We live in an age of Influencers – Social Media icons who have built large followings on their platforms. They got their name as a reference to the large influence they have over their fans, often called clout. Different influencers tap into that clout in different ways, but what we’ll focus on is their ability to influence potential buyers of a product or service. They do this by promoting or recommending them on their platform – sometimes for compensation. Believe or not, that person doesn’t have to have millions of followers to be an influencer as long as their fan base is active and engaged.
Working with Influencers can be a great way to grow your brand as a musician. Platforms such as SubmitHub and Playlist Push are heavily investing in influencer outreach as it can be a very effective way to get your music in front of a large audience on social media.
How Does It Work?
When you partner with these influencers, there are many options for them to promote you. Perhaps they’ll make a TikTok using your track and it catches on or goes viral. Perhaps they’ll post an Instagram Story, Post, Or Reels with your track playing and linked to the IG Music Library. Maybe the influencer is a gamer who plays your music in the background while they livestream. Something as simple as a shoutout to their viewers while it plays – with a link in the chat – can be highly effective.
As Facebook and Instagram become oversaturated with ads and limitations are being put into place with Facebook Pixel on the upcoming iPhone, it’s time to look instead to influencer marketing and how it can be utilized to promote your music.
1) Look for Niche Influencers
The term influencer used to refer to people on social media with truly enormous followings, but these days there seem to be an endless number of content creators across every platform. Where do you even start when looking for relevant influencers to work with? Let me give you a real world example:
I recently launched a TikTok campaign in my Agency to an Afrobeat song – ‘Man on Fire Remix’ by Idaham feat Falz, @officialidahams. We decided to focus on the most relevant niche – Nigerian influencers in Nigeria, Europe, & the USA who are making content to and about Afrobeat tracks. That narrowed down our potential list of creators dramatically, and gave us a place to start by searching applicable hashtags and similar sounds on TikTok.
When you find creators that you feel are a good fit, start a spreadsheet. Add their names, social media handles, and contact information. Try looking for their Instagram or Email Address – the message moderation layout on TikTok makes it less likely for them to see your message there. Click Here to download my influencer contact sheet template!
Now I had a contact list of Nigerian Influencers creating content to Afrobeat tracks. We know because of their niche they’ll be more open to creating something with our track. Keep in mind it’s entirely possible to get them on board for free, since we know their audience appreciates this time of content and music already. That’s why this partnership is so beneficial for us – it gets the track directly in front of it’s target audience. Our hope is that they’ll not only like it, but use it in their own content as well!
I Defined My Audience. Now What?
We reached out to work with 4-5 influencers, who were coordinated to post it within the same approximate time frame. By working with several medium sized accounts (think 200,000-500,000 followers) our chances of overlap were larger. That means many of those followers would hear the song multiple times. This resulted in their followers beginning to organically create content to the track on TikTok, followed by 2 major influencers (including a Nollywood Star.) This organic cascade effect is the beauty of social media today – especially TikTok!
Moral of the story? Know your niche and start by looking for relevant influencers who are creating content within that niche. Their audience is exponentially more likely to fall in love with your music and brand and boost it organically!
2) Micro vs Macro Influencers
Let’s talk about compensating influencers you partner with. The reality is there is no standard pricing for influencers, meaning they can charge whatever they think they can get. If you start out by contacting content creators with millions of followers, you’re likely to get some pretty steep prices. I’ve seen fees from $30 to several thousand dollars. Chances are you don’t have a large starting budget, and it’s already divided between ads, playlist placement, and other necessary expenditures.
That leaves an important question: do you blow your entire budget to partner with 1 BIG influencer, or do you spread it out between several small ones? Take into consideration that working with an influencer is no guarantee – it’s a gamble. They may have several hundred thousand followers on TikTok, but only get a few thousand views on their latest videos. Some creators go viral occasionally, leading to high follower numbers by fairly low daily views. Some creators also hide videos that don’t do well, so that it appears that they have high engagement on everything they post (i.e. views, likes, comments, etc.).
Mitigate Your Risk
Keeping all that in mind, it’s simply too risky to bank on just one big influencer. Spreading your budget out over several smaller influencers is a better bet. Bear in mind – some of these smaller influencers are growing fast and creating great content. Just because they haven’t made it to the million mark yet doesn’t mean they won’t! I’d rather work with 10 micro influencers who are niche specific than 1 macro influencer who may or may not work out.
How do you tell which influencers are a good bet? Check out how engaged their audience is! As we discussed previously, some creators have a very large following but low engagement on their posts. I usually check their 12 most recent posts, looking at views, likes, and comments. I’ll share a few more specific metrics later on, but now let’s focus on how to pitch these influencers to entice them to work with you!
3) The Pitching Process
Before you pitch your chosen influencers, take some time to build a rapport with them. If you like and comment on their videos, they’re more likely to recognize your username when you do message. A warm pitch is very different from a cold pitch – having a rapport first means you could potentially get collabs for free. When it’s time to reach out, the goal is to pitch the value of the song and project in general. Also, be sure to explain why it overlaps with their content and audience.
One of the members in my SMART launch club, Vera, launched her debut single ‘Boxes’ a few weeks back. Her focus audience is the LGBTQAI+ community, and the value of the song is personal acceptance of and celebrating not fitting in. She pitched LGBTQAI+ influencers on Instagram and TikTok to get them on board. Vera wanted to create a content concept around her single and wanted people to play the track on TikTok or Reels.
Formatting the Content
It is typically a good format to choose either TikTok or Reels as these are directly connected to the music library. Another great format is Story, as they also directly connect with the music library – meaning if they share a Reels/TikTok to their story the sound will follow. For this reason, it’s preferred to try asking for several different types of placements for your collaboration.
In my experience influencers much prefer to be creative with their own content. They don’t want too many restrictions and guidelines on it’s creation/format. They are typically the experts on their content and audience so letting them be creative on their own terms benefits you.
Setting A Cap
When it comes to pitching I like to set a cap on the budget right away – especially if I am focusing on the medium-sized accounts. I typically tell them up front what the budget is so they can let me know if they are interested. If they aren’t, that’s okay! Just move on to the next one. Let’s say you decide to pay each influencer $30 if they have around 200,000 followers on TikTok.
This is the message we sent to Idahams Influencers:
Simple, straightforward, and gives the influencer all the details and information they need to decide if they want to participate.
Let’s look at some different pricing models with influencers. Here is a basic estimate of pricing for influencers per channel: https://www.instagram.com/p/CLhbP_PjC-2/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link
Cost Per View:
First, look at their last 12 videos and figure the average views per video. After a bit of research I found that large brands pay TikTok influencers approximate 0.01-0.02 per view and that the ad prices on TikTok are about $10 per 1000 views. This means the baseline is about $0.01 per view. You could use this model as pricing and then approach the influencers with this as a standard. However, this can backfire as many larger creators remove their poor performing posts so their content and engagement looks better than it actually is.
Negotiating fees like cost per view can take up a lot of time and effort, so my standard practice is to offer a fixed fee. Take it or leave it. You might be surprised at the number of creators with large followings that will say yes to $20-$30. It’s usually because you approached them in a way that was straight forward. There are thousands of creators out there to work with, and they know that too. We’ve gotten influencers with 800,000+ followers on board for $30 with this approach. It’s also worth noting that this is a great way to weed out influencers who are way over your budget so you don’t waste their time or yours.
They Set Their Price:
Every once in a while you’ll pitch an influencer who already has their prices set. These are typically the influencers with followers in the millions (but not always.) You will also get some small influencers who will have a ridiculous high fixed cost. For example, one of the influencers we pitched had 60,000 followers but was asking for $500 for a post. When they send you their fixed prices right away, they’re setting the standard of pricing. You can’t come back with a $30 proposal if they’re asking for $500.
Luckily there are so many other influencers out there – just move on to the next one. You’ll find influencers who have a fair structure for their pricing based on their following, and are used to working with brands. However, there will always be room for negotiation!
Show Me The Numbers
If an influencer is asking you for a certain fee, then you have begun a business transaction. That means at this point there are certain things you can ask for in order to justify the amount the influencer is asking for:
- What is the average # of their story views + swipe ups?
- Ask for the # of website clicks – this tells you that they have the influence to get people to leave the platform for something.
- What was their engagement in the last 30 days?
- ‘What other paid collabs have you done? What were the results?’
5) Measuring success
You need to measure the influencer campaigns you are doing the same way you are measuring the playlist placement and results you get. When running a TikTok campaign you need to measure the amount of organic creators that jump on the trend after your influencers post. For example, after the first paid #WaterNoHandsChallenge post, we immediately saw 5 organic ones just within the first day.
On Tiktok, you can see if the organic creators posting are following the influencers, to backtrack who likely had the most influence on your organic creators. The more difficult it becomes to track the more successful your campaign is – that means you’re getting so many organic posts that the trend is spreading rapidly! Also, remember to measure the streaming numbers of the track as well, in parallel with the posts and trends you are promoting. Going viral is great, but you have to remember the ultimate goal is to promote the music!
What if it doesn’t work?
Part of building a good rapport with your influencers is having a backup plan for failure. If someone posted their collaboration and their content flopped, we’ve likely already agreed on alternative solutions. Some influencers offer to share it over to their Instagram. Others offer to do a second video as well. Have a good dialog with the ones you are working with – it makes keeping them accountable to the results of the collaboration much easier.
Paid ads are officially old school – working with influencers is guerilla marketing for a digital age. The dream of many creators is to grow large enough to monetize their work and become an influencer, so use that! Getting your work out there is absolutely possible – it just takes good marketing, strong communication skills, and some research into who your target audience really is. Influencers are more open than you might think to working with you – just do your homework first, set your budget, and give it a shot! You’ll be viral before you know it.