(Article originally appeared to https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/274402)
Entrepreneurs want a voice on social media, but they can’t afford to blow their entire marketing budgets to find it. In 2016, companies are shelling out $100,000 to $300,000 for a single Instagram post from a pop culture celebrity like Kylie Jenner.
Thankfully, though, there’s a better and cheaper way for startups to make themselves heard. Entrepreneurs can snag sponsored posts from prominent bloggers for less than $1,000 per mention, and because of social media’s dominance, they’ll see results.
Since consumers check their social media an astonishing 17 times per day (totaling a daily average reading time of 1 hour and 40 minutes), an individual’s word is heard, or at least read, by tens of thousands of people — not just by the poster’s immediate circle.
In contrast, consumers, in record numbers, are abandoning the traditional media from which celebrity voices have long derived their power.
Social media’s amplification of everyday voices means that non-celebrity influencers are 10 times more likely to drive in-store purchases than their celebrity peers. Millennials, in particular, respond well to non-celebrity endorsements: Seventy percent of 18-to-34-year-olds say they prefer peer endorsements to those of celebrities.
Grab the social media megaphone.
For entrepreneurs, this is great news. For less than the cost of a celebrity influencer, startups can engage a network of non-celebrities, lowering risk and diversifying brand voices.
But that doesn’t mean entrepreneurs can pull the nearest average Joe off the street to be their next great brand advocate. Here’s how to cultivate everyday brand evangelists:
Prioritize quality over quantity. It’s tempting to go after influencers with a million followers: The more followers an influencer has, the more people hear your brand’s message, right? Not necessarily: Not all audiences are created equal: The people with the power to benefit your brand are those with the strongest connections, not the greatest number of them.
An email organization app that my company partners with celebrated its debut on Apple Store recently, with an influencer blitz that generated 42,000 engagements, driving the app to No. 7 on Apple’s chart. Our analysis showed that the most influential posters in this campaign were non-celebrity niche bloggers who engaged their networks. These bloggers’ posts galvanized followers, representing a great majority of post-event sign-ups for the app.
Play the long game. Rather than contract an influencer to share a single post and then never speak to this person again, build a community of brand boosters by engaging with the same influencers again and again. Offer incentives, like higher compensation or free products to keep them coming back, much as brands offer perks to frequent customers.
We recently counseled a video app to try this strategy. The app’s people then reached out to Generation Y content creators and returned to them for regular social posts. This long-term strategy helped them nurture a steady conversation around their brand, planting it firmly onto the radar of its intended audience.
Explore influencers outside of your brand’s niche. Brands often look within their own industries to find influencers. If you’re a food brand, for example, a chef or food blogger might be an obvious choice. But look beyond your own industry to add interesting layers to your campaign, and showcase how your products enhance a variety of lifestyles.
One of our clients, an organic grocery delivery company, recently did just that, employing an “outside the box” influencer strategy. The company selected a variety of influencers from fashion, design and family products. Its campaign then showcased how the brand helped people from all walks of life eat in a healthy way. This strategy positioned the brand before more than 500,000 social media users.
Make it a social occasion. Everybody likes a party, and online social events can be just what brands need, to make their marks on large audiences in a short period of time. Plan a fun event that’s relevant to your audience, invite influencers and use social media to generate buzz.
A prominent global technology company recently hosted a global Twitter chat. It invited 16 social influencers — all thought leaders in their respective fields — to drive the conversation. The brand’s chat amassed 14,000 social engagements and a 582 percent increase in brand mentions.
Influencer marketing, then, is all about winning the war of information: You need the right brand advocates on your side, creating content in a way that feels organic to your audience.
Related: 10 Tips for More Instagram Followers
In this era of authenticity, your strongest fighters aren’t celebrities; they’re everyday people. While celebrities can offer a flash of social activity, they can’t gain the trust or loyalty of your audience. To showcase the passion you want real people to have for your startup, start making friends with non-celebrity influencers.