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Trying to navigate the economic impact of the last few years will be a challenge for many businesses in the months ahead. Brands that are looking for the right mix of insight and empathy to reach consumers in these uncertain times may want to explore partnering with community influencers. Here’s how to get started, from the basics of who community influencers are to the best ways to meet and work with them.      

Community Influencers Defined

Community influencers are members of self-selected social groups who have the trust and respect of their peers. They come from all walks of life, and they build their followings through shared passions and authentic connections. They are not celebrities — at least, not in the traditional sense. Often, they’re not even professional marketers.  

Instead, community influencers are brand fans, knowledgeable product users, and role models within niche communities across social media platforms. Most importantly, community influencers are powerful advocates for the brands and products they love.  

For community influencers, authenticity is paramount. It is the social capital that builds and maintains the bond these influencers have with their followers, and it can’t be faked. More people than ever before are turning to the digital ecosystem for their everyday needs, searching for authentic connections to replace the human contact they miss. 

Brands may find community influencers to be a windfall in the current economy, but there’s a caveat – companies have to be willing to put in the work to drive organic growth, too. Above all, brands must allow these influencers to stay true to themselves and their followers.  

FAQs

Which verticals and products work best for community influencer marketing? 

It sounds like a cop out, but almost all of them. Any direct-to-consumer brand that has an online presence and an engaged customer base should be able to find community influencers to fit their marketing needs.  

Take financial services company Topstep, for example. Topstep provides an online platform for training and trading in the forex and futures markets. They target a very specific audience in a very narrow field. So, Topstep turned to the futures and forex trading education community. There, the company enlisted the help of educators to introduce new traders to the Topstep platform.  

The world is full of diverse, passionate people who advocate on behalf of brands for free every day. For marketers, it’s just a question of finding them.  

Which channels are popular with community influencers? 

Again, almost all of them. Instagram and YouTube remain top platforms for influencers, with TikTok never far behind. Yet different communities use different platforms. It really depends on where your customers are.  

  • Instagram 
  • YouTube
  • TikTok 
  • Facebook 
  • Twitch 
  • Reddit 
  • Pinterest 

What business goals are appropriate for a community influencer campaign? 

Today’s consumers don’t want to be sold to; they want to be engaged with.  

Community influencers excel at engagement. They build organic relationships with their followers by replying to comments, participating in discussions, and sharing user-generated-content — interactions outside of the sales funnel. When the conversation turns to a brand or a product, consumers feel less like they’re being sold to, and more like they’re getting a recommendation from a friend. 

  • Sales 
  • Lead generation 
  • Cross-sells 

How to Partner with Community Influencers 

It can be easy to forget that behind all the images and posts, influencers are just regular people. Influencer marketing is often a part-time job or a side gig for them; they may be juggling multiple jobs and projects at any given time. Understanding their struggles and motivations will help you work more effectively with them.  

Common hurdles for community influencers:  

  1. Getting started and building scale 
  2. Finding enough time to create quality content and manage administrative tasks 
  3. Maintaining work/life balance and splitting focus between engaging with their communities and being with their families 
  4. Communicating their unique value proposition to brands, and avoiding being lumped into a generic “promotional category”  

Tips for working with community influencers: 

  1. Allow freedom of expression in influencer promotions and user-generated content (UGC) 
  2. Be open to creative payment models (such as free product in lieu of commission) 
  3. Consider shorter pay windows or higher commission rates to help minimize the upfront risks for new partners 
  4. Communicate often — too much communication is always preferable to too little 
  5. Use an unbiased tracking platform to track conversions when possible, and use promo codes (clickless tracking) for everything else 
  6. Scale your program by using a network, such as BrandCycle or CLOUTA 

In Conclusion

Will more brands embrace community influencers this year? How will the economy change how businesses and influencers engage with their audiences? Only time will tell, but we're betting yes.