November 18, 2021

Sabir x Aron Levin Part 2

Part 1: Successful Influencer Marketing with Aron Levin

Aron is the foremost expert in influencer marketing. I have known him for several years and have even used his services in the past. As a result, I have first-hand experience of just how knowledgeable he is and know how beneficial his ideas can be.

You can see the full 76-minute interview above.

In this guide, I want to expand on some of the ideas we discussed and show you how to unlock the power of influencer marketing for your personal brand or small business.

What Is Influencer Marketing?

In previous This Week With Sabir episodes, including my interviews with Habib Salo and Joe Yoon, I’ve discussed the benefits of creating a social media presence—publishing videos, posting images, referencing blogs, etc.,

It’s a form of marketing that allows you to tap into the power of social media platforms and build influential brands. In Joe Yoon’s case, for instance, he has over a million followers that hang on his every word and buy whatever he is selling.

That sort of power is something that brands could have only dreamed about 30 and even 20 years ago.

But it requires a lot of time, money, and effort.

It’s not easy to create all of that content and unless you have the right skills and connections, it’s not cheap, either.

Influencer marketing allows you to get many of those same benefits without building that brand.

Simply put, if you’re selling your own health supplements or fitness programs, why create your own profiles and spend years building them, when you can just pay someone like Joe Yoon to advertise your products?

Social media influencers have established a certain degree of trust with their followers, and with influencer marketing, you’re leveraging that trust for your benefit.

It’s the evolution of refer-a-friend programs, one of the oldest and most effective forms of marketing.

Before the e-commerce revolution, companies promoted word-of-mouth marketing by offering discounts to every customer who referred a friend.

“Tell your friend about our services and we’ll give both of you a 20% discount!”

It was a win-win. Everyone benefited.

The first evolution was affiliate marketing. If you had a blog or website, you could promote a company’s products and earn a share of the spoils. More often than not, those promotions would include discounts or other bonuses.

Influencer marketing works in much the same way. The difference is that they’re telling their followers, not their friends; they are promoting to a fanbase, not their family members.

The ultimate goal of marketing is to capture the attention of consumers, and as they are more likely to listen to people they know and trust, influencer marketing is one of the best ways of doing this.

Getting Started With Influencer Marketing

You can’t just throw money at influencers and hope for a return. You are still responsible for your brand and how it is perceived by consumers, and if you want the best results, you need carefully managed campaigns.

With that in mind, I quizzed Aron Levin on the subject of influencer marketing, and he explained the process in detail, highlighting the dos and the don’ts; the rights and the wrongs, and offering his wealth of experience on the subject.

Here are some of the tips he provided on getting started and succeeding with influencer marketing from the perspective of small businesses, entrepreneurs, and start-ups.

Is It Right For You?

The great thing about social media is that it covers most demographics, from the youngsters dancing and lip-syncing on TikTok to the older generations chatting with friends on Facebook. However, that doesn’t mean it suits all business types and budgets.

The first step, therefore, is to determine if influencer marketing is right for your business. Aron Levin advises all companies to answer the following three questions before embarking on a campaign:

1. What Is Your Marketing Objective?

Every marketing campaign needs an objective and influencer marketing is no different.

Is your goal to increase awareness for an upcoming product launch or to announce your brand?

Whether you have a specific objective or a general one, it will shape your campaign going forward.

2. Who Is Your Audience?

What demographic are your targeting, what does your average customer look like?

A few months ago, I spoke with Paul Butler, an expert in strategic thinking. He told me that one of the biggest mistakes companies making is assuming they know what their demographic is.

Just because you’re selling health supplements, doesn’t mean your customers will be middle-aged females; just because you’re selling testosterone boosters, doesn’t mean you’ll only target young men who lift weights.

Never assume, always look at the facts, and make sure you know exactly who you are targeting before you start a major marketing campaign.

3. What Are Your Goals?

At what point will you consider the campaign to be a success? Is it all about engagement and getting more eyes on your product or are you looking for a specific ROAS?

All of these questions will determine whether influencer marketing is right for you. It will also help you to determine your platform, budget, and campaign length.

For instance, if you’re targeting teenage consumers, TikTok would be the most obvious candidate and you can go big and long, as the possibilities are endless.

If you have something that only appeals to seniors, you need to get a little more creative and may choose to keep your budget light as you await the early results.

Can You Do It Alone?

Aron Levin runs Relatable.me, an agency that connects brands with influencers and helps them with their marketing campaigns. He has worked with businesses of all sizes, from relatively small start-ups to digital bemouths like Samsung, and he offers a complete solution for companies that need it.

When you have the money but not the time, it helps to hire someone like Aron. But as Aron notes himself, this is not the only solution, and for businesses on a tight budget, it’s not the best one.

You can run influencer marketing campaigns in-house. It is a little more demanding, but it will become easier with time.

It’s all relative, as well. If you’re a one-person operation, your budget constraints mean you’ll only be working with one or two influencers at a time, so you won’t need to juggle too many campaigns or contracts.

As you increase your budget, your resources will increase as well.

Here are some tips for running influencer marketing campaigns in-house:

  1. Get Help From Freelancers: If you don’t use social media, don’t like the sound of emailing countless influencers, and don’t have a full-time team behind you, hire a freelancer. For a few dollars an hour, you can find a capable admin worker to assume this simple role, only getting you involved when it’s time to finalize a contract.
  2. “Hire” Your Staff: If you have employees, consider hiring them to market your product. They can become your own personal team of influencers, and as you’ll be profiting from their growth and success, you can help them on their journey, taking into account some of the social media growth tips discussed during previous episodes of this show. Give them discounts or bonuses, incentivize them; if they love the brand and respect your leadership, they’ll do it without being prompted.
  3. Be Personal: No one likes receiving an endless succession of copy/pasted emails, especially if they feign interest and pretend to be a big fan. Be honest. Be personal. It’s one of the best assets you have as a small business. Show them that you know who they are, make it clear that you’re passionate about your products and the industry. Not only will they be more inclined to respond, but your odds of getting a good deal will increase significantly.

Find Your Level

Call your local newspaper, inquire about advertising rates, and you’ll understand just why so many people are getting excited about influencer marketing.

A newspaper or magazine with a circulation of just 10,000 will charge you hundreds of dollars for a full-page feature.

On the other hand, an influencer with a following of 10,000 may offer you a feature in exchange for a discount or a free product.

In fact, having a sponsor is such a big milestone in the life of an influencer, that some will fall over themselves trying to help.

It’s like a badge of honor for them.

That doesn’t mean you should try to take advantage of them, and it definitely doesn’t mean they should be thankful for your interest.

They have bills to pay as well, remember.

But it does mean you can afford to pay much less and negotiate much more when the follower counts are low.

Of course, it’s a different story with those who have millions of followers, but there’s a level for everyone.

As Aron noted during our interview, you can’t get quality advertising for free. If you want the best collaborations and the greatest exposure, you need to pay for it. But that doesn’t mean that everyone with fewer than 1 million followers is worthless.

You just need to find your level, do your research, and make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

As an example, let’s imagine that you have just $10,000 in your budget. You could find someone who has a million followers, throw the money at them, and get a shoutout in return.

But how many of those followers will actually see and engage with the post, how many are in your demographic?

It might be better to invest that money in a collaboration with a much smaller influencer who is actually in your demographic. That way, you get an entire video or series of posts based around your product and make more of a lasting impact as a result.

Alternatively, you could spread the cost between a dozen small creators, establish long-term relationships with them, and get your brand in front of actual customers.

How To Find Influencers

When it comes to influencer marketing, one of the first things that businesses ask is, “How can I find suitable influencers?”

If you’re doing the right things and growing your business in an organic way, you’ll already know the answer.

It pays to know who the biggest influencers are in your demographic and to be familiar with their work.

After all, they’re engaging with your potential customers on a daily basis. As a startup, it will take you years to learn the information that they already know.

Consume their content, follow them, read comments, and when the time comes, you can content them directly, inquire about a collaboration, and let them know just how familiar you are with their work.

If you don’t have that information to hand, it’s time to do some research.

Visit the profiles of your competitors and see who they are engaging with. Not only will they give you a direct link to relevant influencers, but you’ll see how those influencers promote products and how their followers react.

Most influencers have email addresses in their bios, encouraging brands and agencies to contact them for collaborations. For small influencers, emails are often read by them directly. For larger ones, you may be routed through a marketing agency.

Don’t just focus on follower count, as that can be faked. Pay attention to the engagements—likes, shares, comments—and make sure they’re in the same demographic as you.

If you need a push in the right direction, take a look at CreatorIQ. It’s a program that comes recommended by Aron and helps connect brands with influencers.

Get as many prices as you can, compare and contrast, and look for value.

Influencers can set any price they want, which means some are underpriced and some are massively overpriced. Furthermore, value can differ from one profile to the next and from one advertiser to the next.

As an example, consider Kim Kardashian.

She is one of the biggest influencers, someone who can charge millions for a single promotional campaign. She has the power to make or break a brand, but she also charges a premium price for her services.

If you’re trying to boost your brand identity and get a few more sales, and you sell a product that targets young females, Kim Kardashian may prove to be a very cost-effective collaboration.

But if you’re selling mobility products to seniors, strategy games to middle-aged men, or quiz books to educated Baby Boomers, it just won’t make sense.

This is where it’s easy to get too caught up in the subscriber count and why it always pays to focus on relevancy.

If you’re selling a product aimed at older, educated men, a relevant Instagram community page of just 50,000 may have more targeted followers than all of Kim K’s massive 190 million Instagram following.

As a result, not only will your ad reach more potential customers, but you’ll pay a fraction of the price.

Choose The Right Advertising Strategy

Influencers are no strangers to collaboration requests. They also know how affiliate programs work and have access to all of them.

In other words, they won’t be impressed if all you have to offer them is a discount for their personal use. Unless they are very small or you’re offering something they can’t get elsewhere, you need to go big.

Many influencers are paid an upfront fee for their services and are also offered an additional sum of money every time one of their followers pays for a product or service.

There are three basic rules to follow:

  1. Incentivize the influencer to run the promotion.
  2. Incentivize their followers to purchase your product/service.
  3. Abide by advertising rules.

As for how the promotion is structured, it’s entirely up to you. The trick is to find a balance between organic and on-brand. You want influencers to say something that ties in with your brand identity, but at the same time, you don’t want to alienate their followers.

If you’re collaborating with a cynical, sharp-tongued influencer, you don’t want them to segue into tame copy that sounds like it was written by a polite schoolboy.

For influencers who have worked with multiple brands over the years and have experience in your industry, consider letting them do their own thing. It will sound more natural and may improve your conversions as a result.

Keep Your Values In Mind

During our interview, Aron stressed the importance of maintaining your values and brand identity and never sacrificing your vision for the sake of a few generic followers.

Imagine that your brand is going to blow up and become the next best thing, now imagine that you have a horde of angry social media users and journalists desperately searching through your history to find something negative.

The adage of “all PR is good PR” doesn’t apply in the social media age, because some PR can lead to your brand being boycotted and your customers losing faith.

At best, you’ll have a few unhappy customers to appease, at worst you’ll have to explain yourself to angry shareholders.

Track The Metrics

To understand how effective or otherwise an influencer marketing campaign is, you need to track it every step of the way. It’s not enough to simply monitor your sales and assume that all improvements are the result of your new marketing campaigns.

You need to know where those customers are coming from, how much they are spending, and how effective your campaigns have been.

One of the easiest ways to track those new customers is to give influencers unique links and discount codes. That way, every time someone visits via that link or uses that code, you know exactly where they are coming from.

But don’t stop there. Not everyone will use those links and there are other benefits to consider as well.

It’s often said that digital products require 7 touchpoints before a consumer makes a purchase, with a touchpoint including any interaction that a consumer has with your brand.

The first time they discover your brand may be through an influencer marketing campaign. They learn the basics, the foundations are laid, and they move on.

The next day, your display ads are served to them through the Google Ads network, and due to the persistent nature of this platform, they spend all day seeing them.

A few days later, they need to purchase the item that you sell, and your brand immediately comes to mind. The discount is all but forgotten at this point, and so they visit directly or via Google, and then make a purchase.

This happens more often than you realize and it’s very difficult to track.

It’s important, therefore, to monitor all the traffic coming into your site and to pay close attention to direct traffic (those who visit by typing your URL into the address bar) and branded searches (those who search for your brand name through Google).

Focus On The Long Term

Don’t expect instant results with influencer marketing. You may notice an immediate uptick in sales, but unless you’re building a brand from scratch and investing huge sums of money, your business won’t explode overnight.

Most influencers don’t have that sort of power and the ones that do charge a small fortune.

The results will come, but they’ll take a lot of time and a little trial and error.

You’ll find influencers who deliver a positive ROI every time. And just like Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and any other platform, when you get those big returns, you can invest more of your money.

Even the smallest businesses can afford to invest $50,000 if they get $100,000 in return!

These are the influencers who are most deserving of your time and money. You can increase your investments, run more elaborate collaborations, invite them to your events, and engage more with their followers.

Over time, you will build a strong team of reliable influencers and get your name out there.

Adapt, Persist, Evolve

The best results come from tried and tested methods. You don’t need to break new ground with every post; you don’t need viral videos and quirky commercials.

The whole idea of influencer marketing, while relatively new, is a take on an old idea. As noted at the start of this guide, it’s basically a twist on refer-a-friend and affiliate models, and it works for the same reasons that those methods worked.

During our interview, Aron spoke about a live shopping event that he created in combination with Samsung.

The idea was to have a couple of popular influencers sit down and talk about Samsung products. They would answer questions from live viewers, and anyone watching the stream could snap-up real-time discounts and promotions.

It worked brilliantly for them.

On the surface, it looks somewhat groundbreaking, but in actual fact, it’s something that QVC has been doing for decades and something that existed long before the dawn of the internet.

Look at what has worked, see what others are doing, and find ways to make it work for you.

And just because you fail to get results once, doesn’t mean you need to give up and move on. Don’t give up after the first try, don’t be like Wile E. Coyote; analyze what went wrong, right those wrongs, and try again.

Think of it this way: If influencer marketing is working for everyone else in your industry but not for you, is it more likely that you’re doing something wrong or that it’s just not a good fit for your business?

If it fails, run an audit and check all of the following:

  1. Engagement: How many people engaged with the post? If the numbers were low, compare them to other posts by the same influencer. You may discover that their numbers are low on the whole, in which case you backed the wrong horse! Some influencers have millions of followers and just a few likes and comments, in which case they probably bought those followers for the sole purpose of tricking businesses and entrepreneurs.
  2. Comments: How many people were commenting on the post and what did they have to say about your product? If there are little to no comments about an ad placement, it was likely ignored, which means you need to create something more impactful. If there are many negative comments, it’s time to change tack. Take on board the things that the commenters are saying and make changes accordingly.
  3. Technical Issues: If engagement is high and sales are low, maybe there was a technical issue. Did you make it easy for viewers to visit your website? Was the URL short and snappy, was there a clickable link, was your site actually live at the time, and was the discount working? I’ve worked with countless companies who have been completely perplexed at the lack of activity following a promotion, only to discover that a minor technical fault was letting them down.
  4. Offer Size: The more generic your product is, the greater your offer needs to be. If you own an online book store and are promoting it without any discounts, customers won’t care what you have to say. If they need a book, they’ll just go to Amazon. If you offer them a sizeable discount or sell books they can’t buy elsewhere, however, it’s a different story. Don’t assume that the influencer will do all of the work for you—their followers need an incentive to click and buy.
  5. Time: As noted previously, these things need time to work. You won’t get instant results, even if the post has a lot of early views. Don’t run an audit until you have given it at least a few weeks and have tracked all analytics throughout that time.
  6. Relevancy: If you can’t find any issues with the post and you have given it plenty of time to work, it may not have been relevant enough. Relevancy applies to the type of content, the influencer’s audience, and the structure of the ad. These things need to be studied carefully and you shouldn’t make any assumptions with regards to an audience. Just because the influencer is a muscle-bound athlete, doesn’t mean his audience will consist entirely of aspiring male bodybuilders. Maybe people just admire his looks, follow his fitness tips, or find him funny and charming. And if you’re advertising bodybuilding products to them, you won’t get the sort of results you expect.

Lets Talk TikTok

Aron called TikTok the “most underpriced” platform, stating that it is incredibly important for brands to get on the TikTok bandwagon before it becomes the norm.

Marketers spend their time bemoaning their luck, wishing they could have jumped on the Instagram bandwagon back in 2012 or the YouTube bandwagon back in 2010 when these platforms were in their infancy and had massive growth ahead of them.

But that’s exactly where TikTok is right now!

From a marketing perspective, TikTok is much cheaper than more established platforms. At the same time, however, it has higher levels of engagement than other platforms and up to 80% of its audience is from Gen Z.

If you’re targeting young consumers, it’s a gold mine waiting to be mined.

The unpredictability of TikTok, along with the recent concerns about bans, has scared many brands away, but it has also served to create more opportunities for growing companies.

Along with the low cost of influencer marketing, Aron highlighted three reasons why you should focus on TikTok right now.

Speed and Accessibility

YouTube videos take time to create, edit, and publish. Many YouTubers use expensive equipment, hire skilled editors, and put a lot of thought and time into their videos, and when they don’t, it shows.

As a marketer, you’re asking those influencers to use all of that time and money to promote your brand, which means they’re less inclined to do it cheaply.

On TikTok, however, content is produced quickly and organically. Influencers just pull out their phones, film a quick video, and post. The content is not as polished, but it means influencers are less demanding with regards to price.

In addition, it means you don’t need to wait many days or weeks for your promotions to go live.

If you need something to happen quickly, TikTok is the way to go.

No Topical Content

Most social media platforms make it glaringly obvious how old a post/video is. They openly state when it was posted, and this can render those older posts obsolete.

Many social media users, especially the younger generations, ignore older posts. They are no longer trendy, no longer relevant.

But TikTok doesn’t make it clear how old the videos are, so your post will keep being recycled in the algorithm.

It’s not unusual for a video that was created two or three years ago to suddenly find its feet. The same thing happens on YouTube every now and then but it’s much more common on TikTok.

One in Ten

According to Aron, every TikTok user has their day, their 15 minutes of fame. He explained that TikTok is a little less consistent than other social media platforms, and it’s not unusual to see one video in every 9 or 10 become more popular than all others.

It’s a quirk of the algorithm, and it’s something that you can take advantage of as a marketer.

You have no way of knowing if your one video is going to be “the one”, but if you collaborate with multiple different users and create 10 or 20 videos, there’s a good chance that at least 1 of those will blow up.

It’s something you can’t legislate for on any platform, but with TikTok, your odds are far greater.

And when that happens, your ROI increases exponentially. Not only will you benefit from that immediate increase in traffic, but you’ll also see a greater return over the long-term when that video establishes itself in the algorithm.

The $100,000 Question

Aron Levin earned his spurs working for King, the creators of Candy Crush, back when it hired just 100 employees and long before it was acquired for nearly $6 billion.

He went on to work for some of the biggest companies in the world and helped them to operate highly lucrative influencer marketing campaigns.

No one is better placed to provide tips on influencer marketing and the advice provided could prove priceless to anyone getting involved with this industry.

But there is more to come.

Before the interview wrapped up, I asked Aron the thing that I ask all of my guests. It’s the $100,000 question, the one piece of advice that could earn any entrepreneur or small business owner over $100,000 in revenue.

His advice was to…

Leverage YouTube influencer marketing to drive organic traffic.

In essence, it’s about creating a piece of collaborative content that will remain on YouTube and grow steadily over the years.

For example, let’s say that you find an influencer who has over 200,000 followers and has been growing steadily. They have been on the site for several years and have been consistent throughout that time, so not only will they still be active in two or three years, but it’s likely that they will experience growth throughout that time.

When you pay for a collaboration, you’re benefiting from the followers they have right now, and those followers will increase your sales accordingly. But as the influencer grows, you’ll also reap the added benefits.

If they become the next big thing, you’ll still be a sponsored brand. Your name will forever be associated with them.

These collaborations often work better than many brands realize. They tend to be measured purely on how many sales they drive, and those sales are based on link clicks and coupon usage.

But as noted already, many people who watch that video and don’t buy straight away may return at a later date. That sale won’t show in your analytics, but it’s still provided by the collaboration and it still helps to grow your brand.

Aron describes this process as being akin to a TV commercial that continues to run without you paying for it.

To elaborate further, he showed some examples during the video.

One of the examples was of a $10,000 Investment in a collaboration with an influencer who gets an average of 100,000 views per video.

If we assume a 3% click rate, which seems to be the norm, those 100,000 views will generate 3,000 visitors. From this, the average conversion rate would be 3% or 90 sales.

If your average order value is $150, those 90 sales and that $10,000 investment turns into a profit of $13,500.

But it doesn’t end there. In a year, it could hit 200,000 views, growing along with the channel and with YouTube in general. In three years, it could hit 300,000; in four, it could be at 400,000.

At this point, your $10,000 investment turns into $67,500 worth of revenue!

Of course, this is just a hypothetical, but it’s something that Aron has witnessed many times over his career.

He even highlighted an example where the goal was a few thousand views, the investment was a few thousand dollars, and the video currently has over 1.8 million views!

That’s advice you can take to the bank!

About Our Guest: Aron Levin

Aron Levin is the founder and CMO of Relatable. Relatable is a fast-growing influencer marketing agency with a team of 50 people across the globe. Clients include large consumer brands like Samsung, Adobe, Google, Volvo, Ralph Lauren and Chiquita– but also direct-to-consumer startups like Lifesum and bioClarity. Before founding Relatable, Aron was an early member of King (Maker of Candy Crush) and Spotify, where he served as Director, Growth between 2010-2015. He gained global recognition for his work in 2015 when his team won the prestigious Grand Clio Award (‘The Oscars of advertising’) for their work and launch of a partnership with Spotify and Uber. He is also the author of Amazon bestseller “Influencer Marketing for Brands” (published by global leading publisher Springer Nature).  Aron lives in Venice, California, with his wife and three children. Visit Aron on the Web at https://relatable.me.

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