How to Choose the Right Influencers for Marketing to College Students

Influencer marketing is one of the most effective tools available to reach college students, but picking the right influencer for your campaign takes some careful consideration.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when using influencer marketing to reach your audience:

1. Bigger isn’t always better.

It might seem like landing an influencer with millions of followers would offer the most exposure for your brand. But don’t ignore influencers with smaller followings. “Microinfluencers” within a niche have loyal, targeted audiences and can therefore deliver higher engagement rates. According to AdAge, campaigns with microinfluencers are 6.7 times more efficient per engagement than those with bigger influencers.

Heather Park, executive director of global engagement for Origins cosmetics, says the brand found a “more authentic and engaged audience” with microinfluencers like Jess Tran and the 20,000 followers who feel personally connected to her. A more well-known celebrity like Chrissy Teigen or Kim Kardashian may have millions of followers, but it does not stand to reason that those followers will click and buy or that they are following solely for beauty tips. In fact, many of their posts are flooded with spam comments or users engaging on topics unrelated to the post.

2. Authenticity is key.

The right influencer for your brand is the one who is already creating content that fits your goals. Before choosing an influencer, monitor their feeds. See how they engage with followers and what kinds of content they create.

“Each influencer is unique in terms of how the craft their content and communicate with their audience,” says Alex Ditty, marketing director at SEEN. “Ensure that there’s alignment with their style and yours.”

If you try to force your message into the feed of an influencer who’s style is different than yours, it won’t resonate with the audience. This is a partnership and an opportunity to attach your brand to quality content. It’s not a typical ad buy where you create everything and simply place it on a media channel.

3. Look beyond the obvious.

Some influencer relationships might seem like a no-brainer — for instance, an athletic shoe company partnering with a college soccer player. But there’s more to the influencer-brand relationship than an obvious connection to your product. If that soccer player’s communication style doesn’t fit your brand voice, it’s not a good fit.

You might find influencers who spread the kind of message you’re hoping to share already. It’s possible that, say, a travel blogger who shares fashion finds from around the globe on Instagram is a better fit for a makeup company with an international campaign than an American beauty blogger.

4. Check for FTC compliance.

The Federal Trade Commission has rules that influencers must follow when promoting products or brands on any social media. Any partner needs to understands this.

“The FTC is coming down on brands and influencers who aren’t following their social endorsement guidelines,” says Ditty. “Make sure you’re selecting influencers that are known for following the rules in order to stay out of trouble.”

Check a potential influencer’s feeds to sure all sponsor relationships are clearly marked according to federal guidelines.

5. Think long term.

When possible, partner with influencers that fit your brand as a whole rather than just a single campaign’s need.

“One-off influencer campaigns can be effective, but the true beauty of influencer marketing and audience engagement comes from the long-term partnerships that are built with influencers,” says Ditty. “The closer they get to your brand, the closer their audience gets.”

Ditty’s company points to the ultimate example of a bad one-off campaign: Kardashian associate Scott Disick sharing an insincere post for weight-loss tea where he copied and pasted the brand’s instructions. That makes his post feel perfunctory, not personal, which makes the endorsement not at all valuable.

Your target demographic may love an influencer’s content, but the most important part of choosing an influencer is knowing that you can trust them with your brand. Thinking beyond big numbers and clicks, and instead focusing on a good fit, can lead to a successful influencer relationship.

Find Influencers in the Student Blogosphere

Get a pulse on the student demographic by checking out their favorite blogs and online communities