By Lauren Shepherd

Influencer marketing is quickly becoming one of the most powerful tools in the ecommerce playbook. And it’s not hard to see why. Commanding a whopping 11 times the ROI of all other marketing efforts, influencer marketing seems to be a limitless resource of content creation and distribution.

But before you send a DM to some celebrity or influencer asking him to be your brand’s ambassador, you should know that influencer marketing is not always a sure-fire success. There are plenty of risks that come with putting your marketing efforts into the hands of an external influencer, and the companies that don’t do their homework get burned.

So, what makes an influencer marketing campaign work? As influencer marketing is still in its infancy, the best way to figure out what works and what doesn’t is to look at the brands that are killing it on Instagram.

In this article, we’re going to show you some of the most successful influencer marketing campaigns, and we’ll tell you exactly why they worked so well.

But first, let’s take a quick look at what an influencer is (SPOILER ALERT: You may be one without even knowing it!).

What is an influencer?

Influencers are specialists or trendsetters in a particular niche who use the social network Instagram as their content and communication platform. They have a loyal following of engaged users who they interact with, often on a daily basis. This interaction is what sets them apart from classic celebrities who may endorse products or do ads. Influencers constantly repost, like, and share their followers’ content while relying on them to do the same. This give and take creates trust and transparency that is extremely valuable to marketers. But not all influencers are famous. In fact, if you’ve shared a brand’s hashtag or created an Instagram story about a product you love, you might be an influencer too. Here are five basic types of Instagram influencers:

  • Micro-Influencer: These are influencers with 5k-50k followers. Their numbers may be low, but engagement is usually very high (>4%).
  • Meso-Influencer: Around 50k-500k followers. Most influencers fit into this category. • Macro-Influencer: 500k and up.
  • Celebrity Influencer: They’re not usually experts in a niche. They’re popular because they’re famous (e.g. Kim Kardashian). Followers may be high but engagement is often low

. • Normal User: Any IG user who participates in a brand’s campaign.

As you can see, choosing an influencer is a lot more complicated than just finding someone who shares your niche. Partnering with an influencer takes research, cooperation, and relationship building. But this also means that the potential for creative collaboration is limitless. Let’s take a look at some examples of brands that have harnessed the power of IG influencers and reaped massive gains.

Let’s take a look at some examples of brands that have harnessed the power of IG influencers and reaped massive gains. 10 influencer marketing examples How can Instagram influencers boost brand awareness, engagement, and conversions? Take a few tips from these success stories.

  • DeeMuesli and The Little Plantation

DeeMuesli is a small, UK-based business that sells just one product—muesli. But that doesn’t mean they can’t take advantage of local influencers to boost brand awareness.

The Campaign:

DeeMuesli teamed up with popular British vegan influencer Kimberly Espinel. Via her Instagram account, The Little Plantation, Kimberly posted an original recipe (and mouth watering pictures) which required DeeMuesli as a primary ingredient.

Why it Worked: Sure, DeeMuesli could have teamed up with nutrition and health bloggers or vegan crusaders to push the health benefits of muesli. But that probably wouldn’t have worked. Why? Because influencer marketing isn’t about showing off your product under big spotlights. It’s about letting the influencer do what they do best and then riding the wave to success. Kimberly did what she does best—cooked delicious food that her followers love— and DeeMuesli got a valuable call to action baked right in.

  • Lyft’s army of influencers

Lyft is a ridesharing app and e-scooter provider that’s locked in a constant battle with its rival Uber. As a brand with a very broad target audience (people who need transportation), it seemed impossible to choose the right influencers.

The Campaign: Instead of working with a select few influencers (as most companies do), Lyft took a risk and partnered with over 1,000 influencers all across the spectrum—from celebrities to macros to micros. The goal was to make it seem like everyone who’s anyone was taking Lyft. And before long, it was true. Lyft became the most mentioned brand of 2018 and racked up 6 million engagements.

Why it Worked: Lyft didn’t just pile on the influencers; it also took a measured approach to expected engagement. For example, celebrity influencer, Snoop Dogg, has 33 million followers, but engagement for a rideshare app would likely be low. Therefore, they tagged on a discount code to turn the heads of his followers. If Lyft had done the opposite, thinking they needed to entice smaller influencers’ followers, they would have needlessly given away thousands of dollars to Baugh’s followers, and they probably wouldn’t have engaged enough of Snoop’s base to make up for the cost of his endorsement.

  • Walmart fights hunger

Walmart isn’t lacking in revenue, but it is lacking in reputation when it comes to younger internet users who can choose wherever they want to shop online. Walmart needed a way to change their image and boost awareness with the IG crowd (over 70% of which are under 29).

The Campaign: Walmart launched the #FightHunger campaign as a way to team up with users to give back to their communities. Walmart vowed to donate ten meals for every engaged user that mentioned the campaign and showed an act of support. Walmart teamed up with creative influencers in the food niche like chef Ana Quincoces to drive the campaign and then relied on users to post their own content. At the end of the campaign, Walmart had engaged 89k engagements in one month and donated over 1 billion meals.

Why it Worked: Walmart took a big risk by giving users a platform to post original content. Would they take it seriously or troll the retail giant? By using relevant influencers, Walmart was able to control the narrative and keep it steered in a positive direction. Once the tone was set by Walmart’s influencers, the goodwill campaign snowballed, and soon, tens of thousands of normal users became influencers as well, posting their support and sharing the #FightHunger hashtag.

  • Canon goes micro

The rise of the camera phone and Instagram as an instant photo upload binge seemed to be a threat to Canon. But instead of fighting back, they embraced the medium and highlighted a number of amateur photographers and bloggers who use DSLR cameras to make their IG photos pop.

The Campaign: Even before the camera phone, most people didn’t have high-end cameras. Now that many of us have 10 megapixels in our pockets, Canon needed to sift through the amateurs and seek out the photography enthusiasts. By partnering with photographers in the micro and meso range (with highengagement) as well as bloggers who rely on photography to entice their followers, Canon was able to reach its target and promote its image. Great photography shares like crazy on IG, and Canon managed to claim nearly 3 million engagements in 2018.

Why it Worked: Canon didn’t have to show that their cameras were good. They just had to make sure that when the best photos made their rounds on Instagram, there was a #canonusa hashtag next to them. But doing this would take more than a few sponsored posts by influencers. It would take long-term relationships with numerous influencers. By getting serious and committing for the long haul with the right photographers and bloggers, Canon turned Instagram (a photo-sharing app at heart) into an ever-growing promotional machine.

  • Daniel Wellington’s influencer only platform

Daniel Wellington is a timepiece company that uses influencer marketing as its only form of marketing.

The Campaign: DW uses a number of different hashtags to keep users and influencers engaged, such as #DWPickoftheDay and the flagship #DanielWellington, which at over 2 million uses is one of Instagram’s most popular tags. The company uses over 7,000 influencers to distribute discount codes, promote giveaways, and encourage users to participate in the famed daily picture contest.

Why it Worked: DW uses influencers exclusively, and in doing so it has become the brand with the most influencers and influencer mentions. Also, it has grown from nothing to a nearly quarter billion-dollar company in just four years.

So, what’s the secret?

In a word, transparency. Going 100% social built trust by allowing real users to effectively guide the brand’s marketing efforts. They don’t have the photo studios and glossy paged ads of other watch companies. Everything you see is a real photo of a real person wearing a Daniel Wellington watch. They control their image brilliantly through their influencers, and they manage normal users’ content via the #DWPickoftheDay campaign. Real users have an incentive to post great shots which embody DW’s image because if they’re chosen as a winner, their photo could get tens of thousands of likes and result in hundreds of followers gained.