One in eight SME owners use Online Influencers to boost Sales and Marketing


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One in eight SME owners use Online Influencers to boost Sales and Marketing

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  • New research suggests one in eight (13%) SMEs have used a social media influencer as part of their strategy
  • Of those who used an influencer, almost nine in ten (88%) say it had a positive impact on their business
  • The number of SMEs using TikTok has tripled among younger entrepreneurs since 2021, as almost one in three (29%) small business owners aged 18-44 say they use the platform for their business

New data from one of Europe’s largest small business lenders, iwoca, reveals how SMEs are exploring social media influencers as an avenue for marketing.

More than two-thirds of SME owners (70%) are active on social media platforms, and one in eight (13%) have used an influencer to help them grow their business. This doubles to more than a quarter (29%) among entrepreneurs aged 44 or under, suggesting young business owners are driving this transition.Many small businesses could be missing an opportunity to grow sales by not using influencers. Nine in ten (88%) businesses who have chosen to use influencer marketing previously said it had a positive impact on their business. 

SME advice on finding an influencer

Businesses that have used influencers as marketing prioritise social media reach in their local area. When asked which factors were most important to them when they chose an influencer to work with, almost half (48%) of SMEs said follower numbers were their top priority. Two in five (42%) SMEs with influencer experience considered how relevant an influencer was to their businesses, as well as the proximity to where they work when selecting a partner.The main concerns from small business owners who have never used influencers, span  worries it wouldn’t drive sales (48%), concerns around authentically representing the business (30%), and high costs associated with influencer marketing (18%).

TikTok takes off among SMEs

iwoca’s research also reveals a significant shift in small business social media strategies, with TikTok use growing rapidly. While nearly half (45%) of small businesses admitted to 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.

Paul Sherratt, Founder & CEO of Glove Glu
Paul Sherratt, Founder & CEO of Glove Glu uses influencers to connect with his core audience both on TikTok and other platforms, he said: “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."

Hot Water Comedy Club
Paul Blair, Director of Liverpool’s Hot Water Comedy Club, has never used an Influencer, but has managed to build a large following for his business. Paul shared his insights into social media success: "We were already very visible on all other social channels and we reluctantly set up a TikTok account with an initial target of 1.2m followers - which was what the most followed comedy club in the world had. But we ended up with over 2m followers within a year! Consistency is key with TikTok. Post every single day and don’t miss one. Keep your content on brand and recorded to a high standard."

Harry Newberry
Harry Newberry, a micro-influencer working in the food and drink space shared his advice for SMEs: "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."

Mark Di-Toro, iwoca’s Communications Director
Mark Di-Toro, iwoca’s Communications Director added: "Unlocking the potential of social media influencers can have a positive impact on your growth. However, tread carefully. 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."

5 tips for effective influencer collaboration:

  1. Know your social audience: Understand your online audience to select an influencer aligned with their preferences, behaviours, and interests. 
  2. Embrace experimentation: Try new approaches that resonate with your audience without dismissing niche influencers too quickly.
  3. Consider micro-influencers: Prioritise relevancy and proximity to maximise the impact to your business - big follower numbers aren’t everything. 
  4. Keep it consistent: Ensure influencer partnerships fit your content strategy to reinforce your brand identity.
  5. Utilise your own influence: Compliment your influencer-created content by sharing your own expertise to establish credibility within your space. 

About the data

iwoca conducted an online survey with Panelbase of over 500 SME owners across the country over two weeks in December 2023 and December 2021.

Edward is iwoca's PR and Communications Manager. He's the storyteller behind many of our SME successes, sharing case studies, research, and insights on all things small businesses and finance

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