Influencers aren’t just celebrities anymore. They come in all shapes and sizes – and command different rates, says Jordan Dahlquist, director of social media with marketing agency Bastion Elevate.
These days companies don’t necessarily need someone well-known or have millions of followers to effectively “influence” their audience. In fact, companies with a small budget can actually do quite well working with the right “microinfluencers.”
We talk about how much you should pay influencers, how to find the right influencers for your audience, and more, including…
- The differences of working with microinfluencers versus macroinfluencers
- The best way to pay influencers so you get the result you want
- The biggest challenges to finding influencers today
- How to counteract the problem of fake followers
- And more
Mentioned in this episode:
Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success Podcast where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they built successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. Today we’re going to talk about influencer marketing. Here to speak with me about the topic is Jordan Dahlquist, who heads up the social department at Bastion Elevate.
In his role, Jordan leads a team of social experts that help clients reach their goals through social media management, content production and paid advertising. He joined Bastion Elevate when his own agency, Huntington Pacific Media, which he founded in 2015 was acquired by Bastion Collective. Jordan also loves to travel and has visited over 30 countries by now, including North Korea. Jordan, welcome to the show.
Jordan Dahlquist: Hey, thanks for having me.
Steffen: Jordan, outside of the current situation, which kind of makes everyone stay home or local, are you still an avid traveler?
Jordan: I do travel occasionally. I recently got married. I have a daughter now. When I say recently, a few years ago. I have a daughter now. So that has slowed down the traveling quite a bit along with all of our business efforts. But hopefully, we’ll have more traveling in the near future. It’d be awesome.
Steffen: Yeah. Are there any countries that had the biggest impact on you or that you just loved over the others?
Jordan: Absolutely. I mean, I think El Salvador and Indonesia were probably two of my favorite countries. Just the culture there is really amazing. The food is amazing. The surfing is amazing, and the people are just really awesome there. I just really enjoyed going to those countries.
Steffen: Interesting. Before we jumped on you had mentioned that, you know, you’re trying to be able to go out surfing every day. Is surfing big part of your life?
Jordan: It is. Yeah, I live here in Huntington Beach. Our offices are located in Newport Beach. And Huntington Beach, as a lot of people know, is Surf City, USA. It’s the surfing capital of the United States. So I like to live by that. I try to surf every time I get an opportunity. Went out this morning. It was awesome. And try to keep it going. You know, it’s great exercise and it’s really fun.
Steffen: Awesome. What led you in 2015 to found your own agency?
What Led Jordan to Start His Own Agency?
Jordan: Yeah, so I moved to Huntington Beach from Northern California. I was in school up there for a while. And so came down here and basically, I needed to start something. I had already been working in marketing for about five or six years and really enjoyed it, felt like I had a talent for it. And when I moved to Huntington Beach here in Orange County, it just made sense to kind of start my own thing.
So I started out just basically with small clients. You know, I founded the company on a very small level. Didn’t have even a major office or anything like that. And with that, In a few years had scaled it up to having, you know, between 20 and 30 contractors, employees working under me and an office located in Irvine as well. So kind of blew up really quick. I think it all just comes back to doing really good work and working hard and actually driving results for your clients. You know, they keep coming back and then they tell other people about it. So
Steffen: Why did you decide to sell your company? Was there a particular reason?
Jordan: Yeah. Basically, I just honestly really liked the vision of Bastion Collective, I liked where they were going. I like the idea of how they bring all these different agencies that are best in breed together so that they can support each other. Sometimes when you’re a lone agency, you know, you have certain services that you specialize in and you’re really good at and you know how to do it.
But then there’s other services you can’t necessarily help your clients with. And so, when you’re a part of a collective like this, it’s really amazing because each of the sister agencies under the collective specialize in a specific area of work. And they all support each other and support the client in one singular way. So it’s pretty amazing.
Steffen: Yeah. Obviously, today we want to talk about influencer marketing. What is interesting about influencer marketing for you?
Reshaping the Meaning of the Word “Advertising”
Jordan: Yeah, I think influencer marketing is really cool because it has sort of deconstructed advertising in the sense that before it used to be only celebrities or, you know very famous people that large brands could partner with to promote products or services. Whereas, influencer marketing has totally shifted that. Now instead of working with one large celebrity or two large celebrities, brands of all different sizes can actually work with influencers of all different sizes and different rates.
So in other words, it’s very easy for a brand, even a smaller company with a smaller budget, to actually influence people, you know, to be interested in their product or service, take action and buy a product or service through influencers on social media. When we say influencers, we’re talking about people with, you know, anywhere from 30 to 50,000 followers up to millions of followers across platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Tik, Tok, Snapchat, etc.
Steffen: Obviously, there’s still a huge difference between someone who has 30,000 followers and someone who has several million followers. How are people getting paid? Or how does influencer marketing work when it comes to paying the people for them sending promoted messages out?
Jordan: Yeah, totally. So it kind of depends on the agency, it depends on what influencers you’re working with. But in general, I mean influencers all have their own kind of rate that they have found that they could charge in exchange for X number of posts or videos that they produce and put out on their social media platforms.
So every influencer has a different rate, every agency is willing to pay a different amount based on what they think they can get from the influencer. Things that have changed a lot in 2020 and over the past couple years, actually is that, you know, influencers are investing a lot of money on buying fake followers and fake engagement. And so it’s not as easy as it used to be to find an influencer that will truly drive the bottom line for your company. A lot of times it’s just fake. They’re ghost accounts, they bought this to make their account look bigger than it actually is. It’s not really going to drive any real results.
So nowadays, you know, companies really have to dig into the data and analyze the followers of each influencer and make sure that they are real people, they’re real accounts that the followers are people that actually will resonate with the brand that you’re wanting to promote, etc. So it’s kind of changed in that sense. And yeah, as far as the rates and kind of how it works to pay them basically, you, you know, contact an influencer, you could be doing mass outreach to hundreds or thousands of influencers to see who’s interested in partnering with a brand.
Once some influencers come in and they agree to work with you, you know, you come up with some kind of an agreement around what kind of posting they’re going to be doing, how often they’re going to post, what kind of content they’re going to post to promote your product. Once they execute on that, and it’s all posted, then you compensate them based on the agreement.
Steffen: How much control do you have over the content that they’re posting? So for example, if someone does a video, kind of introduces the product, and I’m using it every day, it has done XYZ and I love it. I can really recommend it, whatever, you know, the message is. How much control does the company have over that? I can imagine that companies out there say, Well, you know, it’s a great idea but I might be losing control over what is being said?
Jordan: Yeah, totally. And that’s actually a roadblock that a lot of brands run into, or companies run into when they’re trying to manage influencer campaigns on their own. Unless a company has really set down a clear scope of work and a contract with the influencer, there can be a lot of haziness and unclear planning around it and, you know, maybe the influencer did more than they expected or they did what they thought you wanted them to do. And but then they didn’t do what you wanted. They didn’t deliver on the expectation you had for them.
So that can cause issues. So that’s one reason it’s really good to partner with an agency or influencer marketing specialist is because we have tons of experience in process and what works and what doesn’t work with working with influencers and we have contracts and platforms that allow us to escrow funds so that the influencer knows they’re going to get paid and that we know that we’re going to get the promotion that we deserve based on the compensation. So, a lot of elements that kind of play into making sure everything works out well.
Steffen: Want to go back to kind of the size of influencers. So, you said you know, between 30 and 50 is probably on the low end, thousand. And obviously, it goes up to millions. Is it better to pick a number of smaller influencers and run your campaign through that or is it better to have, you know, one big whale and basically run a campaign with that person? How does it differ?
Differences in Working With Small and Large Influencers
Jordan: Yeah, there’s definitely big differences and sometimes you want both, honestly. But it depends a lot on the, what you’re trying to accomplish. In other words, what is the timeline of the campaign that you’re running? Is this a short blast you want to do just over a couple weeks? Or is this an ongoing campaign where you actually want to partner with these influencers on an ongoing ambassador type basis?
And then secondarily, it comes down to your budget. So obviously, whales, you know, large macro-influencers are going to cost a lot more than microinfluencers, and they will push a lot of momentum and traffic and things like that for you. But obviously, they cost a lot. And then the other side is the microinfluencers who have oftentimes very devoted follower bases so maybe they have only 30,000 or 100,000 or 300,000 followers. Those followers might be super devoted and maybe even more engaging in higher levels than the whale’s followers might be. So it kind of comes down to, like I said, budget timeline.
If you’re working with a large influencer, that is more costly. It’s oftentimes better to actually partner with them on a more long-term basis where you’re doing more of a brand partnership. So you might partner with them for three to six months even to promote your product over that period of time, posting about it once a week, once every two weeks, promoting it occasionally for a set retainer amount monthly during the engagement. And that can actually resonate with the audience better and they will engage better. Whereas microinfluencers sometimes it’s good to just partner with them on a smaller level, if that makes sense.
Steffen: Yeah. You mentioned it earlier advantages. What disadvantages are there for micro and macro-influencers?
Jordan: Yeah, so obviously, for macro-influencers, disadvantages can be one, they tend to charge a lot. Sometimes they’re overcharging just because they’re an iconic household name in a certain industry or vertical. And so they know that people want to promote them and they have a lot of people asking to have them promote the product. So that can be an issue when you’re working with those bigger influencers is they have more demands and they might be overcharging.
On the microinfluencer side, one disadvantage is that it’s just a lot of work. You’re doing tons of outreach to these microinfluencers. Each one has their own expectations and issues and problems and things that they want special and things like that where it ends up taking a lot of manpower and a lot of just hours to actually work with that number of microinfluencers.
Steffen: Yeah, I recently read that as a rule of thumb, you know, to identify how much an influencer campaign might cost is that per hundred thousand followers, you know, probably someone have to pay $1,000. Is that about right to use as a rule of thumb?
Jordan: Yeah, approximately. Again, it comes down to not necessarily the number of followers, but the quality of the follower base. Because you could have someone that has 100,000 followers, but 50% of the followers were purchased or fake ghost accounts. In that case, you have to look at them like a 50,000 follower account, you know?
But yeah, if, you know, it kind of fluctuates a lot. Like, there’s some social media influencers that are, you know, they have a million followers but us as an agency, we have a deep relationship with them and we’ve been working with them for a long time and so we can get, you know, really crazy cheap rates with them. Hundreds of dollars instead of thousands. Whereas, you know, sometimes when you’re starting out with a new influencer, you’ve never worked with them and they’re probably about trying to raise their prices and, you know, add value to their brand, you know, they might charge you a lot more.
Steffen: Yeah you know several times already said you know, it’s important to analyze these influencers that if you want to work with to make sure that the followers that are outlined in their profile are actually active followers or real followers, not fake followers. How would someone go about to do that? To analyze an influencer to make sure that they’re getting the value for their money?
Jordan: Yeah, so there’s various platforms online where you can do that. Honestly, there’s tons of platforms. We use a platform called social x. There’s also another platform called GRIN. There’s a plethora of different influencer marketing service and tracking platforms out there. And oftentimes, these platforms have integrated systems where they can actually analyze the followers, they can analyze, you know, what countries they’re from, what age group they are, whether the accounts are active or not active.
Because oftentimes, those fake profiles and fake accounts are from somewhere in Russia or the Middle East or things like that where you know that this person isn’t, they’re not, all their followers are not from the US here and there are likely a lot of fake accounts. If you’re a global company and say you, you know, you’re working influencers that do have a global following, then you have to, you have to dig a little deeper and actually just analyze engagement rates on the account and find out, you know, based on the number of followers this account has, how much engagement are we getting on each post? And does it make sense for the number of followers?
Steffen: Yeah. I guess, you know, if you are a US brand and your market is US, you want to have an influencer where the majority of the people that follow that influencer are US bases because that’s where you’re selling, right? It doesn’t help if they are across the globe and there’s a small amount of people following the person are in the US.
Jordan: Yeah, exactly. And not only are they in the US, but is it the right people? Like say you own a bikini brand, and you’re working with bikini models as your influencers but then you find out that most of the people following those accounts are men. You know, that’s not really going to help actually drive bikini sales for you. So you have to really dive in and figure out like, who’s following these people? And is it the right person that’s actually going to take action and buy your product or service?
Steffen: Yeah, that actually leads me to my next question. You just said, you know, does the influencer have to write people? What works in influencer marketing? Are there specific products, services that work better than others?
Products and Services Which Work Best With Influencer Marketing
Jordan: Yeah, I think b2c is honestly the most successful in influencer marketing. And that’s a general statement. There’s definitely b2b companies that can benefit greatly from influencer marketing. But I think as far as the ease of acquiring followers that can drive product sales, you know, b2c is easiest. If you’re an apparel company, if you have some kind of a product that, you know, most people would want, then influencer marketing is really going to be beneficial for you.
If you’re a really b2c company where you’re selling something that’s super unique and specific to a vertical that isn’t going to be interesting to everyone, then, you know, you have to either be very specific with your influencers that you’re partnering with, or it’s just not going to work. And oftentimes, it’s really hard to find influencers that not only are in the, truly in the rank vertical for your product or service, but that are again then willing to even work with you. So it can be difficult in that term.
Steffen: Are there specific budget levels that are required to run an influencer campaign? So is there a low level where you say, you know what, if you don’t have X amount, don’t worry, you know, don’t engage in influencer marketing?
Jordan: Yeah, absolutely. Obviously, in any kind of a campaign, if you’re handling it in house, you know, you have more funds to possibly put towards influencers, but then again, you’re having to take employees away from other projects. So it could be an issue for your internal company. But then If you’re hiring an agency, then the agency is going to charge you a fee, which may end up being actually cheaper than, you know, taking your team away from their normal work. So, as far as budget ranges go, the minimum to work with most agencies, you definitely need at least like 10 or 15,000 to do anything.
If you’re trying to do something on an ongoing basis, in other words, a monthly retainer type campaign, you definitely want at least $10,000 to invest each month. And that can cover agency fee, some influencer fees, and that’s if you really want to move things, if you want some action momentum and get multiple influencers going and promoting your product. So yeah, that’s what I would say as far as that.
Steffen: Jordan, you just said you know, probably for retainer on 10 k each month is a minimum kind of move the needle. How do you measure the success of influencer marketing campaign? How do you measure the return on investment and how long does the campaign kind of have an effect on results?
Jordan: Yeah. So as far as measuring implementing marketing campaigns, it comes down to some pretty basic KPIs. It’s influencer, I mean, it’s awareness and it’s link place pretty often. So in other words, you’re looking at how many people are aware of your brand now through this campaign, how many clicks did you get off of that campaign or swipe ups from Instagram stories, etc, to your goal landing page, whether it’s a website or some kind of an online form. And then off of that, you can actually, you know, decide whether it was worth it for you.
And oftentimes, you know, comparing versus other advertising platforms is beneficial. So, if you know that you ran a campaign for one month and you achieved say 10 million reach, you reach 10 million people, then you can compare that versus Facebook advertising data, you know, what would it cost me to reach 10 million people on Facebook advertising? And is it comparable? And is this going to be beneficial for me? And also, you can track results on link clicks, like for example Bitly links, things like that, where you can see exactly how many clicks and where they’re going.
Steffen: Okay. Do you or are there any proxy results that can be used from a planning perspective? I assume when a new client comes to you and says, Hey, we’re interested in influencer marketing campaign. This is our product, this is what we want to achieve. We want to sell more product through this campaign. Can you give us an idea of what we can achieve with our budget? What could be the average conversion rate? Etc, etc.
Jordan: Yeah, absolutely. And again, this comes back down to what the company is, what the product or service is. Because some products are really easy to promote, people are gonna be all over it. Other products, you know, there’s going to be less interest. So there’s never any guarantees at all when it comes to influencer marketing. But what we can do is take historical data on what has worked, what kind of results we’ve gotten with various types of influencers? What sizes? And take that data and sort of project what could be expected from a campaign for a company.
Steffen: Earlier you mentioned that you’re using a software solution to identify the quality of an influencer in order to pay them right and to make sure that you’re engaging with the right influencer and therefore getting the results that you’re looking for. What other tools do you use when preparing, managing and running and evaluating influencer marketing campaigns?
Tools for Influencer Marketing Management
Jordan: Yeah, absolutely. I think a lot of what we are tracking is impressions, reach, clicks, things like that. So a lot of what we’re doing is actually tracking through Google Analytics to see how much traffic got to a landing page or a website, which is the end goal obviously. So it really comes down to that. It comes down to how many people are clicking and taking action on this. And then from there, what are they doing? Are they filling out the form? Are they purchasing the product, whatever the end goal is? And based on those KPIs, that’s kind of how we calculate how much return on ad spend was created for that campaign.
Steffen: Yeah. We talked earlier about control off of messaging when it comes to influencer marketing. What information does the company have to provide you as an agency for the influencer marketing campaign? Do they have to provide creative? Any other information? collateral?
Jordan: Yeah, so we can pretty much handle a lot as far as creatives. You know, creating the contract, figuring out what kind of influencers the company needs. So it’s definitely a working relationship. Some brands, they already know what they want, they already have the creative, they already know what type of influencers and they’re literally just handing us a scope of work for us to execute on.
Whereas other brands, you know, they’ve never done an influencer marketing campaign and they need us to help guide them and educate them on it. So it really comes down to the agency. But if the agency isn’t prepared at all, they don’t know what they need, you know, we can help with everything from content creation, graphic design, creating content for the promotions, you know, everything from A to Z.
Steffen: That probably leads into my next question, or that actually leads into my next question, how can agencies help companies with influencer marketing? Obviously, everything in digital marketing we do can be done in house. If you do paid search, for example, you can, you know, you can have someone manage paid search depending on how good that person is, the results will reflect that, right? The same with Facebook ads, etc. And some of influence on marketing too. So, where is the added value of an agency to a company?
Jordan: So typically, what I’ve seen is that companies end up going with agencies even if they’ve already tried influencer marketing on their own. They often move to an agency because honestly, just the amount of work done takes to do influencer marketing. Along with that, it actually lowers the cost of getting the work done. When you’re partnering with an agency, you know, we have multiple projects, multiple clients happening at the same time, which helps to cover platform fees, employee costs, hours, all that kind of stuff.
So, you know, whereas with one company, if you’re just trying to do it in house, you know, you’re taking employees away from their original work, or you’re bringing someone in to do it, but you don’t maybe know if they’re actually educated enough to do the job properly. When you’re working with an agency, you know, we have the experience, this is what we do all day, every day and we know how to drive the results that affect the bottom line in your company.
Steffen: Yeah. I think it’s the general problem that I, for example, see quite often that companies say hey, you know, we can do ABC in house. And then it’s one person that does the paid search and the SEO and the Facebook and the native and it goes on and on and on. What do you at the end of the day have, you have a general list that might have a certain basic knowledge across each of those solutions but it’s not an expert, which means your media investment or your investment in general is most likely not maximized.
Jordan: Right, exactly. And along with that, when you’re working with an agency, we have a huge Rolodex of influencers that we’ve already partnered with that we know are reliable, we know that they’ll deliver. So you get advantage of that, you know, you get to take advantage of having that list of influencers that we already know are legitimate.
Steffen: Yeah. Jordan, before wrapping up today’s podcast, I want you to look at 2020. So how has influencer marketing changed in 2020? Has the current, you know, situation that we’re all in have an impact on how influencer marketing might have changed in 2020?
Jordan: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, as I’ve mentioned, you know, the issues with influencers buying fake followers, you know, people becoming overnight influencers has been a major issue. We kind of already hit on that. But another way it’s changed is that influencers are really finding out what they’re worth. And I think influencer marketing is really been undervalued in the past five years.
You know, you could hire influencers to do promotions for really inexpensive, whereas now influencers are starting to charge more and more and they’re starting to see that businesses are willing to pay that amount. So I think, you know, building relationships, building solid relationships with influencers for future projects is important because then they’re willing to work with you because they know that you’re going to keep sending them projects and business.
Steffen: Yeah. Well, Jordan, thank you so much for coming on to the Performance Delivered Podcast. I really enjoyed our conversation. And thanks for sharing your knowledge about influencer marketing in the first place. If people want to find out more about you and Bastion Elevate, how can they get in touch?
Jordan: Yeah, so you can go check out our website at www.bastionelevate.com. And then also there’s a lot of, you know, obviously, there’s a lot of information on there as far as case studies, information about our company. You can also go to bastioncollective.com where you can learn about our global agency and our collective of agencies, you know, just everywhere.
We’re all the way from Australia, London, China, New York, Los Angeles everywhere, so you can learn about all the different agencies and how we can service our clients. And also if you want to shoot me an email if you have any questions or want to talk about a project that you have in mind, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And that’s BASTIONELEVATE.com.
Steffen: Great. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you liked the Performance Delivered Podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at Symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.