat approached her at a charity gala in 2015 about promoting her mobile beauty services company, Wink and Wave, which she had started a year earlier as a part-time effort while working a day job in television production.
The focus of her business, which targeted busy moms and female executives, was an ideal match for one of Canada’s largest mommy blogger teams.
“When I met Cat and Nat, I had a very small group of technicians focused on the (Greater Toronto Area),” Sloggett said. “It was the perfect time to work with them.”
Sloggett had worked with several influencers prior to that encounter with limited success.
“But Cat and Nat were one of the biggest. They promoted my business all on their own and pushed me to start more services,” she said. “Thanks to them, I started working with sports teams’ wives and other groups.”
Wink and Wave now has 25 technicians servicing clients in the GTA, and, due to the mommy bloggers’ growing popularity in the United States, it has expanded into online product sales.
The power of influencers can be significant to a small business trying to get on the map. But it’s not an easy world to navigate, especially since the market has become saturated with influencers of all sorts and sizes, representing all kinds of audiences.
“Social influence marketing can be wildly successful for a small business if they find the right person to work with,” said Robyn Henke, a social advertising specialist in Toronto. “The problem is, not all businesses are doing a great job of using them.”
The key for entrepreneurs is to take the time to find the right fit for their brand. Businesses are frequently asked by influencers for a free product or service in exchange for the promise of promoting the company to their followers. That’s not always a bad thing.
“If you’re a small business, you may be able to bootstrap your campaign working with people with a smaller number of followers who will accept product rather than a fee,” Henke said.
But entrepreneurs have to make sure the influencers are aligned with what they want to achieve.
“If you don’t do your due diligence, you may end up with someone who doesn’t reflect your brand in a positive way,” Henke said. “You really have to pull apart what your product benefits are and the audience segment it appeals to. If you have a niche product and can distil it down to the benefits that matter to a specific group — for example, new moms — micro-influencers and their followers tend to be more effective.”
The big influx of influencers three or four years ago has also spawned a thriving pool of micro-influencers, which has have made it easier for even small businesses to tap into their services, said Katee Duarte, co-founder of Duarte Group Inc., a social media consultant in Toronto.
Social influence marketing can be wildly successful for a small business if they find the right person to work with
Robyn Henke, social advertising specialist
“Businesses are getting creative in the ways they approach influencer marketing,” she said. “If you are a small local business especially, finding influencers in your target area is even easier.”
One of the biggest pitfalls when considering influencers is getting caught up in vanity metrics such as followers and likes, Duarte said.
“There are a lot of apps that can inflate those numbers,” she said. “What you are really looking for in an influencer is strong engagement. Take the time to look at their Instagram account, read the comments, and determine if those engagements are genuine and not forced.”
Authenticity and credibility are especially important in an overly crowded field of influencer voices, Duarte added.
“Consumers are being inundated with messages from influencers and are a lot more savvy in reading between the lines,” she said. “They are becoming much better at differentiating and streamlining who they will follow.”
Another piece of advice Duarte offers is to outline in writing some basic rules around expectations, including guidelines and timelines, before engaging with a blogger.
“Otherwise, you could end up giving away a lot for free to people who don’t deliver on their promise,” she said.
Whatever the size of the business, micro-influencers may have more power if they are closely connected to the people who follow them. With some effort, an entrepreneur should be able to find someone with a solid loyal following that fits their offering.
“It might be an influencer who only talks to moms, or car owners, or high-end or discount shoppers,” Duarte said. “I have a friend who only follows influencers who talk about grilling and barbecuing. There’s a whole market just for that.”