How brands can leverage top influencers to tap in to new markets

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From launching in an overseas market to accessing an elusive demographic, influencers play a key role in helping brands get in front of the right audiences. 

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With consumers increasingly hard to reach with traditional ad spend – 615 million devices now use adblocking software – more and more affiliate marketers and brands are looking for a way to tie their advertising spend to tangible results and actions.

The key to reaching new markets - whether your brand operates in the fashion, lifestyle, or beauty vertical - is authentic, organic audience engagement. To achieve this, savvy affiliate marketers should harness a combination of influencer marketing and affiliate networks.

As influencer marketing edges closer to modern affiliate marketing, affiliate marketers in the know are working with influencers on thoughtful, relationship-focused campaigns that leverage social media thought leaders to drive awareness, lead generation, sales and loyalty. With 84% of companies planning on working with these social media thought leaders in the future, it’s clear this marketing channel is here to stay. That’s why it’s important for retailers to leverage the intersection of affiliate and influencer marketing, or risk getting left behind. 

Here’s how brands of all sizes and budgets can work with top influencers across a range of sectors.

What makes a top influencer

Choosing a top influencer – and what makes a top influencer – is about much more than just follower count. The influencers we’ve selected are considered top influencers because of their ability to reach their audiences, engage them with their content, and drive lasting loyalty and conversion for the brands they collaborate with. With authenticity and transparency more important than ever before, looking beyond vanity metrics to see an influencer’s actual reach tells more about their ability to convert than a well-curated grid or a high follower count.

As the influencer industry has matured, so have the ways in which we can determine an influencer’s conversion metrics. Now, data and insights from affiliate networks, shopping cart technologies, social media and Google Analytics indicate at a granular level whether an influencer is likely to convert based on their engagement, traffic and demographic insights. Affiliate networks allow tracking of sales and traffic … using data, rather than just look and feel, to drive decisions will start you off on the right foot and ensure you work with an influencer whose audience closely aligns with your target demographic.

Top fashion influencers

The fashion world is arguably the sector where bloggers wield the most persuasive power and influence, with the rise of the fashion blogger starting from humble beginnings in the mid 2000s. Today, fashion blogging has become a fully-fledged business, with top fashionistas accumulating millions of followers on social media and serious power as trusted tastemakers.

Something Navy is an example of a top influencer who grew her audience from these early days of the blog. After being established over 10 years ago, Arielle Noa Charnas has now grown her following to over 1.1 million loyal fans. Showcasing her love of high-class fashion finds, Charnas has the power to drive major sales through the products she endorses. It’s her ability to reach an audience of millions each month in major cities like New York, London and Los Angeles that makes an endorsement from this influencer so lucrative for brands looking to boost their exposure and spark online chatter about their product.

Stephanie Hill of The Style Bungalow is another example of a top influencer who has grown her audience based on her love of affordable fashion finds and a distinct personal aesthetic. The Miami-based blogger is making her mark in the influencer industry with her vintage-inspired tropical style that has earned her a major following from US-based females aged between 25-34. With 162,500 followers, Hill boasts a considerably smaller following than influencers like Something Navy, but she remains a top influencer in the fashion industry because of the targeted audience she reaches. With over 70% of her audience based in the US, and female aged 25-35, Hill is a top influencer for brands looking to tap into this highly sought-after demographic. 


A post shared by Stephanie Hill (@thestylebungalow) on


Top lifestyle and mom influencers

From baby bumps to chic interior styling, lifestyle bloggers tap into the aspirational dreams of their audiences. Lifestyle influencers are especially persuasive because their reach and demographics are so far-reaching. From food to interiors, babies to healthy living, lifestyle influencers aren’t just creating and marketing an aesthetic, but an all-encompassing way of life. Bloggers like Kyree Harvey of Miss Kyree Loves create content that speaks to a wide range of baby-loving mothers with a passion for interiors, beautiful design and family living.

Kyree is a high-performing Australian-based influencer because she consistently drives conversions for the brands she collaborates with. With a highly-engaged audience, Harvey drives sales and traffic through her swipe-ups, blog post features and product reviews. Harvey also leverages personally-customized coupon codes to not only drive conversion but also make it easier to track and attribute the sales she makes across her multiple social platforms.

 Nashville-based influencer Natasha Stoneking is another top lifestyle blogger who reaches millions of highly-targeted consumers each month. With an audience that’s 97% based in the US (a rare find!) and primarily composed of females aged 25-35 living in Nashville, Atlanta and Houston, Stoneking offers brands the opportunity to tap into her unique brand of southern charm to drive sales in these key demographics. 


Top beauty influencers

In the world of beauty products, it’s user-generated content, personal recommendations, and informative tutorials that drives conversion. More engaging and illuminating than a static magazine advertisement, beauty influencer endorsements can be the crucial call to action that inspires shoppers to check out those items in their shopping cart. In fact, 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, which speaks to the power influencers wield as trusted tastemakers and brand advocates.

Irene Khan is a Los Angeles-based photographer and blogger who shares her beauty finds, tips and tricks along with a passion for sharing her worldwide travel adventures. Her YouTube tutorials and beauty reviews have amassed her 250,000 followers on the video streaming platform, and her aspirational travel and beauty snaps have earned her 444,000 followers on Instagram. Khan’s appeal comes from her value-added insights and recommendations that her customers trust and act on, making an organic endorsement from this influencer a major potential sales driver. With social networks influencing 74% of consumers’ buying decisions, and with 90% of consumers trusting peer recommendations (only 33% trust advertisements), the value of influencer endorsements for beauty products becomes clear, especially when working in such a competitive and saturated market.


A post shared by Irene Khan (@irenesarah) on


How to work with top influencers

For brands that may be hesitant about the cost of running a campaign with top influencers – perhaps you ran one before and saw lackluster results – consider this: not every influencer campaign needs a huge budget. Influencer marketing methods allow brands to maximize their reach on a minimal budget, gaining more relevant, organic exposure, targeted engagement and more quality traffic than a static banner advertisement ever would. Even methods like using micro-influencers can ensure targeted exposure to highly-engaged demographics for a fraction of the cost of a high-profile influencer endorsement.

Building lasting relationships with top influencers

One of the most effective ways to drive ROI from an influencer marketing campaign is to establish meaningful, long-term relationships with influencers. Years of facilitating collaborations has shown that sales and conversion dramatically increase when a brand works with an influencer over time, which drives far higher ROI than one-off campaigns. In a time where authenticity of endorsements is key, the real value of influencer marketing comes when an influencer’s followers instantly recognize a brand as one the influencer regularly uses in their daily life. This sort of affinity and recognition simply cannot be built without thinking long term. Building lasting relationships is often a secondary consideration when working with influencers, but long-term collaborations are fundamental to achieving long-term return.

Instead of approaching your influencer marketing strategy from a transactional standpoint, think about building influencer relationships as part of a longer-term strategy that provides consistent, extended brand exposure. As influencer marketing evolves to allow for more authentic conversations with niche audiences, maintaining meaningful influencer relationships to reach audiences through voices they trust becomes increasingly important.

Reach new markets with top micro-influencers

For brands looking to engage a lasting brand ambassador on a budget, micro-influencers can provide a highly-engaged, loyal and niche audience for a fraction of the cost of high-profile influencers. The definition of a micro-influencer will differ depending on who you’re talking to, but as a general rule, micro-influencers have between 10k - 80k followers and have highly-targeted, niche audiences.

Where mega influencers and celebrity endorsements are often expensive and disconnected from their audiences, micro-influencers offer high engagement from focused and responsive followers. In fact, micro-influencers with 1,000-10,000 followers can attract more than four times the engagement on sponsored posts because of their loyal following.

Fashion micro-influencers like Kelly Saks offer brands an accessible, reasonably-priced way to test the waters of an influencer collaboration. Saks is a Miami-based blogger that shares her fashion and lifestyle finds with a highly engaged audience that attracts leading brands like Marks & Spencer. Saks speaks to an audience that’s highly-targeted and localized: two of her top three follower locations are Miami and Miami Beach, making her a valuable ambassador for brands looking to launch in this market. Thanks to her niche, localized following, micro-influencers like Saks represent real customers - engaging her in collaborations is the closest brands can get to word-of-mouth marketing.


A post shared by KELLY SAKS (@kellysaks) on


Because they have such niche, loyal audiences, micro-influencers feel more like friends than public personalities. What’s more, their status as peers means that micro-influencers can turn product recommendations into real sales. While micro-influencers are more accessible and widespread than high-profile bloggers, you also have to work with them more to often see the same level of reach and impressions as you would a mid to high tier influencer. This makes them the perfect choice to engage as lasting, long-term brand ambassadors rather than the source of one-off influencer campaigns.

How affiliate marketing and top influencers can intersect

While influencer marketing campaigns operate primarily across social media platforms, affiliate marketers have traditionally taken an approach that focuses on tracking web-based traffic and clicks. In the future, affiliate marketers who are invested only in website publishers and tracking clicks won’t be able to leverage vital new customers and business from social platforms.

As experts in the social sphere, getting influencers to utilize social media platforms like Instagram stories, shoppable posts and swipe-ups in their campaigns (rather than just focusing on blog posts) is a key way to drive sales beyond traditional affiliate links and tracking methods. With consumers swiping up on Instagram stories to shop the looks of their favorite style bloggers and social media influencers, these once-untraditional marketing avenues are increasingly becoming the norm for shoppers on the go.

With Instagram introducing functionality like shoppable posts and swipe-ups, the entire purchasing journey can now be taken in-platform, which means affiliate marketers can no longer ignore the power of social networks. Influencers allow brands to take advantage of all the benefits of affiliate marketing, including transparency and guaranteed exposure, while adding the power to connect with shoppers and strengthen brand affinity.

Shopping Links can help brands get more value from your affiliate marketing efforts by making it easier to identify the best influencers to work with. As a sub-network on Awin, you can seamlessly set up a collaboration and track your influencer campaigns over time with a focus on data-driven results. To learn more about a partnership with Shopping Links, please contact your Awin account manage or our publisher management team

This article was brought to you by Kim Westwood , founder and director of Shopping Links. Shopping Links is a global influencer and content marketplace that provides managed collaboration services for leading international brands. Launched in 2014, Shopping Links actively works with Fortune 500 retailers and brands, and has a network of over 15,000+ bloggers in its marketplace. Kim has been recognized by Convince and Convert, the American Marketing Association and Influencer Marketing Days conference as an expert in the field of influencer marketing and return on investment (ROI).

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