3 Tips for the Next Wave of Influencer Marketing



Elena Hansen, founder of swim social

Photo by feature photographer, Grant Legan

Photo by feature photographer, Grant Legan

When I started SWIM in 2015, there were limited resources to put towards influencer marketing on social media. We work with awesome brands and it never felt right to be transactional and pay influencers for promotion. Rather, we thought about how we could develop a mutually beneficial relationship with influencers that share the same value in the brand. We began developing databases of micro-influencers (10K - 25K followers) or “ambassadors,” often including creatives and storytellers that could help us spread the word. Even as budgets for influencers grew over the years, we maintained the ambassador approach. This doesn’t mean that your brand shouldn’t engage an influencer with 1M+ followers who can garner millions in impressions, but it’s beneficial to evaluate whether you should work with one person or 10 micro-influencers to reach a wider audience. It’s important to think about the resources you’re allocating to influencer partnerships, and maximize your reach and conversion.


When developing a list of ambassadors, think about audience first. Which customer segments do you want to reach? Consider age, location, interests and any other criteria that makes sense for your business. How many people do you want to reach through these partnerships? Do you want to target and track a local, regional, national or global reach? This information should inform your influencer list, and who makes sense for your specific business needs. For example, if you want to reach diverse customer segments (fashion, food, fitness, travel) for your brand launch, then it makes sense to develop a database of 30+ ambassadors that have targeted influence in each of these categories. It doesn’t serve you as well to engage one person with 1M+ followers whose audience follows them for a specific reason. A diverse database of influencers will also help to track which customer segments are proving real ROI.


Think about the influencer outreach like a courtship. You’re introducing yourself and your brand to this person, and it’s important to get their buy-in on the bigger vision. They need to see themselves in your brand, and be excited to be a part of your mission. This is how you go from requesting a shout-out on Instagram Stories, to the influencer sharing multiple posts and telling their friends about your brand at dinner. In your outreach communication, mention the reasons they stood out to you and why they align so well with your brand. Ask about how the brand can support them with anything they have coming up. For the initial outreach, if possible, avoid official requests for posts altogether. You may need to cast a wide net of influencers to start, then see who rises to the top as real ambassadors of your brand. You can say: “We’d like to send you product and see what you think. If you enjoy the experience, we’d love to see it shared on your Instagram.” For every one influencer who doesn’t post, there will be 3-4 that share multiple shout-outs. If you have a quality product and brand, it will work in your favor. Once you’ve identified a few great ambassadors, request that they be a part of a 3-6 month campaign that supports your upcoming initiatives. This means that they’ll receive product or gift cards over the next few months to consistently share their brand experience and partnership.


In addition to people who have influence in the worlds of fashion, food, fitness, and beyond, there is another type of influencer that will prove real value for your brand: the creative. These are photographers, graphic designers, videographers, and iPhoneographers that know how to tell a story. You should allocate at least 25% of your influencer marketing budget to engage creatives. They will share killer content that you can repost, and this content may inspire future marketing campaigns and drive user generated content. The creative’s influence is often location-based, but they are the pulse of the internet and their influence will grow with more discovery.  

In closing, authentic partnerships and real relationships will sustain brand loyalty in the ever-evolving social media space. Be the brand that puts community first, rewarding influencers and customers that show advocacy. When you have a quality brand or product, invite people to be a part of your journey and grow together. The genuine offline approach that a local shopkeeper would have still holds value in the online world.