What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing has become a popular strategy in the marketing world, but what exactly is influencer marketing? How does it work? And how can brands harness it to achieve their wider business goals?

Influencer marketing is growing fast – predicted to be worth a staggering $21.1 billion by the end of 2023. But what’s it all about? And how can brands get it right? Explore Aspire’s complete hub of resources on all things influencer marketing. 

If you were to pick up your phone right now and scroll through your favorite social media app, how long do you think it would take to come across a ‘paid partnership’ post or #ad featuring an influencer or content creator? Three seconds? Five? Maybe ten? 

That’s influencer marketing hard at work. 

What began in the spheres of expensive celebrity endorsements and big budget product placements has trickled down to the hands of everyday people. Got followers? That’s an audience. People are liking your posts? That’s engagement. 

Anyone can have influence. And by tapping into the right audience in the right niche, brands can see impressive results through these powerful partnerships.

So, where do you start? If you’re new to the world of influencer marketing, we understand it can feel overwhelming. There are many different types of influencers, social media channels and strategies to boost ROI in your industry. Plus, as with all things social media, it’s constantly changing. 

That’s why we put together this comprehensive guide to help you get started. We cover the evolution of influencer marketing, influencer marketing trends and strategies, with extra resources, tips and templates peppered throughout. 

We’ll continue to update this guide with the newest resources, so be sure to bookmark it, share it with your colleagues, and come back to us whenever you need a refresh or a spark of inspiration.

Let’s get started.

What is Influencer Marketing? 

Influencer marketing is a powerful form of social media marketing that involves brands partnering with influencers and/or content creators to promote and endorse their products or services online. 

Through engaging influencer-generated content (IGC), influencers promote the brand’s products or services to their highly-engaged audiences in return for payment or free products. 

Influencer marketing can take the form of static sponsored posts, stories, Reels, or longer form video content, and campaigns can be run on every major social media platform, from Instagram and Facebook to TikTok, Pinterest, and Youtube.

Instgram Post of Influencer Viviane Audi standing on beach promenade
Fashion influencer Viviane Audi partners with brands such as Urban Outfitters and Grey Bandit, primarily through aesthetic posts and videos shared on Instagram.

Why is Influencer Marketing So Effective? 

Thanks to their ability to foster highly-engaged communities and create entertaining content which appeals directly to their audience’s interests, influencer marketing is an effective channel for brands across all industries. Some of the key qualities that contribute to the success of influencer marketing include:

  • Greater authenticity. Contrary to endorsements from major celebrities, part of the appeal of influencers is that they are, in many ways, ‘just like us’. Aspirational parts of their lives feel more attainable, to the point where endorsements are viewed more like recommendations from a friend. 
  • Their audiences are listening. Influencers spend a lot of time engaging with their audiences to build trust, credibility, and a sense of community. This results in a follower base which is invested in new content, and much more likely to listen to and act on recommendations as a result. 
  • Influencers act as a powerful form of social proof for brands. Customers love to get a feel for the look, feel, and results of a product before the buy. Watching a walk-through or review from an influencer can boost customer confidence, while existing trust is transferred from the influencer to the brand.
  • Consumers look to influencers to be inspired. Research suggests that nearly half of consumers now depend on influencers for product recommendations and insights. This highlights the evolution of influencer marketing to a channel which is now deeply embedded in the way people interact with and form opinions about brands.

Because of the powerful relationships built between influencers and their followers, and their ability to affect and inform purchase decisions, influencer marketing is an effective tool for achieving a variety of objectives, from boosting brand awareness and engagement to improving consumer trust and ultimately increasing sales. 

Learn more about the background, evolution and success of influencer marketing in our guide: The Evolution of Influencer Marketing — Past, Present, & Future.

Influencer Marketing Statistics & Trends

If you need even more convincing on the effectiveness of influencer marketing, you only need to look at the numbers. Data shows that influencers return an average of $5.20 for every $1 spent, compared to just $2.63 for traditional advertising.

Visualisation showing the ROI of influencer marketing vs. general digital marketing

As a result, it’s no surprise that companies are moving quickly to join the trend. Our own research revealed that 68% of marketers plan to increase their influencer marketing budget over the next year, with the industry predicted to reach a whopping $21.1 billion by the end of 2023.

While the industry continues to grow at an impressive rate, the data also shows us a variety of trends which are shaping the influencer marketing landscape: 

Micro-influencers are making a macro-impact

Brands are continuing to recognise the power of smaller creators – like nano and micro-influencers – in fostering highly-engaged communities and creating authentic content that appeals directly to a specific target audience. Yes, they offer a smaller reach than their macro and mega counterparts, but their content is far more likely to drive higher ROI in terms of sales and loyalty. 

Instagram reigns as top social media platform for influencer marketing

Despite continued growth from TikTok, YouTube and Pinterest, Instagram continues to reign as the top social media platform for influencer marketing. With its aesthetic feed set-up and growing social commerce features, 87% of brands and 90% of influencers plan to invest more in the platform this year. 

Video content is king 

TikTok leveraged the addictiveness of short-form video content to become the fastest growing social media app in the world – three years in a row. Instagram and YouTube were quick to join the party with the launch of Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts. With enviable engagement rates compared to static content, brands are looking to grab a slice of the pie too, with 94% of companies looking to invest more in video content this year. 

Want more insights on the future of influencer marketing? Check out these 10 influencer marketing statistics you need to know in 2023

How Brands Can Build an Influencer Marketing Strategy

We’ve established that influencer marketing is growing fast and showing no signs of slowing down. So how can brands position themselves to get the most out of this lucrative marketing channel? 

It all comes down to a strong influencer marketing strategy. Here’s our 10-step guide:

Step 1: Identify your goals 

As with any marketing plan or strategy, the first step is to outline your goals. What do you hope to achieve from your campaign? Top-level objectives such as brand awareness and sales might be the first to come to mind, but influencer marketing is also a great strategy for generating high-performing on-brand content, building brand communities and creating a buzz around a new product launch

Thinking about what you want to achieve from influencer marketing upfront also gives you clearer direction for the following steps and allows you to set achievable KPIs for campaign measurement and tracking. Learn more about setting and achieving your influencer marketing goals here

Step 2: Know your audience 

Many influencers build their followings around a certain topic area or niche. This results in an audience that shares key characteristics – this could be demographic qualities such as age, gender and location, or simply just a shared love for the specific topic the influencer creates content on (think fashion, fitness, food, health). 

By knowing your audience well, or the audience you’re hoping to reach with this campaign, you can help ensure your chosen influencers – and their audiences – are a good match. This is information that you can request from influencers during the briefing stage, but having a good scroll through their likes and comments can help give you an initial idea. 

Step 3: Choose your social media channels 

This step rolls directly on from knowing your audiences. Where do they like to hang out? If you’re marketing directly to Gen Z, chances are TikTok or Instagram are popular stomping grounds. If you’re appealing more to business professionals and tech enthusiasts however, YouTube might be a better fit. 

Once you know where your target audience is already spending its time (hopefully not new news!), you can look out for suitable influencers who have already built a following on that platform. 

Step 4: Establish a budget 

Of course, the goalposts for any influencer marketing campaign are set by the budget you have available. Think about how this will be divided across different parts of your campaign. 

Do you plan to send your influencers free products to promote? Or discount codes to share with their followers? Remember to account for these costs first, so you know exactly how much you have leftover to pay influencers. 

Pie chart from influencer marketing hub showing the various ways influencers are paid

When it comes to compensating influencers, unfortunately there are no hard and fast rules. While prices generally increase alongside follower count, there can be great variation depending on factors such as engagement rate, industry and social media platform. 

However, as a general rule of thumb, we’ve put together the table below. This summarizes the average cost per post across all social media platforms for each tier of influencer. 

Nano-influencers: $10 - $250 per post

Micro-influencers: $25 - $1,250 per post

Mid-tier influencers: $125 - $10,000 per post

Macro-influencers: $1,250 - $25,000 per post

Mega-influencers: $2,500+ (for celebrities this can reach millions) 

For more guidance on paying influencers, check out our guide: Paying Influencers: How To Get It Right In 2023.

Step 5: Select your campaign type

Taking a closer look at your budget can also help you to work out the best campaign strategy for your brand. If you’re working with a smaller budget, perhaps you want to kick things off with a product seeding campaign; gifting products to smaller influencers in return for a shout-out on their channel. 

Alternatively, if there’s a strong sales-driven motive for the campaign, perhaps you’d be best to lead with an affiliate marketing campaign, where influencers earn a commission on every product sold with their link. 

Establishing our campaign type ahead of time can help guide your influencer outreach process, as well as guiding KPIs and campaign measurement. Learn more about the different campaign strategies you can run with Aspire.

Step 6: Find your influencers

With a clear idea of your campaign goals, audience and budget, you can get started on finding the right influencers for your brand. 

Now, any marketer that has already attempted this step knows it can be a lot more difficult than first expected. The articles listed in Google searches are often limited to big-name influencers and searching on social media can be time-consuming, with little information on engagement rate or authenticity to guide decisions. 

This is why many brands tend to opt for an influencer marketing platform. Here, marketers can browse databases full of thousands of pre-vetted influencers and filter by location, follower count, engagement rate and audience demographics to find influencers who are the best fit. 

Even better? Many include additional avenues for sourcing influencers, such as Creator Marketplaces, Social Listening tools and platform integrations. For example, Aspire recently launched a Chrome extension, making it easy for marketers to add influencers to campaigns directly from the social media platform they’re scrolling on. 

For more guidance on finding influencers both off and on influencer marketing platforms, and tips on what to look out for when conducting your influencer search, check out our guide to finding influencers the easy way in 2023.

Step 7: Refine your briefing process

With the right influencers chosen and a campaign type in mind, it’s time to reach out to your selected influencers and get them on board. This process isn’t just a case of sliding into their DMs (although, in some cases that’s the best way!). It’s about making an approach that’s tailored, informative and entices them to partner with you. Here are some tips: 

  • Keep it personal. Don’t send a blanket email to every influencer you want to partner with. Instead, reach out with a personalized message. Tell them why you want to partner with them and why you think they’d make a great fit for the campaign. If you have a bit of extra time in the lead up to the campaign, it’s great to begin with engaging with their content before reaching out with an invitation to partner up. 
  • Lay out expectations. Let your influencers know what you have in mind for the campaign. What incentives can you offer? How much content would you like them to produce? Are you looking for static or video content? Which platforms? Give them all the information they need to know if it's the right partnership for them. 
  • Don’t sidestep management. For smaller creators, it’s likely you’ll be reaching out directly to the influencer. However, for larger accounts, it’s common for their brand partnerships to be managed by a manager or influencer marketing agency. All the same advice applies, just remember to direct your message to the influencer’s preferred email address or account, usually outlined in their bio.

For more advice on influencer outreach, plus a free influencer brief template, check out our guide.

Step 8: Manage your campaign

Now your influencers are briefed and on board, it’s time to manage your campaign. This covers everything from writing up your influencer contracts to setting timelines for the campaign, approving influencer-generated content and ensuring content goes live on time. 

Again, this step is most effectively managed within an influencer marketing platform, where workflows can be built and actions ticked off in one place. See Aspire’s campaign management tools as an example. 

Step 9: Measure ROI

With your top-quality influencer-generated content live, you can start measuring the success of your campaign. How well are you performing against your objectives? If your goal was brand awareness, have you seen an uptick in searches for your brand? Have you gained followers on social media? Have you seen a good click-through rate from the influencer’s post to your site? 

Not only does this step give you the opportunity to see how well influencer marketing is working for your brand, it also allows you to drill down into the insight on which influencers are working well for your brand. It’s worth keeping an eye on your top-performing creators so you can turn these relationships into long-term partnerships. 

Learn more about measuring influencer ROI the smart way

Step 10: Take your results further 

Now, it might be tempting to think that having the content live and the data coming in that your campaign has come to an end – far from it. This is your chance to really capitalize on your high-performing content and make it work even harder for you. 

  • Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose. The great thing about high-performing influencer-generated content is that it’s extremely versatile. Use it across your branded channels such as social media, webpages, and even print ads to bring authenticity and consistency to your brand messaging. 
  • Power paid ads. Influencer marketing and paid ads are both powerful performance channels, but bring them together and they are a force to be reckoned with. Meta research found that branded content ads on Instagram generated an 82% increase in the possibility of purchase outcomes, while producing a 2.4x lift in conversions.

Learn more about turning influencer-generated content into paid ads with Aspire

Influencer Marketing on TikTok, YouTube and Instagram

The steps outlined above give an overview of what influencer marketing campaigns look like generally, but when it comes to each social media platform, there are some specific tips that can help you run super successful campaigns. Explore our guides to influencer marketing on TikTok, YouTube and Instagram below:

​​TikTok Influencer Marketing: What Is It and How Brands Can Get Started

YouTube Influencer Marketing for Beginners: How to Get Started in 2022

The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Influencer Marketing

Influencer Marketing Tools

Influencer marketing is a tried-and-true way to boost brand awareness and engagement, and a great strategy to generate an enviable return on your $$$. 

But, depending on the resources you have on your team, getting things up and running can take some time. From manually searching for influencers to signing agreements and tracking campaigns, you’re going to need a full team and a whole lot of spreadsheets

Luckily, there are a variety of tools out there to help you streamline the process: 

Influencer Marketing Platforms

Influencer marketing platforms were created to simplify the entire influencer marketing process. By keeping everything in one place and automating 90% of manual tasks, influencer marketing platforms make it easier to scale campaigns and gain better results, all while saving oodles of time for in-house teams.

Learn more in our guide: Everything You Need to Know About Influencer Marketing Platforms 

Influencer Marketing Agencies

If you’re looking for a bit more support along the way, influencer marketing agencies can be a great alternative. By working with a team of people with experience running influencer marketing campaigns of all sizes, you can leverage their expertise, tap into an existing pool of influencer relationships, and outsource your campaign tracking and reporting. 

With this option, you do run the risk of losing some control over the planning and measurement of your campaigns, as well as missing out on the opportunities to build strong relationships with influencers directly. However, the right influencer marketing agency will still provide transparency throughout the entire campaign process and empower your brand to make key decisions when needed.

For more background, check out our blog on the Top 7 Things To Look For in an Influencer Marketing Agency. Or, see how Aspire combines powerful software with in-house expertise with our Agency Services Team

Want to dip your toes into the world of influencer marketing in-house before you explore platforms and agencies? Explore our hub of free templates, covering everything from influencer outreach to content terms and ROI tracking. 

Extra Influencer Marketing Resources

Finally, we’d love to point you in the direction of even more tools and resources to help you on your influencer marketing journey. 

Our blog is jam packed with insight and advice, from hot topics and guides to the latest on up-and-coming influencers across a range of industries. We add new content every week, so you’ll always be a step ahead of the industry trends worth knowing. Check it out →

We also partner up with leading brands and representatives from the world’s top social media platforms to discuss strategy, tips and platform upgrades via our webinars. Sign up to upcoming sessions or rewatch past events here →

But for now, here are some of our top picks to get you started: 

About Aspire 

Aspire is the influencer marketing platform for positive influence at scale. Founded in 2015, we help simplify the influencer marketing process – from finding influencers and building campaigns to managing reporting and boosting best-performing content. We’ve helped huge brands such as Ruggable, M&Ms and HelloFresh to elevate their influencer marketing strategies and create high-impact campaigns that return on influence.

Want to see for yourself? Check out what Aspire can do for you. 

Book a demo → 

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