How to Build Influence on Social Media Without Millions of Followers (or Millions of Dollars)

You’re proud of your product—and your customer reviews prove you’re right. How do you leverage those positive experiences into organic social media influence for your brand? We asked senior copywriter Ernest Turner to share how he and the rest of our SPAX team turned a community of customers into a small but mighty army of social media micro-influencers. (To see a full visual breakdown of the campaign, view our case study.)

Micro-influencers are regular social media users who have built an audience around their hobby or career, like the contractor who shares his everyday wins to customers and friends on his Instagram feed. It’s these users—who typically have thousands, not millions, of followers—gaining the attention of marketers. Their authenticity makes them powerful ambassadors for your brand.

“You don’t have to go for people with a million followers, and you don’t have to spend $100,000 on a single post,” Turner says. “You can choose smaller influencers that have a niche audience or that have a powerful sway over your specific audience. In the building materials industry especially, the opinions of contractors and DIY-ers carry a lot of weight.”

Here are six tips for raising your brand awareness and preference on social media through the power of authentic, positive customer experiences. Remember, micro-influencers range, with followings from the several thousand to the hundreds of thousands; do your research to see whose engagement is the best fit for your brand.

1. don’t discount the effectiveness of influencer marketing

You can safely assume most, if not all, your customers are engaged in social media. According to a survey conducted by Farnsworth Group, 76% of remodelers, home builders, contractors, architects and designers have personal social media accounts on sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Of those who use social media, 91% access their account at least once each work day, while 55% access it three or more times. Where their eyes and attention go, your brand should follow. “This is word-of-mouth marketing for the digital age,” Turner says. “If you’re not exploring avenues for raising your profile on social channels, in a way that’s true to your company, it’s a huge lost opportunity for your brand.”

2. do choose authenticity over number of followers

Your customers have a radar for credibility. Often they can sniff out when influencers are promoting a brand simply because they’re paid to, not because they genuinely believe in the product. But it’s better to have hundreds of people authentically impacted by an influencer’s review than thousands who watch without being converted. “Don’t chase numbers when what you’re really after is impact. My approach is, find the customers on social media—designers, builders, contractors—who are already a fan of the product,” Turner says. “When they recommend something, their followers listen, because it’s authentic.” He recommends searching to see who's tagging you on social media and reaching out to those who are sharing positive experiences.

3. do give shout outs on your social media pages

Being called out by a big brand you love on social media is a huge thrill for any user. It gives them & their business credibility. Find ways to feature, tag and repost your customers’ content on your own pages. “Ask them to share their experiences, and be specific! For example, if it’s fall, concentrate on seasonal projects. Then boost that content’s reach by sharing it on your own channels,” Turner says. “With SPAX, we put out project calls and send samples for customers to film themselves. Then we created dynamic, short content for Instagram.”

4. do collect email addresses

There may come a time when you want to expand this marketing work outside social media platforms. Gather email addresses and phone numbers early in the process, so you have a communication channel with your micro-influencers that goes beyond a DM.

5. do send product samples and swag (within reason)

Be targeted in your approach to gifting your micro-influencers—maybe you’re sending out a new product for a contractor to try, or a branded baseball cap to a DIY-er who authentically loves the brand. “You might be surprised by how effective it is,” Turner says. “Giveaways, new product samples and even small sponsorships make users feel like the brand is rewarding them for their loyalty.” Samples are also a great (and inexpensive) way to do product testing and new product development.

6. don’t stop communicating—stay consistent

Micro-influencers are not “influencing” full-time—unlike people with huge platforms who make being online their living, they’re working full-time offline. Stay consistent and persistent in your communication with them, or risk losing touch altogether. Messaging once a week and being sure to respond to any inquiries that come your way within 24 hours are a good baseline. “A micro-influencer campaign is about building excitement and community,” Turner says. “Managing these relationships well matters.”

These are just a starting point for engaging—the goal is to build a thriving social community that believes in and advocates for your products. Set realistic goals for engagement, and make sure they fit into your overall marketing strategy and the ambitions you have for your brand’s identity and reputation online.

Interested in building an influencer strategy for your company? Get in touch with us. We’d love to hear from you.

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