In this article, I will show you the different Instagram influencer marketing strategies we have employed, from macro-influencer to micro-influencer. I will also share the ROI of each strategy as well as my recommendations for any brand or agency. 

 

ColorMeHappy Cosmetics Boldlicious HD Lipsticks

About ColorMeHappy Cosmetics

ColorMeHappy Cosmetics is a Singaporean brand selling award-winning, made-in-Korean lipsticks and lip perfectors. The brand was soft launched in November 2016, with a full launch in July 2017.

 

Working with Macro Influencers

As an unknown brand grasping for attention in a competitive and oversaturated beauty market, we felt that we had to engage well-known local “influencers” to create brand awareness and promote our lipsticks.
Singapore is a small market, so anyone with over 100K followers is considered a macro influencer. At the start, we paid a local agency $7,000 for 4 of their “influencers” (3 with over 100K followers, 1 with 7K+ followers) to create one blogpost and/or one Instagram post for us. Each of these “influencers” were given promo codes so we could track the effectiveness of this campaign.

 

Here are their blog posts:
Here are their Instagram posts:
 Mong Chin (138K followers, 1,020 likes)

A post shared by Mongchin Yeoh (@mongabong) on

Charlotte Lum (111K followers, 10,183 views, 2,440 likes)

Juli Phang (@Bforbunbun 7,897 followers, 67 likes)

A post shared by Juli (@bforbunbun) on

 

Sure the ladies were very professional, lovely to look at, and the blog posts well written. Reviews were paid but glowing. These influencers had a combined reach of over 260,000, and racked up over 3,000 likes for our budding new brand. However, we saw ZERO sales from this paid collaboration.

 

Pivoting to Micro Influencers via Iconosquare

Finding Influencers via Iconosquare
We then pivoted our strategy to target micro influencers – perhaps nano influencers even. We focused on those with less than 10,000 followers.  Our first port of call was Iconosquare. Iconosquare is a wonderful Instagram analytics tool which used to provide an influencer search feature.  It used to let you search for influencers by geography, as well as filter for a number of criteria (keyword in bio, keyword in post, hashtags used, followers, following etc). Unfortunately this has been depreciated with Instagram’s new API). and influencer marketing tool.

We used Iconosquare to search for any user in Singapore that had “blogger” or “makeup artist” in their bio, or anyone who’s hashtagged #lipstick or #MUA in their post.

We also searched for users that had an affiliate link in heir bio (e.g. ezbuy.com) as this meant they may be keen to help us promote via referral. Iconosquare has plans that allow you to download search results with email addresses (100 at a time).

 

Deep Social

(Note: Deep Social has since been shut down) 

Identifying Influencers with Deep Social
I then discovered a new and relatively unknown Influencer identification tool that was even better than Iconosquare. It was called Deep Social. Deep Social allowed you search by location, along with influencer brand affinity (i.e. if the influencer posts about the brand) or audience brand affinity (if their fans post about the brand), gender, age, number of followers etc. Unfortunately, this service has been shut down. 
Deep Social - How we acquire data

 

Why it was better

Deep Social used AI and facial analysis to predict age and gender, and natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning to predict brand affinities and interest.
Deep Social - Machine Learning and NLP

Deep Social showed you an estimated a breakdown of any influencer’s accounts by gender, age, what percentage of their followers are in your target location – which is incredibly helpful for us as we only sell in Singapore. Based on the 800 female accounts I analysed, I was surprised that the average share of followers in Singapore was only 22%. These results are not 100% accurate, but I checked it against 5 actual results of accounts I manage, and it was close enough.

You could download the results into a CSV spreadsheet. The maximum results allowed is 400 per search and it comes with email addresses too.
 Deep Social Cost of Data Export

 

Your first search was free as a new account comes with 10 free credits, but to run additional searches, you had to purchase more credits, which cost $79.95 for 100 credits.
Deep Social Cost of Exports 2

 

Creating our Ambassador Offer

Once we had a list of potential microinfluencers to work with, we would then reviewed each of their Instagram accounts, so as to identify which ones we want to approach to be our ambassadors. Our criteria is simple, we look for accounts with between 2-10K followers and a good fit with our brand values. What this means:

  • They must be happy and smiling in their Instagram feed
  • There must be a good mix of head shots
  • They cannot be scantily dressed or post overly sexual photographs

Our initial offer comprises of 4 free lipsticks and 1 Lip Night Repair Oil ($100 in retail value), but no cash. In exchange, we ask for 5 photos, which we have the right to modify and use on our own platforms as well as use to run ads.

We also offer up to 50% profit share for any products that they helped us to sell. Each ambassador is given a personalised promo code to share so that we can track referral sales. (We experimented with different variants: we tried Referral Candy at first but that didn’t work so well because their system is based on tracking clicks to a unique link, and links don’t work well on Instagram. So we manually generated promo codes ourselves. Some were “Give $10 Earn $10″ promo codes, some were ‘Give 20% earn 20%” promo codes.)

We work with our ambassadors to run giveaways and contests, and for those that generated good posts, we would send them a second or third round of lipsticks. Many end up receiving our entire set of 22 SKUs (worth $450).  For the best ones, we offer $20 per post thereafter, but there are only about 5 ambassadors in this category.

 

ColorMeHappy Ambassadors

Beyond our branded Instagram account @colormehappycosmetics, we set up a 2nd account @colormehappyambassadors which we launched in October 2017. This account was set up to showcase our customers, fans and our ambassadors. This account has since amassed >400 posts, which are 100% crowdsourced.

Colormehappy Ambassadors Instagram account
The content is authentic and includes a mix of head shots, beautiful flat lays and lip swatches. (See our 2017 Best Nine here)
We love many of our ambassadors – some are absolutely delightful to work with: Esther, Gladys, Claire, Sabrina, Nadia, Amanda, Jeannie, Kristina, Claudia, and of course our makeup artist ambassadors Susan, Cleo, Candy, Kacey, Adeline. Our top brand ambassador has posted over 41 pictures, with many posting 10-20 shots using our lipstick.

We are immensely grateful to them for all their incredible support.

Key Takeaways

Over the last 18 months, we paid $7,000 and gave away over $5,000 of product to ~55 ambassadors with a combined reach of ~500,000.  We feel that our microinfluencer marketing strategy has been more of a success than our macroinfluncer approach from a brand awareness and a return on sales perspective.
We get many great photographs that we repurpose for our main Instagram account. There’s huge value in that.

 

Colormehappycosmetics Instagram Account

 

Currently, 100% of our sales come via Instagram. Whenever we run a promotion, we will ask our ambassadors to post about our promos on Instagram Stories, and we had our best performing sales in one day during our 11.11 promotion – with a whopping 12% conversion rate and over 40% of our monthly revenues earned in one day.

 

What’s most interesting is that our referral sales have NOT come from the ambassadors that
a) have the most followers,
b) get the most likes,
c) are the “prettiest” in the conventional sense.

 

Is there a way to identify which ones will do well and which will not? The only correlation I’ve noticed is that the more the ambassador posts, the more likely we are to generate sales. It’s no surprise that our top sales generating ambassador is also the one who posted 41 times on behalf of our brand.

 

Should we start compensating microinfluencers?

This is a rather interesting question. I fundamentally believe that incentives are misaligned when influencers get paid to post nice things about products they may or may not truly endorse.

However, there can be amazing content created when there is authenticity. I agree that this takes time and effort and this does create an immense amount of value for us. For the ambassadors who prove that they can create great content for us, we are happy to move to a model where we compensate them.

But this trust has to be earned. Especially if you are an unknown microinfluencer.

Because not all of influencers are trustworthy. (And it’s impossible to tell from the start.)

Some are negligent – they have not given us the 5 photos that they agreed to or produced the videos they say they will produce. That’s not ideal, but at least we did not compensate them. We will certainly never work with them again and I am more than happy to do reference calls with any brand that has concerns about using anyone of them.

 

Some are plain rude. We’ve had a few Instagrammers (barely scratching 2K followers) write long and abusive emails to us, and post negative feedback on Facebook and Instagram because we refuse to give them free products.

 

Advise to Influencers

If a brand offer you with free products but no cash, that’s just an offer. Don’t be offended and certainly don’t be rude about it. You’re welcome to say you only accept cash. If the brand agrees, great. You are also welcome to walk away. I have a great deal of respect for those who turn our offer down politely.

 

However, don’t accept an offer and not deliver.

 

And please don’t get upset / rude / confrontational / hysterical / entitled if you ask for cash and the brand declines.  (This makes me doubt if you have a genuine desire to try our product and the authenticity of whatever pictures or review you would have posted.)

 

Recommendations for Agencies

If you are thinking of a influencer marketing strategy, here’s what I would bear in mind:

 

  1. Don’t choose influencers based on superficial vanity metrics: followers, likes and good looks do not necessarily equate to a positive ROI on your influencer marketing strategy.
  2. Microinfluencers can bring a lot more value than macroinfluencers (not only because they are cheaper to work with, but because they will post more (in quantity and in frequency).
  3. Diversify your influencer base. It’s impossible to tell which ones will be effective in promote your brand or driving sales. You therefore have a higher chance of success if you work with a lot of microinfluencers than a handful of macroinfluencers.
  4. It takes a campaign, not a post to generate ROI. We ask for 5 photos to be posted. Many of our ambassadors have posted over 20 photos. It is with this repeated exposure that their followers become converted to try and buy our products. Not through one #sp post.
  5. Agencies that tells you they compensate based on followers or likes should be told to talk a long walk off a short cliff.
  6. The average Instagram account gets about 10% reach in 2018 so discount the number of followers by 90% because that’s the likely number of their followers who actually even SEE their post.  For those based in Singapore, multiply that 10% number by 22% (which is the average share of local audience).  This means that about 2% of the total follower count that are people in Singapore who will actually see your post.
  7. Anyone in Singapore that wants a reference on any girls pictured on my ambassador account, feel free to ping me!

 

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