These days, influencer marketing is one of the leading strategies for small businesses. Partnering with influencers can be a great way to raise brand awareness, get your products and/or services in front of a new audience and drive real results for your small business.

However, with recent advertising changes being flagged for health products, the boundaries for influencer marketing have become more complex and it can be difficult to navigate for Australian small businesses owners.

What is influencer marketing and why should you consider it?

Influencer marketing is a social media marketing strategy that connects influential social media users with brands. These collaborations provide a platform for brands to have direct access to pre-filtered, like-minded audiences via a trusted influential source. Arguably the biggest benefit of influencer marketing for small businesses is its efficacy and affordability. Not only does influencer marketing deliver a high ROI, it also has a low barrier to entry.

According to the Influencer Marketing Survey from Mediakix, influencer marketing is 11 times more effective than other digital media strategies — and while businesses make, on average, approximately $2 for every $1 they spend on Google AdWords, the earned media value for influencer marketing is an astounding $11.69 for every dollar spent.

How can you get started on creating an effective influencer marketing strategy?

The first step is doing your research. Before you start crafting your strategy, consider which social platform your audience is spending most of its time on, the type of content they consume and how they engage with brands on it. This will provide you with a clear idea of which channel you should focus on and leverage e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok.

Look at what competitors are doing in this space to help guide your strategy. Make sure that you focus on what you could do that is new and interesting based on your own unique brand and product offer as well as aligning it with your overall business goals. Finally, draft a clear influencer brief including objectives, key messages, deliverables and timings with a call for influencer collaboration on the concept. Be willing to listen to their ideas, as content creators know their audiences better than you do.

How do you budget for influencer engagement?

While you can “gift” your product to an influencer, you have no guarantee of exposure or content created. Whereas, if you enter an agreement with an influencer for a paid collaboration, you have full creative control with final approval of all content before posting.

There are three ways of payment to consider; either contra (providing product), cash or a combination of both. The choice of payment comes down to various factors including an influencers’:

  • Total followers – Nano (under 10k), micro (10k and 100k followers), macro influencers (100k and 1M followers) vs mega (over 1M)

*Key to note here that bigger isn’t always better. Never underestimate the power of micro influencers who typically have highly engaged followers and may be more inclined for a contra agreement

  • Engagement rate – A percentage for social posts based on followers vs audience engagement
  • Level of activity – Social posts vs marketing campaign, one off vs long-term partnership

How do you find and engage influencers?

Once you have a budget outline, you need to consider what influencers you would like to engage with and your return on investment. Start by auditing your own followers and potentially converting your existing customers into advocates, ultimately positioning them as ambassadors. Next, make a list of influencers who align with your business’ values as well as your budget and review the content for genuine engagement. After you’ve done your research, it’s time to make contact and start negotiating.

What are the advertising regulations for influencers?

When posting across social media, the influencer is ethically obligated to disclose any partnership with hashtags such as #Ad or an acknowledgment within the caption. For best practice guides, always refer to AiMCO, the Australian Influencer Marketing Council, who have outlined the Influencer Marketing Code of Practice for Australia.

Also be sure to keep a close eye on updates to regulations that might affect your industry. For example, the recent changes to the Therapeutic Goods Administration Social Media Guide which prohibits influencers from making testimonials about therapeutic goods, but still allows for paid posts.

Implementing an influencer strategy can help your small business grow in a way that’s aligned with your brand values while increasing your bottom line. And with the current spike in social and digital consumption and more audiences tuning into trusted online personalities, now is the time to tap into one of the fastest growing e-commerce strategies and harness the power of influencer marketing.

Linda McDonald is senior director in marketing, sales and CX at Vista Australia.