How to Leverage Influencers on Social Media Platforms
By Sherry Salois, MILLIONS
As digital marketing continues to expand into 2022, social media marketing has become a powerful avenue for marketers to increase brand awareness, humanize their brands, and generate traffic, leads, and customers. One popular method of increasing brand awareness is collaborating with influencers, relying on their talent as creators to raise a brand’s or product’s profile.
Now, with the rise of TikTok, short-form video has taken over social media marketing. In the wake of TikTok’s popularity, Meta has been scrambling to release and promote Instagram Reels and Twitter to increase its video quality. All three platforms provide good opportunities for brands to take advantage of influencer and video appeal, and all have their shortcomings, as well. For those brands seeking to tap into the lucrative world of video marketing, and more specifically market surrounding sports, there’s a new player in the arena—MILLIONS.co—that might be the best option for brands who want to reach sports fans and create lots of video content especially.
TikTok Elevates the Video Game
Boasting more than a billion active users, video-sharing social media app TikTok has become a cultural powerhouse with a global community of creators. Stats posted on TikTok for Business show “65% of TikTok users enjoy when a Creator posts about a product or brand; 35% discover products or brands from a Creator, and 39% consider products while interacting with Creator videos.”
TikTok features designed for marketers include Top View Ads, In-Feed Ads, and lots of support, along with access to creators. Brands can leverage TikTok’s Creator Marketplace to find vetted creators based on budget and focus, partner with them, access statistics to quickly analyze results, and fine-tune campaigns. With an average influencer engagement rate of 18% in the United States alone, it trumps that of Instagram at 5%. Ad Manager provides tools for businesses to create their own In-Feed Ads.
For those brands angling to reach Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2012) or Millennials (born between 1981 and 1994 or 1996, depending on who you ask), TikTok is ideal with 41% of users landing in the 16 to 24 age bracket while 66% are under 30. GWI indicates that Gen Zs in particular don’t want to see “picture perfect“ content, but are looking for more authenticity—not only from creators but from brands, as well. TikTok provides the tools to make that happen, with video editing; filters and effects; AR, 2D, and 3D; sharing across platforms; likes and comments; and notifications, all enabling brands to stand out in the crowd.
TikTok invites user engagement and increases the chance of creating trending challenges—including hashtag challenges that have proven to be effective marketing strategies, the popular Duets feature, and reaction videos. TikTok thrives on spontaneous content, so costs can be minimal. The algorithm starts at the “For You” landing page and increases the odds of content being viewed by offering users videos similar to what they have watched, liked, shared, or commented on in the past, and how they interact with other features like captions and settings. Live streaming is another feature that can bring in money for influencers.
Brands will need to embrace the creative nature of TikTok to get the most out of it. This might mean working with a Creator (influencer) in a way that allows the creator to leverage the best of TikTok and create the authenticity and fun users crave. In other words, brands will need to give up some—maybe a lot of—creative control. It’s helpful to think of TikTok as a community where brands, influencers, and users interact.
The formal ads program can be pricey, more so than Facebook or Instagram, ranging from $10 for an “impression” to $150,000 a week for a hashtag challenge. Partnering with an influencer through Creative Marketplace provides the opportunity to negotiate pricing and reach that influencer’s followers.
Ability to flop. Embracing a single campaign could have huge lift for a brand, but a lot of times when working with influencers on content creation and posting, the content could fall flat with its targeted audience, or not get picked up by the TikTok algorithms; meaning brands will have to spend to get more out of it.
Instagram Reels Weighs In
Positioned as a TikTok competitor, Reels (or Instagram Reels) was launched in 2020 as a way to share short videos on Instagram. Reels has been especially successful with sports team content. In 2020, Conviva found that Reels had surpassed Instagram’s traditional video offering in increasing engagement for sports leagues, ranging from a 13% increase for the MLB to a 67% increase for the NFL. Posting to both the Instagram feed and Reels increased sharing. Instagram has gone all-in on Reels, making it the app’s main button, placing it front and center.
Instagram remains popular among teens—though not quite as popular as TikTok or Snapchat— with numbers declining past age 35. In other words, Instagram, like TikTok, is most popular with Millennials and Gen Zs. Gen X is a rapidly growing presence on the app, too.
Reels enables creating and sharing audio, AR effects, the ability to record clips in a series or create easy transitions between clips, speed control, hashtags, and captions. Reels can be shared to a dedicated space in Explore or by Feed posts. Reels’ Remix matches TikTok’s Duets by allowing users to record their own videos side by side with another user’s video.
As with TikTok, there is opportunity for businesses and brands to collaborate with influencers to promote products (more about that later). Some Reels users recycle their TikTok content for the IG app as both call for 1080X1920 format. However, a TikTok watermark is a no-go, and Instagram will prioritize original content.
As of 2022, Reels includes 30-second ad segments, but the success of these ads hasn’t been determined yet. At some point, Reels will enable brands to add links by which users can add advertised products directly to a shopping cart. The addition of Shops brings another dimension to advertising on Instagram, a feature likely to bring more marketing professionals and customers to the app in the near future. Reels also offers a decent array of analytics comparable to TikTok’s, as well, while adding a metric to show how other users respond to a video.
Since Instagram is owned by Meta, you’re able to use your existing ad accounts to help promote and boost your Instagram Reels. Additionally, Instagram offers a mode of collaboration that TikTok doesn’t, where your influencers can tag your brand and have it be shared to your pages on channels as well.
Reels’ 60-second vertical video length falls short of TikTok’s latest upgrade to 10 minutes (a move probably aimed more at YouTube than Reels). Similarly, Reels doesn’t bring the full armada of effects that TikTok users adore. Although Instagram has placed Reels front and center in the app, it doesn’t have the singular focus TikTok benefits from: Reels has to compete on its own app with Feed, Stories, Guide, Carousels, and now Shops. These could be benefits, as well, if a marketing strategy hinges on Instagram as a whole, along with the advantage of integration with Facebook and Facebook Messenger.
Another aspect of the Instagram ecosystem is that although you have a suite of options for deploying a campaign, the algorithm appears to favor video content. This brings us back to Reels as a centerpiece of any campaign.
Instagram is pushing to catch up in terms of a “creator marketplace,” but is testing features to facilitate brand-influencer collaborations. One such feature is a preferred brand partners list that allows creators to to identify brands of interest. When brands search for creators, the results will favor “suggested creators.” Instagram DMs also include a new folder for “partnership messages,” a focused way for brands and creators to collaborate. Third party companies specializing in connecting creators and brands can fill the gap, but that’s an additional step in the process.
Businesses are encouraged to create a business profile on IG to use features such as the adding links to Stories (a feature limited to businesses and creators) via a link sticker, creating “Shoppable” posts, and automatic post scheduling. Creating an Instagram profile begins with a Facebook Business Page, which is then connected to IG. From there, the business will need to set up a profile on Instagram. It’s not the easy three-step process TikTok offers (download app, set up free business account, create).
Twitter Catches Up
Twitter Business boasts that it is “the #1 platform for discovery” with users spending “26% more time viewing ads on Twitter than on other leading platforms,” leading to a 53% increase in the likelihood of Twitter users trying new products.” Coming in below TikTok and Instagram in the popularity contest, it skews toward men (54% of users), specifically those in the 18 to 29 age range (39%) and the 30 to 49 range (37%), according to Pew Research.
Household income and education achievement are higher among Twitter users than the general population. Most of the Tweets come from a small number of users: just 25% of the top users produce 97% of Tweets. In general, 23% of Americans use Twitter, and 69% of users report getting their news from the app. News consumers are the most invested (in terms of frequency of use) Twitter users, and these users are more likely to be politically engaged. Still, a significant number of Twitter users (42%) come for the entertainment, and among the younger users (18 to 29), 53% list entertainment as their primary reason for visiting the site.
Yet, the news is far from dire for brands looking to leverage Twitter as a marketing tool. Hootsuite reports that “16% of internet users aged 16-64 use Twitter for brand research.” Again, Twitter reports that 53% of users will buy new products based on Twitter exposure. To put it simply, the conversion rate is good.
Let’s just say Twitter is a mixed bag with a lot of competing voices. As with TikTok and Instagram Reels, there are pros and cons to marketing on Twitter, including the use of video as part of the plan.
The good news for businesses is that on average, Twitter users follow five businesses on the site. And, brands can use Twitter for free marketing. Simple tools like the ability to customize profiles with brand/business website links and pin Tweets can increase engagement. Tweets are limited, of course, to 280 characters. However, adding an image and tapping into effective hashtags are two additional tools in the Twitter toolbox that can add information. Marketers can use Twitter easily to interact with an audience, drawing those users in.
Twitter also offers paid advertising—Twitter Ads. Creating a campaign on Twitter leads to ad options. Users can choose from several types of campaigns: attracting followers, encouraging website clicks or conversions, Tweet engagement, getting users to install a brand’s mobile app, promoting video views, or collecting leads. There’s also an option to create a custom campaign. Pricing depends upon which of these ad campaigns and how many are chosen. Brands can simply pay for a Promoted Tweet or a Promoted Trend, too.
WebFX reports that Promoted Tweets range in price from fifty cents to $2. A promoted account can expect to pay $2 to $4 for each follow. Promoted Trends, however, can cost up to $200,000 a day.
But what about influencer marketing? The key here, according to Neal Shaffer, is knowing the audience the brand or business wants to target. “Somehow, you need to cut through the noise, and that’s where user analysis tools are most useful,” says Schaffer. He recommends an analytics provider like Audiense to help with audience analysis, but that option comes with a price tag of its own. Other services, like BuzzSumo and Followerwonk (and more!) can help in finding influencers to collaborate with. All of these services cost money, but Google and Twitter searches are free options for identifying potential influencers. It’s worth noting that on average, it does cost less to hire a Twitter influencer than one for Instagram (each post estimated to be most expensive at roughly $25 per 1000 followers) or TikTok (estimated at $10). Twitter comes in at an estimated $2 per 1000 followers.
Twitter does include the option to present video content. Twitter Business reports a significant increase in video viewing on the app, as much as a 95% increase although the timeframe for this increase isn’t exactly clear. Twitter also provides a guide for video Tweet ideas, emphasizing that most videos can be created easily with a smartphone. For those who need additional support in creating video content, Twitter offers a training course at Twitter Flight School (in addition to other courses).
Twitter Business claims that “Tweets with videos are 6x more likely to be Retweeted than Tweets with images.” Along with presenting videos, marketers can buy pre-roll ads to play at the beginning of videos.
Pricing for Twitter advertisements is somewhat complex because of the flexibility and range of options. Finding influencers and finding the right ones are both difficult. Assessing Twitter influencer credibility can be challenging given that Twitter does less to police fake followers and bot accounts than other mediums like Instagram. And, again, for finding effective influencers, the best approach might be a paid service.
MILLIONS Enters the Arena
Enter MILLIONS, the site designed from the ground up to connect “the sports world through video and social commerce.” MILLIONS is a platform for athletes to build their own brands and sell their merchandise. With the recent NCAA ruling that college athletes can earn money on their names, images, and likenesses (the so-called NIL—name, image, likeness—ruling), the number of athletes looking to capitalize on their brands and connect with fans is increasing, boosting the need for a platform like MILLIONS.
At MILLIONS, athletes can stream live events (WatchStream) with audience participation and conduct personal video responses to fans, similar to CAMEO, but rather positioned as an AMA (Ask Me Anything), in addition to selling their merchandise (MILLIONS offers athletes a free design and fulfillment service). MILLIONS helps athletes leverage the site to build their personal brands. Athletes aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the service; gyms are active on MILLIONS, too. The site creates tons of digital fan experiences with its Athletes, like the WatchParty, where fans can join a live stream for free with an athlete taking on the role of commentator and answering questions while watching a sporting event with their fans. Brands can use the platform to market through these digital events and video offerings to market and advertise directly to sports fans, leveraging the influence of the athletes that fans want to follow.
Currently, MILLIONS is home to more than a thousand athletes and is on an impressive track to have 5,000 athlete influencers by April 2023. From the major leagues to college, e-sports to MMA, MILLIONS includes any athletic category imaginable in their lineup.
For athletes wanting to build brands and marketers seeking to reach sports fans, MILLIONS offers a unique, focused pathway.
Unlike TikTok, Instagram Reels, and Twitter, MILLIONS provides a specialized experience just for athletes and fans that filters out the noise separating other influencers from the professional athletes they really want to follow. Sports fans want to feel like part of the team, and social media is a powerful tool enabling engagement between athlete and fan. There’s no doubt that marketing to sports fans means big money. One only has to look as far as the NFL Super Bowl to see how valuable brands find this marketing: The cost for 30 seconds of Super Bowl ad time will set a brand back $6.5 million in US dollars these days.
In “Reimagining the Future of Sports and the Fan Experience,” an article appearing in Forbes last year, Olof Schybergson, Chief Experience Officer for Accenture Interactive, wrote, “While sports fans remain committed to watching their favorite teams compete on the field—mostly from home—fans desire more than the action happening in the play.” Fans want to know the athletes. They want more interaction with their favorites. It turns out that athletes also want to connect with fans, “to be able to share and project their authentic selves beyond the athlete/hero we perceive on TV.”
MILLIONS has devised its three key features (Streams, Personal Videos, and Merch) to enable this engagement both athletes and fans crave. While other services may offer similar types of engagement, no one else has packaged it like MILLIONS, creating an all-in-one place to facilitate this level of interaction. If fan and athlete engagement is the future (and it appears to be), MILLIONS is leading us into that future.
MILLIONS facilitates and even builds and launches advertiser campaigns by leveraging follower demographics and enabling brands to promote themselves via branded promo posters, personal videos, UGC and highlight reel videos, and social media posts from athletes. Brands can also advertise on MILLIONS by sponsoring WatchParties.
Additionally, when it comes to brands wanting to host LIVE events, MILLIONS WatchStream platform offers almost no lag time or latency, which widely beats out its social media competitors. This is what allows the platform to be a leader in the WatchParty experience, due to the no lag allowing fans to catch the athlete reactions at the same time it’s happening on the live sporting events themselves.
There’s not much of a downside to MILLIONS from a sports perspective. The platform organically brings brands, athletes, and fans together. It’s a new site, but the future looks bright already, positioning MILLIONS to become a powerhouse in the space it occupies.
If MILLIONS has any shortcomings right now, it’s the lack of an app. However, the company plans to release one in the near future.
Of course, the best marketing strategy might be working with multiple social media outlets to reach across demographics. The lessons we can learn from TikTok are the appeal of authenticity rather than filtered perfection. Instagram remains a feature rich choice, and Twitter appears to reach a demographic the others don’t reach as well.
However, brands wanting to get into the sports world should look to MILLIONS for turn key campaign offerings. MILLIONS has the answer to satisfying the need of fans to know more about and support their favorite athletes and for athletes to connect with those fans. TikTok, Instagram Reels, and Twitter can all function as ancillaries to get the word out about MILLIONS. Instagram has seen success in the sports field, but MILLIONS has created a whole new world for sports fans and athletes that is primed for brand marketers to take advantage of.
Meet the Expert Contributor
Sherry Salois teaches college English and history and is co-founder of St. Louis-based Tip of the Writeberg---a professional writing, editing, and course design company.