Influencer Marketing

This article first appeared in Sports Insight.

Influencer Marketing isn’t new. PRs and marketers have always heavily relied on individuals, those with a voice – whether that be the captain at the local sports club or the Olympian – to spread the word and help shape our views and persuade us to buy a brand’s product or service.

The 2016 Forbes Top Sports Influencer Lists show how powerful influencers are: ‘Over the last 12 months, they banked a cumulative $3.15 billion, 29 per cent of which came from endorsements and appearances.’[i]

Cristiano Renaldo tops the Forbes list and they say his 215 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and his 255 brand posts generated $176 million in media value.[ii]

The power of social media

Influencer Marketing has recently become a ‘thing’ because of its role in the digital arena. It’s part of the evolution of social media marketing, where voices are being heard and brands can directly reach their customers 24/7 – on their phone, laptop, desktop and even their wrist watch.

Onalytica, an agency that specialises in providing “Influencer Relationship Management software” and “bespoke influencer programmes” (it’s very existence, along with other influencer agencies says something about the market) points to the growth of social media as a marketing tool, ‘worldwide social media users is expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2018, and the share of marketing budgets spent on social media is expected to more than double to 24 per cent by 2020′.[iii]

Micro Influencers

It’s not all about big numbers though. Just as we got used to the term ‘influencer marketing’, along comes it’s younger sibling, ‘micro-influencer marketing’. Instead of paying for sponsored ads, brands use niche voices, those with a smaller, but targeted following, to help them promote products and services via authentic, visual posts – usually on Instagram.

Makerly, a US-based influencer marketing company analysed 800,000 Instagram users, with the majority having at least 1,000 followers, and they concluded that when it comes to Instagram influencers, better things come in smaller packages,’ adding ‘as an influencer’s follower total rises, the rate of engagement (likes and comments) with followers decreases. Those with less than 1,000 followers generally received likes on their posts eight per cent of the time. Users with 10 million plus followers only received likes 1.6 per cent of the time.[iv]


Social media experts have for a long time realised that quantity doesn’t always lead to quality – engagement is far more important than reach. Engagement includes likes and comments, and shares – it shows that the influencer is starting a conversation. And this is where micro influencers make an impact as they are better placed to engage a niche audience.

Micro influencers play an important role for brands: usually passionate, and active on social media, the smaller influencers talk to a target market – and are ‘authentic’. Examples of micro influencers, might include the running club coach, who volunteers at their park run, races frequently, and gives up their time to share advice and tips with fellow runners. Like reach, share and engage – ‘authentic’ is an important consideration for a brand wanting to be heard through the noise.

Authenticity and the influencer

Authenticity is a bit of an obsession for brands who are busy curating cleverly crafted content with the goal to sell, but to never appear ‘salesy’. In an article for Gorkana (a leading media intelligence company) Matt Donegan, MD at social influencer marketing platform Social Circle (http://www.socialcircle.media/), discussed key trends for 2017 and included ‘long term partnerships’ using the example of L’Oreal’s beauty squad, a team of five key influencers who the brand said were going to ‘shift the industry towards something that is more genuine.’ Donegan goes on to describe how he sees brands heading in the direction of creating what he calls social circles, where a brand will use influencers ‘more strategically resulting in long term brand ambassador partnerships.’ In effect, he’s talking about brands owning influencers or teams of influencers.

Passion & people sell

If all the media we see on our phones, on Facebook pages, in newspapers and on TV/You Tube is owned by someone with a goal to sell – are we living in a brave new world where everything we consume is driven by an ulterior motive? Possibly yes, but the users are also driving the machine with people continuing to sell to people and the vlogging/blogging world continuing to push the messages from the grassroots – and dictate what the brands do next. A passion for sport is shared by those who do it, and see each other on the start line of the race, or the terraces of the football ground. People still sell to people – the digital difference is the influencer’s net is bigger and the opportunities are there to reach more people in less time.

Influencer Toolkit for Small Business

If you haven’t got the big bucks to spend on an agency, here are some DIY tips for finding the right influencers:

Buzzsumo https://app.buzzsumo.com/

Analyze what content performs best for any topic or competitor and search for influencers using specific keywords. You’ll get great stats, absolute number of followers for an idea of their reach. And if you want an understanding of how well they engage, there are stats on numbers of retweets.

Followerwonk from Moz https://moz.com/followerwonk/

Followerwonk helps you find, analyze, and optimize influencers on twitter – and you dig deeper into analytics. You can get free tools and try the whole package for free for 30 days.

Keyhole http://keyhole.co/

Unlock real-time Twitter and Instagram metrics to guide social campaigns, content strategy and overall digital marketing approach. Focus on specific influencers and filter out engagement generated by their activity.

Klout https://klout.com/ (acquired by Lithium Technologies)

Klout was one of the first companies to come up with a social media score, your individual klout score. With impact ranking you can find out how your brand ranks against the competition. https://klout.com/impact-ranking.

Klear https://klear.com/

With 500 Million profiles, 60,000 categories, and five years’ historical data this influencer search engine will scour Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and Blogs to help you find the right people. Free tools include searches for Twitter and Instagram influencers, and influencers by location.


Use key words and phrases in the search box to pull up second-degree connections and those who are directly related to your search. Like, share and engage with influencers you think can help you.

DIY Content Marketing

Think beyond exposure in the national press. If someone is writing for publications such as Buzzfeed (18,000,000 unique monthly visitors) and the Huffington Post (5,992,000 unique monthly visitors[v]) about a subject relevant to your brand – get in touch. Also try blog hosting sites such as Medium, that puts content in front of the eyes of target audiences. It sorts stories into themed collections and is highly targeted. Influencers can become publishers, search for content and writers relevant to you using tags.

Media Databases Costly but if for PR/Social Media/Marketing departments and agencies, worth the investment if you want in depth influencer intelligence. Try http://www.vuelio.com/ and http://www.gorkana.com/pr-products/media-database/

Hashtag Searches For example, search for #marathonrunnners and you’ll link to twitter and Instagram users (remember most micro influencers can found on Instagram) using the hashtag, you can dig deeper to find out how many followers they have and if their posts are widely shared.

Use small agencies/freelancers who practise what they preach Find marketing specialists who are also influencers. Fiona Bugler has been built from my own passion for running and triathlon. I practise what I preach and have trained and run hard for the last 20 years. I know the subject inside and out and there’s nothing quite like the network you build from taking part in sport – meeting others at the start of a race is a great leveller!

Be active on social media Engage with – share, like and comment on posts from influencers, large and small – and make your brand the influencer.



[i] https://www.forbes.com/athletes/#77fe7f4a55ae

[ii] https://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2016/06/08/ronaldo-generates-176-million-in-value-for-his-sponsors-on-social-media/#11bca405723

[iii] http://www.onalytica.com/blog/posts/social-media-marketing-2016-top-100-influencers-and-brands/

[iv] http://markerly.com/blog/instagram-marketing-does-influencer-size-matter/

[v] Gorkana

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