When somebody says they own a company, and their products are sold in Walmart or Costco, a common reaction is something along the lines of “impressive”. When that same guy says he sells products on Amazon, the average person still pictures a dude named Frank selling G.I. Joes out of his parent’s basement. Yet, In 2017 alone, 300,000 new merchants started selling on Amazon and 140,000 sellers surpassed $100k in annual revenue.

There is an underlying layer of disrespect for online marketplace sellers, even today in 2019. Where does this sentiment come from? More importantly, what sort of effect does it have on the marketing climate for these merchants?

Public opinion towards the internet itself was highly skeptical in the mid to late 90’s, so it only makes sense that every platform on the web continues to be met with scrutiny until its efficacy becomes tried and true. Just like any other consumer goods company, Amazon merchants have a need for B2B marketing solutions and it’s about time marketing agencies start targeting them as aggressively as they do any other traditional business.

Why are Amazon merchants not using influencer marketing at scale?

It’s been a couple years now since Amazon started their influencer program, allowing social media users to generate income through affiliate links. Still, merchants on the platform seem to be behind the curve when it comes to utilising influencers as a growth tactic for their brands; why is that?

Historically, Amazon has made it difficult to track and analyse metrics with respect to how a customer clicks through to a listing and where the click came from. Often, this can discourage merchants from investing in influencer campaigns; but it isn’t a new problem for marketers.

Let’s take a moment to think about other forms of marketing in which measuring ROI may be difficult. What about billboards? Bus stop banners? Television commercials? We know for sure that all of these mediums are effective at getting people talking, but how can we map the actions from the initial touchpoint to customer acquisition. The answer is, we can’t.

Fortunately, it doesn’t really matter. As a business, one of the primary goals is to get people talking about your product. At this point, it’s pretty clear to marketers that micro-influencers get that job done.

Engagement drives awareness and memory

Most people involved in marketing and/or social media has heard of the term engagement, but what makes it so important? The importance lies in the current state of the internet. Technology has turned our attention span slim, and people are unlikely to remember a post unless they actively engage with it.

After all, micro-influencer marketing is just a virtual version of word of mouth marketing, at scale. Conversations that would travel four degrees of separation may have taken a few months 50 years ago. Today those same conversations transpire in a matter of minutes.

For Amazon sellers, this reality carries a few positive implications. They have access to underpriced promotion that is scalable, uncovering an entirely new distribution channel; they are able to create user-generated content at scale, cutting their expenses and affecting the bottom line; they have the opportunity to build a brand outside of Amazon’s ecosystem, paving the way for a larger, more sustainable, and less vulnerable business.

How to take advantage of the opportunity

For every company, cash is the lifeline. It doesn’t always make sense (and often it’s impossible) to spend money on hiring an agency to build and manage campaigns for your brand. The good news is that a lot of what goes into micro-influencer marketing can be done through sweat and grind.

Start with hashtags. If you sell fishing accessories, find the 20 to 30 most popular hashtags for fishing using a tool like All-Hashtag, then create an excel sheet with relevant data points (name, niche, IG handle, etc.) and begin the process below:

  • Click top posts for hashtag X
  • Click into each post and through to the person’s profile
  • Check to make sure they have 1k to 20k followers
  • Check to make sure their content is consistently relevant, or directly related to your niche
  • Check if their engagement is a bare minimum of 2% (the formula for engagement is [likes + comments per post] / # of followers)
  • Try to find their email in bio and if you can’t find it, direct message them
  • Record all relevant data points in your Excel sheet
  • Move to next post for hashtag X
  • Repeat

Depending on how many micro-influencers you are looking to work with and how many products you are able to give away, you’ll want to gather 100-500 of these accounts in your sheet. A small percentage of your prospects will turn out to be good candidates for the job. Micro-influencers can be difficult to work with and/or unreliable, given that their compensation is minimal. Luckily, data has given us the ability to navigate the playing field.

To limit your risk as much as possible when running these campaigns, consider the following: the more responsive a person is, the more likely they are to be reliable; the more they respond to comments on their posts and engage with their following, the more likely they are to care about the people in their circle; the more they show their passion for your niche in their posts, the more likely they are to truly care about your product. There’s more to look out for, but that’s a good start.

As it stands, we are living through a moment in time in which we have access to a marketing channel that is remarkably underpriced. Traditional businesses have started spending real money on influencer marketing in recent years, and believe it’s time for under the radar Amazon merchants to follow suit.