This is part one of a six-part series based on content from Social Media Week Los Angeles, held at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, June 12-14, 2018. For more tidbits and conference coverage, follow #SMWLA on Twitter.


If you pay any attention to digital marketing trends, one of the most popular buzz words right now is “influencer” marketing.


In fact, I had a fellow freelance digital marketing consultant shoot me an email asking who some of my favorite Instagram influencers were because he was working on a pitch for a client. Because I’ve been researching influencer marketing (and trying to become an influencer myself), I answered his request with a ton of questions:


  • What is the brand you’re pitching?
  • What do they sell?
  • Where do they sell it?
  • Who do they want to sell it to?
  • Who cares about it?
  • What is the product’s price point?
  • Why do they want to work with an influencer?


After all that, he simply said, “Okay, you’re way overthinking this. I just Google’d it.”


But I didn’t overthink it. Influencer Marketing is complicated. 


Influencer marketing became a thing, I’d say, in the last five years or so. With the rise of ad blockers, paid subscription services that let you completely surpass commercials, and the ability to just skip ads on most videos after a few seconds, advertisers and marketers had to do something to make sure that brands were still able to infiltrate consumer content consumption.


And ya’ll, they did it really well.


So what the heck is an “influencer”? As defined by Influencer Marketing Hub, an influencer is an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of his or her authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with his or her audience. Or an influencer could also be someone who sits in a particular niche market who has a following in that market.


Now, it’s super important to note that these people aren’t just commercial spaces, creating content that features your organization, but a true asset to your company. They should be viewed as a part of the team, a part of the creative marketing process, and bottom line, should be handled as a partnership.

Is an influencer right for your organization?


Well, in my humble opinion, 100% yes. But there has to be a purpose to your partnership. Here are some things to consider before you go searching for an Influencer:


Do their values align with your mission and values? This is one you maaaay need to do a little digging. If you’re an animal rights organization, and you’re checking out an influencer who maybe has a photo on their Instagram from 2014 featuring them with a real fur coat, that could potentially be a red flag that their values don’t match with yours. You HAVE to do your homework on this one, because it could make or break your brand.


Are you ready to give them creative control of content? This is always a hard one because brands want to be in charge of what someone talking about their brand (on behalf of their brand, really) says. But that right there zaps the authenticity of the interaction and followers will see right through it. Let your influencer be a part of the creative development at ground level. It’s important that both parties are happy with the output.


Do their followers match up with who your brand wants to attract? When choosing an influencer, you have to check out who actually follows them. Your brand shouldn’t be creating content based on demographics – you should be creating content based on behaviors and attitudes. It’s important that you know who it is you want to reach, and then check out who is actually engaging with the influencer’s content. Read comments, click through profiles, check out the networks of the followers – do some social media stalking! This data is important for you to check out before you pitch the partnership.


Do you have a budget? Remember – this isn’t just something influencers do for fun. This is a business and often, their livelihood. If you’re approaching a top-tier influencer, it’s likely they’ve got tons of other organizations sliding into their DMs. But you also don’t want to lead with compensation. Pitch the project and the partnership and then talk money when they ask to talk money.


Ready to look for an influencer? There are tons of tools and agencies that exist online to search for influencers (my favorite is Traackr), but your best bet is to just dig around yourself! Use Google, your own social media accounts, and your professional networks. Good luck!


Download this FREE ebook on the topic, “Influencer Marketing + The Modern Nonprofit”:

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