Ecommerce Influencer Marketing Strategy (Hint: Better Than Buying Shoutouts)

BONUS MATERIAL: Influencer Marketing Paid Promotion Playbook

When it comes to influencer marketing for eCommerce, most brands rely on paying influencers that have big followings for a shoutout (like someone making a post on their Instagram profile to endorse a product) to reach their audience. These shoutouts can cost anywhere from $500 to $5,000 for smaller influencers, and up to $20,000 for bigger influencers.

Influencers can charge this much because their value is in their audience size. You are paying for the opportunity to get your product in front of their subscribers.

The problem with this influencer marketing strategy is…

  1. You pay

  2. The post goes out

  3. A few days later it's forgotten about

  4. You’ve spent a lot of money for little return

So EHPlabs, a global health and fitness store, came up with a new influencer marketing strategy where you:

  • Don’t have to pay a ridiculous sum of money for a one-time promotion

  • Own the influencer’s content

  • Can grow your audience with the content

  • Can use the content in your marketing campaigns forever

So, how do you do it?

Step 1: Pay An Influencer For A Day

EHPlabs pays a team of sponsored athletes.

These athletes (fitness influencers) are ambassadors for the brand. They have their own audiences on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms, and they promote EHPlabs’ health and fitness philosophy and products all year round. For example, Katya Elise Henry on team EHP has an audience of over four million Instagram followers.

Now you don’t need to go “all out” and pay a team of sponsored athletes like EHPlabs does. You could track down an influencer you want to promote your brand and ask them their daily rate (how much it would cost to hire them for a day to produce content for you). See how Katya has an email address in her Instagram profile? Influencers like her put their email address in their social profiles so you can contact them for cool projects.

Asking their day rate can be cheaper than the cost of a shoutout, because these influencers often aren't sure what their time is worth--they just know their audience size. For $1,000 you can buy a whole day of time from some influencers, and they'll record videos for you if you bring the necessary photo/video equipment, branded swag, and video script. You then own the content and can use it in your marketing campaigns forever.

When you reach out to the influencer you want to partner with, make sure you set these expectations right from the start:

Timeframe: What day you want to work with them.

Content Production: What pieces of content you want them to create (e.g., one video and 30 photos).

Content Ownership: Let them know what you want to use the content for and that you want to use it in your marketing campaigns in perpetuity.

Payment: Day rate you will offer, or something else of value (like a free product, a free service or a free experience).

To show you how to do it, I’m going to give you a peek inside how EHPlabs partners with one of their top influencers to produce content true to their brand in step 2 below. In steps 3-5, I’ll show you how you can use the content from your “influencer for a day” to find new customers.

Step 2: Produce Your Content Series 

EHPlabs founder Izhar Basha doesn’t believe in the “before” and “after” transformations promoted by the fitness industry. He believes that your “before” and “after” transformation is an inspiration; but fitness is a journey to improve your health, mental outlook, perspective, and enthusiasm so you can achieve more and contribute back to society.

To tell that brand message, Izhar and EHPlabs created an eight-part video series called “Be Empowered” to showcase their athletes’ fitness journeys so people can get to know more about their lives outside of just the normal fitness posts they make.

Each video in the series follows the health and fitness journey of one of their athletes and ranges from four to seven minutes long.

The first video in the series on Katya Elise Henry’s journey has been viewed over 100,000 times, even though EHPlabs had fewer than 10,000 YouTube subscribers when it was released in February, 2017. Here is the video:

Here’s the format of the video so you can watch, follow along, and understand how powerful the messaging is:

  • 0:00 to 0:33 Start of the journey

    • Becoming a cheerleader to make people smile

    • Being part of a family that loves health and fitness

  • 0:34 to 0:39 The challenge

    • Losing muscle after not cheerleading for a year

  • 0:40 to 0:56 Overcoming the challenge

    • Went to the gym with Mom

    • Recorded workouts and posted them on Instagram

    • Started getting attention, followers, and inspiring people

  • 0:57: to 1:30 Life-changing product moment

    • First email from EHPlabs

    • Opportunity to join a team to help people become the best that they can be

  • 1:31 to 1:59 How the product helped in the journey

    • Tried supplements from EHPlabs, was skeptical about health benefits but fell in love with them

    • Started to see results from EHPlabs supplements and using the gym

  • 2:00 to 2:41 How the company helped in the journey

    • Flew Katya to Australia to meet the EHPlabs team

    • Saw behind-the-scenes of the company

    • Made lifelong friends from around the world

  • 2:42 to 3:09 Reaping the benefits

    • Katya gets to show people what she loves to do

    • She gets to change people's lives

    • She gets to inspire people with her love for fitness and EHPlabs supplements

  • 3:10 to 3:39 Overcoming the struggles

    • Days when Katya wakes up and doesn’t like how she looks

    • She wants to go into hiding

    • Think positively, love yourself, and be the best you can be

  • 3:40 to 4:19 Closing Advice

    • Try out a bunch of things; find a hobby and turn it into a career

    • If you’re doing something you love, you’re never going to have to work a day in your life

This is the format EHPlabs highest-viewed video follows. The storytelling format of Katya’s journey works so well because it includes these four persuasive storytelling tactics:

  1. The story is relatable. Lots of people can relate to losing muscle and putting on fat.

  2. The story is compelling. How EHPlabs supplements plus the gym was key to Katya’s success plants the seed in the viewer’s mind that the inflection point in her journey was directly related to EHPlabs.

  3. The story is altruistic. People can see Katya isn’t doing it for herself; she’s doing it to inspire people with her love for fitness.

  4. The story is trustworthy. Katya uses a tactic called “damaging admission” to acknowledge the ongoing struggles she has which increases trust in the story because it shows integrity. 

When it comes to producing your content series, you can try using a similar format, or you can come up with your own unique format. To come up with your unique format, here is how you can do it:

  1. Ask people in your industry what content is working best for them (or do research by going on their social profiles and blog to see what gets the most traffic, comments, and shares). This is how I found EHPlabs video series—I went to their YouTube channel, clicked on the Videos tab, and sorted by their “Most popular” videos.

  2. As you can see, Katya’s Be Empowered video is their most popular video, and half of the ten most viewed videos are from their Be Empowered series.

  3. Study what made that piece of content so successful, like I did above where I examined every second of the video and broke it down into a format that anyone can replicate.

  4. Use what you’ve gained from your analysis to come up with your content series plan, and leverage influencers to create the content. If you have an influencer for one day, you should come up with a list of preparation items to make sure you get what you want from that one day. Here’s a list of some items for you to think about:

  • Sending free product for the influencer to use before the shoot

  • Video equipment/photo equipment

  • List of locations you want to shoot

  • Video script

  • Product for the influencer to hold/wear/use

If I wanted to create a health and fitness series like “Be Empowered,” I’d use the EHPlabs video format and start brainstorming creative ideas like the ones below.

  • Olympic Weightlifting Gold Series: The journey of 10 weightlifters to win Olympic gold

  • Mr. Olympia Series: The journey of 10 Mr. Olympia winners

  • Bikini Body Series: A day in the life of globally acclaimed fitness models and how they got the bikini body of their dreams

  • Fitness Through The Ages Series: The journey of different people at different ages (age 18, 21, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 95, 100) 

Golden Nugget: A content series starts with one piece of content. Focus on landing your first “influencer for a day” to test how your first content piece performs. If it works, then invest in more. That’s how we developed the Sumo Growth Studies content series.

If I wanted to create another series for Sumo to inspire more eCommerce business owners, here are some ideas:

  • Ecommerce All-Stars Series: The journey of Sumo’s top eCommerce customers to break $1 million profit

  • Ecommerce Experts Series: An email a day with an actionable eCommerce tactic from an expert

  • Shopify Superstars Series: The journey of Shopify’s top eCommerce stores from their first day to today

I hope these ideas have given you some inspiration because now we’re going to move on to how you can promote your content series.

Step 3: Organic Content Promotion

One of the goals for EHPlabs content series is brand awareness—spreading their core brand message to as many people as possible that fitness is a journey to improve your health, mental outlook, perspective, and enthusiasm so you can achieve more and contribute back to society.

The second goal is product sales. EHPlabs wants viewers to become customers--for these customers to have EHPlabs supplements be a part of their journey in meeting their fitness goals.

Not everything EHPlabs did was successful, so I want to show you the data so you can see for yourself, then give you recommendations on what you can do to make your content promotion successful. The first thing most people do to promote content is post to their own social media accounts without actually tracking how successful it is. So in this section, I’m going to break down how effective posting on social media (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter) is for EHPlabs.

Facebook Organic Promotion Data

For Facebook, EHPlabs created short 20-50 second video trailers, then uploaded them to Facebook and added them to a Facebook playlist as episodes were released.

Their Facebook content promotion consisted of two steps.

Step 1: Facebook prerelease video promotion

EHPlabs created a Facebook video post with the trailer in the week leading up to the episode. The post included a link to subscribe to their YouTube channel so they could increase their subscribers. 

They used Google’s URL shortener tool to create a tracking link and used this link on all trailers to track how much traffic went from the Facebook posts to their YouTube subscription page.

All the prerelease videos generated 128,900 views on Facebook and 594 clicks to the EHPlabs YouTube subscription page. That’s a conversion rate of 0.4% from Facebook video view to YouTube subscription page. When people click the link in the Facebook post, they go to this YouTube page to subscribe:

Golden Nugget: To take people direct to their YouTube channel subscription page pictured above, EHPlabs used this URL parameter at the end of their YouTube channel URL: ?sub_confirmation=1.

This is what EHPlabs YouTube channel URL looks like: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgwqTcXI16MKVm1U1srdxLg.

This is what it looks like when EHPlabs want people to subscribe to their YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgwqTcXI16MKVm1U1srdxLg?sub_confirmation=1.

Compared to other promotion channels like email where we’ve seen up to 2% clickthrough rates on large email list sizes over 100,000, and up to 5% clickthrough rates on Sumo push notifications, the 0.4% conversion rate EHPlabs gets from Facebook videos is very low.

Step 2: Facebook video release promotion 

EHPlabs created a Facebook video post with the same trailer they used in their teaser video on the day the episode went live. The post included a link to the full video on YouTube. 

The company used a unique tracking link for each video to track the traffic from each Facebook post to the full video on YouTube.

Here’s a breakdown of how much traffic each athlete got on their EHPlabs Facebook video post, and how many people clicked to watch their full YouTube video:

  • Katya Elise Henry: 24,000 views, 71 clicks

  • Max "The Body" Philisaire: 119,000 views, 258 clicks

  • Ashley Kaltwasser: 46,000 views, 330 clicks

  • Jazmine Garcia: 44,000 views, 322 clicks

  • Joshua Hopkins: 60,000 views, 59 clicks

  • Kaden Ngyuen: 18,000 views, 284 clicks

  • Izhar Basha: 30,000 views, 84 clicks

In total, the Facebook posts generated 341,000 views and 1,408 clicks to watch the full YouTube video. That’s a conversion rate of 0.4% from Facebook video view to YouTube video view.

The most popular Facebook video post about Max "The Body" Philisaire had 119,000 views, 791 likes, and 144 shares. But only 258 link clicks. This proves that lots of people view, like and share videos on Facebook, but they don’t always take the action you want them to take.

YouTube Organic Promotion Data

For YouTube promotion, EHPlabs uploaded all their videos to YouTube and added them to a playlist just like on Facebook.

In the YouTube description of all the videos, they have tracking links to subscribe to their YouTube channel, check out their supplements, and subscribe to their social profiles.

Here is how many clicks each of those links has generated:

  • Subscribe to stay tuned for the full series: 789 clicks

  • Check out our supplements: 870 clicks

  • Facebook Fitness Content: 397 clicks

  • Instagram Workout Motivation: 483 clicks

  • Follow us on Twitter: 176 clicks

Remember these are clicks across all videos on EHPlabs YouTube channel. The EHPlabs YouTube channel has:

  • 60 videos over three years

  • 478,619 views

So the conversion rate from video view to get someone to either subscribe to the YouTube channel or visit the EHPlabs website to check out their supplements is 0.1%.

In other words, links in your YouTube description aren’t going to move the needle when it comes to getting traffic from your videos to your website (unless you tell people in your video exactly what to click on in your description).

Now, let’s take a look at EHPlabs Twitter organic promotion.

Twitter Organic Promotion Data

On Twitter, EHPlabs posted a picture of the influencer with a link to their video.

This Twitter post for Katya got 9 retweets, 32 likes and 35 clicks to the video.

With around 30,000 Twitter followers (and 35,518 followers from the nine people who retweeted), that’s a conversion rate of 0.05%.

Now lastly, let’s take a look at EHPlabs Instagram organic promotion.

Instagram Organic Promotion Data

EHPlabs has over 800,000 followers on Instagram. When they launched this series, I estimate they had around 500,000 followers. At the start, they posted on Instagram with the video trailer and a call-to-action for people to head to EHPlabs YouTube channel to see the full video. But there was no way to track how many people actually went to the YouTube channel and watched the video.

So they tried creating a separate Instagram account just for their Be Empowered Series so they could give people a clickable link to go to their other Instagram profile and hit the link in the bio to watch the video. They made a post the day before like this:

And they made a post on the day the video went live, like this:

When someone clicked on those profile links, they would go to the EHPlabs Be Empowered Instagram profile, where there would see a bitly tracking link waiting for them to click in the bio to watch the full video.

EHPlabs’ last video in the series with Izhar (EHPlabs founder) was clicked 179 times from Instagram. The organic post for Max above on EHPlabs main Instagram profile got 8,255 Instagram video views. If we assume Izhar’s organic post got about the same amount of video views, that’s a conversion rate of 2% from video view on EHPlabs main Instagram profile to bio click on EHPlabs Be Empowered Instagram profile. 

This is better than both YouTube and Facebook, and similar to the average conversion rate you’d expect to see from a big email list size over 100,000 people. Below I’ve listed a summary of EHPlabs organic promotion effectiveness across Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter. 

  1. Instagram: 2% (EHPlabs got an estimated 1,560 clicks) 

  2. Facebook: 0.4% (EHPlabs got 1,408 clicks)

  3. YouTube: 0.1% 

  4. Twitter: 0.05%

All of the data above is based on the conversion rate I found EHPlabs gets from social media post view to click (in EHPlabs case they were getting people to click to their YouTube videos).

From all the organic promotion EHPlabs did I estimate they got around 3,000 people to visit their episodes on YouTube. And fewer than 10 of those people clicked through to their website and social profiles from the YouTube episodes.

So if posting on your own social media accounts isn’t going to move the needle, what is?

Step 4: Influencer Content Promotion

From the organic promotion data we saw that Instagram (although at a low 2% clickthrough rate from post view to click) is one of the best traffic drivers for EHPlabs to their Instagram page.

But with 500,000 Instagram followers, EHPlabs was getting around 10,000 views on their video posts. That means only about 2% of people who follow their Instagram account viewed the actual Instagram video.

The solution? Get someone with more Instagram followers than you to post for you.

EHPlabs got their influencers to do shoutouts for them. Katya Elise Henry has over four million Instagram followers. With around 2% of people who follow an Instagram account viewing an actual video, that means a 4,000,000 follower Instagram account should get around 80,000 views.

That’s close to exactly what EHPlabs got with Katya. They got 89,000 views by having Katya post a shoutout.

When Katya’s video went live, she made this post and added the link to her EHPlabs Be Empowered video in her Instagram bio. 

Because this was an image post and Katya’s bio link has since been updated, it’s not possible to tell how many views and clicks it got. But if we go off 80,000 views like the video and a 2% clickthrough rate to the video (like EHPlabs saw on their Instagram account), that’s an estimated 1,600 people Katya would have driven to the video.

This can be a more effective strategy than organic promotion, but as I said at the start of the article—after a social media post goes out, a few days later it’s forgotten about. 

Here’s proof from the Facebook video release post EHPlabs did to promote Katya’s video (which got 89 likes, 35 shares, and 24,000 views). As you can see, 80% of the clicks were on the day of the post:

Here’s more proof from the Instagram bio link EHPlabs used for Izhar’s video. 70% of the clicks were during the month of the post (most likely on the day of the post):

All the organic social media posts for EHPlabs have similar results, that’s why EHPlabs get Katya to post regular promotions for EHPlabs on her Instagram profile with a unique discount code (KATYA10) for 10% off. Here are just four examples from regular posts Katya does for EHPlabs every month.

If you don’t have the resources to hire an influencer who promotes for you regularly like EHPlabs does with Katya as part of their EHPlabs athlete program, then this influencer shoutout strategy would not be a sustainable way to drive traffic and sales to your eCommerce store. 

However your content series will allow you to post new, fresh content so you’re not forgotten about, and my strategy in step 5 will show you how you can leverage one piece of influencer content without shoutouts like this.

To gain long-term SEO traffic to your content you could leverage the search volume of the influencer’s name to rank your own content for SEO. Earlier I mentioned that Katya’s video has over 100,000 views. This hasn’t come from organic promotion and shoutouts; it has come from EHPlabs’ video ranking #3 in YouTube for Katya Elise Henry’s name which gets 33,100 organic searches on YouTube per month.

So if all you had was the resources to pay an influencer for a day and you wanted to get a consistent flow of traffic to your content, then you could focus on creating videos around influencers in your industry and try to rank them on Google or YouTube.

However, as we saw in the YouTube organic promotion section, YouTube is not optimized for conversion. The links you include in the description of the video only get clicked 0.1% of the time.

So if you want to get a consistent flow of traffic AND new customers who buy your products every day, this next paid promotion strategy is exactly what you’re going to need.

Step 5: Paid Content Promotion

When an influencer creates a piece of content for your brand, you have a powerful business asset. But nowadays most people create and promote a piece of content, then move onto creating the next piece of content.

You saw above that organic reach for both organic content promotion and influencer shoutouts is low. So unless you have an SEO advantage, your long-term traffic and conversions from the content are going to be low. But most importantly it’s difficult to optimize for conversions by just showing people one piece of content. 

How many times have you read/watched/listened to one piece of content and then bought the companies products straight away?

Let’s say you hired Katya for a day to shoot a video for your brand. Here’s a simple strategy you could use to generate a consistent flow of customers from that one video.

What you’re going to do is run ads to people on mobile devices, then retarget them with desktop ads to your product or sales page. Mobile is cheaper traffic, and it's generally where people discover new things, but more people "convert" on desktop because it's easier to buy on desktop.

Step 1: Advertise your video as an awareness ad campaign on mobile devices.

As an example, the video below could be the video EHPlabs uses for their awareness ad campaign. But instead of only showing the video trailer, the whole video would be available to watch natively on Instagram. 

Showing the whole video creates a better user experience for people who see your video ad on Instagram. And if you create it as a video view ad, you can track the percentage of the video people watch, then retarget the most engaged viewers to buy your product.

Be aware that on Instagram you can only retarget based on video views, lead forms, and people who interact with your Instagram profile (so don’t try this with a static single image ad, the strategy won’t work). Plus taking time to watch a video is a higher level of engagement than liking or commenting on a post, so the strategy works better with video.

For your ad targeting I have two recommendations:

  1. Target a 1% lookalike audience of your “highest spenders” 

  2. Target your influencers fans 

Step 2: Retarget people to your product who watch >50% of your video on desktop and tablet.

Remember how I showed you how EHPlabs got Katya to regularly make posts on her Instagram with a unique discount code (KATYA10) for 10% off? Well, what if after you shot the video, you got your influencer to do a photoshoot so you have a library of influencer images you can use to retarget your influencers video view traffic?

You could retarget anyone who has watched >50% of your video to lifestyle images of your influencer like this, with a unique discount code (just like EHPlabs has used the discount code GOKATYA to track Katya’s organic Instagram post performance for the EHPlabs Stack in the image above). The unique discount code will tell you exactly how many sales you generated from your ad spend.

BadabingbadaBOOM!

If you wanted to take this to the next level to generate even more conversions from your influencers audience, you could create a product bundle named after your influencer like EHPlabs has done with the Katya Stack and direct people to that landing page from your ad.

Now you’ve got a simple system to generate more customers, touching every point in the customer journey:

  1. A video of your influencer (awareness)

  2. A product image with your influencer (consideration)

  3. A product bundle named after your influencer (purchase)

It’s as simple as that, don’t overcomplicate it.

To get a copy of the step-by-step system you need to follow to set up this paid promotion strategy in your eCommerce business with pro tips so you don’t waste any of your ad spend, download my influencer marketing paid promotion playbook below.

Influencer Marketing Paid Promotion Playbook

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