What types of collaborations can a small business do with a local social media influencer? How do you find the influencers in your area that will align with your business goals? Rachel Antony, Calgary influencer and marketer, answers these questions in this article. This information is taken from episode 13 of The Small Business Mastermind podcast. The conversation below has been edited for clarity.
Morgan: What are some types of collaborations a small business could do with a local influencer? Would this only be on the social media side? Would it also be on blogs or even something like an in-person event?
Rachel: Yes. There are definitely different types of collaborations, and I think part of deciding which one works is what you are trying to promote — if it is an event, being in-person is obviously the way to go.
You want to think about what the outcome is and what your business needs. Like you said, you can [invite influencers] to events. I have been invited where you have to stay for a certain amount of time, and you have to post about it. You are there to get the hype up for whatever it is — whether it is a restaurant opening, I went to a Porsche car reveal, or Market Mall had a Christmas thing that I went to. So, different types of events that usually people [the public] can go to later. They are usually a launch or something.
[Another option] can be showcasing what your service is. It is hard now with COVID, but [the influencer] going in person, getting their hair done, to try on clothes, or visiting a restaurant and posting about their experience.
[Another option] is product placement in photos. If you have, like I said, clothes or whatever it is that you are trying to promote, you can have [influencers] post photos of them on their social media.
[Last], blogging is really good as well. There are less bloggers now than there were before because lots of people think that blogs are slowly dying because people are not reading them, but there is a benefit to brands and businesses not only because — not to age some of the people that own businesses — but a lot of that generation still read things online, and so they appreciate a longer article. I also find that blog posts are more evergreen, and so you can link to them, people can search them — SEO (search engine optimization) lives on forever. They are a little bit longer. You can add more photos; it is much more in-depth. So, obviously, as a blogger, I value blogs — but that is one of the ways it works out for both parties.
Morgan: So you were just mentioning there going in for something like a haircut and also going to events. Would this mean influencer marketing expands to not only products, but services as well?
Rachel: Yes. Any business or service or product can benefit from influencer marketing. The only thing is you need to make sure the influencer aligns with what you are doing and that it does not just seem random on [a viewer's social media] feed.
For marketing, if people have to see things around seven times or so — and not saying you have to provide an influencer with seven experiences — but if they are talking about hair styling over and over again, and then they show up at a salon, it makes sense — but if they are only talking about fitness, fitness, fitness, and then show up at a hair salon, the connection is not really there. It makes it look less authentic and more like an ad if we are using that scale, as opposed to someone who already talks about the types of things that you are promoting.
Any business can use influencer marketing because you are just showcasing what you are offering, and the way to look at it is that you want to provide the influencer with the best experience. Whether that is a product experience, or service experience, or event experience that you can offer, the bottom line is people are going to decide whether or not to buy your product or service based on what they are seeing, so you want the influencer to be able to talk about it in the most positive light so that that trickles down to their audience.
Morgan: Absolutely. It is pretty obvious these days when the match is not organic or it is not a product the influencer uses, and I see more and more people calling people out in the comments saying, "Hey, you mentioned this product. How come you have never shown it again? How come you have never used it again on your stories or on your post?"
On that note, how can a business find not only an influencer that lines up with their business, but also is in their region?
Rachel: So, it is especially important for brick-and-mortar businesses or services. In Calgary, you would want Calgary influencers with a Calgary audience. The easiest [way to find them] is if influencers have tagged you in things, just keep track of that. Keep track of the influencers that are actually using your product or showing up at your restaurant or just tagging you in things. I find that is the most authentic collaboration because they are already using your product, and most influencers — because that is what we do — we understand that we are sharing a product. Whether I have bought it or not, I am still going to share it for other people to see if I like it. So, I have gained a lot of collaborations based on that, just like, "Oh, hey. We see you are using this product. Do you want to try our next new product that is coming out?"
So, keep track of who is using your products, and I would also look at your competitors or someone in your same space and see if they have used influencers before, and you can, not copy those people, but kind of just see who they are using and check those people out. People do use hashtags, like #YYCInfluencer or #CalgaryInfluencer and that type of stuff.
I always recommend vetting influencers. There are a couple of ways to determine how authentic people are being, and that would be the comments that you are seeing or the number of likes. Follower count is not very important anymore, but it is important to look at the engagement. You can see the comments that are genuinely from normal people looking to buy the product or service, as opposed to other influencers that are just filling up each other's comments — and I know that is a little bit too detailed, I am sure, for lots of people listening — but just as a note when you are looking at influencers' accounts, just to make sure that they have the type of audience that you were looking for as well.
Also, if you find an influencer that you like or you have worked with before, ask them for recommendations of other influencers. That is a great way to spread your network with people that you do not know, and then they [the influencer] have hopefully already kind of vetted those people, and so they will recommend either their friends or people they know that would be good for your business. If you are not necessarily a local company, there are platforms online that have collections of influencers and information. I would start with trying to vet out your own, especially if you are doing a small campaign, that is the easiest way to do it. Look at who they are following, who they are interacting with, and they are most likely following all the other influencers in the city.