Influencer Marketing

Consider this your playbook for influencer marketing, your go-to resource for all things influencer marketing. From beginners to experts we’ll cover it all.

IZEA Influencer Marketing Guide Girl with sunglasses smiling white shirt


Influencer Marketing

Consider this your playbook for influencer marketing, your go-to resource for all things influencer marketing. From beginners to experts we’ll cover it all.

IZEA Influencer Marketing Guide Girl with sunglasses smiling white shirt

20 min read

Sometimes, it’s possible to get so deeply involved in a practice that you lose sight of what it is you’re trying to do. Or maybe someone who isn’t familiar with what you do asks you to explain, and you realize that you can’t. This is why its important to comprehend terms and provide a definition. Not understanding how to explain a term may make for several influencer marketing definitions.

That’s sometimes the case with influencer marketing. You know what it is, but you struggle to explain it to someone who is on the outside or new to the industry. Additionally, to avoid this problem, remember these influencer marketing definitions, some of which come straight from the companies that are knee-deep in the practice.


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Influencer Marketing: The Dictionary Definition

If you look up the phrase “influencer marketing” in Merriam-Webster, you get an apologetic response that the word isn’t in the dictionary with a few possible alternatives offered instead.

Moreover, in order to get to the dictionary definition of influencer marketing, you have to break it down a bit. First, the word “influencer” is defined as “one who exerts influence.” In this case, “influence” is defined as the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command or to affect or alter by indirect or intangible means. 

Next, you want to look up the definition of marketing. According to Merriam-Webster, it’s a noun that means the act or process of selling or purchasing in a market or the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service. 

Furthermore, if you put the dictionary definitions of “influencer” and “marketing” together, you end up with a cohesive definition of “influencer marketing” that looks like this: the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service using indirect or intangible means, or without direct exercise of command

Influencer Marketing

The process of technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product of service using indirect or intangible means, or without direct exercise of command.

Influencer Marketing: The Dictionary Definition

Influencer Marketing: The Industry Definition
Sometimes, it’s a good idea to leave the dictionary behind and look to industry insiders. Get an idea of how the industry defines influencer marketing. Several organizations that offer influencer marketing services or digital marketing advice or assistance have created their own influencer marketing definitions.

Organization’s Definitions

Influencer marketing is designed to tap into an existing community of engaged followers on social media. Influencers are specialists in their niches. Additionally, these individuals have influence over an audience you might be trying to reach and can be helpful marketing to those buyers.

Primarily, influencers act as a mutual friend connecting your brand with your target consumers. Moreover, an endorsement from an influencer has the power to drive traffic to your site, amplify your message across social media platforms, and even directly sell your product through their recommendation.

Influencer marketing should be honest and authentic. An influencer speaks about your product not because they are being paid to do so, but because they want to. Ideally, you want an influencer to endorse you because because they find your company interesting.

Influencer marketing is the name we give to the process of developing relationships with influential people . Such process, can lead to their assisting you in creating visibility for your product or service. This type of marketing depends on your having something great to offer your potential customers and the audience of the influencer, and it also depends on your building a great relationship with the influencer as well.

At its most basic, influencer marketing is like a hybrid of old and new marketing tools, taking the idea of the celebrity endorsement and placing it into a modern-day, content-driven marketing campaign. Moreover, the main difference is that the results of the campaign are usually collaborations between brands and influencers.

What Influencer Marketing Definitions Have in Common

If you read over the hybrid dictionary definition we created and the influencer marketing definitions you can see similarities. As it turns out, you can’t have influencer marketing without the following:

The hybrid dictionary

Influential people:
Influencers need to be able to sway or change the minds of their audiences in some way.

Our definitions use words like “mutual friends” and “authenticity.” Additionally, to hammer home the point that influencers need to be people whom others trust.

Staying connected to a particular audience/group of people is what an influencer does. Likewise, it’s in the best interests of brands to focus on developing ongoing relationships with the influencers they partner with.

How Influencer Marketing Definitions Differ
One way that the above influencer marketing definitions differ is on how hard they stress the marketing aspect. The dictionary influencer marketing definition mentions the process of selling a product.

Only one of the industry definitions makes mention of using influencer marketing to boost sales. Buffer mentions that influencers can “directly sell your product through their recommendation.” Influencer marketing seeks to go beyond boosting sales and getting new customers.

With influencer marketing, you’re able to use the trust people have in influencers to build relationships. Additionally, it is also important to build a relationship with the audiences of particular influencer. In many cases, boosting sales is the icing on the cake.

The benefits of influencer marketing

If your brand is going to try a different type of marketing, then you want to be sure the new project will be worth your time and effort. One type of marketing that has proven to be extremely beneficial to brands and marketers is influencer marketing. Influencer marketing benefits range from a higher-than-average return on investment to allowing a brand to connect with a previously unreached audience.

One survey revealed that 94 percent of marketers found influencer marketing to be effective. Nearly half of those who used it in the past year planned on increasing their budget for influencer marketing in the year to come.

Understanding the various benefits of influencer marketing can help your brand decide how to use it and how to shape an influencer marketing strategy that will let you best take advantage of its benefits.

1. Influencer Marketing Reaches Where Traditional Ads Don’t

Banner ads, commercials, and other forms of traditional advertising don’t have the reach or impact they once had. Hubspot reported the average click-through rate on display ads is less than 1 percent. Around 65 percent of people skip the ads that play during or before online videos. Influencer marketing gives brands a way to work around traditional advertising. It allows you to connect with people who would otherwise not give a brand a second look.

2. Influencer Marketing Actually Influences People

Another benefit of influencer marketing is that it does inspire people to action. A study from Twitter found that 40 percent of users made a purchase following a tweet from an influencer. Another study found that more than 60 percent of people ages 13 to 24 would try a product recommended by a YouTuber.

3. Influencer Marketing Lets You Reach a Specific, Targeted Audience

Influencers, particularly micro-influencers, usually connect with a very specific audience. Partnering with the right influencer can help your brand reach an audience it has previously neglected or hasn’t been able to reach.

4. Influencer Marketing Runs on Trust

Trust is big in influencer marketing. Without trust, influencer marketing won’t work. Influencers, in particular micro-influencers, are seen as 94 percent more credible and believable than others on social media. Additionally, 87 percent of consumers say that authenticity is one of the most important things for a brand to have.

5. Influencer Marketing Has a High ROI

From a dollars and cents perspective, one of the most significant influencer marketing benefits is its high return on investment. A 2016 TapInfluence study found that influencer marketing has an ROI that’s 11 times higher than other forms of digital marketing.

Where Should Your Brand Focus?

When crafting an influencer marketing strategy, to what benefit should your brand pay the most attention? It depends on your goals. If you are trying to reach a new audience, then it makes sense to zero in on the targeted, specific audience benefit. If you’re hoping to make your brand more credible and to build trust with people, then focusing on authenticity and trust building makes the most sense. Finally, if you’re concerned about getting the most for your marketing dollars, focusing on the return on investment from influencer marketing is going to be the most appropriate option.

How Do Influencer Marketing Benefits Affect Strategy?

How do you work the benefits of influencer marketing into your strategy? It depends on the benefit. For example, if you are aiming to reach a new audience or want to cut through the noise and connect with people who are tuned out to traditional advertising, then one option is to build a strategy around new audiences.

First, you’ll want to identify potential audiences, such as soccer moms, preteen fashionistas, or crafty vegans. If you plan on working with micro-influencers who typically reach a niche audience, the more specific the audience, the better.

If your goal is to increase return on investment, then you’ll want to lay out specific numbers in your strategy. How much will you spend on a campaign in total, and how much will you spend on each post? Next, think about how you’ll track your return on investment. Will you measure the number of sales that result from a post? Or the number of new subscribers you get as a result of a post?

Jumping into influencer marketing with its benefits in mind helps you to set your goals and then shape your strategy to meet those goals.

Examples of Influencer Marketing Benefits

Fashion Nova

Increase ROI. An excellent example of a brand using influencer marketing to increase or maximize ROI is Fashion Nova. Fashion Nova is a faster-than-fast fashion brand that’s popular with the likes of influencers such as Cardi B. and Kylie Jenner. In fact, the brand works with somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 influencers, according to a report from Vice. While it compensates its big-name influencers like Jenner, it typically pays others in free clothing. The company has been tight-lipped about its revenue, but WWD reported growth of 600 percent in 2017 on the site. The brand has also seen impressive growth in terms of online followers. At the time the Vice article was published, it had 6 million followers. By the time WWD published its interview with the brand’s founder, the brand had grown to nearly 11 million followers.

Reach where traditional ads don’t. Landing an ad during the National Football League’s Super Bowl championship game is often enough for brands. But knew it needed to go beyond the big game to connect with its target audience. To do so, it launched an influencer campaign on social media using Jeff Goldblum (who starred in the TV ads), L’il Wayne and several YouTube stars. As a result of the influencer campaign, there were more than 8 million engagements in the weeks around the big football game. The original TV spot had 15 million views on social media.


Build trust. FlatTummyCo is a brand that’s managed to stir up controversy and build trust using influencer marketing. Launched in Australia in 2013, the brand first saw the benefits of influencer marketing when it partnered with a popular blogger and had 17 new orders in an hour, the Guardian reported. These days, the brand reaches out to around 200 potential influencers each week. It carefully chooses with whom it partners in an effort to create a trustworthy and authentic image. For example, the brand tries to connect with women who might not be super skinny but who are trying to improve their body shape or get fit.

Whether you’re trying to maximize revenue, improve your brand’s image or make more connections, influencer marketing benefits can help you reach your goals.

Influencer Marketing Case Studies

If you’ve tossed around the idea of using an influencer marketing campaign to promote your brand, but you hesitated because you weren’t sure what it involved or what some of the best practices were, read on to learn about some of the winning campaigns that brought home the ROI bacon in 2018.

An influencer marketing campaign is not a complicated concept. It’s when a company, institution or brand works with influencers to promote services or products to the influencer’s followers on social media. Companies that use influencer marketing campaigns run the gamut from small brands and local proprietors to Fortune 500 companies and mega-brands like Coca-Cola. A recent survey by the Association of National Advertisers reveals that 75 percent of marketers use influencer campaigns and close to half of them plan to boost spending during the next 12 months.

The audience for influencer marketing campaigns is the brand’s target market. After brands determine the target market they want to reach, they choose influencers to partner with for their marketing campaigns who are already engaging that audience.

Best 2018 Influencer Marketing Campaigns

2018 was a banner year for influencer marketing campaigns that hit it out of the park and offered top-shelf teachable moments for marketers along the way. Here are some of the best influencer marketing campaigns from 2018, with tips on what you can learn from these campaigns:

Lagavulin Whiskey

Nick Offerman - Lagavulin CampaignConventional marketing wisdom says that shorter videos perform better online, but Lagavulin Whiskey and actor/comedian Nick Offerman of the TV series Parks and Recreation proved that maxim wrong. They partnered on a funny 45-minute video infused with a quirkiness that appealed to a younger audience, snagging 2 million views in one week. The upshot? The Lagavulin-Offerman video, one of the best 2018 influencer marketing campaigns, not only won awards, it also proves that taking risks can help you stand apart from the competition and mine a niche demographic.


On World Kindness Day, Coca-Cola partnered with four well-known street artists to create content for social media that promoted optimism as one of its brand values. Coke also encouraged its 8 million followers to share the upbeat content through social media posts with influencers who projected a similar optimistic mindset. Coke used authentic influencers, kept the message and artwork simple and eye-catching and tagged it to a holiday that oozes positivity. Sometimes it’s helpful to remember that less can be more with influencer marketing.

Tiffany & Co.

Tifanny Campaign with Jack Morris InstagramWhen Tiffany & Co. partnered with Jack Morris, a young influencer who has 2.8 million followers on Instagram, the campaign focused on Morris’s appreciation for luxury goods and experiences. Along with his concerns about sustainability, Morris’s values reflected those that Tiffany & Co. wanted to promote. Morris gave Tiffany & Co. instant credibility and brand awareness among their target market — millennials. The takeaway? If you want to target a certain demographic, use influencers who are members of that market and who share your brand’s values.


The ridesharing company Lyft partnered with celebrity influencers like Danica Patrick and Shaquille O’Neal, who posed as Lyft drivers and wore disguises in “Undercover Lyft” videos. In the videos, which aimed to position Lyft as a more casual, friendlier option than Uber, the celebrities removed their disguises and revealed themselves at the end of the ride after interacting with the unknowing riders throughout the trip.

Lyft also worked with not-quite-as-well-known names like fitness influencer and Bachelorette winner Bryan Abasolo, also known as Dr. Abs, and YouTube entertainer GloZell Green, who promoted Lyft and Earth Day in her posts. Working with different types and levels of influencers helped Lyft cover all of its bases.


Glossier founder Emily Weiss on Recode Decode PodcastWhen skincare and beauty company Glossier partnered with micro-influencers, those with smaller followings on social media, the campaign’s reach gradually snowballed. Its success — to the tune of 10 million views a month — showed that you don’t have to work with celebrity or power influencers to have a killer influencer marketing campaign. Starting small can be a winning strategy.

And influencers don’t have to be celebrities. Here’s another way to think of them: Glossier’s founder and CEO Emily Weiss recently said in an interview with Kara Swisher on her podcast Recode Decode that she considers every single person to be an influencer. It’s a mindset that has paid off; Glossier boasts a $390 million valuation.

Bigelow Tea

Bigelow Tea partnered with influencers including Jamie of Creating Really Awesome Fun Things to craft posts that prompted an emotional response from her following on Mother’s Day. She assembled a Mother’s Day gift basket of items including Bigelow Tea for the post. Bigelow also collaborated with lifestyle and tea bloggers to create recipes using Bigelow Tea, including a wildly popular one for Bigelow Iced Tea with Lemonade Ice Cubes. Bigelow saw sales jump by 18.5 percent after the campaign debuted.

When working with influencers who have the creative mindset to garner emotional appeal and who can concoct recipes using your product, giving them the latitude they need to deliver can pay off in a big way. They know best what their followers will respond to, so let go of the wheel.

American Express

American Express Bethany Hamilton Instagram CampaignAmerican Express teamed up with jet-setting luxury lifestyle influencers, who posted about their glamorous travels to places like Bali, Indonesia and France for its #AmexAmbassador campaign. The campaign resonated with a worldwide selection of followers attracted to high-style luxury jaunts and who had the financial means to experience them. They also wanted to do so in a hassle-free way, promoting American Express’s mission to make travel more seamless. When promoting a luxurious experience or product, make sure your influencers and their images have an equally high-end sensibility.


Bumble Marshmello music campaign

Dating app Bumble partnered with DJ Marshmello, who has more than 30 million YouTube subscribers and 19 million Instagram followers, on a contest that offered his fans a chance to travel to Los Angeles to be in his next video. The campaign scored more than 559,000 likes on Marshmello’s Instagram account.

Bumble also collaborated with tennis superstar Serena Williams on the Make the First Move campaign, which promotes the importance of women making the first move in various aspects of their lives. Using different types of influencers, approaches and messages gave Bumble brand awareness among both tennis fans and music lovers and helped to build relationships with them.


eBay Campaign Sassyredlipstick instagram

EBay’s #fillyourcartwithcolor campaign used brand ambassadors and the chance to win free gift cards in exchange for Instagram likes to position itself as a more interesting place to shop than Amazon. The result? More than 343,000 followers engaged with the campaign, which invited consumers to express their unique personalities by filling their carts with color through videos on YouTube and Vimeo.

Following its success in the U.S., eBay expanded the campaign to the U.K. and Australia, proving that when influencer marketing is done well, it knows no boundaries. That, and the fact that people also appreciate having the chance to win free things and respond enthusiastically to contests.

Influencer Marketing Gone Wrong

If you’re a little unsure of exactly what influencer marketing is, you’re probably much more familiar with it than you realize. Anyone who spends much time on social media is probably being exposed to influencer marketing in some way.

Say, for instance, you’re following someone on Instagram, YouTube or Facebook who you admire or whose posts you find interesting, informative, entertaining or helpful. Maybe you don’t know them personally, but you identify with them in some way and trust their opinions and experiences. Brands are most likely using influencer marketing to target you through these people because you find their posts to be of value and consider the influencers to be authentic.

Brands often work with influencers to subtly promote their products or services to their followers in their social media posts or blogs. All kinds of brands and marketers use influencer marketing, from big brands like Nike, Dove and Pepsi to colleges, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and small businesses like local law firms and pizza restaurants. You can work with influencers with relatively small, targeted followings, known as micro-influencers, or those with enormous followings in the millions — and everything in between.

When Influencer Marketing Goes Right

Influencer marketing comes with big benefits. One of the most important benefits is that you can target certain markets very precisely with influencer marketing. Different influencers appeal to different followers, depending on their interests and what the influencers focus on in their posts.

You can also build trust and credibility for your brand when you work with influencers who have loyal followers who are interested in topics that relate to your services and products. For example, if your brand sells cameras, it would make sense to work with an influencer who is a well-respected Instagram photographer. Or if your organization promotes healthy eating, an influencer who creates popular videos on YouTube showing how to make healthy meals at home would be the right kind of partner.

Top 10 Examples of Influencer Marketing Strategies Gone Wrong

For all of the successful influencer marketing campaigns, there are plenty that go wrong, with fallout that can hurt sponsors and erode trust in the influencer and in the brand they’re promoting. To make sure your influencer marketing campaign is on — and stays on — the right track, here are some worst-case scenarios to avoid and the reasons why they went awry.

Kim Kardashian white dress

Kim Kardashian and Diclegis

When celebrity influencer Kim Kardashian, who has 44 million followers on Instagram, partnered with a pharmaceutical company, the campaign attracted attention for the wrong reasons. In her initial Instagram post about the product she was promoting, Diclegis, a medication for morning sickness, Kardashian left out the side effect and safety information that the FDA requires to be included in pharmaceutical posts.

Scott Disick black suite

Scott Disick and Bootea

Scott Disick’s first Instagram post on behalf of Bootea products was a huge flop. He accidentally copied and pasted the campaign instructions from the PR firm he was working with as part of the post. The post read: “Here you go, at 4pm est, write the below Caption: Keeping up with the summer workout routine with my morning @booteauk protein shake!” The reaction to the blatant promotion from his followers and other commentators was swift and critical, and the post is widely considered one of the most embarrassing examples of influencer marketing gone wrong.

Sean “Diddy” Combs black suite sunglasses microphone

Ciroc Vodka lodged a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) when the organization discovered that posts from dozens of influencers that Diageo worked with on a Ciroc Vodka campaign, including Sean “Diddy” Combs and Ashanti, failed to disclose Diageo’s sponsorship with the right hashtags in their posts. The posts are a cautionary tale in the importance of following legal guidelines with influencer marketing.

Terrie McEvoy white shirt smiling female

Terrie McEvoy and Tower Jewellers

When Irish influencer and blogger Terrie McEvoy partnered with the company Tower Jewellers, she rigged a sponsored contest so that friends of hers won the prizes — two bracelets from Tower. After the backlash on social media, McEvoy and Tower Jewellers apologized, and McEvoy deleted her Facebook account.

David Gulasi smiling male blue shirt

David Gulasi

When a brand he was working with asked influencer and comedian David Gulasi, then based in China, to create a different sponsored post than his original one because they were dissatisfied with it, the reaction wasn’t positive. The second post didn’t ring true with his followers, and they expressed their displeasure, accusing Gulasi of trying to make money off of the Chinese.

Chriselle Lim white shirt

Chriselle Lim and Volvo

Lifestyle, beauty and fashion blogger Chriselle Lim has more than 1 million followers on Instagram and close to 760,000 YouTube subscribers. When a post featuring Lim and her family posing with a Volvo seemed overly staged to her followers, they emphatically voiced their disapproval. When influencer posts seem too much like advertising, followers often lose trust in them and in the brands they promote.

Logan Paul smiling blonde male black shirt

Logan Paul

One of the most disturbing examples of influencer marketing gone wrong took place when influencer Logan Paul posted a YouTube video showing the dead body of a man who committed suicide in the Aokigahara, a Japanese forest where many people take their lives. Paul dealt with the tragedy in a clueless, insensitive way, wearing a silly hat and making jokes and laughing in the video. Paul lost lucrative deals with a number of brands as a result of the video and the anger it provoked, and YouTube temporarily suspended his advertising privileges.

Harimao Lee black dress holding cup

Harimao Lee and Cathay Pacific Airways

Hong Kong-based influencer Harimao Lee’s partnership with Cathay Pacific Airways went sideways when one of her posts showed her posed sitting in the footwell of a Cathay Pacific business-class seat, drinking champagne and lit up by fairy lights she brought on the flight. People on social media relentlessly mocked the post, one commenting that maybe Lee should bring a Christmas tree on her next flight.

Kendall Jenner black dress

Kendall Jenner and Pepsi

Perhaps one of the most mortifying examples of influencer marketing gone wrong happened with Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi ad, which was heavily criticized as tone-deaf for its take on the Black Lives Matter movement. It depicted Jenner, who is not exactly known for being an activist, diffusing the tension at a protest by handing a bottle of Pepsi to a police officer.

Scarlett Dixon blonde flower tiara

Scarlett Dixon and Listerine

Influencer Scarlett Dixon, also known as Scarlett London, received extreme reactions to her Instagram post promoting Listerine during her partnership with the brand. In the post, she posed, perfectly coiffed and made up on a perfectly made bed in her pajamas beside a neat stack of pancakes and a plate of strawberries, flanked by heart-shaped balloons, with a bottle of Listerine on one nightstand. To many, the post looked a little too perfect and staged, resulting in a barrage of negative feedback from her followers, some even going so far as to send her death threats. The blowback is a reminder that when an influencer strikes a false note with followers, it can prompt them to respond ferociously.