Ecommerce Influencer Marketing: 10 Steps, 33 Examples & How to Win by ‘Giving, Not Asking’

Cody Wittick

by Cody Wittick

Apr. 06 2021

Influencer Marketing

Definition: noun 🔈 inflühnse(r) märkediNG

  1. The sexiest of sexy marketing channels
  2. The greatest source of brand envy and confusion
  3. The strategy you want, don’t have time for, but “try” anyway

“Ugh, did you see that latest influencer marketing campaign? How the f*** did they get them to post that? Damn it, they have ads with them too? And an affiliate program? Plus, ambassador links? What are we doing wrong?”

We get it.

You’re tired of watching your competitors kill it with their influencer programs.

Either you’ve tried and didn’t get the results you wanted. Or, you have no idea where to begin.

Good news! What you’re about to read, watch, and put into action could be worth +$1M by generating hundreds of influencer posts … for free.

Influencer seeding is the key. Building relationships on giving, not asking. Five questions and 10 steps will guide us:

  1. Where Do Ecommerce Brands Go Wrong with Social Media?
  2. Why Is Seeding Better Than Giveaways & ‘Pay-Per-Post’?
  3. Who Are the Right Influencers & Micro-Influencers for You?
  4. How Do You Launch Your Influencer Marketing Strategy? 🚀 10 Steps
  5. What Does Success Look Like? Metrics & 33 Real Examples

To guide you, I’ve put three resources into one Influencer Seeding Toolkit.

You’ll get (1) the Influencer Outreach Tracker, (2) the DM and Email Script, and (3) our MonkeyFeet Million Dollar Case Study.

All right here. All for free!

Ecommerce Influencer Marketing: Influencer Seeding Toolkit
Grab the Influencer Seeding Toolkit

Where Ecommerce Brands Go Wrong with Social Media Influencers

Quick history lesson …

As social media exploded, so did the power of influencer marketing. Michael Jordan in a Nike commercial or John Wayne endorsing Camel Cigarettes has evolved into mommy bloggers with 50k followers on Instagram or the Bachelorette winner on TikTok.

influencer marketing Google trends

The changing mediums have given us incredible access to their lives.

In the 1990s, Air Jordan commercials inspired. Today, it’s not merely Lebron James wearing his signature Nikes, we now get to see him during Taco Tuesday with his family or (shameless foreshadowing) candid pics wearing his favorite accessories.

Social media platforms were made for human-to-human interaction. And its relationship with ecommerce hasn’t changed that one bit.

Instagram Statistics: Brand and Customer Relationships

Unfortunately, eight years of that relationship has created a culture of vultures. Chasing ecommerce trends, brands have become addicted to “one-off” hits, only seeking how they can serve themselves:

She didn’t work; let’s try this person next. Instagram Stories didn’t work; let’s try TikTok.

The transactional nature of influencer marketing is scratching the surface.

Could there be a better way? Absolutely.

Why Is Seeding Better Than Giveaways + ‘Pay-Per-Post’?

When I talk to founders or marketers, they often confuse influencer seeding with traditional gifting programs: free-product giveaways as a gateway to pay-per-post transactions.

In both, brands send products for free. In both, brands want something out of the deal. But that’s where the similarities end.

Think about it like a first date.

I ask you out and buy you dinner. Then, as the check arrives, I announce that this “free” date … comes with certain “expectations.”

Sadly, this is how most brands go about initiating with influencers.

I’m not arguing against the importance of organic posts, word-of-mouth referrals, new product feedback, or user-generated content (UGC). I’m also not against paid campaigns.

I want those things; I’m just not asking for them as the basis of the relationship.

The problem is the requirement. Programs and philosophies like this pride themselves on guarantees. Guaranteeing a certain number of posts or impressions. It all sounds so sexy and data-driven.

ALERT! ALERT! You’re settling when you could have so much more.

The difference? Gifting asks. Seeding gives. One is transactional. The other, relational.

Seeding is an entirely different mindset. Literally, a “seed” planted. The gift (my product) that blossoms into a long-term relationship.

Even better, seeding leads to credible affiliate programs (paying influencers a commission of sales they generate often through social posts), finding great content creators, and establishing flag bearers that will represent your brand authentically.

The question becomes …

Who Are the Right Influencers & Micro-Influencers for You?

Before you buy for an influencer tool, milk the free ones at your disposal.

First, the Instagram dropdown arrow.

Visit any influencer’s profile you think would be perfect for your brand. Click on the dropdown arrow, and this is going to pump out people of the same affinity based on aesthetics, features, hashtags, bios, etc.

Hundreds of algorithm-picked influencers await you.

Second, Facebook’s Brand Collabs Manager.

After you “Apply as an Advertiser,” you’ll be able to find influencers by searching and filtering locations, genders, ages, interests, and more.

Want a walkthrough? Check out this Twitter thread for step-by-step instructions

Next, who and how do you choose?

Focus your attention on micro-influencers with follower counts between 5k-150k. They’re much more likely to respond to a DM or email versus larger-tier influencers. You can reach out to macro-influencers; but over-index in the micro direction.

With the philosophy of ‘giving, not asking’ adopted, who to choose becomes clear-cut.

Qualitative questions should lead the way:

  • Would I be proud if they represented my company?
  • Does this person match my target audience?
  • Will they connect with and inspire our demographic?

Quantitatively, instead of looking for large followings, look at engagement rates. You don’t necessarily need a certain number target — 1% or above is fine.

Be more concerned about spotting fake followers. Is there an unusually high or low number of likes + comments compared to follower count?

ecommerce influencer low engagement rate, high follower count

Make sure the profile is active. For example, their last post wasn’t two years or even two months ago.

Last, and most importantly: Does this particular influencer produce high-quality video content? Do their bubbly personalities and communication skills shine?

Just because it’s relational versus transactional does not mean you can’t have criteria.

How Do You Launch an Influencer Marketing Strategy? 🚀 10 Steps

Well, it’s time to shoot your shot. Direct message and off you go, right?

Wrong. I wish it was that easy.

After working with and messaging thousands of influencers, how you craft your outreach matters. Not too long, but not too short. You don’t want your DMs getting lost in their inbox or giving a bad first impression (like asking for a post twice a week).

1. Make an Influencer List & Stay Organized

As an agency, we’re afforded the opportunity to identify 300-500 influencers on behalf of our clients.

It might take you a week or more to get a solid 20-50 influencers. Thankfully, you don’t have to wait for a big list to start executing.

This strategy applies to one or 1,000.

Before reaching out, get organized. Google Sheets (like the Influencer Outreach List: Seeding Template) works perfect. Once you rack up hundreds of potential contacts, you can then transition to a CRM or one of the many influencer marketing platforms.

Ecommerce Influencer Marketing: Influencer Outreach List: Seeding Template (Google Sheet)

2. Give Without Asking: DMs & Emails

This is your first date. What impression do you want them to have when reading your message?

Overall, provide three things:

  1. Who you are; get to the point — it’s not about you!
  2. Why you’re reaching out to them — to send them products
  3. How they can respond and get the products — always use the phrase “no strings attached”

Reassure them you aren’t asking for anything in return. And end with a call to action asking for their address.

In fact, if you grab the Influencer Seeding download, you’ll get this template:

Ecommerce Influencer Marketing: Influencer Seeding Template

3. Send Your Product Quickly & Easily

Sometimes getting creators the product is the hardest part. It takes time like everything else in influencer marketing.

Even after you get their address and sizing, you then have to create a zeroed order on Shopify or flag your third-party logistics provider (3PL).

Not anymore. the Kynship Influencer Seeding App provides a solution to send your products efficiently and with ease. Right from within your Shopify ecommerce platform.

4. Make Unboxing Memorable & Personal

Creating an unboxing experience for your influencer communicates that they’re special. It doubles down on a great first impression. And, it adds to the hype surrounding your product itself.

If possible, set aside budget to make these packages customized or personalized.

We usually get ~30% or more unboxing posts from influencers — especially on Instagram and Instagram Stories — because they’re a quick, casual, and noncommittal.

ecommerce influencers for QALO, holiday date night

At a minimum, include a seeding card. You can get something like this at a local print shop.

influencer seeding card example for ecommerce brands

If you’re doing them one-by-one, make a handwritten note. Let your 3PL or fulfillment center know any orders that come through will get a seeding card or note.

5. Track Organic Posts (Without Being a ‘Stalker’)

You’ve built relationships the right way. You’ve sent your product.

How do you track organic results without constantly checking every social channel — Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube channels, and (yeah) even LinkedIn. Or, trying to scrape them yourself?

MightyScout is what we use. It only tracks Instagram for now but it’s adding more social platforms rapidly.

Upload all influencers into MightyScout to track whether they post or not. We’ve seen a variety of content posted: product reviews, testimonials, giveaways, unboxing, etc

6. Follow Up for Usage Rights

Amazing content getting posted organically is one thing. Having the ability to repurpose that content in your Facebook ad account is another.

Before you can use any of it, you need to follow up for permission. This isn’t just about maintaining healthy relationships. It’s also about keeping your ecommerce business legally healthy with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Whether 30, 60, or 90 days of usage or full ownership — even if it requires a fee — it’s worth spending the money.

Use this script when following up. And, yep … that’s in the template too!

Follow up for usage rights

Hello again,

I wanted to reach out because I saw your content and loved what you put together.

Would you be against granting us permission to reshare this content to our Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as use it in ads for 30/60/90 days?

We look forward to hearing from you and hopefully working together in the near future.

7. Prepare Their Content for Your Facebook Ad Account

Once you download content from MightyScout, you’ll want to reformat it into 9x16 (Instagram Stories) and 1x1 (Facebook) in order for it to be used within all placements.

Next, 92% of consumers watch videos without sound. Get each format captioned!

Facebook’s auto-captioning tool can be hit and miss; ensure quality by doing it yourself. For formatting and captioning, use tools such as Kapwing or VEED.

Wait, don’t I need to provide text overlay, graphics, and branding? Nope. Keep influencer content as native to the feed as possible.

After assessing performance, you can create iterations later.

8. Run Ads as Influencer Marketing Campaigns

Place your influencer content at each level of the funnel and let Facebook’s machine learning dictate where it’ll be best optimized for conversion.

As an agency, we’ve seen influencer content do incredibly well at every stage of digital marketing plans: from brand awareness at the top to driving sales at the bottom.

Sometimes it’s prospecting; sometimes it’s retargeting.

Remove your bias and let Facebook be smarter than you (because it is).

Outside of ROAS, how do you judge the performance of influencer content? With the same metrics we use to measure all Facebook ad creative performance: attention, interest, desire, and action (AIDA):

AIDA for Measuring Creative Performance

9. Organize, Tag & ‘Define the Relationship’

After your campaign concludes, identity in your Google Sheet or CRM the influencers who …

  • Responded positively but didn’t share

    For your next campaign, reach out one more time with free products.

  • Produced great content; these are the people (even if they didn’t give you usage rights) you’ll want to pursue as official creators

    Offer more product as a thank you to see if that deepens the relationship.

  • Granted usage rights and let you run ads

    These are the relationships you’ll want to define and take to the next level.

For that last group, send them a thank you expressing how much you value them as a brand representative. Then, in your next message:

  • Offer to send more products as a token of appreciation
  • Ask if they’d be interested in working together officially

Be ready with a contract for them to produce consistent UGC as well as a discount code to promote to their followers.

10. Analyze, Then Get Right Back to It

Wash, rinse, and repeat what works.

What personas consistently say yes? Send more products to these categories. As long as you marked them in your Google Sheet, easy!

What UGC is performing best within Facebook? The biggest factor in any Facebook campaign is creative testing. You’ll want to assess (1) who is working and (2) what type of content — as in unboxings, testimonials, or use cases.

What macro-influencer should you contact? If a number of micros from a particular niche love your product, this gives you evidence that a larger-tier influencer would be interested as well.

DMs are free, I’d send 10-20 DMs to larger tier influencers with +500k followers count a month.

What Does Success Look Like? Metrics & 33 Real Examples

When implementing this strategy, oftentimes you can’t quantify in dollars the gain of positive brand association. At least not as fast as you want to.

That does not mean, however, you can’t judge success right away

Influencer Response Rates

Conservatively, expect one-third to half of all outreach to opt-in to receiving your product. Meaning, if you were to DM or email 30 influencers, you can expect 10-15 to say, “Yes, send me your product!”

Influencer Share Rates

What we’ve seen as an agency is ~33% post rate. Interestingly, this does not reflect the total amount of posts. More often than not, we see 3x-5x the number of posts to influencers posting.

Alright, what about that +$1M promise and 33 examples? Let’s close out with more inspiration than you could possibly ever need …

Gymshark often gets complimented for their amazing affiliate program. Guess what. Product seeding happens first.

This isn’t affiliate. This is a relationship built the right way over time. DHL even says, “Another one?!” which speaks to how they take care of their athletes.

Next, beauty and cosmetics brand, Your Routine, sells sugar-free hydration pack. A product with multiple use-cases pairs nicely with seeding influencers.

Multiple uses = multiple posts? Mhmm, very much so. Stephanie Rush posted eight assets Dec.–Jan. All for free. Oh, and even some are kind of enough to provide a swipe-up to your website.

With Dozen Boxing, an at-home boxing workout program + equipment, we saw 95 influencers try it out, while 36 posted for free.

The unboxing was massive. 194 pieces of influencer creative opening equipment and doing the workouts.

At QALO, once big-time talent had the product, negotiating always resulted in cheaper deals. This is why seeding is a breeding ground for success.

The package that wooed Bryce Harper even got him to reply personally over DM. This was the foundation that eventually led to a deal.

Ecommerce brand, QALO's influencer package

Dale Earnhardt Jr also loved the product. He had been wearing it for years before we decided we wanted to work on an official deal.

You don’t think that helped when it came to negotiating? It absolutely did. How much of a discount? I’m not sure. I just know from experience that if talent genuinely loves the brand, they’re much more willing to accept a lower fee.

ecommerce brand interactions with Dale Earnhardt Jr. from QALO before becoming an influencer

We worked with many on video testimonials (as seen below). And there were plenty more who we merely seeded, seeded, seeded.

What can you do with videos and images like these beyond online marketing? Leverage them as credibility for retailers!

This brag book of influencers guided QALO into partnerships with Dick’s Sporting Goods, REI, and Bass Pro Shop to name a few.

ecommerce ad examples of effective influencer marketing campaigns for QALO

QALO ecommerce brand celebrity and athlete influencers

But here’s the crown jewel. QALO ended up on Lebron because we understood who influences the influencers, which is critical to relationship development.

What’s the measurable effect on revenue of Lebron James being seen with a QALO ring? Who knows.

What I do know is I want Lebron using my products publicly.

Lebron James acts as an influencer to the influencers for ecommerce brand QALO

Finally, a mere sampling from our case study with MonkeyFeet …

Testimonials. Use case videos. Boomerangs. Images. The whole enchilada.

This arsenal of assets helped make MonkeyFeet one of the top 1% fastest growing stores on Shopify.

All told, the results speak for themselves:

  • 166 influencers seeded
  • 113 influencers posted
  • 375 separate posts and stories
  • 4.4 ROAS on the paid campaigns
  • Over $1M in revenue in four months

MonkeyFeet: Ecommerce Influencer Marketing Product Launch by the numbers

As if you needed more inspirational fuel, don’t forget the full case study with every example and every content type is inside the Influencer Seeding Toolkit

Ecommerce Influencer Marketing Case Study Preview

You came in tired and lost within the world of influencer marketing …

You’re ready to crush your competition and grow your business all based on generosity.

Did you start the relationship the right way? And because of this, did they become genuine fans of your brand?

Remember, the measure of success is relationship capital. What you receive in the short-term never beats the compounding value of people and their networks who use, love, and share your product.

Cody Wittick

Cody Wittick is the Managing Partner of Kynship where he lives and believes in the world of influencers — that brands, entrepreneurs, and individuals can influence those around them. He also loves his wife, yet “needs to be better at loving myself.” Connect with him on Twitter or Instagram.