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Influencer Marketing: How brands connect with social media stars

Minneapolis public relations firm Lola Red says even without thousands of followers, influencers can still make money from their content.

MINNEAPOLIS — You can't get far scrolling through Instagram without running into a paid promotion. So how do brands connect with the people they want to help them sell their products? 

Some just reach out, but sometimes there's more to it than that. 

"We have a database full of influencers from our own backyard in Minnesota, and across the world," said Tiffany Jackson. Jackson works for Lola Red, a public relations agency in Minneapolis.

Lola Red also uses a third party system called Grin, a database of influencers all looking for brands. Brands or agencies enter a keyword related to the product (example: cooking), and the system shows them influencers who fit that niche.

Jackson says a following of thousands isn't necessary to be a paid influencer.

"There's various levels. So there's the nano influencer, who might have just a couple hundred followers, all the way up to those real macro influencers like the Kim Kardashians of the world," she said.

More important than followers, Jackson says, is engagement and trust.

"[Small influencers are] still generating this amazing content around your brand and getting that trust out to their audience," Jackson said. "So there is value in someone with a really small following, let's say like 500 people, because they've generated this content that also drives trust with this audience that your brand is trying to reach."

Jackson says there are multiple ways influencers can be compensated for working with a brand. Sometimes they are paid, but they can also agree to trade partnerships in which they get free products.

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