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Influencer Marketing 101 for Pet Businesses

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If you’ve ever considered using influencer marketing for your pet business, now may be the perfect time to implement an influencer marketing strategy.

Among others, the key benefits of influencer marketing are brand awareness and audience exposure, but it can also offer you the unique opportunity to discover what people love (and maybe don’t love?) about your product or service.

In our influencer marketing 101 guide, we’re going to break down what influencer marketing is, how to find the right influencers for your pet business, and how you can determine whether your influencer marketing strategies are truly working for your brand!

What is influencer marketing?

Spend just a few moments searching on Instagram, and you’ll come across an influencer post. What was once a smaller industry with a few key influencers has since grown into a multi-billion dollar industry for both macro and micro influencers alike. In fact, influencer marketing is projected to become an $8 billion industry by the close of 2020 (that’s this year).

That may not sound so shocking when you consider the fact that Instagram, the most optimal and top-performing platform for brand marketing and awareness, is where most influencer marketing campaigns live.

Simply put, influencer marketing is the act of partnering with a specific influencer to promote and market your products. It’s not the same as affiliate marketing, which we cover here in our other essential guide, but the upside with influencer marketing is that you work with someone who has already established trust with a specific audience.

The whole idea behind influencer marketing is that you remove the barriers that typical social advertising has, and go right to the source: audiences are introduced to a product right from a trusted and valued source they already follow and feel like they know. And those audiences consist of potential customers.

When an influencer markets a product, they usually promote it as a product they personally recommend – like a friend would. And this benefits brands greatly, because it’s a more authentic, humanized approach to marketing (and selling) a product.

But trust isn’t the only aspect of influencer marketing that makes it work so well as a promotional tool – authenticity is king.

Every influencer will niche into something – like beauty, food, wellness, travel, business, coaching, to name a few – and they become a trusted source and authority in those spaces. Their followers consider them a leading ‘expert’ or trusted voice on that topic, which gives the person influence over the audiences’ buying decisions.

So, it’s safe to say, then, that influencer marketing can be a powerful tool for pet businesses looking to gain authority in and influencer over a certain audience or customer type.

What’s the deal with macro vs. micro influencers…and nano influencers?!

Once upon a time, the only way many businesses thought they’d see success with influencer marketing was by partnering with macro influencers – that is, influencers with social media followings of 100K or more.

Today, it’s more common for businesses to partner with micro influencers; those with less than 100k followers. In general, micro influencers have much smaller followings (around 10k or slightly more) on social media platforms like Instagram, but have significant influence over the audiences they do target.

Following micro influencers are nano influencers, those with only a few thousand followers. Like micro influencers, nano influencers can have serious influence or clout with their followers because audiences see micro and nano influencers the same way they see themselves: as everyday consumers.

What sets these smaller influencers apart from macro influencers is trust and relatability. Larger influencers don’t always have the scope and availability to nurture their audiences and online communities once they grow to a certain point, but smaller influencers (like the micro and nano ones mentioned above) may use social media as a passion project, making them more dedicated to engaging followers and creating relatable content.

It’s important to keep in mind that, beyond the cost of working with influencers, many large influencers (those with big followings) can be viewed by audiences as celebrities or people paid just to push products, but smaller influencers feel like a friend or trusted source.

For example, nano influencers can often experience engagement rates of 7% or higher (according to Influencer Marketing Hub) versus larger influencers who may only see engagement rates of 1-3%. If you’re paying to partner with an influencer, engagement matters, because that shows how interested people are in your product and the partnership itself!

What are the costs of influencer marketing?

It’s one of the most common questions businesses ask, and the answer is that there is no real answer!

Every influencer is different, which means the scope of the partnership and the work you have to do versus the work they have to do will depend entirely on what your goals are. And, realistically, any influencer looking to make income from influencer partnerships will have their own rates or rate ranges!

‘Back in the day’, a lot of businesses could exchange free product for promotion, but many influencers don’t take this route anymore; that’s because influencers are often saddled with creating the content that promotes the product, engaging with their audiences, promoting the product and, in some cases, providing reporting on the performance of the promotion or campaign. You’ll find that a lot of influencers, even smaller ones, use their social media platforms as a way of creating income.

Thus, any business should be prepared to spend at least $300 (if not more) on an influencer marketing campaign, but again, this depends on the scope of the partnership. For example, most businesses want to partner with influencers on Instagram only (as Facebook isn’t the traditional influencer hub), but you may want a certain number of posts and Stories from the influencer. Understandably, this increases costs and time involved for the influencer.

In a socially distant world, where COVID-19 has impacted the way a lot of customers shop, influencers are likely to use Instagram Stories, Lives, and interactive content (like stickers, polls, etc) as part of campaigns, where more than 40% of influencers are increasing their use of these live marketing tools. So it’s important to consider the type of content and engagement you’d want your influencer partnership to use to help promote your business and products.

Here are a few of our top tips for figuring out the cost of an influencer partnership:

  • Ask for the influencer’s media kit, which should detail different statistics about their audience and scope of influence, but also the cost of different promotion types (like IG Stories, posts, Lives, etc)
  • Clarify whether the influencer has set rates or is open to negotiation; in this respect, asking if they’ll partner through an in-kind campaign or for product exchange
  • Request samples of past content they’ve created for similar brands or businesses; some influencers are willing to share their created content so you can see whether you’d be a fit
  • Consider the three-quote rule; when you work with a trade, you typically ask for three quotes, and you can do the same with influencers you’re interested in partnering with by asking them their rates. This doesn’t mean you have to partner with more than one influencer, but it’s good to be aware of all costs involved
  • Ask about content creation; if you’re willing to supply the content, and it’s on-brand for the influencer too, this could potentially reduce costs

Above all else, it’s smart to be cognizant of the fact that influencer marketing will cost you something – whether it’s product, money, or both.

How do you find the right influencer?

Finding the right influencer can be challenging if you don’t know what it is you want to achieve from an influencer marketing campaign. That’s why it’s important to set clear goals and objectives, as well as desired outcomes, that you hope to achieve from partnering with an influencer.

Let’s say, for example, that your goal is to increase brand awareness for your pet business, with an objective of increasing engagement. Partnering with a micro influencer would be the best option, because they’ll have a larger audience with which they can share your brand and products.

If you’re solely looking to rack up engagement, nano influencers would be a beneficial solution, but they likely wouldn’t get you the scope of awareness that a slightly larger influencer could.

Once you’ve established what it is you hope to achieve, you can start looking at the influencers you’d want to partner with, and which ones would be the best potential ones.

Start by doing your research

The easiest and most effective way to find influencers is by searching by keyword or hashtag using platforms themselves, natively. In the case of Instagram, that means using the Discover section and searching specific keywords or hashtags which relate to your brand, product, and industry.

As a pet business, you likely already follow specific accounts on Instagram and influencers, too, so you can use these accounts as a jumping off point by looking at their competitors, the hashtags they use, and the people who have Liked their content.

During your research phase, we recommend you also look at each influencer’s demographics – this includes things like location, age, gender, language, income and more. That’s because you’re trying to target a specific customer type, and while your brand or product won’t resonate with every single follower the influencer has, you want to be able to target a portion of them.

Look at their engagement

Because you’ll be paying the influencer for the partnership, you’ll want to focus on key metrics and the quality of their content.

For example, high engagement rates mean an influencer’s audience is paying attention and taking action on the content through comments and conversations; this is even more true when the influencer engages in those conversations and talks about the brands they’re promoting and has human interactions with their audience.

A general rule of thumb is that a 2-3% engagement rate is solid, whereas anything higher (like 4-6%) is great, and once engagement rate grows from there, it’s even more beneficial for both the brand and the influencer.

You don’t need a fancy tool to help you calculate engagement, though. All you need is a simple formula:

Engagement Rate = # of (Likes + # of Comments) / Followers x 100

HOT TIP: Ask the influencer if they can provide you with metrics and insights, which are good social proof points that they have an engaged audience that cares about what the influencer says.

Don’t forget about their followers

Being a pet business, reaching the right audiences are key, but influencers can have thousands of followers, so you’re not going to target all of them with one campaign; instead, you’re going to reach those that identify with your product.

A good way to understand whether an influencer’s audience would relate to your product is to do a quick audit of their followers. If, for example, you produce dog treats, it wouldn’t make sense to partner with an influencer that focuses solely on pet fashion and accessories, and whose followers share those same interests. Instead, you’d want to look at influencers who audiences care about things like dog nutrition, dog health, dog wellness, dog physical fitness, and dog food. An outdoor dog influencer could be a good option.

Beyond the quality of their followers, it may also help to check their followers to see whether they’re authentic. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for influencers to pay for followers or use bots to cheat Instagram’s algorithm and get followers for them – and while this isn’t every influencer, it does happen. Being aware of whether their followers are real is a key step.

And their content? It’s important, too!

While an influencer may have beautifully curated content (like professional photography), for many shoppers, being informed (even by an influencer) means looking at what influencers have to say about a brand or product.

And besides video posts, Lives, or Stories, captions are a large source of information from influencers.

The growing trend of long-form, personal, and detailed social captions is only growing, which means influencers are taking the time to explain their feelings, experiences, and perspectives on products and brands in their captions. Audiences read these and use this content to inform their buying decisions, too.

So it’s incredibly important to look at the tone, voice, and overall sentiment of an influencer’s content. Even if an influencer is funny, witty, satirical, or sometimes dramatic, you ultimately want to partner with an influencer whose values, voice, and treatment of their community align with your own.

Be mindful when reaching out to influencers

When you find an influencer that you’d like to partner with, you’ll then have to contact them, and every influencer will respond differently. The number one thing to keep in mind is that some influencers may not respond at all, and that’s okay! But there are a few things you can do to better your chances of getting a response from an influencer.

1. Search for the right contact details

A lot of businesses and brands are tempted to simply DM (direct message) influencers on social media, thinking the influencer will see their message or appreciate a DM. And while some do, for the most part, a lot of brands miss out on personalizing their approach and establishing a genuine connection with influencers!

You can check for an influencer’s contact information using the contact options on their profile, as most influencers have an Instagram Business account, which allows you to contact people by the click of a button.

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