Since the rise of social media, a new type of star got born, and is being born daily. “Instagrammers”, “YouTubers”, bloggers, online activists, affiliated marketers trendsetters or what has become the buzzword lately: influencers.

Call them what you like, it can’t be argued that people have made influencing a full-time career. The fact is, they’re famous and they have a following – a following that could be influenced to buy products or use services. Is influencer marketing an avenue worth exploring? We take a closer look.

The premise is simple. A brand partners with the influencer, the influencer punts, or promotes the brand’s product in a creative way on a social platform (Instagram often being the preferred one), influencees get influenced and the sales come in. Influencer marketing is becoming highly enticing for brands with a niche because they are able to reach their exact target market.

The size of an influencer’s audience largely, determines the category the influencer falls into. Yes, there are different categories of influencers:

Mega – typically more than 1 million followers

Macro – typically between 100 000 and 1 million followers

Micro – typically between 1 000 and 100 000 followers

Nano – typically less than 1 000 followers

Even though micro-and nano influencers have the obvious lesser followers, if it comes to niche markets, they could be extremely valuable. Less followers can mean more engagement and subsequently more authenticity. More on that down below.

While there are many factors playing a role in the tier of an influencer, the biggest and most obvious are following and possible reach. The bigger the audience, generally, the pricier the influencer. In South Africa, one single post could set you back anything between R500 to more than R10 000, depending on the influencer, of course. But a bigger audience doesn’t necessarily mean bigger sales – look at this lady’s dismal story, for instance.

Find the right person for the job:

If done correctly, an influencer campaign could be extremely profitable. If not, it can easily become just another costly expense with nothing to show for it. Using influencers should be approached just as any other marketing campaign. At the end of the day something still needs to be sold, and it needn’t be anyone’s soul. Influencer marketing works. Do the research, determine the goals, stick to the budget, and the ROI could be as high as 11x!

It goes without saying, the most important thing is to find the right person for the job. Four things to look for in your research when deciding on an influencer:

RELEVANCE

It should be obvious. It’s imperative that the influencer/s align with the brand. Go through the person’s post history and see whether his or her tone matches with that of your brand.

ENGAGEMENT

As mentioned before, a big audience doesn’t necessarily mean sales. One way to measure the authenticity of an influencer is by keeping an eye on their engagement. According to Scrunch, a good engagement rate is between 3.5% and 6%, aim for an influencer with that number.

FREQUENCY

There is a direct correlation between how often someone posts and the traffic that follows. Consistent, high quality content posted regularly tend to have a high turnover, contrary to popular belief.

AUTHENTICITY

Consumers respond better to something they trust. Influencers with a small amount of sponsored content appear more authentic and thus are better trusted Genuine use of a product or service is more reliable and believable than just a review, so keep that in mind when you and your influencer work on a strategy.

Instagram, the preferred influencer platform, is ever growing in popularity and influencer marketing is not going to go away anytime soon. It is estimated that the Influencer Marketing industry will be worth a $10 BILLION by next year and is set to become even bigger in future. And while the industry will probably look a whole lot different in five years than it does today, there is definitely value in becoming part of it “early”. Just proceed with caution when you do.