Influencer Marketing 101 (Part I)

I did a poll on my Instagram last month about what followers were most interested in learning about. Influencer Marketing was #1 by a landslide. I wasn’t surprised, either. “What is influencer marketing?” is one of the most common questions I get from new clients.

I love working with influencers for client campaigns so much. Not only do I have the privilege of working with some of the nicest and creative individuals on the internet, but the return of these partnerships for my clients is so worth it.

So, here it is. A whole series of blog posts to give you the ins-and-outs of influencer marketing. Consider adding it to your to-do list of things to benefit your business during COVID and before the holidays. (And stay tuned in the coming weeks for Part II and III!)

Part I: Influencer Marketing for Business

I started using influencer marketing as a tactic in client campaigns about five years ago.

The social media landscape then – and, still, now – was making it difficult for brands’ content to be seen on Facebook and Instagram. The changing algorithms on both platforms decreased reach of my clients’ posts, and the decreasing consumer trust in social media advertising wasn’t delivering the cost effectiveness and results it once was.

Enter: Influencer marketing. It quickly became one of my favorite forms of social media marketing.

In working with influencers to talk about my clients’ events or products on their own social media platforms, I am able to introduce messaging to target audiences in a creative, authentic way. The message comes from a person or public figure they already follow, so audiences are far more receptive to it than they would be to any advertisement or post in their newsfeed.

So, what exactly is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is a powerful public relations tool. Brands work with influencers to endorse their event, company or product on their social media platforms or blogs. This partnership can be organic (unpaid), paid, or trade.

Audiences follow influencers’ blogs, YouTube, and Instagram accounts because they are interested in what that person is posting and have similar interests or lifestyles. Working with an influencer to talk about your brand to their audience lends third-party credibility to your brand. This can generate awareness, engagement, and sales.

Even if your partnership entails sponsored or paid content, there is an element of trust there that the influencer won’t promote content that they don’t actually enjoy. I think this is even more true for industries like craft beer and hospitality. An influencer doesn’t want to post about a beer that isn’t good or promote brands they don’t align with. This can ruin their credibility with their followers.

Back up. What’s an “influencer”?

It’s pretty much like it sounds. An influencer is anyone who has a social following based around a certain subject area, or is a thought leader in their industry. Their audiences look to them for education, inspiration, recommendations, and/or entertainment. Their platforms can vary, too. Typically we think of “Instagram influencers,” but it can be anyone who has an engaged following on any platform – a blog, YouTube, Medium, Instagram, TikTok. You name it.

There are different types of influencers. There are nano-influencers, who by definition have 10,000 or less followers. Micro-influencers have 10-100K followers. Mega- and macro- influencers have hundreds of thousands or millions of followers.

I typically work with nano- and micro-influencers for client projects. These influencers tend to have higher engagement rates because their audiences are small and typically niche. This allows them to actually have relationships with their followers. And it means more brand trust and engagement for you!

While the size of their following is a great initial criterion, it’s not just about the numbers. When working with influencers, it’s important to be mindful of more than just audience size the makeup of their demographic – gender, age, geographic location, interests, etc. We’ll get into this in Part II.

Some Examples of Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing, in the way of social media promotion and blog mentions, has worked particularly well for driving attendance at my beer festival, Art of Beer Invitational, over the past several years. I also used it to awareness about 2019 Sacramento Beer Week and its kickoff event, the Sac Mac & Brew Review. I can attribute at least a quarter of our ticket sales (but it’s most likely more) for each of these events, solely to the influencers we worked with. Believe me when I say it’s worth it.

I set up special pairings of the beer and mac n’ cheese for Sacramento influencers ahead of the main event.

Earlier this year at the start of COVID, when breweries started to do online sales, I coordinated drop-offs and shipments of my client’s beer to select influencers throughout California. In turn they saw boosted sales, heightened social media engagement, and increased brand awareness in their target markets.

These types of partnerships are typically low-cost and can be mutually beneficial to both parties. The best part? They create relationships between influencers and the brands that can live beyond the initial projects.

Read Next: Part 2 – Finding the Right Influencer

Social Media Tools I Love

3 Social Media Tools I Love

“Social media is too time-consuming.” 

“I need to create posts more easily.”

“My posts are so inconsistent.”

These are all complaints I’ve heard from clients who come to me for help with their social media. And I get it. Creating consistent, branded content can feel so overwhelming. What’s more, it can feel like it’s forcing you to take too much time away from the other aspects of your business. 

But social media remains essential to so many small businesses’ marketing strategies because it drives brand awareness, direct sales, and consumer engagement.

As important as it is, I’m also a firm believer that it doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive, or time-consuming. 

Here are just a few of the social media tools I typically recommend to clients looking to streamline their social media content creation. I hope you love them as much as I do!

Canva. Graphic design can be daunting, but you don’t need to be a master in Adobe Creative Suite to create beautiful graphics for your brand. Canva has thousands of customizable templates for everything, from social media posts for nearly every platform to business cards and presentations. Canva is a social media tool that allows users to easily customize colors, fonts, and graphics to fit their brand and in the last year has added the ability to add animated stickers, create video presentations, and send your creations directly to print. It’s a one-stop design shop and a tool I regularly recommend to clients who don’t have the budget for professional design. 

Tips for Using Canva

  • Have a firm grasp on your brand’s colors, fonts, and overall feel. Canva is a popular tool — so many of the graphics I’m seeing on Instagram are definitely created in the platform!–so you want to create graphics that look like they’re designed just for you to ensure your brand stands out in people’s feeds. 
  • Spring for the Pro! Canva Pro starts at $9.95 per month and offers tools to help you customize your designs further. It offers access to thousands of professional stock images, unlimited storage, team functionalities, and the ability to create a brand kit, which allows you to set default fonts and colors for your brand. 
  • I typically prefer to create custom graphics for my clients, but Canva is a fantastic place to look for inspiration and the latest design trends. 

Animoto. I’m not a videographer by ANY means and Adobe’s Premiere Pro absolutely mystifies me, so I typically outsource video projects for my clients. But when a client said they needed social media videos created on a budget, I started researching video creation tools. Animoto was my favorite by far and I now regularly use it for all my clients. It has a great selection of templates, royalty-free music, and effects that allows you to create professional-looking videos. I like that you can create videos whether you have actual video footage or simply a selection of photos you want to highlight. 

You can get a free month of Animoto here

Tips for Using Animoto

  • The one thing I don’t love about Animoto is its selection of royalty-free stock footage. If you are looking for footage to use on its own or with your photos, I would suggest using a free stock footage site like Pexels. If you have budget and/or are looking for a very specific type of video, iStock or Adobe Stock (video costs typically start around $70) are great places to look, too. 
  • Video content is highest-performing on social media, so it’s important to incorporate it into your content plan as often as you can. You want to keep the look and feel of your videos relatively consistent and on-brand — Animoto is a social media tool that makes it easy to apply the same templates and transitions to your videos.

Here’s an example of a list template from Animoto that I’ve customized and used for clients. 

PLANN. I started using PLANN earlier this year and love how functional, intuitive, and — okay, I’ll say it — pretty it is. PLANN is an Instagram planning tool (both on desktop and an app) that helps you map out your Instagram feed. It has a great selection of free stock photos, sends you posting reminders, offers in-depth post analytics, and allows you to finetune your strategy with its Hashtag Set feature.  The app also offers a team collaboration feature and allows you to manage replies from desktop. 

It also began integrating with Facebook – a feature I haven’t tried yet – but it’s always helpful to have all your content in one place! Another thing I love about this company is that they send you content calendar ideas each month and their blog is rich with information about how to increase your following and engagement.

For a $10 PLANN credit, click here

Tips for Using PLANN 

  • Deep-dive into your Results. I find myself checking my analytics (called Results on the platform) at least once a week. It has live updates of how much traffic my Instagram is driving to my website, what posts and stories are performing the best, and even what color palette receives the highest engagement rate on my feed. 
  • Create thoughtful hashtags. Its Hashtag Set feature is one of my favorites — it allows you to search popular hashtags and save sets that you can copy and paste. You want to use hashtags that aren’t overused (PLANN will tell you!) and relate to the content you’re posting. Remember, quantity is not necessarily better than quality when it comes to hashtags. 

Want more marketing tips and insights into the latest social media tools? Check out my five favorite marketing podcasts on the blog.

Tell me: What do you find to be the most daunting aspect of using social media for your business? Drop it below, and I’ll offer some recommendations in a future post! 

Incorporating Holidays Into Your Content

Not gonna lie. Coming up with consistent, good content is hard. 

At some point, you might feel like you’ve completely run out of things to write. Or feel like you’re repeating yourself. One of my biggest social media tips is to be consistent, but when you have writer’s block, it can discourage you from posting at all. 

One of my favorite ways to mix things up and cure writer’s block is to highlight a fun, offbeat holiday. And let me tell you, there’s a holiday for everything. (Even mechanical pencils. Their big day is July 5th.) 

Keep Things On Brand 

I keep a running list of non-traditional holidays and regularly refer back to them to see if any are relevant to my clients’ brands and offerings. With enough time and planning, you can take fun photos, create a video, write a blog post or even conduct a press effort for the holiday.

No matter how you plan to create content around it, make sure that the holiday aligns with your brand. It should reinforce your company’s offerings and values, rather than leave your followers scratching their heads. (Example: Why is that bicycle shop posting about National Pineapple Day?) 

Marketing around these holidays should be fun, but it shouldn’t have to be a huge stretch for you to come up with good content.

For example, If you’re in the coffee business, run a discounted coffee promotion or offer a free cupping class on National Coffee Day. Or if company culture is integral to your company’s values, perhaps highlight your team’s participation in Bring Your Dog To Work Day (June 26) or organize a volunteer project for your team on Public Service Day (June 23). 

These holidays can drive so much more than social media posts. They can build team and customer relationships, too. 

Think Beyond A Social Media Post 

Whether you’re a brick-and-mortar or an online business, I encourage you to think outside the box and come up with an in-house promotion for the holiday. Done right, a good promotion will create brand awareness and drive new business. 

For example, I worked with a restaurant client to create fanfare around National Rum Day. We planned well in advance and created a limited menu of rum drinks. We photographed the drinks for use on social media and their website in the weeks leading up to the holiday, and we filmed a short video about how to make one of the drinks at home. In the restaurant, we created in-house signage to bring more attention to the promotion. It was not only super fun for their staff to mix things up, but it gave restaurant regulars new drinks to try and attracted new customers, too. 

Best Practices for Incorporating Holidays 

  1. Feature holidays infrequently. As much as I love them, pick one (maybe two, if it makes absolute sense) a month that’s on-brand for you. 
  2. Double check the date. Some of these holidays can vary by country, so if you find a holiday on Google, fact-check the date across multiple sites. 
  3. Use the hashtag. Hashtags for holidays have potential to go viral, so always be sure to incorporate a hashtag into your social media posts (#National[Blank]Day). Encourage your team and customers to do the same. 

Offbeat June Holidays 

We’ve all got Father’s Day on our calendars (just in case…it’s June 21st) but there are so many fun opportunities to create content around days in June. 

Compiling holidays each month requires some effort, so to save you time, here are some fun holidays in June. You could also do a month-long promotion around Pride Month, or create specials around Doughnut Week (June 1-June 5) or Men’s Health Week (June 10-June 16). 

Holidays in June 

6/4 – National Cheese Day 

6/5 – Doughnut Day 

6/7 – Cancer Survivors Day 

6/8 – Best Friends Day 

6/9 – World Gin Day 

6/13 – National Rosé Day 

6/14 – Flag Day AND Cupcake Day 

6/17 – Global Garbage Man Day 

6/18 – International Sushi Day AND International Picnic Day 

6/20 – First Day of Summer 

6/21 – World Music Day AND International Yoga Day  

6/23 – United Nations’ Public Service Day 

6/24 – Upcycling Day 

6/25 – Global Beatles Day 

6/26 – Bring Your Dog to Work Day 

6/27 – Pineapple Day AND Sunglasses Day 

6/30 – Social Media Day 

Happy content creating! What holidays will your business be recognizing? Let me know below!

5 Podcasts To Up Your Marketing Game

A silver lining of being forced to slow down lately is that I’ve had the chance to catch up on my favorite podcasts. The world of social media and content creation is always evolving, so I’m constantly researching and finding new industry thought leaders to follow. 

Whether you’re a small business owner or a creative marketer, here’s a roundup of binge-worthy podcasts I regularly listen to for marketing advice and tips on successfully running (and growing!) a business. 

  • Social Media Marketing Podcast – This podcast is rich with content, tools and tips for using social media in your business. The host Michael Stelzner asks great questions from leading experts about everything from creating organic content to digital advertising strategy. Want even more great social media content? Visit his Social Media Examiner website for more insights and the latest research. The site’s annual social media study is also can’t-miss. (The 2020 Study just came out on May 11th–recap on the blog coming soon!)  
  • Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield –  I always have a notebook and pen ready when I listen to this podcast. Amy Porterfield is the queen of creating and marketing online courses, but her podcast offers value far beyond that. I love her tips for improving business processes and growing an online presence. If you’re still working to move your business online, check out recent Episode #310: Taking Your Brick & Mortar Business Online.
  • Goal Digger – Jenna Kutcher is one of my all-time favorite people to follow for sound marketing and business advice. Her episodes come out on Monday and Wednesday each week and they’re such an important part in my morning routine! (Well, that and coffee.) I love her interviews with fellow female entrepreneurs, like this one with Barbara Corcoran, and the marketing tips she offers in each episode. I’m always applying new learnings from her podcast and online resources to my client work and what I do for my own businesses. 
  • The Copywriter Club – This is one of the more recent podcasts I started listening to, but I’m already in love! So much of what I do consists of writing blogs, websites, printed materials and social media for clients–this podcast has so many great tips and ideas! If you’re looking for tips on storytelling, refining key messages and freelancing, this podcast’s for you, too. I just wrapped up designing and writing a client’s website, and Episode #183 had great advice about writing with SEO in mind! 
  • Being Boss – This podcast is also a new find but quickly becoming a favorite! The tips from hosts and businesswomen Emily Thompson and Kathleen Shannon are so helpful and range from productivity hacks and financial strategies, to starting and marketing a business. Their recent Q&A episodes were one of the first episodes I listened to and offer such great tactical advice for all kinds of businesses and entrepreneurs. A must-listen!

Do you have a favorite podcast or listen to any of the ones on this list? Drop it in the comments below! 

5 Things To Do Now To Benefit Your Small Business Later

If COVID-19 has impacted business for you like it has for many others, you may have had to temporarily close your doors. Or maybe you’re a business in planning whose opening date has now been delayed indefinitely. While certain sectors (at least in California) are starting to slowly open back up in a limited capacity, the restrictions may still be impacting your business operations and your bottom line.

If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you know I stress that now is not the time to lose momentum. And if you know me, you know I love a good checklist. So here are some things you can do *right now* in this season of waiting that will benefit your business in the future.

  1. Update your website. Take this time to ensure your business information is up to date (including new hours of operation, if they’ve changed!). Refresh your photos, add new customer testimonials, and make sure your website copy reflects your company’s services and values. While you’re at it, make sure that your Google Business Page and any other platforms you’re on are current, too.
  2. Create content. Even if your doors aren’t open right now, you can still create content that engages your customers and keeps you top of mind. Allow your employees to do an Instagram takeover to introduce themselves and show off their #WorkFromHome set-ups. Create simple videos with favorite recipes or other DIY creations your customers can try at home. Offer free workout classes online or do a free guided wine or beer tasting event. Business that offer free value now will see a great return when they reopen.
  3. Connect with customers. Whether your business is on pause or if you haven’t opened yet, encourage people to sign-up for your email list. At a pace that makes sense for your business, you can send updates, connect more personally with your customers and create excitement for when you reopen. I typically use Mailchimp for my clients but there are so many great platforms out there to try.
  4. Network, network, network. Chambers of Commerce and other local business groups are a great way to stay connected to the business community right now. So many of the Sacramento Region’s Chambers of Commerce are going above and beyond to offer value to their members, from virtual seminars to resource portals. Connect with fellow members for virtual coffee. And see if the organization has any opportunities for you to promote your business, like Member-To-Member discounts.
  5. Plan ahead. Your marketing budget and timeline may look a lot different now, so take advantage of this slower time to reevaluate your strategy and priorities. You may want to develop a plan around your reopening and devote more resources to it. If you’re able, you may want to consider taking your brick and mortar business online. Whatever this looks like for you, use this time to plan ahead and develop a sound strategy that will benefit you now and in the long run.

I’m working right along side you during this uncertain time! If you need help with any of the above checklist items or want to brainstorm over a virtual coffee, let’s get in touch.