Getting influential people to endorse your products is a strategy as old as time, but the popularity of social media has truly changed the game. Sometimes it can only take one tweet or Instagram post from a user with a massive following to result in big success for the product or service being talked about. But how can you get your product noticed, and why is influencer marketing so successful?

One Virgin StartUp-funded business that has benefitted hugely from influencer marketing is Bore Off, a clothing brand based around that bold and cheeky slogan.

“Speaking from experience, having celebrities to endorse our brand has been really beneficial," says Lee McKervey, founder of Bore Off. "It provides a number of advantages: first and foremost, brand awareness and good credibility. Having celebs support your campaign means people trust you. If a celeb they like is supporting the brand, they in turn become interested. It also drives traffic towards our website, even if people just look out of curiosity, leading to more sales, which is always advantageous. Having ties with stars, having such strong ties with a globally recognised company such as Virgin, and affiliations with charities like Macmillan has really helped us get celebrities on board - it shows we’re a company of calibre, and has been the best form of advertisement we could have asked for.

"In order to get hold of celebrities, we began by reaching out to their agents. We did this directly in the beginning through the information on the directory The Handbook, and then once the campaign began to gather some momentum and we had some big names on board, we went on to reach out to the celebrities directly, via social media, by sending them photographs of our previous successes and celebrity support, and asking them if they too would be interested in showing their support for Bore Off Cancer."

With more and more startups realising the benefits of endorsements, experts have begun to build influencer marketing into their strategies as an alternative to traditional methods. We chatted to Ben Jeffries, founder at influencer marketing agency Influencer, to find out more.

What is Influencer and how long has it been around?

Influencer is a marketing agency that connects social media famous individuals on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat with global brands. Influencer works with over 100 of these ‘instafamous’ celebrities who are able to generate an organic buzz for the brands we work with. Our Influencers range from a variety of different sectors; we have top names including world football star Ronaldinho and reality TV star Amy Willerton. We then also have some niche Influencers including the world’s fastest growing coffee publication Perfect Daily Grind and fashion blogger Ellie Hemmings. Though we are only a few months old, we’ve worked with a number of large brands including Badoo, Happn, Uber, Crowdmobile and Daniel Wellington.

What are the advantages of influencer marketing over more traditional approaches?

People don’t trust traditional advertisement anymore as they’d rather buy products from people who they know have tried the product first. Business Insider did a survey that showed 33% of people trust ads, whereas 90% of people trust peer recommendations. Influencer marketing doesn’t feel like marketing. We are able to get our Influencers to post about products and services in an organic fashion using their own voice.

What are the difficulties/drawbacks?

A main drawback is that you get people posing as ‘Influencers’ through buying fake followers and likes – however we personally vet every single one of our Influencers to make sure of real followers and engagement as want the brands we work with to get the best possible response.

How do you define an influencer and choose which ones to work with?

An Influencer is someone who has over 10,000 followers on their social media page and has the ‘Wow’ factor among their followers.The best way to describe an influencer is someone who stands out from the crowd on social media and has established a reputation for doing so, whether that be in the fashion industry or the food industry.

We get double figures of applications a day so we have to be very careful who we accept and who we decline, as we want the brands we work with to get the best possible response. On the other hand, we do approach Influencers as well, who we feel 'fit the bill' for the Influencer programme - we look out for colourful, imaginative and creative pages, ones which we truly believe can work wonders for the brands who work with us. 

Can you tell us about an example where influencer marketing has done really well for a brand?

As mentioned earlier, we’ve done a various types of campaigns with different companies – the majority of which have rebooked future campaigns. A key case study of ours is with Happn who use a large number of our Influencers to generate downloads for their app – they are ‘immensely successful’ and are multiple time repeat clients of ours.

Any other tips on finding and approaching influencers as a startup?

A problem that exists is that when a startup is launched, they often don't have the funding to meet the minimum requirements of most marketing agencies; but why should only big companies have access to these resources? We don't just work with brands who have massive budgets - we work with a wide range of businesses.


Get the Virgin StartUp Business plan