Startups and influencer marketing are a match made in heaven. Thus, influencer marketing for startups is the ultimate tool to help them reach their target audience.
Reports show that influencer marketing is now a $21.1 billion industry. It is a 29% jump from $16.4 billion in last year.
Influencer culture has taken over major social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram. A huge number of users follow and consider the advice of these influencers. Surveys show that 61% of consumers are more likely to trust an influencer over a brand. Thus, more small and huge businesses are moving toward influencer marketing.
This article explains how did influencer marketing start, how you can leverage it for your business, and good and bad influencer marketing examples.
What is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing refers to working with individuals with a prominent following on electronic and digital media. These individuals are known as influencers in the digital marketing landscape.
The Oxford Dictionary defines an influencer as “a person with the ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service by promoting or recommending the items on social media.”
The term gained popularity in the early 2010s, and the Oxford Dictionary added the word ‘influencer’ in 2019.
Influencer marketing typically targets influencers with the same audience as your brand. These influencers significantly impact their followers’ choices; they ‘influence’ their purchase decisions.
Yet, it is important to understand which influencers suit your startup. Before we tell you about that, here’s a sneak peek into the beginning of the influencer culture.
How did Influencer Marketing Start?
It might surprise you that the history of influencer marketing dates back to the medieval ages. However, the idea of influencer marketing for startups differed significantly from today.
Experts believe influencer marketing started as early as 105 BCE, considering Roman gladiators the first influencers. Later, Wedgwood’s pottery gained popularity when they called it ‘Queen’s Ware’ for Queen Charlotte. Furthermore, Murad Cigarettes used Roscoe Arbuckle in their print ads in 1905; this was quite close to the influencer marketing we know today.
The initial influencer marketing included print and electronic media instead of digital. Brands hired and collaborated with celebrities and sports stars globally to promote their products.
Future of Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is here to stay and influence Gen Z and Alpha in the future. Thus, the future of influencer marketing for startups is bright and shiny.
Today, 74% of people use social media to make purchasing decisions, and 70% of teens trust influencers compared to traditional celebrities; the numbers only seem to grow in the future.
As more people join social media platforms, the number of followers for these influencers also increases. Influencers use the best content creation strategies to cultivate trust in their followers, gaining the ability to impact their purchase decisions.
Today influencers are collaborating with big names like Dior, Netflix, and others. Considering social media usage and purchase stats, the influencer culture will continue to grow in the future.
How does Influencer Marketing Help Startups?
According to Statista, 4.12 million people use social media, which will rise to 4.41 by 2025.
Whether you prefer Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, or any other social platform, influencer marketing is widespread everywhere. So, you can leverage users with a high following to reach customers who trust their suggestions and recommendations. They do not see these influencers as social media accounts; the followers think of them as friends.
Considering their budget, startups in their initial stages often do not want to invest in commercial marketing. Thus, influencer marketing is the best choice if you want to reach a niche audience without spending a fortune. In the future, influencers may also use AI in advertising to design campaigns that bring better results.
Here’s how influencer marketing helps startups:
Increases Brand Awareness
When you launch a new brand, you first want people to know about it. Influencers take the top spot nowadays to increase brand awareness on social media. You can leverage influencer marketing for startups to reach thousands of people interested in products like yours. However, finding the right platform and influencer for your product is vital to increasing brand awareness through influencers.
Builds Trust and Credibility
Imagine a friend comes to you and raves about a particular brand of shorts, mentioning how comfortable they are. Or, they tell you about this new range of fragrances with a fresh feel and 24-hour lasting. You would immediately go check those brands, right? The same is true with influencer marketing.
When an influencer shares a product with its followers, they trust their recommendation. Influencers build this reputation over time by providing honest feedback about different products and brands. So, you can get an instant boost by collaborating with the right influencers. Furthermore, you might gain returning customers if your product is worth meets their expectations.
Generates High-Quality leads
Niche influencers have a highly-filtered audience. Thus, when you collaborate with an influencer in your niche, most of their followers are potential customers. So, influencer marketing for startups can help you generate high-quality leads. These leads have a higher potential to convert.
But you must ensure the influencer has an engaged audience. Picking a multi-niche influencer might not give you the best ROI for lead generation. Alternatively, you can opt for outsourced lead generation to help you generate high-quality leads from influencers.
Influencers are masters of showcasing your product as the best to their audience. Followers usually look up to these influencers to get suggestions. So, they are not skeptical in trying new brands suggested by their favorite influencers.
When the influencer shares your ad campaign or ads a link to your website, the users rush to see what the hype is about. Thus, it boosts click-through rates, increasing your conversions.
The most important element for a marketer is the ROI of a marketing campaign. Influencer marketing offers a 6.5x return on your investment. When talking in terms of money, you can understand it simply as:
Influencer marketing gives $6.50 in revenue for each $1 invested.
So, investing even a small amount in influencer marketing for startups can bring significant sales for your business.
Types of Influencer Marketing Campaigns
Most marketers think influencer marketing means sending products to the influencer and asking them to make videos using them. However, it is not the only way influencers can help your product reach more people. Here are different ways you can use influencer marketing for startups to engage potential customers:
People on social media love winning products, especially when it does not require any skills or expertise. Giveaways are a common tactic brands use to increase followers and improve visibility by offering free products. You give away your products as an investment, but it pays off well.
Firstly, the receivers follow your social media pages, invite friends, or participate in trends. It all brings the audience to your social media handles or website. Secondly, the excitement of getting something from a brand encourages them to post the products on their socials. It pushes your brand to more people, leading to higher potential conversions. You can also hold fun contests for social media users to win prizes.
However, this type of influencer marketing may results in fake followers and a sudden decline in following after the giveaway. So, you must consider the possibilities when opting for this type of influencer marketing campaign.
Another way to use influencer marketing for startups is by sending gifts to the influencers. You can send your products as a present to the influencer and ask them to share their honest review. Influencers often record unboxing videos and share their reviews after using the product. The level of interest and engagement in your promotion typically depends on the type of influencer.
Macro influencers do not take a lot of pain for these campaigns. They might record a video for you if they like the product or think it’s worth the time; most macro influencers prefer campaigns where they are paid. Gifts are more suitable for nano and micro-influencers who need content for their page and would love a free product.
Have you seen influencers sharing discount codes like “Jenny10,” “Wjik20,” etc.?
These codes are usually affiliate marketing codes that offer discounts to their followers. This model works on commission instead of direct payments. The followers get a particular discount code, and the influencers receive a commission on each sale through that code.
It’s a simple influencer marketing for startups opportunity that benefits everyone involved: brand, influencers, and followers.
Probably we all remember Nikkie de Jager sharing her favorite products on Sephora’s Instagram.
It is indeed one of the most genius influencer marketing examples, and that is what we are talking about right now.
Content collaborations, widely called social media takeover, refers to an influencer taking over a brand’s social media accounts. The influencer posts images, videos, and stories from your account, showcasing the collaboration.
The duration of the social media takeover depends on the impact you want to produce. Some brands use this technique for a few days to engage customers. Meanwhile, others keep it this way for weeks to interest the followers in what’s coming next.
However, this collaboration requires sharing your credentials with a content creator. So, you must be sure about the credibility and authority of the influencer.
Sponsored content is the best pick if you want to work with a macro influencer or celebrity. You provide all the campaign details to the influencer, and they create content accordingly. You may encourage creative leverage if your brand theme allows.
Brands send the products, brand tone, guidelines, and instructions so the influencer knows what you want. You can also provide some sample videos when following a particular theme for the campaign.
Co-Host Events and Live Sessions
Who doesn’t like catching up with their favorite celebrity on Insta Live? We all do!
Live streaming has made it incredibly easy to show potential customers that a particular influencer loves your products. You can make influencers a part of the launch, run co-hosted shows and podcasts, or engage them in a live session.
Talking to the influencer about a recent (brand-relevant) trend or issue with smart product placement is an excellent idea.
Hiring Brand Ambassadors
Adidas has David Beckham, L’Oréal Paris has Beyoncé, MRF has Virat Kohli, and Hollister has Charli D’Amelio. All these brands have chosen a face aka brand ambassador to represent them.
You can also collaborate with social media influencers for long-term collaborations and make them your brand ambassadors. Celebrities are typically related to fields with the same audience as the customer base the brand wants. Brand ambassadors become the face of your brand that people can easily associate with.
Successful Influencer Marketing Examples
Talking of influencer marketing for startups, Dove is one of the most prominent names.
Dove executed some of the best influencer marketing campaigns, leading to hundreds of people joining the brand. Campaigns like #ReusableIsBeautiful, #PassTheCrown, #DetoxYourFeed, and #OneRealPressure earned over a billion impressions. Moreover, the engagement rate went up to 20%, and they exceeded their 2022 goal.
The brand also won a Shorty Award in the micro-influencer category for its impressive influencer collaborations.
While influencer marketing is all about thinking out of the box, sometimes, you can utilize existing content ideas.
Swisspers ran an influencer marketing campaign encouraging beauty bloggers to share “naked” (makeup-free) selfies. Besides the influencers, celebrities like Taylor Swift and Jennifer Lawrence had already posted makeup-free photos. It boosted the viewers’ confidence, and many people interacted with the campaign.
Dior’s ‘67 Shades of Dior’ campaign was a massive social media hit with 1.85M impressions and 592K engagements.
Dior teamed with the influencer marketing agency Buttermilk; they ran the campaign to introduce 67 shades of Dior’s Forever Foundation. They worked with 67 influencers, each representing one of the 67 shades. The influencers posted one post for the brand for 67 consecutive days.
Buttermilk selected the influencers based on their content, engagement levels, proven past performance, relevant audience, and location.
Together, the influencers produced content for a 2.66M audience, leading to humongous impressions and engagement rates.
Calvin Klein is another interesting influencer marketing example that reached millions of users through its #MyCalvin campaign. The brand collaborated with celebrities like Shawn Mendes, Justin Bieber, and Kendall Jenner. Huge, right?
They launched the campaign through a YouTube video that garnered over 10 million views. The brand showcased the best user-generated content on a micro website. The campaign gained popularity on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Who could be the best face for your brand on TikTok other than Charli D’ Amelio? Dunkin understood the assignment!
Dunkin Donuts leveraged Charli’s popularity to boost their sales through a long-term sponsorship. They launched an influencer marketing for startup campaign with the hashtag #CharliXDunkinContest; Dunkin also released a beverage under her name, ‘The Charli.’
Charli D’ Amelio posed with Dunkin products and created content for the brand on her TikTok channel. It led to a 20% increase in Dunkin’s Cold Brew on the first day of the campaign, reaching 45% on the second day. Later, Dunkin launched #CharliDunkinRemix and a week-long offer on her birthday.
Bad Influencer Marketing Examples
Did anyone mention that influencer marketing for startups and businesses is not always a success? The 2017 Pepsi and Kendall Jenner collaboration is one of the most iconic influencer marketing fails ever.
The ad was to show a Black Lives Matter protest regarding Pepsi’s global diversity campaign. Kendall stops her photoshoot when she sees police calming and controlling a protest on ‘unity in diversity.’ She jumps in and offers Pepsi to the police officer, who enjoys the drink and let them protest.
While the campaign meant to deliver a message of peace and diversity, people did not appreciate it. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., mocked the campaign with a photo of her father and a caption saying, “If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.”
Though Pepsi apologized and took off the ad, the damage had been done!
Snickers also made it to bad influencer marketing examples with their ‘You’re Not You When You’re Hungry’ campaign. Katie Price suddenly started posting about social, political, and economic issues in 2012, which surprised everyone; the model typically does not share her views on these topics.
Eventually, it appeared that Snickers advised the model to tweet these regarding the ‘You’re Not You When You’re Hungry’ campaign.
Opposed to Snickers’ expectations, people did not take it well and labeled it misleading marketing. However, marketing laws now do not allow influencers to conduct such campaigns. They must mention #ad, #paid, #collaboration, or similar tags to show sponsored content.
While the campaign was not exactly a fail on Adidas’s end, it shows the importance of choosing the right influencer.
Supermodel Naomi Campbell shared a picture with a pair of Adidas in 2016 with the caption, “Naomi, So nice to see you in good spirits!!! Could you put something like: Thanks to my friend @gary.aspden and all at adidas – loving these adidas 350 SPZL from the adidas Spezial range. ✊ @adidasoriginals.”
It did not take her followers long to understand that Naomi copy-pasted the message without reading it.
Another influencer marketing example that did not go well is Kim Kardashian’s influencer marketing campaign showing Diclegis. The campaign for the morning sickness drug did not go as planned either. Kim’s pregnancy with her baby North West was the perfect opportunity to share Diclegis with other expecting mothers.
However, the failure to enlist the side effects in the caption brought Kim to the radar. FDA asked Kim to remove the post or repost it with the list of side effects. It was definitely a bad experience for the brand and influencer both.
Using Influencer Marketing for Your Business
Influencer marketing for startups often seems easy to introduce a product to consumers or insist on purchases. However, it is not as simple as it looks, and all influencers don’t work for all businesses.
Influencers are categorized into celebrities, macro, micro, and nano influencers based on their follower count and engagement. Each of them is well-suited to a specific business and situations.
Celebrities refer to people with a massive fan following. They may belong to media, sports, or any other industry and are the top players in their field.
For example, when you think of football, Messi and Ronaldo immediately come to mind. Similarly, Taylor Swift and Rihanna are the first ones when thinking of music; choices may vary, but you get the idea!
So, these celebrities leverage their platform to promote startups and help them grow. The users might not even care much about the product and buy it because their favorite celebrity endorses them. The best way to use celebrity influence is to have them use the product. It builds trust, and people buy it because their favorite star does.
Yet you must remember that they are the most expensive and difficult to reach.
Social media influencers with over 100,000 followers and a 3% or more engagement rate are considered macro influencers.
They are the best for brand awareness as they help you reach a wide audience. Thus, they are also more suitable for sales and scaling your business eventually. Macro influencers are useful for startups with products targeting a wider audience.
However, macro influencers are the top-tier celebrities of social media and charge hefty for collaboration and promotion. Also, they are quite picky about the brands they collaborate with.
A micro-influencer has between 10,000 and 100,000 followers on social media. Marketers initially believed macro influencers were pivotal to brand growth. Yet, experiments changed their perspective.
Now, 77% of marketers say micro influencers top their list of ideal influencers.
Microinfluencers are ideal if you are more focused on conversions than brand awareness. These influencers have a smaller but more relevant and engaged audience. Their followers think of their opinions and suggestions as friendly advice. They have a deeper influence on immediate purchase decisions. So, microinfluencers are among the best choices for influencer marketing for startups.
They are easy to approach and convince to work with your brand. But you must keep in mind that the reach is less than macro-influencers and celebrities.
Nano influencers have followers between 1,000 and 10,000 followers.
In the past, marketers might have thought, “How can a thousand followers benefit me?” Yet now, times have changed, and a thousand followers could mean a higher conversion rate.
Nano influencers are in their initial phase. Thus, they try to give valuable content and authentic information to increase and retain followers. Though they require collaborations to grow, they address their followers’ concerns, and their followers trust them.
So, nano influencers are perfect for reaching a niche audience more likely to purchase your product immediately. Also, nano influencers charge way less than macro influencers.
How to Choose the Right Influencer for Your Brand?
Now that you know all types of influencers for influencer marketing for startups, the big question is, “How do you choose the right influencer?”
It is easy to select the most suitable category if you know what you want. Keep the following in mind when picking a social media influencer for your campaign:
- Define your target audience (Demographics, interests, behaviors, etc.)
- Look at their reach (Macro/ micro/ nano/ celebrities)
- Check their engagement (á engagement for á conversions)
- Consider their location when targeting a local audience
- Discuss to see if your offer suits them
Now that you know how did influencer marketing start and good and bad influencer marketing examples, you are ready to step into the influencer marketing world. Influencer marketing for startups is excellent for reaching a wider audience and increasing conversions. However, it can backfire sometimes. So, scrutinize the influencers before you collaborate with them and get started!