Influencer Marketing for the Education Space: The Who, What, Why, and How

Influencer marketing has been prominent in consumer marketing, especially in the fashion, technology, and beauty industries for quite a while. Over the last few years it has emerged in the educator space as an exciting, new way to promote your products, company, or brand to new people in the education market. Partnering with authentic social media voices is an innovative, warm/friendly, and most importantly, effective method of communication to help you reach your goals.

We like to think of influencer marketing as today’s version of “word-of-mouth” marketing. Think of the last trip you went on, or the last item you purchased. Did you get a recommendation of where to stay, or what to buy from a friend or someone who’s opinion you trust? That’s what influencer marketing is doing online. Influencer marketing experts can help you determine who are the right people to connect with to get your message out to the right audience. By partnering with an influencer who your audience already trusts, and therefore can get them to take an action, your campaigns can be much more effective than other traditional channels of marketing.

MDR recently hosted a webinar on influencer marketing for the education market. Below are some of the frequently asked questions from the audience with answers from our expert panelists and influencer marketing strategists at MDR, Stacey Ferguson and Jessica McFadden.

1. What is an education social media influencer?

Here’s how we define “Education Social Media Influencers”: An education-focused social media influencer with established independent credibility on the topic of education, usually with a niche focus. Education social media influencers may be classroom teachers, education enthusiasts, former teachers-turned-professional social media content creators, or edtech experts.

2. Why should I consider doing an influencer marketing campaign with an educator social media influencer?

For companies looking to connect with students, parents, or teachers, educators are a credible source of authentic influencers. Building relationships with educator influencers can create brand advocates who can directly influence your target audience. If you want to increase your brand awareness, reach a new audience, grow your social followers, or increase engagement on your social channels, an influencer marketing campaign can help achieve all these goals. Influencers are also a great way to get direct feedback about your product or services that you can use to improve.

It’s important to understand what you want the outcome to be from working with influencers and to clearly define your goals. Influencers shouldn’t be looked at as a way to generate sales, but they can definitely help get the word out about your product/services in a way that is authentic, which can eventually result in boosted sales.

Building a community is by far the best way to achieve all these goals. People want to feel like they are a part of your tribe and will become brand advocates for you if you show them you genuinely care about their challenges, wants, and needs. What better way to do that than to work with someone who they trust as an influencer.

3. What is the best way to find appropriate influencers for my company to work with?

Before you even start working on an influencer marketing campaign, you should be working on finding and following influencers in your specific space. It can be a fun project! At MDR, we’re always doing research to build our influencer network by searching hashtags on Instagram and Twitter, looking at who those people are interacting with or tagging, and looking at competitors to see what they are working on.

Building an influencer network is not an exact science, but it does take effort to consume media, spend time on the social channels where your influencers are, and keep track of the people you find authentic in your space. You don’t need any fancy software or programs to get started – a spreadsheet will work just fine!

Another key tip to keep in mind is any time someone with a large social presence or following tags your brand or interacts with you personally, save that post! That name and handle are gold; you’ve found someone who is organically engaged with you, so you’ll want to be sure to thank them for the mention and begin building a relationship with them so that you can follow up later if you’re interested in partnering with them.

4. How can I find local influencers to reach teachers, students, and families in a specific geographic region?

The best way to find local influencers is to look at which thought leaders influence your local schools and districts. Look at their social media profiles to determine who follows them and pay attention to their posts so that you can see who they follow. You can also search hashtags related to your city and see who is using those. Attending local events and keeping an eye on local media are other great ways to connect with influencers in your area. 

5. How segmented is the influencer market? Are there specific influencers that target District Administrators that might have less sway with teachers?

The teacher influencer landscape is segmented by educator grades, subject areas, and social media channels. That said, there are not necessarily a large number of influencers in every possible niche. For instance, one partner asked us to target school nurse bloggers, and we found very few, and so we expanded our influencer focus to educators focused on health.

Education social media influencers very authentically communicate with other educators and produce content for followers in all aspects of education. Usually they are gearing their content towards fellow educators in the same role as themselves—elementary teachers, science teachers, etc.

6. Do you find that influencer marketing is more successful among specific titles, for example, a teacher audience vs a superintendent audience?

It’s more that there are more readers of influencer content who are teachers than administrators, so the potential audiences of a teacher influencer will be larger in most cases.

7. When I’m ready to get started, do I just email the Influencer and make a proposition to them?

We recommend having a well-thought out and documented plan before reaching out to an influencer. When we pitch an influencer, we’ve already determined what the CTA will be, what our budget is, what we’ll offer as compensation, and what metrics we’ll be reporting on afterwards. It’s also smart to have an A list and a B list of your top choices and your secondary choices, so you can be prepared if the first group doesn’t get back to you.

Once you have all of that in place, you’ll want to write a tailored, personalized pitch email that clearly explains what you would like them to do and ask if they are interested. If they are interested in working together, then you can send any creative assets, tracking links, and key points you want them to include in the content they are producing for you.

If you need help with this process, MDR’s strategists are happy to guide you in the right direction! Reach out to us here to get started.

8. Is there anything that we should include in the initial outreach to an influencer that would increase the chances of the influencer moving forward with a partnership?

Our biggest tip to landing an influencer partnership is to show the influencer that you are already following them and that you’ve been reading their content. Call out a recent photo they posted that you liked, or a blog post that you found helpful, and include this in your pitch! Showing them that you have a personal interest can go a long way.

Another tip: always approach influencers as a partner, not the hired help. You want them to understand that you value their opinion, you trust them and their platform, and you want it to be a collaborative relationship.

9. Is it appropriate to ask an influencer to use a brand hashtag?

Yes! This would be one of the assets to share with the influencer at the outset. This is a totally fair ask and is critical to measuring performance.

10. Is there a difference in influencer marketing when using Pinterest vs Instagram? Would I go about approaching them differently?

Regardless of the platform you will be using, you’ll want to have a detailed plan of what you want the influencer to do. On Pinterest you may just be asking them to share a pin that you already created on their page, or you may want them to create a new pin that links to your content. On Instagram, you may want them to take their own photo or video, or you may provide them an asset to share.

Whatever platform or channel you are reaching out about, just make sure you’ve thought through the entire ask and the steps involved, and that way you’ll be able to pitch it appropriately.

11. If you reach out to an influencer and haven’t heard back, how many follow ups are appropriate before you decide to move on?

We think of it just like following up after an interview. We usually do one follow up after the initial outreach to give them one last chance to get back to you. Just make sure to consider the timing; the end of the school year is a crazy busy time for teachers, and over the summer you might catch them on a well-deserved vacation, so give them a few extra days to a week to respond during these times in particular.

12. How do you compensate influencers? Do you have any tips for figuring out what is fair pay for influencers?

A good place to begin is to think about how much time will it take the influencer to create the piece of content for the campaign. If it’s just repining a Pin that you already created or reposting an Instagram photo, that will be less of an ask than if they have to come up with their own, original content. Another thing to consider is how many followers they have or how big their audience is, obviously the larger the audience they can reach the more valuable they are to have as a partner.

While there’s no standard rate card out there, often influencers will be very open about their rate, and the best thing to do is just ask. Influencers understand that you as a brand have a certain available budget, and they are usually willing to be flexible and come to an agreement especially if it’s a product they are already interested in.

If you have a smaller budget, or no budget, it’s also worth asking if sending them free product or a discount code is enough in return for a product review. This is a good place to test the waters before committing to spending more on an influencer program.

13. Won’t you get better content from an influencer if you’re not paying them?

That is not necessarily true at all. Influencers take their craft very seriously – their brand image is their business, and their success depends on their audience trusting them. So, they never want to do anything that would deteriorate that trust. If they are going to be paid or given free product to write about, they will want to be transparent about that with their audience so that they can make their own decisions about what the influencer is posting about. If an influencer is being cagey about disclosing a sponsorship, they might not be the best partner for you to work with.

14. Does MDR help with identifying influencers in the education space that we could engage with?

Yes! We have built our own influencer network of more than 1,000 influencers in the parenting, teacher, tech, and school leadership spaces. Created by the masterminds who run WeAreTeachers, the #1 media brand for educators, our influencer network is a contact database that houses details about all the influencers we’ve worked with before, and we’re adding new influencers to it every day.

There’s no secret to this, but we’ve already invested in creating this network for our clients to tap into. We can identify the best influencers for your brand and goals and put together a campaign that will give influencers a memorable and meaningful experience to share with their audience. Download our media kit to learn more.

If you missed our Influencer Marketing webinar, you can view the slides below, or check out our library of webinar recordings.

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