Despite what skeptics would like to believe (and a general distaste for “influencers”), influencer marketing works.
Really, really well.
According to a Tomoson poll, businesses are making $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing. (That’s a better ROI than most channels!)
But, do people really trust influencers when it comes to reviews and recommendations?
We know that people trust recommendations from friends, and that they’re relatively skeptical of celebrity endorsements. It turns out that people also trust ‘ordinary’ influencers who do reviews, as long as they’ve built up credibility.
Do you know what this means?
This means — if you’re looking for a surefire method that will boost your referral program and generate you tons of referral sales, you’re looking at influencer marketing.
And there’s no better match made in heaven than influencer marketing and referral marketing. Simply because both channels thrive on word-of-mouth.
(NOTE: Want to set up a referral program? Try ReferralCandy free for 30 days here.)
But, let’s back up a little and answer a burning question for those may be unfamiliar:
What is influencer marketing?
According to Wikipedia, influencer marketing is:
“A form of marketing in which focus is placed on influential people rather than the target market as a whole. It identifies the individuals that have influence over potential buyers, and orients marketing activities around these influencers.”
Basically, influencers are people who have amassed a large audience, typically on social media channels like Instagram, Twitter or YouTube. They can also be a blogger whose blog is read by millions of viewers each month.
Alternatively, they may be known as “content creators”, for their main job is to create social content for their followers to consume.
You may think that influencers only thrive in certain visual industries like beauty and travel, and you would be wrong. There are plenty of influencers excelling and succeeding in all sorts of niches and industries.
Here are some examples of influencers in different kinds of niches:
- Fashion, e.g Jenn Im, Chiara Ferragni
- Travel, e.g Beautiful Destinations, The Planet D
- Food, e.g DanielFoodDiary, Natasha Kravchuk
- Beauty, e.g Michelle Phan, Nikkie de Jager
- Entertainment, e.g Ryan Higa, King Bach
- Fitness, e.g Cassey Ho, Emily Skye
- Gaming, e.g PewDiePie, Jacksepticeye
- Tech, e.g Robert Scoble, Lewis Hilsenteger
- Business, e.g Tim Ferriss, Gary Vaynerchuk
- Pets, e.g Grumpy Cat, Nala Cat
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Influencers are everywhere (some aren’t even human), and that means opportunities are everywhere.
You just need to know how to work with it.
Want examples of using influencers in referral marketing?
1. Alo Yoga
The fastest-growing ecommerce brand on the internet runs weekly #AloChallenges on Instagram. Each challenge is hosted by yoga influencers (and yoga teachers) who make daily posts on Instagram to guide you through different poses.
The challenges have been running for years, and are a great way to generate Earned Content by encouraging people to share and repost.
Alo Yoga achieves several things at once: grow the yoga community, help the yoga influencers grow their following, and spread the reach of their #AloChallenge hashtag. But on top of growing brand awareness, the challenges drive sales because most of the yoga teachers have an Alo Yoga referral link in their bio link:
It’s a smart piece of marketing that builds community, and is a win-win-win for customers, yoga influencers, and Alo Yoga.
2. Elfin Marketing
Elina Furman is the founder of Elfin Marketing, a creative agency focused on helping innovative baby and kids brands.
Here’s what she said on the importance of working with influencers:
“Because I take on only superior products and clients, we never have to pay influencers to promote the product. People can sense when influencers are getting paid vs. that they just love the product and want to share with their friends. All that is reflected in the sales and success of the program.”
CycleBoard manufacturers electric personal scooters that offer a fun, stress-free daily commute while also minimizing your carbon footprint.
CycleBoard also offers a general referral program that pays out $100 over PayPal for each successful referral — with no limits on the number of referral rewards you can earn. This has paid off, as one of CycleBoard’s top referrers is a content creator and influencer on YouTube. He’s not the only YouTube reviewer/influencer who drives referral traffic to CycleBoard either!
His referral link is embedded at the top of the video description!
“Our customers and community are a critical part of our brand and business. We utilize ReferralCandy to engage customers and create loyal customers and brand ambassadors.”
Threadbeast is a company that delivers monthly curated packages of streetwear. (They also use ReferralCandy for their referral program.) Similar to what Player One Coffee did, they partnered with MMG, a YouTube channel with ~600,000 subscribers:
Of course, there was a referral link in the description:
5. Contact Lens Singapore
Contact Lens Singapore is a leading contact lens ecommerce store serving Singapore and Malaysia, offering authentic contact lenses from brands like Bausch & Lomb, Alcon and Coopervision at up to 50% off recommended retail prices.
One of Contact Lens SG’s most successful channels was influencer marketing – which they eventually paired with their ReferralCandy referral program:
They also worked with influencers like Melissa (~38,000 followers):
Even doctors like Dr. Jeanel:
When Airbnb was expanding into Asia, a single influencer’s referrals led to 5,000 signups and hundreds of bookings in the first month.
“In China we have this celebrity called Anthony who has 2 million followers on Weibo and posted photos and a link to a referral program. Thousands of signups, hundreds of bookings in the first month. Influential people can have a massive impact on something like this.”
NOTE: Weibo is China’s version of Twitter.
Ztylus is an ecommerce store that makes phone cases – and they also get tens of thousands of referrals from gadget reviewers.
When we reached out to Tim Hsu, the founder of Ztylus on how his referral program worked so well, this was what he said:
“We target big influencers on YouTube, who review our product. They can share their referral links in the description, giving their viewers a discount when they get sent to our site. I think that’s really benefited a lot of those reviewers also.”
One particular video review described Ztylus as “quite possibly the best looking iphone accessory that I have ever seen.”
Over 13,000 clicks on that referral link!
I’m convinced now. How much does influencer marketing cost?
A social media executive confessed to Digiday that, “We have no idea what to pay them. That’s the problem.”
There’s no exact or perfect market rate to pay influencers, except for a few scant guidelines to follow. Thankfully, our friends over at Buffer have done the research, and looked into a “market guideline” that you can follow:
Of course, treat this as a guideline, and not gospel. There are other factors like engagement to consider, and it also depends on your product, its desirability and your negotiation skills.
I can afford it. How do I get started with influencer marketing?
Getting started with influencer marketing is like getting started with any marketing campaign. You’ll have to first determine your goals and what kind of metrics you’re looking to measure.
Then, you’ll have to identify the appropriate influencers you want to work with, reach out and agree on the partnership, manage them and the content they’ll be creating (ensuring that it meets your timeline), issue the payment (whether in financial value or products), then measure and optimize the campaign.
Running through these steps will probably take another article, but thankfully we’ve already created a comprehensive guide on how you can get started with your influencer program.
If every customer you have sends you an additional 1 – 2 more customers, you’ll have a successful referral program.
In fact, that’s the basis for virality – where one person spreads to another, who then spreads to another.
But can you skew the results?
Can you make your referral program succeed even faster?
Of course, you can. You do that by engaging and collaborating with influencers, who have more power and influence than your typical customers.
These influencers are your Pareto’s Principle; they have the ability to disproportionately skew the results of your referral program.
So, take full advantage of that – and work with them to promote your referral program.