How to Find and Partner with an Influencer for Video Marketing

Matthew McConaughey Influencer


In December of 2015, the whiskey brand Lagavulin created a yule log video showcasing Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman silently sitting by a fireplace sipping scotch while brooding at the camera for 45 minutes. The video was a viral hit. It amassed over 2 million views on YouTube within a week simply due to the cult following of Nick Offerman.

The purpose of the campaign: making the brand relevant to a younger audience. Lagavulin was trying to connect with the demographic of digital natives and as a result of the campaign, the brand’s YouTube subscriber count increased by a factor of 4. The video even won a Shorty Award for Best Influencer Marketing Campaign.

It isn’t new information that video influencers dominate the digital marketing world. With massive online followings sometimes in the range of 10s of millions, a single video post to YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook has the potential to reach people in a more directed way than having a passive ad run on a social media platform. But finding a influencer to partner with may not be as simple as you think. There’s a lot to consider from the size of the follower base to the actual demographic of the followers.

Influencer vs. Celebrity

“If we want an audience to really understand us, our work, our values, or our products, then collaborations with YouTube creators are 4X more effective at driving lift in brand familiarity than those with celebrities” – Think with Google Blog by Sanjay Nazerali

Let’s start by clearing up some confusion as to the differences between an influencer and a traditional celebrity. A vast majority of celebrities get their fame from traditional media: television, movies, music, etc. Their fans know them through their fictional characters or their on stage personas. Influencers on the other hand, tend to be self made. They gain fans through their social media accounts, YouTube channels, or other online media.

Influencers interact with their fans directly and vice-versa, their profession as an influencer depends on these interactions to build a loyal following. As a result, the fans experience a more personal connection to the influencer. They trust the influencers opinions, ask personal questions, etc. Rarely will you find a traditional celebrity with this kind of influence on their fans but there are exceptions.

Ryan Reynold, DJ Khaled, and Kevin Smith are all active on different social media platforms and active with their fans. Reynolds often replies to fan tweets, Khaled shares an inside look at his life on Snapchat, and Smith has his entertainment podcast where he can interact with listeners. If you were to consider a celebrity, these are the types of individuals you would want. People who are active with fans off the big screen or stage.

Then there’s also the Nick Offermans and Matthew McConaugheys who have very dedicated niche followings due to their real life identities. Offerman”s fans love him for being “a man’s man” which is why any whiskey he drinks is more appealing. Interestingly enough McConaughey’s fans fall into the same vein. They are both so manly, anything they do or use has to be super manly too.

In 2016, Matthew McConaughey teamed up with Wild Turkey as “more than a celebrity spokesperson”. He became their Creative Director. To announce this collaboration, he wrote and directed a short documentary film to tell the brand story in an authentic way.

This 6 minute film was then recut into shorter 15 second advertising spots ready to run on television, pre-roll or promoted social media posts. This is a great way to create video content that can be used in multiple contexts.

Why are you partnering? What does it mean to “partner”?

What it means to partner with an influencer is incredibly broad. A partnership can range from having the influencer make their typical video content with segments thanking you for sponsorship to a full fledged original series of collaboration videos between them and your brand/product.

A good place to start is to consider exactly what you’re looking to get out of the partnership. Do you want a brand ambassador or maybe just increase brand awareness for a new audience? This will help you determine what kind of content you want from your influencer. Typical examples of sponsored content include video reviews for products, sponsored ad segments, advertisements as original content, etc. Whether you make a video featuring them or they make the video featuring your brand/product is up to you.

Each type of content has its own unique purpose in marketing. For example, If you are just looking to get your brand name out there, having multiple micro-influencers mention your brand in their typical video content may be more effective than paying one massive influencer to make a video about your brand. What’s the difference between a micro-influencer and a typical influencer? Well…

Lowe’s Sponsored the video and set construction for Vsauce3 YouTube Channel showcasing Lowe’s Products

Number of followers is an important component of finding the right influencer but it’s not straightforward. There are two kinds of influencers; influencers with very large follower bases (hundreds of thousands to multi-million, includes celebrities) and micro influencers (tens of thousands). While your initial instinct may be to go for the individuals with the larger following, there is a lot more to consider. A Kardashian may have over 100 million followers, but the relative engagement per video post may be lower than an influencer with a fanbase in the tens of thousands.

Just like in any marketing push, you will want to consider your return on investment. The larger the following, the more expensive the post. Someone like Selena Gomez with 135 million followers charges as much as $550,000 per post! Her large following however, does not guarantee higher engagement. That’s where micro influencers come in.

Warby Parker Glasses Marketing Campaign with fashion and beauty YouTuber SoothingSista

The Pros of Micro Influencers

“The point of working with influencers is gaining access to their unique relationship with their followers. If you use influencers like you would a celebrity, you miss out on delivering a message to the audience who will actually hear it.”- The Power of YouTube Influencer Marketing by Brad Hoos 

In general, micro influencers interact with their followers on a more personal level than influencers or celebrities with massive followings. They get asked for recommendations more often by their bases and their followers experience more of a candid connection to the influencer than they do with traditional celebrities. The engagement for a post from a micro influencer can be as high as 13x that of a traditional digital advertisement and 4x that of a celebrity lead campaign.

Bauch and Lomb SXSW

A typical micro influencer specializes in a certain type of content or community thereby allowing your ad to appear before highly targeted audiences. Examples of this high specificity include cosplayers, niche athletes, crafters, car enthusiasts, gamers, etc. The video below is an example of such a niche. The autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) community is relatively new in the online world but quickly growing with one ASMR channel reaching 1 million subscribers this past year. The videos typically feature an individual speaking directly to the camera in a quiet voice to help soothe viewers and put them to sleep. The videos are all centered around things meant to be therapeutic which is where Blue Apron comes in. For many people, cooking is therapeutic so ASMR channels provide the perfect opportunity for producing marketing videos as content. The video below is an example of such marketing:

Due to niche audiences, the relative engagement per video is higher for micro influencers than large scale influencers. Now for the actual price tag. Nearly all micro influencers charge less than $500 per post. At that price range, you can partner with multiple influencers to increase your brand recognition. Partnering with even 100 micro influencers could cost less than a single celebrity and get you higher engagement.

Finding and Contacting an Influencer

Finding the right influencer is the last part of the puzzle. You want someone who is authentically interested in your brand but more than that, you want someone who’s content aligns with your brand. You wouldn’t want to partner with a makeup artist if your brand is in the gaming industry. You want someone who’s audience would be interested in your brand. For example, you could have a cooking youtube channel make a review video about your cooking wares.

Make sure to do your research on any potential partners. Learn about their passions, personality, audience, etc. Building a relationship with an influencer can result in more candid and natural promotions for your product/brand and their audience will take note.

There are various market places where you can search for potential partners. Some services use content type, number of followers, community, etc as the main search parameter. This page lists several different search services for finding the right influencer.

Once you’ve decided on a particular video influencer, the process of contacting them can vary wildly. Many influencers have management teams and you’ll have to do your research to figure out who represents them. If they don’t have someone managing them, most other influencers have business inquiry email addresses listed on the “about” page of their channels or accounts.

“Approach influencers with ‘here is what we have to offer, what resonates with you and your audience’ rather than ‘here is what we want you to say.’ A brand shouldn’t try to micro-manage the influencer. Influencers are pro’s at two things: content creation and knowing their audience. Having a set idea of budget and/or product parameters is great, but a brand shouldn’t try to micro-manage the influencer. In effect, the influencer’s main value stems from their own unique editorial voice that has resonancewithin their community. Let the influencer ‘do their thing’ and trust them to create content, providing just a few broad, guidelines.”- 5 Ways to Build Successful Influencer Partnerships

As you write that first email introducing your brand and desires for a partnership, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, know exactly what you want the end goal of your marketing campaign to be. Determining the final form of the content itself is part of the collaboration process and making sure that both parties know what the end goal is makes for a smooth partnership. You should have an idea of what you want the final content to look like but don’t have a fully flushed out plan. Why? Well, second, no one knows their audience like an influencer does. Trust their creative input and perspective. If you have a laundry list of requirements for the influencer then the final product might come off as ingenuous, disconnected, and even out of character. And third, influencers are brands too. Just like any marketing collaboration, both parties must have something to offer the other. Thinking about what your brand can do for them outside of a paycheck will help ensure that you get the most out of your influencer and the overall partnership.

If you are still unsure of what to say in your outreach email, you can use one of the various templates listed here and here for a variety of campaign types.

Online communities are dynamic. They grow, shrink, and shift in ways that are difficult to predict. By marketing with the help of an influencer, you can reach dedicated communities and stay relevant in the ever changing digital marketplace.

Interested in starting your own video marketing campaign with an influencer? Contact us with your ideas and questions!