Influencer Marketing: Look for transformational relationships over transactional ones!

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When working with influencers, seek out true partnerships over “one and done” post relationships. Of course, a singular post with your product in hand can earn tons of impressions and potentially a bunch of likes and engagements too. However, if you want to really move the needle, you should look to integrate into their life and routine.

If an influencer really has a captive audience that actually pays attention to their recommendations and guidance, as is the case with @sweatsandthecity, then you should look to create a transformational relationship vs. a transactional one. Here she talks about a 9-month journey, to try and get her gut health back in line after a battle with diverticulitis. She credits meditation, cutting out foods found to be an issue in an Alcat Test, Acupuncture AND our client Terra Origin’s Healthy Gut product, as the steps to getting there. What an amazing endorsement!

If you have a great product and believe in it, look for partners who can convey that message for you. It can be the benefit, the clean label and/or the taste that stands out. Have them help you package that story and speak to something they have personally used or consumed and actually appreciate. Then let them do the storytelling in their own way and look at the depth (engagements, actual words in the comments and chances for a dialogue) even more so than the width (impressions and follower count). That is much more likely to INFLUENCE consideration and trial from their audience, which is the whole point of it all, isn’t it?

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As if Amazon didn’t already have enough influence…

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Hi, my name is Leah Hammer and I am a Senior at The University of Delaware and a Social Media Manager Intern this semester.  This is my first blog post for Sircle Media and I chose to write about Amazon’s influencer platform. I hope you enjoy it!

There’s no doubt that influencers have become a key component in promoting products in the digital realm. Brands have long been searching for well-known, reputable influencers to advocate for and promote their products, and for good reason. According to an article by David Bloom at Forbes, a recent study showed that 13 million influencers generated $7 billion in revenue last year. Staggering numbers!

Instagram has seen the most action with these influencers, with 93% of all influencer campaigns happening on their platform. Bigger influencers are typically paid anywhere between $3,000-$5,000 per post, and sometimes even more per campaign.

About a year ago, Amazon created their own influencer program which offers a link for those who participate to publicize on other social media sites. The link then directs to a user profile made up of personalized “lists”, where influencers showcase their favorite products. With every purchase bought from an influencers link, the influencer can receive up to 10% of that sale. This hybrid affiliate program is very smart and will allow all parties to win financially.

Amazon accounts for more than 50% of e-commerce in the United States. With ferocious price wars, consumers are looking to Amazon for the best possible prices. “That’s helping drive Amazon’s growing share of the U.S. advertising business, and now third behind the Duopoly,” says Bloom. Marketers are now predicting that Amazon will gain almost 9% of 2019’s digital ad market. Amazon has already experienced meteoric growth in the marketing space and can go even further, faster by incorporating influencers.

Influencers with a large following will be essential in the new program’s success, but so will micro-influencers. Many brands have looked to these power users because of their devoted fans and followers. Micro-influencers have between 1,000-100,000 followers and are typically more approachable and affordable in comparison to those who might only have a limited number of partnerships available. Because micro-influencers have smaller, more intimate fanbases, they are often seen as more real, approachable and sincere, which makes them more credible to their followers. Finding the right micro-influencers within Amazon’s ecosystem will create a whole new opportunity for businesses, and influencers too.

When searching for the best possible influencer to promote your product, it’s important to search through the ‘explore’ page on Amazon. This page will lead you to popular and commonly viewed lists. Through these lists, you can find influencers who are part of Amazon’s influencer program and willing to work with brands. When searching for the right influencer for your product, remember to keep in mind your audience and target demo and then check to see if the influencer has endorsed competitors in the past.

As an example, for one of our clients, Modern Oats, who creates on the go, organic oatmeal, we could perhaps choose to reach out to Laura Fuentes, an Instagram influencer with 14.2K followers.  She is a mother who loves to travel and share her favorite foods. Laura recently joined Amazon’s influencer program and has already created lists of her favorite products.

As influencer marketing continues to take over the digital realm, taking advantage of Amazon’s new influencer program will be essential in increasing those e-commerce sales. Get in the game and try it for yourself. If you have any positive or negative experiences on the platform, be sure to let us know. We would love to hear some real-life feedback

See you out on the field!

 

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Instagram Trends To Watch In Early 2019

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Square_Lexi-02Hi, my name is Lexi and I am new to Sircle Media. This is my first ever blog post at Sircle and I decided to reference this article about marketing trends on Instagram in 2019 that was put out by Socialbakers. We use Instagram all day long for clients and it was helpful to see some data around usage and consumption. I offer some personal and professional insight sprinkled on top of their list of the 5 platform trends that marketers must know. I hope you enjoy.

As a Social Media Manager and an avid Instagram user myself, I feel as though I understand Instagram’s popularity as a social media platform and how it would be a huge miss for brands not to utilize it for marketing purposes. Whether I’m sending memes to my friends or seeing what Kylie Jenner is up to, I spend multiple hours in a single day on Instagram. I am sure that most people reading this are addicted to IG too!

Since launching in 2010, Instagram has evolved tremendously from a photo-sharing site to the powerful marketing channel it is today. I remember using Instagram solely as an editing tool back in 2011 when I wanted to have cool pictures of me and my friends to post on Facebook during our senior year of high school. Boy, have times changed! Since then, Instagram has grown at a rapid pace, with over 1 billion active users to date.

So, what does Instagram’s dominance in the social media sphere mean for marketers? In this blog post, I am going to tackle and discuss the five Instagram trends marketers should know as 2019 unfolds.

First, high customer engagement is super important and you shouldn’t be against using paid social to find those right customers. Because Instagram is a highly visual platform, this particular social network is perfect for getting your proper target engaged AND keeping them absorbed in your content. For me, Glossier does an amazing job at producing content I like to see on my feed, while also successfully selling me on their wide range of beauty products.

According to Instagram Business, 80% of accounts follow a business on the platform and 60% use it to discover new products. In addition, 72% users buy products after seeing them on the platform. With that being said, I feel that in order to move someone down a purchase funnel, your business must be utilizing all of Instagram’s e-commerce features. For example, add a link to your bio to drive visitors to your website, include action buttons such as “shop,” use Instagram Story links and highlights to show off new products, and create shoppable posts for a more seamless shopping experience within the app.

Not only can you leverage e-commerce features on Instagram, but their Instagram Story feature, in general, is key. I believe the ephemeral content craze began with the creation of Snapchat, but once Instagram Stories were rolled out, they clearly became much more popular. Ephemeral content encourages followers to interact with your brand, allows you to increase website traffic, create buzz surrounding a new product launch, and so much more.

Now when it comes to IGTV, I am still just getting my feet wet. For those who don’t know, IGTV is Instagram’s longer-form video hub displayed as a vertical video on an Instagram account. To be honest, sometimes I forget to check out IGTV, but just recently, IG pushed out a new update, where video previews can be published in the main feed. This is a big update and a clear indication that Instagram is focused on continuing to try and get users to adopt IGTV. I already see influencers actively using it for how-to videos and a behind-the-scenes look at their lives. Which brings me to my final Instagram trend to look out for in 2019….Influencer marketing.

According to eMarketer, 78% of influencers consider Instagram to be the best platform for brand collaborations. When well-respected influencers post about brands they are eating, wearing, drinking, you name it, followers are able to easily find and buy the featured items. I cannot even begin to describe the countless number of times I have purchased a product this way. For example, whenever Arielle Charnas posts about the clothes she is wearing, you bet I am going to swipe up and check it out nine times out of ten. Brands should be making sure they find the right influencer(s) that fits their target audience and that their performance metrics are on point. Since I started working at Sircle, I’ve made sure to keep my eyes peeled for influencers who are engaging with the brands that I manage in order to readily turn them into brand ambassadors.

So, to sum things up, Instagram, just like any other social media platform, is constantly evolving and we will see so many new trends in the future. I recommend that you take the time to apply these tactics now and stay on top of the latest trends!  See you on The Gram!

 

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Food Styling – Sells Product!

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If you want to stand out in the very crowded healthy CPG or beverage categories, it is very important to create high quality and memorable visual content. At Sircle Media, we are big believers in video content, but still photographs can pack quite a punch too.

One of the big differentiators from one brand to the next is the flavor or taste profile and brands need to include some imagery that helps tell that story. Well executed food styling can really make your product stand out and make it crave-able, which can move someone from awareness to trial very quickly. We all want healthy products in our lives and the added bonus is that they taste great too.

Sell that narrative and you will earn more first time users. Follow thru on that promise (meaning the product actually does taste good) and you will have customers for life!

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IGTV – Promotions in the main Instagram feed…

 

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Instagram has stumbled a bit out of the gate with IGTV, but the platform is committed to making this product stick. Not only does it open up a new frontier for creators on the social network, but it steals those same creators and the eyeballs that watch them from YouTube. The added cherry on top is the additional real estate for Ads and the revenue that comes with it. Trust me, they are going to make it work.

They recently rolled out a new feature that allows you to publish your IGTV uploads directly to the feed, where you can tease users back to view the whole video and your channel in the process. They made it super seamless at the time of posting, which will make it easy to adopt for users and is a very smart way to draw attention for sure.

Below you can see how it looks in the Instagram grid as well as the teaser to watch the full video when you click on the actual asset:

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We encourage brands to experiment with this and to use some longer form video content (especially a “hero” video that describes who you are and what you sell) in the process. There are some nuances to consider when doing this and we touch on the topic in a recent episode of our podcast, The Inner Sircle.  Enjoy!

 

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POV: 2019 State of Influencer Marketing Report

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The team at Relatable recently put out a report on the state of influencer marketing for 2019. They partnered up with 350 brands and agencies to source comprehensive data and insights to help hone in on the current situation.

This study showed that influencer marketing is not about earned media and shipping out free products anymore, it is now about working with the right and relevant influential individual that can help companies reach their target audience. Although, 95% of respondents believe that influencer marketing is an effective form of marketing, 24% of them have zero experience with influencer marketing in their company and 8 out of 10 brands will have a dedicated influencer marketing budget in 2019.

Marketing teams are tending to launch monthly and quarterly campaigns, combined with an always-on program, while about 1 in 4 are limiting their executions to when they’re launching new products. 82% of respondents stated that their company is currently advertising on Facebook and 7 out of 10 marketers agree that their Facebook Ads are getting increasingly more expensive and harder to optimize. 76% of marketing teams are operating their influencer marketing manually, without any tools, and although there is no lack of platforms, tools, and technologies available for those who are looking to take their influencer marketing to the next level, many are still not leveraging them.

Half of the marketing teams think finding influencers to participate is a very big challenge. They also fear a lack of control on message and need to make sure that the influencer’s creation(s) will resonate with their audience and will authentically connect with new and existing consumers. On top of this, 75% of marketing teams are concerned about fraud and bots that mess with results.

Awareness and consideration were the most common marketing objectives when running an influencer marketing campaign with only 50% being sales.  Fewer and fewer brands are using follower growth as a KPI, which is good to see.  There is a clear opportunity to combine influencer marketing efforts and content marketing budgets to increase return on advertising dollars.

With 80% of brands allocating a budget to influencer marketing and nearly 1 out of 4 lacking the necessary experience to manage these campaigns, there is a real need for education and support. Influencers should not be in a silo and most likely not run by your PR firm. Your social media manager should project manage the relationships and either grind it out manually or, if the budget permits, they should leverage tools or 3rd party agencies to help do some of the heavy lifting.

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Social Media: Planning For The Now

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Lately, I have been having a lot of conversations with Founders and Marketing Directors about social media and I find that there are a lot of blanket statements being thrown around that are built on very soft foundations. It is so important to really understand the value or opportunity each social network can provide and then map that against your product or offering. You also need to take into account current usage and tools and trends on each, to make sure you are approaching it the right way, for right now. Sircle Media issues a general roadmap for our clients that is revisited each quarter, but each brand needs to take that a bit deeper for their own business.

We suggest a quarterly re-assessment for brands that reviews the current state of the union on their top platforms and takes into account the most pressing needs for that brand in the immediate future. For example, if a brand just landed their first big order with a major retailer, the most important thing for the company at that moment is likely supporting velocity so they can help ensure that (even more) important second order. If this is the case you might need to:

1- Run hyper-local and super targeted Ads to underwrite the relationship and potentially drive foot traffic.

2- DM local influencers on Instagram and try and get them to engage with you and perhaps even pay them to go to the store and hype the shelf space.

3- Create content that specifically highlights the relationship (your logo and their’s) and then boost that content or run them as Ads at fans of said retailer and your competitors.

When the company needs to triage and be narrowly focused on a top priority like this, you have to have a smart plan of attack in place to improve your chances of winning. You don’t want to be stuck in the mud, with edits and debates over general lifestyle photography when your most pressing need deserves more attention. You also don’t want to be single platform reliant, as I think many Brand Managers are with Instagram right now. You need to have a holistic plan of attack and not dismiss any platform or component of a platform without research and thinking.

You need to have a current game plan built upon what is in front of you and not be so romantic or so set in stone about what did or did not work before. Social platforms and how best to use them are constantly evolving and it is imperative you are evolving with it. Think about what you want to happen and then reverse engineer from there.

You don’t necessarily want a certain amount of Instagram followers. You want a retailer to shelve your product and you think that your Instagram count is a necessary step to get there. I will admit that for a long time it was, but nowadays you have more savvy buyers and some realize that your follower count is not the only measure of your influence. If you are smart about using FB/IG Ads and influencers the way you should in q1 2019, then you are actually accomplishing what your follower count used to imply. You are proving that you are able to support the retail relationship with awareness and attention that benefits you both.

That is playing the current social game the right way…right now!

 

 

 

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Influencer Spotlight: @Headstandsandheels

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At Sircle Media, a big part of what we do for brands is managing relationships and strategic partnerships with influencers. These days, a lot of people are faking it in the influencer space, so it is really important to analyze and understand what makes one great.

We recently partnered with an amazing young woman, who goes by @headstandsandheels on Instagram. First off, I like the handle selection, as it doesnt pigeonhole her as much as others because she can toe the like between health and fashion. She is not a macro influencer with 100K+ followers, but she provides so much more depth than many of those profiles. To me, it is about strategically finding underpriced attention, rather than reaching for overpriced partners that often lack the punch their numbers imply.

We prefer to look for brand ambassador type engagements over one and done relationships that are all too common these days on social. We contacted Melanie and together came up with a multi-dimensional partnership to be run over the next few months for our client, Terra Origin. It involves many posts, online content, offline events and a really comprehensive collaboration that allows her to really get to know and experience the brand and products and provide her take on how they make her feel or perform in general. In order to really wield influence and opine on their value, she had to immerse herself in them. This way she can provide honest and truthful information (the whole point of “influence”) and our client (who of course, believes deeply in their products) gets to show off their wares to someone who is a bullseye target.

Plenty of influencers strike these types of partnerships every day, so this alone is not a differentiator.  What makes her special is that she is a wonderful soul and a pleasure to work with. So many influencers lack business acumen and are hard to deal with. Others don’t actually have influence and are selling follower count over everything else and not willing to put in the work. Melanie acted like a business person and really sat down and negotiated with us to help get us to terms (financial/logistical/creative) that work for both parties.

I also want to point out how she engages with her community. Many influencers post content that is beautiful (and even accomplishes the reach desired from the relationship) but I find that so many don’t engage in their comments on those photos. They treat the relationship like PR (one-way presentation) and don’t get into the weeds and conversation with their followers. To me, an influencer who does not do that religiously is leaving opportunity on the table and extremely vulnerable to losing their influence as platforms evolve. She is in there, having a conversation and providing depth in addition to her width. This makes her a great partner.

Bonus: In the image here, she is wearing Sweaty Betty which is a brand Terra Origin would love to be associated with. I know some marketing folks who would be annoyed that they were underwriting the relationship and another brand was stealing some of the thunder.  I personally love the association upside it brings with it. I look at it as her being authentic and living her life and she is bringing value to that other brand too in the process. To me, it means she either worked with them before and as a truthful influencer, continues to bring value to a brand she had a relationship with because she genuinely likes the product. OR it is a brand she just loves (and has such a solid brand profile, that you could argue it actually raises her street cred) and that brand should pay attention and come work with her. Regardless of the spirit, I love and applaud the hustle and tactic.

Big fan Melanie, big fan!

 

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On Social Media Content That Attracts Audiences…

This week’s blog post comes from our intern, Maria Lozano. Maria currently attends Rutgers University and studies Journalism and Media Studies.

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Social media content has the power to be very effective in growing a business. The first step to successfully executing a social media strategy is generating an audience: those who you think fall into your target audience, a unique set of consumers you can draw in, and existing customers who you hope remain loyal to your brand. Unfortunately, growing and sustaining an audience is a difficult task for brands. Not only are you competing with other brands, or bidding for the same consumer, but you’re also trying to make your product stand out. Paying close attention to the content your audience responds to is the key to keeping their attention. After working closely with brands such as Koia and Cake Beauty, I noticed a growing demand for certain types of content, copy and messaging.

When focusing on Instagram, the most popular content is giveaways for both Cake and Koia. In an age where customers turn to media to find new products, giveaways inspire people to make the first move and force an interaction. A giveaway can generate new followers and new eyeballs for your brand for sure.

In a recent Cake Beauty giveaway, the post earned over 1,000 likes and comments overnight. This generated hundreds of additional followers and 5000+ profile views, according to Iconosquare. People love free products and winning. The experience of a contest is worth sharing with friends by tagging them in the comments. This improves the chances of reaching customers beyond your target audience. I follow certain brands because I know they have giveaways every week. Because of that, I will continue to follow and stay updated on their products.

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Koia is another brand that hosts giveaways consistently. Most often, they’ll include a theme, an example of one being “living a healthy lifestyle.” When deciding to collaborate, the brand should seek out like-minded partners who target very similar demos. With Koia, this collaboration with other healthy food products, generated 650+ likes, more than a thousand comments, and an additional hundred followers.  It also generated some really interesting comments to engage with on the partner brand’s feed. Great social media management ammunition for sure!

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Copy is often overlooked, but optimizing it to its full potential could intrigue your audience. It can help convey your personality in a way that is sometimes more impactful than just the asset alone and/or it is definitely the best way to convey USPs.

From measuring the engagement rate from Iconosquare, I noticed that Koia’s Instagram posts that included the benefits of their ingredients received more engagement than any other content. A recent Koia posting included a “Did you know?” type of message with the fact that the turmeric found in the Mango Creme flavor, is a natural detox. These simple fun facts resonate well with Koia’s audience because it reinforces that Koia products can help sustain a healthier lifestyle.

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With all of the content out there these days, customers need more than just the basics. Spending time creating really compelling assets that stand out from the clutter and writing copy that captures their attention and interest is so important. Spending the time to test and learn with new types of content, copy and messaging will help a brand differentiate and catch on faster than those who do not. It is definitely a worthwhile investment!

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Instagram Is The Social Network Of The Moment…

can_you_buy_50_instagram_likes_for_an_affordable_priceOur Fall 2018 Interns have been part of the #SircleSquad for a little over a month now and they’re getting down to business! This semester, we’ll be sharing a blog post by one of our interns, on a topic selected by them.

First up, is Amanda Arevalo of Fordham University!

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Instagram is the most important social media platform to invest your company’s time in, plain and simple. Facebook and Twitter are important too, but Instagram takes the top seat. While Facebook offers more total reach, Instagram has a higher rate of engagement with users. While Twitter is ideal for small businesses and organizations, Instagram is more useful for storytelling, since there are twice the amount of users on Instagram than on Twitter, and its photo-based layout allows brands to have a more personal connection with followers. Statistically speaking, Instagram has more than 800 million active users- 60% of whom check Instagram daily and 80% of users following at least one business account. Those are compelling numbers, so having a strong following, heavy engagement, and the right micro-influencers are crucial to building your brand’s awareness.

For that reason, Instagram is essential to any business, especially if they are early or growth stage entities. The good news is, this isn’t the hard part. If you follow another brand on your business’s Instagram account and you “like” pictures of that brand’s content, a number of things can happen. First the chances of that brand noticing your brand and following back, perhaps to create a collaboration, increases. Some of their followers coming across your brand’s content and liking it also increases. It takes a lot of work, but it is well worth it. If you then create interesting content that tells a story about your brand instead of making a generic sales pitch, you’ll also have a better chance of increasing and keeping your following. Over time, your brand’s impact and awareness will grow exponentially.

Many think that the role of Instagram is to simply display content that followers will like. While this is true, it shouldn’t be the main and only focus. Many companies dedicate all of their time to creating attractive photos, but they tend to forget the importance of engagement. You can have all the followers in the world, but if you lack that necessary engagement with your followers, then none of the likes or views will even matter. So if you spend the time to convey a message or stir up an emotion and you actually succeed and get a response, do not squander that conversation opportunity by staying radio silent.

So what exactly should engagement look like? The focus here is to create a personality for your brand. Your brand’s personality is then used as a tool to create a dialogue with your followers. People tend to not care about brands that don’t care about them. If many people are asking questions on your photos, and your brand doesn’t answer, then their questions are simply left hanging. That’s one potential customer that you just lost. While one may not seem like a big deal, having at least one unanswered question on almost all of your photos means that you have many ignored users. Over time, the number of people that will not want to buy from or interact with your brand, because they feel uncared for or unheard, can add up.

One of the most powerful tools in your engagement arsenal is the regram. If a very happy customer or fan/follower posts a picture of themselves with your product, then that’s great free marketing right there. Your customer is happy, and they want to show all the other people on their feed. This WOM opportunity is powerful and you can pay them back by posting their image on your account. This could potentially lead to more customers coming your way. Simply liking that picture will show that you are taking into account their opinion of your product, but regramming the picture takes this appreciation a step further. It shows that you’re really taking into account what they have to say, which many followers will genuinely appreciate. Knowing that they’re on your account makes them feel excited and cared for, because in that way you’re saying, “I’m happy that you’re happy,” and who doesn’t like that?

Asking engagement questions is also a surefire way to create a dialogue with your followers. This is especially useful to do with your Instagram Story content, which is another super powerful feature on Instagram. Asking a question, even if it’s as broad as “What’s your favorite Fall drink?” will create a dialogue that’s fun and interesting. Instagram Stories have different features where you can add polls (such as the classic poll and the slider) and a “Questions!” feature (which would also be perfect for an “Ask Me Anything” session). Because of this, users will know your company is active, well rounded, and thoughtful- and not to mention, you’ll be able to learn a little more about the audience that your product attracts most.

With different engagement tactics in the books, you begin to publicly establish a foundation for your product. This is something that potential customers truly like to see. Now the question is, how can you get followers to move down the marketing journey path from awareness to consideration and trial? Something people like to see is that a product is attainable, especially after seeing that someone they admire uses it as well. If let’s say, someone who enjoys makeup, sees their favorite influencer use a high-end makeup product, then they will be more inclined to think, “If they [the influencer] are using that brand, then why can’t I?” The use of an influencer will make your brand seem much more appealing to the average user.

On Instagram, there are a plethora of influencers that like to post great photos on their personal accounts with all types of brands in tow. Finding the right influencer is also the best way to target a niche market for your brand, especially if you’re able to extend your reach. At the same time, you can also diversify your audience, and speak to a new, niche market. If you have been focusing on one targeted audience, then you might be ignoring a whole different group of people that are also actively purchasing similar products. Therefore, you should experiment with different types of micro-influencers and use them as trojan horses into new communities. Searching for different types of influencers will allow for different types of people to buy your products. Like with any sale, it is better to have a warm introduction, than to make a cold call to a new customer!

At the end of the day, Instagram is not a magic tool. It’s only useful if you make it useful through effort. That’s why boosting your awareness, creating appropriate content, engaging heavily with your followers (and/or with anyone who engages with your content), and finding the right people to further represent your brand should all be taken very seriously.  With all of these in motion, you are setting your brand up to win on Instagram.  The people and the awareness are there, and so it is on you to go and find them!

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