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How to Find and Engage Local Influencers as a Small Business

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Collaborating with influencers in your city or region is an extremely effective way for small businesses to drive awareness, engagement and sales on a local level. In fact, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know, whether in real life or through social media connections.

This presents a major opportunity for small business owners to partner with relevant micro and nano-influencers – everyday experts with engaged, local followings between 1,000-100,000 followers.

As a social media marketing expert who has managed over 100 influencer campaigns, I will provide my best tips to help you successfully identify and build relationships with brand-aligned influencers in your precise geographic area.

Why Local Influencers Represent a Big Opportunity

Before we dive into tactical advice, let’s overview why local influencer marketing should be part of your overall digital marketing strategy as a small business:

Targeted Reach: Influencers allow you to get your brand and products in front of your precise geographic customer base, without wasting spend on irrelevant audiences. Someone with 10,000 highly engaged Denver followers drives more awareness for your Denver bakery than someone with 50,000 diffuse, random followers.

Credibility & Trust: As social media creates more consumer skepticism, partnering with unbiased local figures who genuinely know and like your brand builds credibility. 92% of people trust local influencers over generic ads or celebrity endorsements.

Hyper-Relevant Content: When you co-create content showcasing an influencer exploring your business, it feels organic versus intrusive to their engaged audience. This drives higher engagement and click-through rates.

Cost-Efficiency: Nano and micro-influencers often have better engagement and conversion rates for each follower than celebrities with fake fans. Their reasonable rates make influencer marketing extremely cost-efficient for small business budgets.

Now let’s get into tactics!

Step 1: Define Your Goals and Target Audience

Every marketing initiative starts with clear goals. As you research potential influencers, keep your objectives top of mind:

Do you want to:

  • Increase website traffic or email list sign-ups?
  • Drive in-store visits and sales at your location(s)?
  • Grow awareness and trials of your products/services?

Paint a clear picture of exactly who your dream customers are using demographic and psychographic factors:

Ask yourself:

  • What age group and gender(s) comprise my audience?
  • Where do they live? Focus on influencers in the same neighborhoods/cities.
  • What interests and passions are most relevant? Find influencers who specialize in those topics.
  • What values resonate most? Seek influencers who embody those values.

Having specific personas makes it infinitely easier to find brand-aligned partners tailored to your business goals and audience interests.

Step 2: Strategically Search for Local Influencers

Gaining clarity on your customers empowers you to hunt for relevant influencers who can actually help your small business cut through the noise. Here are my top tips to identify great potential partners:

Utilize Influencer Marketing Platforms

Signing up for a platform like Ainfluencer provides access to an enormous, searchable influencer database. You can easily filter by demographic factors like gender, age range and crucially for small businesses – precise location. This eliminates wasting time vetting influencers with irrelevant audiences.

A key benefit is seeing in-depth audience quality metrics beyond inflated vanity metrics like followers. Dig into engagement rates, audience interests and fake follower estimates to gauge real influence.

Conduct Manual Google Searches

Don‘t forget good old Google searches to uncover hidden gems! Phrases like "Denver boutique influencers", "Austin food bloggers" or "Charleston lifestyle influencers" can reveal awesome nano-influencers fully aligned to your small biz…but who don‘t actively market themselves on platforms.

As you come across opportunities, dive into their profiles and posts to evaluate:

Engagement Metrics

  • Are their posts getting genuine comments and likes that show real local audience engagement?
  • Look for above average engagement rates in the 5-15% range for smaller accounts up to 1-5% for larger followings of 50K+.

Content Relevance

  • Does their niche and content style closely relate to your products, services and target customer interests? The closer the tie, the better campaign performance you‘ll see.

Audience Quality

  • Scan through their followers and posts – are there signs of fake accounts or bot comments that artificially inflate numbers?
  • Ensure there‘s an authentic local audience base that‘s relevant to convert.

Vetting based on these factors vs. just follower count is crucial to finding brand advocates that actually influence purchase decisions in your geo-targeted area.

Step 3: Craft Personalized Outreach Messages

Once you’ve identified locally-relevant influencers for your small business, it’s time to reach out! I cannot stress enough how vital personalization is in your very first message.

Imagine if a random influencer messaged your small business with a generic “Wanna collaborate?” email. Delete!

Instead, lead with:

  • Proof you’ve actually reviewed their content and why you gravitated towards them specifically. Local pride is big – play that up!
  • Opportunities unique to partnering with an area small business vs. a major faceless corporation.
  • Your precise vision for working together based on their audience, niche and what makes your brand stand out in your region.

This thoughtful approach demonstrates respect for both their work and their followers from minute one. Key to fostering long-term influencer relationships!

Step 4: Set Clear Partnership Expectations

Early on, communicate exactly what content or promotions you have in mind, expected time investments, and what compensation the influencer can expect in return.

While bigger businesses may pay in thousands for a one-off post, most small businesses offer combinations of:

Monetary Compensation

  • Free products & services
  • Exclusive discounts & store credit
  • Co-branded swag or merchandise
  • Content usage & amplification

Being upfront about what is workable within your budget prevents false expectations down the road. Plus, it motivates them to brainstorm creative ways to align incentives, like product trails or exclusive access.

Step 5: Amplify Their Work & Community

Beyond agreed upon commercial posts, look for regular opportunities to support their work such as:

  • Sharing user-generated photos & videos
  • Re-posting related blog content
  • Encouraging followers to also follow their work

Take them and their recommendations out into your local community by:

  • Featuring them prominently in-store
  • Enabling special experiences for them and their followers

This genuine support fosters lasting relationships and referrals well beyond your set campaigns.

Step 6: Track Performance & Optimize Efforts

Diligently monitoring analytics provides crucial insights into what content resonates best with local audiences.

  • Which posts drive the most website traffic and engagement from your target geography?
  • What conversions do influencer posts impact – email sign ups, offer claims, purchases?
  • How are their followers specifically interacting with your brand?

Solicit direct feedback from both the influencers and their followers through quick surveys or a live Q&A. Use what you learn about their preferences to continually refine content production and experiences for maximum relevance and conversions.

The brands seeing the most ROI from local influencer marketing put in work behind the scenes to nurture collaborations built on trust, transparency and mutual value.

While it does take effort to research relevant partners, craft thoughtful outreach and nurture lasting connections – no other small business marketing delivers as strong of ROI as genuinely aligning with those who already influence purchase decisions in your backyard.

I hope these insider tips from my experience running over 100 influencer campaigns empowers your small businesses to develop fruitful partnerships with the micro and nano-influencers already making waves in your communities.

Let me know if you have any other specific questions on identifying and connecting with great local influencers – I‘m always happy to chat more in detail!

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