One in eight SME owners now use online influencers

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Date: 25 March 2024

Social influencers are being increasingly used by small businesses

More and more small businesses are using social media influencers as part of their sales and marketing strategy; and new research shows that those that do are reaping the rewards.

A study by small business lender Iwoca has found that the use of influencers is growing among UK SMEs, with 13% reporting that they have used a social media influencer as part of their strategy. This doubles to 29% among entrepreneurs aged 44 or under, suggesting young business owners are driving this transition.

The findings suggest that many small businesses could be missing out on an opportunity to grow sales if they don't use influencers - 88% of firms who have used influencer marketing said it had a positive impact on their business.

"Don't hesitate to work with influencers. If you select the right one, they will open up a dialogue and real connection with your audience that will enhance everything that you do across the marketing mix. They not only provide a greater reach, but also allow us to connect with a slightly different brand voice and to a slightly different audience." Paul Sherratt, founder & ceo, Glove Glu.

Choosing an influencer for your business

When asked which factors were most important to them when they chose an influencer to work with, 48% of small business owners said follower numbers was their top priority; 42% considered how relevant an influencer was to their businesses, as well as focusing on their reach in their local area.

"Finding the right influencers can be tough. I'd recommend small businesses start by exploring relevant hashtags on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok. Working with businesses that align with both your personal brand, and the community you have created is extremely important. People will see through a brand collaboration that focuses on personal gain rather than informative content." Micro-influencer Harry Newberry.

Small business owners who have never used influencers said their main concerns are:

  • Worries that it wouldn't drive sales (48%);
  • Concerns around authentically representing the business (30%);
  • High costs associated with influencer marketing (18%).

TikTok takes off among small firms

More than two-thirds of SME owners (70%) are active on social media platforms, with TikTok use growing rapidly. While nearly half (45%) of small businesses say they've been maintaining the same approach to marketing over the past decade, the use of TikTok among small businesses has tripled since 2021. Nearly a third (29%) of UK small business owners between 18-44 are leveraging the platform to engage with their audience, up from 10% in 2021.

The rise of micro-influencers

"Unlocking the potential of social media influencers can have a positive impact on your growth. However, tread carefully," advises Mark Di-Toro, Iwoca's communications director.

"For SMEs, the secret lies in tapping into the high-quality micro-influencer niche. These influencers boast genuinely engaged followers, offering a more authentic connection to your brand and products. Always do your research and seek guidance when identifying your preferred online partner. If done well they could be a great way to elevate your profile and boost sales."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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