min read

What is Influencer Marketing?

Table of Contents

Definition of influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is a type of marketing where brands partner with relevant, influential content creators to promote their products.

With influencer marketing, you can reach potential customers with the effectiveness of a trusted referral yet with the scale of online ads. It’s very powerful.

In this post, we’ll teach you how to do that. But first, let’s dive into what you can get from influencer marketing.

Why use influencer marketing

Traditional advertising is becoming less effective year over year. Users are increasingly desensitized to ads, and more companies are spamming people with copycat ad campaigns.

How do you stand out in front of your target audience? You partner with influencers they already trust.

Here are the unique benefits:

High ROI

Influencer marketing can 11x the ROI you get from typical social and banner ads. You can reach an ROI that high by following a few key principles:

  • Define clear objectives for your campaign.
  • Work with relevant influencers with audiences that overlap with your target audience.
  • Measure the results using key performance indicators (KPIs) informed by your objectives.

We’ll explore each of these principles in detail later in this post.

Why can influencer marketing work so well? Because audiences have opted into receiving their content. Whereas ads distract people from the content they’re intending to consume.

Tip from Demand Curve community member Barron Caster: Make a referral system for influencers to sign up other influencers. Give them a percentage of signups or sales generated by their own referrals. Now your influencers aren’t just your advertisers. They’re also your sales force.

That increases your ROI further. In fact, you also limit your risk by using creative deal structures. For example, instead of paying an influencer upfront for a single post, you can offer a commission for each sale they generate. The smaller influencers are more receptive to this — assuming your product looks legitimate and they believe their audience will buy it.

Brand perception

You can maximize your influencer marketing brand awareness by doing geo rollouts: Partner with several relevant influencers in the same geographic area. Have them all share your product within the same month. This gives your target market  the impression that everyone is talking about your product — and that they have to learn more about it.

Social proof

After you run an ad with an influencer, ask for their permission to run their testimonial as part of your paid ads going forward.

Then, when people see your ads, they know you’re trusted by other reputable people. That’s how you leverage a one-time influencer campaign forever.

How to do influencer marketing

1. Define your objectives

Your objectives will dictate what a successful campaign looks like.

Is the goal to get your brand in front of as many people as possible? A successful campaign could be measured based on reach and impressions.

Is the intention to sell a particular product? Just focus on sales.

Your objectives tell you which key metrics to use to determine the ROI of your campaign.

2. Filter by relevance

Filter influencers by how relevant their influence is to your brand.

  • Niche: Take a look at their social media accounts to determine which niche they have influence in. It isn’t worth partnering with influencers who aren’t in your niche only because they have a sizable following. Your promotions will come across as spammy and hurt both your reputation and theirs.
  • Quality: Look at their previous posts and make sure their content matches the quality you’d want your brand to be associated with. If you’re a luxury brand, you’ll want to partner with influencers that produce premium content and have worked with other high-end brands.
Watch out for influencers that promote products too often. This dilutes the authenticity of the influencer in the eyes of their audience. And you don’t want to associate yourself with spam.

3. Consider their reach

Influencers have audience sizes ranging from thousands to millions.


They typically have followings in the thousands or tens of thousands. Their smaller audiences are highly engaged and feel more personally connected to them. It’s easier to negotiate better promotional terms for a micro-influencer campaign than it is with higher profile influencers.

Power middle influencers:

They typically have followings in the low hundreds of thousands. Their followings are often less focused and niche than micro-influencers. Work with power middle influencers if your goal is for brand awareness with a broader demographic like millennials or Gen Z. The most influential people to those demographics are no longer celebrities and athletes. They’re Instagram influencers and YouTube stars.


Celebrity influencers with hundreds of thousands to millions of followers. They’re extremely expensive to work with and will likely have fixed-cost, inflexible terms.

Although a macro-influencer campaign would expose you to millions of people, you’re paying to put your product in front of unqualified, poorly defined mass audience. It’s good for brand credibility, but not necessarily for conversion and ROI. Unless the celebrity is already admired for their product recommendations in your particular category (e.g. makeup)

4. Assess their content

What kind of content do they create? Is it a match for your product? If you’re considering working with an influencer that just posts lifestyle photos, but you’re selling a consumer electronics product better suited for a video review, they may not be the right fit.

The best content to use for your influencer marketing campaign is Influencer Generated Content (IGC). This is when an influencer creates content to promote your brand themselves based on their own experience with your product. It works best because it feels like an authentic recommendation to their audience.

Give influencers the space to be creative with how they share about your product with their audience. Set some rules they can use as guidelines, but otherwise get out of their way. Optimize for authenticity.

5. Analyze their engagement

A high follower count doesn’t guarantee a successful influencer marketing campaign. It’s more important to look at the quality of engagement the influencers get on their posts — and to assess if it’s truly from people in your target market.

A smaller, targeted audience will convert better for you than a broader one with 10x the followers. That’s the rule of thumb. Go for quality then secure quantity by stitching many smaller campaigns together.

When influencers promoted past products, were their audiences interested? Did they comment? Did they tell them it looks great? And did the promotion seem natural, or really stilted and fake such that people would’t want to click on something that’s too blatantly an inauthentic sponsorship?

Tip from Demand Curve community member Nick Selman: There are many influencers with fake followers and manufactured engagement. Many of them are members of groups of other influencers that like and comment on each other’s posts to give the appearance of better engagement. Thoroughly investigate the account of each influencer you’re planning to work with.

You can do this by going through the follower comments on their previous posts. Do they seem genuine? Check out the profiles of the people asking them. Are they regular people, other influencers, or obviously fake accounts? A little investigation before an engagement can ensure the campaigns you run are legitimate opportunities for growth.

6. Track your results

You won’t know how effective an influencer marketing campaign is without a way to track your key metrics. As mentioned, your campaign’s objectives will determine which KPIs are most important to measure. Here’s how to do that:

  • Track sales generated by an influencer by providing them with a custom discount code that their followers can input at checkout.
  • And use their likes, comments, and shares to measure the promotion’s engagement and to get an idea of how much brand awareness was generated.

Learn advanced influencer marketing techniques with Demand Curve's Growth Program.

Become a better marketer, in minutes.

Join the Growth Newsletter. Thousands of agency experiments and interviews with the world’s best marketers distilled into concise, actionable growth tactics. For free, in your inbox, every week.

Thank you! We'll share new articles in our weekly newsletter.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Neal is co-founder and CTO of Demand Curve and Bell Curve. Crypto enthusiast, climbing addict, language nerd, and compulsive traveller.

Read these next

The Complete Glossary of Marketing Terms

A glossary with 120 marketing terms. Use it as a reference source whenever you’re not sure what something means.

min read
What Is Brand Marketing? & How to Build Your Brand Identity in 5 Steps

Brand marketing is a way of setting your product apart by shaping perceptions of your company’s brand. We explain how to do that through four important brand elements.

min read
What Is Growth Hacking? A Framework for Growth

"Growth hacking" is one of the most misunderstood terms in marketing. In this post, we bust some myths about it—and provide a better way to approach growth.

min read
How to Launch a Customer Referral Program in 6 Steps (Plus Examples)

A referral program can turn your best customers into a profitable, self-running sales team. Here’s how to launch a successful one—and avoid the common pitfalls of referral marketing.

min read
The Complete Guide to Organic Viral Marketing

Although you can’t hack virality, you actually have more control than you think. If you use these tactics, you’ll increase your odds of going viral.

min read
LinkedIn Influencers: Who They Are and How to Become One

Becoming a LinkedIn influencer is often a better investment than an influencer on any other social media platform. In this post, we'll explore why it's better and how you can become one.

min read

Join 90,000 founders and marketers getting actionable growth insights every week.

Confirmed! We'll send you our growth insights and tactics every week.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Quotation mark icon
I open and read every email that Demand Curve sends. The content is advanced and teaches something novel and useful in each issue.
Testimonial author image
Hiten Shah
Co-Founder, Nira
Quotation mark icon
I read every issue. The growth marketing insights are legitimately good.
Testimonial author image
Jeremy Gurewitz
VP of Growth, Imperfect Foods