How to find a Media Influencer for your Small Business on a Shoestring Budget

Tips on how to find a media influencer abound on social media marketing sites, but does the advice work for smaller businesses with limited budgets? Not so much.

Influencer marketing agencies tout impressive results and promise low fees, but the figures don’t always scale for smaller businesses. SMEs may need to skip the online tools and agencies to conserve their cash reserves.

The CoVID-19 pandemic has forced many business owners to ponder the possibility of hitting rock-bottom. Are you considering a last-ditch, all-out advertising splurge? Don’t blow your budget on a mega influencer with a million followers.

Here are 3 factors to consider before you commit to a potentially hefty long-term budget, plus 6 steps to finding a good influencer the “alternative way”.


1. Influencer Marketing Is Not Cheap

The cost to hire an influencer increases with the number of followers. Take heart: That won’t cut you out of the game. It’s possible to find a good match for your local or niche product among the Nanoscale (1,000 – 10,000 followers) or Microscale (10,000 – 50,000 followers) influencers. They often specialize in topics they know well and generally charge less.

It’s nonsensical to approach a fashion supermodel with a million followers (and an eye-popping fee to prove it) if your product is a low-impact, low-cost building technique.

Actually, she won’t even entertain the proposal as she can’t afford to dilute her own brand. Rather approach an influential architect or respected researcher whose modest number of followers rely on his integrity and knowledge.

2. You Can’t Buy A Quickie

Influencer marketing is not a hit and run trick. You can’t just toss money at someone famous to get a quick once-off mention. Influencer marketing is mostly aimed at building your brand, not pushing product sales.

It’s a process, it will take time, and you’ll need to commit to a long-term relationship and investment.

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3. And Then There Are The Hidden Costs

Like you, influencers prefer stability and want to build long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with their sponsors. Some may support your product in exchange for goods or services, rather than a fee. But can you afford the fees or gifts for long enough to move the needle for your business?

  • They might require you to create the content. Do you have the skills to write articles, craft messages, and create graphics? What happens if they don’t like your best efforts and refuse to use it?
  • Can you measure the success of your campaign without spending days analyzing media activity, tracking leads, and managing sales?
  • Can you afford to invest in additional staff or tools to measure the return on your investment?


Ever since influencer marketing became the hottest thing, the number of influencer agencies have mushroomed to take advantage of the phenomenon. There has also been a massive increase in the number of people who claim “Media Influencer” as a job title and career.

Most are the genuine article, but for others, it’s just a fast buck. A healthy dose of skepticism is a cash-strapped SME’s best friend.

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Step 1: If You Can’t Find One, Create One

If you have the cash it’s easy to find a full-service agency or good paid hiring platform such as Buzzsumo or Aspireiq where you can shop around for a celebrity. These are marvelous tools, but if you own a local cafe, childcare service, craft market, or deli, your small business may be better served by an influential local person as champion.

If your product or service is not location-bound, look for a respected peer or hobbyist with a genuine passion for the subject, and who may become your brand advocate for the perks.

You can find such people yourself. In fact, you probably already have.

Step 2: Identify Potential Candidates

You’re already active on the social media channels where your customers are, right? You’re deeply interested in all aspects of your product and service, and you therefore already follow the news and hashtags, right?

There’s a good chance that you’ve already spotted, and are following, well-respected individuals in your area or industry whose values are broadly aligned with that of your business, and who seem to hit the nail on the head every time they post.

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Start with them. Even if they aren’t perfect for your company’s brand, they might know someone who will be.

Step 3: Take Them For A Test Drive – Engage

Establish a cordial relationship before you approach him. Behave like a sincere fan. There should be no need to pretend, because if you don’t admire your potential influencer’s work you have no business trying to engage him.

Don’t fawn. Use the like button, repost occasionally, and read his responses to his followers as an anonymous member of his audience. Can he hold his own in your industry? Can you gauge his level of interest from his engagements?

Scrutinize his timeline. It’s better to discover potentially embarrassing or problematic viewpoints before you proceed. Does he value the same principles and goals as that of your company? Could you trust him to represent your brand?

You’ll also be able to spot other collaborations that may prevent him from representing your brand, or which may develop into a serious conflict of interest.

Step 4: Final Vetting

You need to gain an understanding of his complete public profile. Is he punting perfect content on one channel while secretly engaging in unsavory personal spats on other channels? It also stands to reason that you should know about a criminal history or questionable financial practices before you reach out.

Vet your prospects through Nuwber’s profiling services, and pay a little extra for a deep-dive into the biographies of your shortlisted candidates. Nuwber uses advanced custom search tools to fetch information like credit standing, criminal records, and social security data from all over the internet.

They also add personal (public, and legally obtained) information about your candidate’s activities on most social media platforms, for example, comments on public discussion forums, mentions in the news, blogs, and articles.

Step 5: Reaching Out

Now that you have a real, if distant, relationship with the person you want to work with, you can email a letter of introduction.

  • Introduce yourself.
  • Tell her what you like about his work.
  • Point out the alignment between your values and hers.
  • Summarize the reasons why she would be a good advocate for your brand.
  • Make it clear that you are offering compensation, and that you are open to suggestions and discussion, but don’t get too specific. Offer a free trial or supply of your product, sales commission, or sponsorship for a cause which she supports, but hold off on mentioning a fee. This approach should set the table for further negotiations without committing you to a price.

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This approach is particularly helpful for small or micro area-bound businesses.  An occasional mention by a respected property developer or top-level Realtor could make a huge difference to the prosperity of a restaurant, a home-based upholstery workshop, or a hand-made candy shop.

Step 6: Move On To The Deal-making

Most entrepreneurs love this part! Be brave, be honest, be fair. You’re in it for the long haul. A great working relationship with one influencer may spark the growth of a highly effective synergistic network of public supporters.

“Low-level influencer”? Not in terms of ROI.

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