Consumers follow social media influencers they trust, and working with them builds credible relationships with the community. But how can you get started, and how can they benefit your center?
What Exactly is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is a form of social media marketing involving endorsements and product placement from influencers. Influencers are people and/or organizations with purported expert knowledge or social influence in their field.
One of the most significant advantages of this marketing avenue is that it helps show the human side of a brand, reaching consumers more personally. Influencer campaigns come off less like a sales pitch and more like an experience their followers don't want to miss!
IBI enlisted Bethany Winston, a professional in the influencer marketing space, for some insight and direction. Bethany is the owner of Kidding Around Media, a marketing company that works with influencers in local communities and focuses on family experiences. “Interest in working with nontraditional media has grown since COVID — I've seen that,” says Bethany, “but a lot of groups are still not using it. They'll utilize traditional forms of advertising, whether print, billboard, or TV. Those forms of media don't get the same attention as a promotion from a trusted local source.”
Finding Your Influencer
Searching social media to find the right influencer for your brand can be a tough start for those without the inclination, so Bethany helps us lay out a game plan. "The first step would be figuring out who in your community is talking about activities like bowling, so go on Instagram and Facebook. Do some searches for your region to see if you have any family-friendly pages posting regularly or individuals posting a lot about the area." She also recommends asking the guests at your center which influencers they follow to find other similar family activities.
Who to “Follow”
Bethany says, “The influencer’s ‘following’ number is important, but also check engagement. If you see lots of followers but not many ‘likes,’ ‘comments,’ or ‘shares,’ that is a red flag. The influencer’s authority might be inflated by paying for follows from fake accounts. An influencer with a lower number of followers but with lots of engagements could be better, especially in the local market.”
Bowling operators should likely start with nano or micro-influencers specific to the local community, aimed at the family demographic, and an affordable starting point.
Check If They’re a Fit
Once you find a couple of potential influencers, slide into their DMs! (Translation: send them a direct message through the social media app to get the conversation going.)
Look for people who have consistent postings, follow trends, engage with the community, and often participate on multiple platforms.
“Their online persona, even if authentic, is their brand and business, so they’ll usually be open to explaining options and developing a plan,” Bethany tells us. "The most important aspects to consider are their likeability, how passionate they are when posting, if they seem authentic and if they have the gravitas to convey that they are experts in the field.”
Depending on the influencer, they may have previous partnerships and provide exact rates or be interested in an experience with their kids at your center. Bethany adds an important note: “Number one, try to get them out to the bowling center and provide a personal experience, whether that's photography or writing about them actually experiencing your bowling center.”
Watching videos of an influencer's friends cheering over gutter balls or seeing the genuine smiles of children invokes a strong emotional response with followers, rather than a picture of a bowling ball with ‘$1 Off Shoes’ slapped on it.
Starting Your Influencer Campaign
Once you've found your golden goose, decide on a plan of action with them and a way to measure those results.
The most critical metrics are 'impressions' on the posts, or the amount of people that have seen them, and check the engagement such as likes or comments.
Working on influencer campaigns typically starts months in advance, especially for events or limited-time experiences. Bethany recommends having a call to action to give that influencer, for instance, a deal at your bowling center that is particular to that influencer's posts. That will allow you to test and see how the influencer works with the market and if you're getting a return on your investment.
When you find an influencer you think is a good fit for your business, invite them to come in for a free bowling party; be sure it's a top flite experience. Proper management should be on hand to answer any questions they may have.
Sure, there’s a learning curve on the first go-around, but it could be the best marketing investment you’ve made in years. When consumers are bombarded with thousands of ads daily, a low-cost route to building solid relationships with your local community is more imperative than ever!
There are a few general types of influencers to consider:
Macro-Influencers have large numbers of followers and reach a broad category of consumers. Due to their huge exposure, they're the priciest.
Micro-Influencers offer a smaller audience but are extremely effective and highly engaged content creators. They come off as respected experts and build strong relationships with their followers.
Nano-Influencers work with very niche markets and more specific demographics. They're new to the business, open to more opportunities, and the most affordable. They provide high engagement with followers and excellent ROI.