How does influencer marketing work? A detailed guide and expert opinion

JANUARY 24, 2024 EXPERT OPINION
Guerilla affiliate marketing
ProTraffic
ProTraffic.com is a site with expert content about traffic arbitrage
Of course you’ve seen famous bloggers advertise all sorts of things. Olivia Palermo shines in Max&Co, owners of true crime channels praise YouTube online courses, and microbloggers promote each other natively. This is influencer marketing — advertising goods and services using celebrities and opinion leaders.

Since 2016 influencer marketing share has grown tenfold, reaching $16,4 billion in 2022. The article will discuss in detail the clearly important subject of using influencers in affiliate marketing: how to design sales funnels, where to find bloggers, how to attract traffic, and what affiliate marketing experts think about this niche.

Table of contents

How influencer marketing works

Let’s say John is a famous Bay Area blogger who drives a Tesla and hosts a podcast about cars and sports. His audience, as you might expect, are predominantly males between 20 and 40 who like women, sports, and driving around.

It just so happens that you’ve recently opened a car service in San Francisco, and you need clients. You write to John and ask him to advertise your service, and you offer a thousand dollars for the integration.

You write a task description for John: post a short Instagram story showing his car being serviced at your place and mention it a couple of times in his podcast stressing that he’s been thoroughly satisfied with the service, its quality, prices, and original parts.
Once 3-5 people from John’s audience decide to use your service regularly, your influence marketing strategy will have paid off.

How a sales funnel with influencers works in affiliate marketing

We asked BastardsTeam, a full-cycle affiliate team that purchases advertising spaces, produces ad materials, creates sales funnels and runs their own product, an influence agency, how a sales funnel with influencers works in practice. That’s what they had to say:

Let’s take a complex gambling funnel that attracts traffic from Instagram and Telegram. You will need a landing — in classic set-ups a mobile app will fulfill this role. We already have our intermediary layer — our own actor whom we produce and manage from scratch. That’s where we direct the traffic.

First of all we analyze the market: we look at popular bloggers in a given region and see if their audiences fit our actor’s target audience profile. We don’t work with bloggers whose stories have less than 30,000 views, it’s not profitable otherwise. After we have our blogger short list, we start monitoring them: how many ad integrations they post, how often they are mentioned by other influencers — in short, we do our own due diligence comprehensively.

For example, if a blogger actively promotes other personal blogs, it’s wise to analyze the changes in their follower count before and after the ad. If an influencer publishes ads more often than once every three days, it’s better not to work with them. An ideal candidate is a brand ambassador: this means that their ads were bought previously and the customer was satisfied with the results.

Sales funnel: part 1

The first part of our sales funnel involves sending the audience of one Instagram account to another. We have our actor’s account and the account of the blogger from which we will be sending traffic. We contact the blogger and make an arrangement: we buy stories and set the terms of the task: time and date of the publications together with ready materials that our actor has already filmed.

A correct presentation is crucial for such ads. We use 6 stories and 3 important triggers:
The “nice person” trigger. The first story stokes the target audience's empathy in the most secure way: on their favorite blogger’s page. The blogger publishes a story with a charity event, e.g., raising funds for an animal shelter. This story is accompanied by a commentary along the lines of “send me a message if you’d like to help.” The second story shows the blogger in rapture: an unknown person met the entire fundraising goal by themselves in one transaction! The blogger, surprised, promises to talk about that person, but only on the next day.

The trust trigger. It’s time for the next four stories. “Do you remember I promised to talk about the person who helped with the fundraiser? His name is John, and he’s an old friend of mine, we went to school together.”

As everybody knows, a friend of my friend is my friend, too; the target audience will trust a person their favorite blogger praises. In this (third) story the blogger will mention that John has a very interesting occupation: he does gambling professionally and knows how to make money doing it.
It’s important to note that there should be no fraud or lies here. What is intended is conversion of an audience into consumers and fans of a product — becoming part of the gambling industry, in our case.
The prominence trigger. We’ll show the face of our actor and give a link to a one-page website that imitates a news outlet. There the visitors will find an interesting article about our actor (“look, they even talk about him in the news”).
3 important triggers
The fourth story is a mini-interview with 3 questions:
  • How much do you earn?
  • How many years have you been doing gambling?
  • Why do you want to take part in my blog — is there anything valuable you can offer my followers?

After this the actor invites everybody to his own blog and says that he teaches everybody to gamble and earn money as well as he himself can.

The fifth story tags the actor's profile, and the sixth's story adds a giveaway to it. The idea of the giveaway is that everybody sending a private message to John will receive a nice bonus.

The sales funnel: part two

Here we send the audience from Instagram to Telegram. To do so, we create a “private club” for our actor’s streams. We use Kick for streaming. All the while we continue to demonstrate a full life our character leads, but we also add a deeper context: he has a family, values, the same hobbies that the target audience has, and he also posts cool content. It’s important that he doesn’t try to offer shady schemes on how to beat casinos; he is exactly like our audience, except he really knows how to gamble.

We’ll make a brand channel, e.g., John’s Casino Club. However, if you send the audience from Instagram to Telegram directly, some people might get lost along the way, so let’s use Instagram as an intermediary step for registration or the first deposit. We do the following:
  • We talk about how great it is to be a part of our closed community: we publish funny or positive moments, show the inside atmosphere of the channel, and project positive emotions.
  • We mention that to join the club newcomers have to fulfill just one condition: register or make the first deposit. You choose which one is better for you, and a manager should be available to help with both.
The sales funnel
Once a new user joins the Telegram channel, they immediately receive a message from the chatbot, and their contacts are forwarded to a manager who gamblers will be able to talk to in the future. Add subscribing users to Instagram Close Friends and publish content specifically addressed to them so that they don’t get lost on their way to Telegram.

Show your failures

It is very important to talk about failures: this is the only image gamblers will trust. Otherwise you will lose your audience, as people feel discomfort when they see others winning all the time, while they mostly lose. When we underscore losses, people understand that they are not the only unlucky ones. If you find the right tone and mood for your audience, the deposits will just keep on flowing.

Finding and choosing the right bloggers

There are four main ways to find the right blogger:
  • Analytics and search services. E.g., Yoloco for Instagram and TGstat for Telegram.
  • Manual search. You can use keywords to find the right blogger.
  • Reviews and chats. Admins of specialized Telegram channels are often members of the same chat groups. If you find one, there’s plenty of useful information and connections to be found.
  • Production centers, influence agencies, blogger markets. You come to a company with a request, and they will find the right influencers for you.

Let’s look at some of the key services:

Choosing the right blogger

The main rule of a successful promotion is that the blogger’s active audience should correspond to the target audience of your product. You won’t advertise kitchen utensils in a powerlifter’s blog, but using a “successful young mother” blog for the same integration will work perfectly.

Bastards Affiliate and App Solution on working with influencer traffic

For which products have you used influencers?

AS: We worked with betting products during a really suitable event — the soccer World Cup. We went to Brazil and worked with Brazilian influencers, who accumulated deposits, worked with their audiences, and motivated them to make bets.

BA: We promote gambling and betting products and binary options.

How do you find influencers and how do you work with them?

AS: Linkedin is always a good choice to find people you need, and you can also look for local labor exchange platforms. We also used another source, a local guide who spoke several languages and sent us suitable candidates.

BA: We look for services listing popular influencers separately for each geolocation. We look at target audiences, ask for stats.

Sometimes a blogger already advertises 5-6 gambling products; if these are personal profiles, it’s a no-go, and if these are product ads, this could be worth a try: the audience knows about gambling and is sufficiently warmed up to it. However, one could always be blinded by too many banners.

Sometimes bloggers might violate the terms of your agreement, posting stories in between previously agreed upon integrations, or not posting ads on time.

I would like to mention three models of working with bloggers:
  • Integrations.4-6 stories advertising our actor. Usually we pay in advance, sometimes 50/50.
  • Ambassador programs. Some bloggers who have already worked with casinos sometimes ask for a CPA percentage. If the target audience is right and we liked the previous integration experience, we buy an ambassador program: this means 30 integrations per month and a link to our actor in bio. The ambassador receives a fixed payout in advance, and then we pay them weekly if they meet the KPI.
  • Production. This is necessary if you don’t have your own actor. You will need to produce a branded channel for your blogging partner. The payout scheme is usually KPI-based weekly + a RevShare percentage. If a blogger has worked with gambling before, they probably won’t agree to work without RevShare.

Is it much more profitable compared to more traditional ways of advertising?

AS: Influencer traffic can mean cosmic ROI, but sometimes initial costs (paying the actors and the traffic itself) can prove a hurdle. Moreover, your ways to attract an audience with influencer marketing are unlimited. If you’re creative enough, you can think of thousands of ways of bringing people to your Telegram channel. During the World Cup we hired Brazilians to walk around the stadiums and talk about our channel showing our QR codes. We earned around $12,000, and our expenses totalled $150. Of course, we needed an event of this scale to succeed.

BA: To earn a lot with influencer marketing, you need to create really cool sales funnels with content marketing to turn people into product fans. You need a strong team and HR specialists who will find the people you need speaking the language of your chosen region.

If you really invest in complex funnels, with personalized approach and detailed tracking, you can be looking at 600% ROI per year with RevShare, and 150-200% ROI per month with CPA. However, these numbers strongly depend on the traffic volumes you work with.

Working with influencers means not simply bringing in more people and gamblers, you also develop the product’s media presence and recognisability. There are a lot of points of contact with traffic and great RevShare possibilities compared to other traffic sources.

What are the possible pitfalls and dangers of working with influencers?

AS: Good production is key, a simple sales funnel is not enough. A badly produced actor won’t give you any results worth speaking of.

Actors are people, and people can be unpredictable. If they fail to show up to do what you agreed upon, you risk losing money or reputation.

The great part of this marketing strategy is that it’s all white traffic. Use an intermediary layer before you direct your traffic to messengers. Make sure that you find the right minimal price per follower; this can be done by testing.

BA: You might encounter a dishonest influencer who takes payment up front and then disappears. We even established legal entities and physical presence in certain regions to sign contracts, otherwise it could be impossible to hold certain potentially shady characters accountable.

Bloggers could be unpunctual, carefree, or sly. They might doctor the stats, scam you, or use bots if an ad doesn’t work. I advise making accounts private in such cases.

High-quality content is key, both for your actor and the influencers you choose. Bad design and bad content brings zero conversion, and you’ll simply waste your budget. That’s why high-quality production is paramount.

What’s your advice for those thinking about influencer marketing? Any predictions you’d like to share?

AS: Influencer marketing is ideal during major newsworthy or global events. There are many of them: cyber- and traditional sports cups, for instance. If you properly prepare for each event, you will enjoy your results.

Such events are long-term. The preparation phase might not yield anything, but during the event itself you will have to work overtime and reap some serious profits.

BA: Let’s start with a forecast. Everybody understands by now that scamming does not pay in the end. It is much more profitable in the long run to create long-term relationships with professional gamblers who won’t harm the product’s media presence. This means that everybody became more interested in high-quality creative materials. High-quality ads make processes simpler and all traffic sources cheaper thanks to higher brand awareness. Products want to work with quality traffic: no shady schemes, no one-time deposits.

As for advice, first of all, invest in your production. This is your product that directly influences how long a user will stay with you.

Secondly, don’t save on HR. Recruiting is key in influencer marketing: you will need expert screenwriters, charismatic actors, professional video editors. Finding the right personnel in different countries is not easy, although sometimes you may find an expat who has a fluent command of both target languages.

You need an all-round team with people dedicated to content production, video editing, ad management, and sales.

The last piece of advice concerning the gambling niche: it is important to remember that gamblers are people; make sure you treat them accordingly. Playing a long game might mean that your traffic will return your investments slower, but your overall profits will be greater. Be empathetic with people and sustainable in what you do, it pays off.

Conclusion

Working with influencer traffic is a nuanced affair, and you will need high-quality creative content, good understanding of content marketing, and large ad budgets. This traffic strategy is not suitable for newcomers, but can be significantly profitable for specialists with a marketing background.

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