Influencer marketing on a shoestring budget

7 min read
Tanya Jamal

Looking for ways to promote your small business online but don't have the cash to hire a marketing agency? Getting your products and services in front of thousands of people doesn’t have to mean creating your own social media accounts from scratch. Instead, look to the economical magic of influencer marketing.

An influencer can save you time, money and heaps of effort.

With this type of marketing, small businesses partner with:

  • Highly-respected industry professionals
  • Layman experts
  • Minor social media celebrities

The resulting relationship benefits both parties. Influencer marketing, simply put, is promoting your products and services to the people who have influence on social media platforms in the hopes that they will then promote your business to their followers.

There are even micro influencers — those with smaller followings and a focused area of expertise. Micro influencers often have closer relationships with their fans, resulting in greater trust.

Find an influencer in 7 steps

Influencer marketing is all about who you know (and who they know). Here’s how to find a micro influencer who’s perfect for your business.

  1. Browse social networks.
  2. Search your keywords.
  3. See who’s out there.
  4. Create a short list.
  5. Do a little digging.
  6. Follow your favourites.
  7. Make the connection.

After we’ve explained how to find likely influencers to partner with, we’ll offer some advice on how to reach out.

Influencer marketing: a long-term investment

Micro influencers, while not having millions of followers, usually have a more curated and thoughtful set of people following them in the hundreds or thousands. By reaching consumers directly through an influencer who shares your brand’s vision, you are, by extension, directly reaching a consumer group with a pre-established trust and interest in your brand.

This type of marketing is different than paying someone who has a large following to promote your products or services.

While that certainly is one way to approach social media marketing, the short-term gains from that kind of media hype will only ever offer a blip in sales unless you can spend millions on a Kylie Jenner collaboration.

Instead focus on creating a purposeful long-term relationship between your brand, a micro influencer and consumers.

How to find a micro influencer

Influencer Marketing Goose with Goslings
A micro influencer can introduce you to their social followers.

Identifying meaningful potential business collaborators takes time and thought. Wonderfully enough it costs you nothing, but the investment of a few minutes a day, some patience and a little bit of research.

Step 1. Browse social networks

Start browsing various social media platforms that your customers most likely hang out on. You can find information about which social networks various types of Canadian consumers favour here.

Step 2. Search your keywords

Search keywords for your products and services and note the various social platforms that score best in the results. This will direct you to the best places to look for meaningful micro influencers whose interests dovetail with what your business produces.

Step 3. See who’s out there

Now go to the social media platforms you’ve identified and search for the same keywords to see who pops up in their search results and subsequent ‘Recommended for You’ feeds.

Step 4. Create a short list

Spend some time browsing through profiles until you find a few that resonate with your business messaging, goals and mission.

Step 5. Do a little digging

Check out histories and published Tweets, stories or entries before making your selections of who to ‘follow.’ Look for references to other businesses, products or experiences that align with your brand’s areas of interest.

Step 6. Follow your favourites

Now it’s time to officially ‘follow’ one or two marketing influencers who meet your criteria. A couple per platform is a reasonable amount for you to manage on your own.

Here are some tips for building collaborative relationships online:

  • Spend a few minutes every day or every other day looking at the content and resulting comments and conversations your influencer participates in.
  • Find appropriate moments to interact online when you can, ‘liking’ or commenting on mutually beneficial posts, and sharing business experiences.
  • Use the preferred methods of communicating that the majority of the followers use, whether it’s full sentences and correct grammar or emoji-filled shorthand.
  • Highlight the commonalities of your opinions and beliefs about the industry when opportunities arise for comments. ‘Tag’ other like-minded users to build community.
  • Pay attention to who the other followers of the micro influencer are. Do some research into who their followers are to begin to see a possible web of connections.

You should always be respectful in your communications and make an effort to demonstrate your passion about your industry. Use first names/media handles in your comments.

Step 7. Make the connection

Influencer Marketing Two Women Talking
Taking your time to build a relationship will pay off later.

It will take some time before your selected micro influencers begin to notice and register your presence as a member of their community. They will do this by seeing that you are:

  • Participating in conversations
  • Commenting and ‘liking’ posts that they and their followers make

You will probably need to budget a few weeks towards this endeavor, commenting or posting every one to three days on average so as not to overdo your interest.

Developing a relationship in this way should not be hurried or a rushed process.

Take your time and pay attention to the types of posts and conversations being conducted in each influencer’s feed. You’ll want to steer clear of controversy, arguments, and anything that can be construed as sexist, homophobic, racist or political in nature. If these things figure on a person’s profile, take them off your list.

Once you’ve found an influencer who seems like a good fit, DM (direct message) or email them to see if they’re open to working with you. You could say something like this:

“Hi [name] —

I’ve been following you for awhile and notice we share similar interests. I own a [describe your business] and think your followers might be interested in my products/services. Do you have any interest in partnering? I’d love to hear your thoughts.”

If after reaching out to several influencers, you’re having trouble making a deal, there’s always the option of working with an influencer marketing agency. These groups specialize in pairing influencers with like-minded businesses.

Collaboration: mutually beneficial and economical

Influencer Marketing Three People at Table
If you do it right, the influencer will be primed for your request before you make it.

Once you have found the right influencer, proposing a collaboration will seem like a natural outcome of the relationship you have taken the time to build.

Respect and admiration for each other’s opinions, and a good fit between what the influencer stands for and your brand’s identity is what will seal the deal. How compensation for the collaboration will be decided varies — it could be a commission-based approach, or a fee-for-service amongst other options.

Influencer marketing is often a savvy move for many small businesses.

It costs very little, takes only a small amount of time and helps to build your own social marketing acumen. It works by finding the right influencers (or micro influencers) to team up with to spread the word about your products and services among their carefully cultivated followers.

Influencer marketing might just be the strategy your business needs to take advantage of all that digital media marketing has to offer!

Stay true to yourself and your brand in any interactions you have online. This will only serve to strengthen and solidify your business's credibility and reputation in the long run. The more authentic your business relationship is, the more impactful any future collaboration will be.