Influencers can lead a horse to water — and make them drink it, online retailers say

Social media influencers are the main driver of online sales for Built Bar’s direct-to-consumer website, says Jeff Newman, executive vice president of the protein bar and snack brand.

Influencers drive results, he says.

The brand devotes 60% of its digital marketing budget to influencer marketing. The other 40% goes toward email, SMS text messaging and traditional media like podcast ads, he says.

Built spends 60% of its influencer budget on Instagram and Facebook influencers. 25% goes toward TikTok influencers, and the remainder toward YouTube and other bloggers, he says.

Instagram brings in 80% of Built’s influencer-led online sales, Newman says.

When Built launches a social media campaign, the brand expects a jump in conversion, Newman says. Built’s average website conversion rate is about 10%, Newman says. “If it dips below that, I start to panic,” he says.

Social media is a powerful marketing tool

But influencer-led conversions can skyrocket sales during a new product launch. On June 15, Built launched its strawberry cheesecake flavored protein bar. The conversion rate on reached 20%, with the majority of sales coming from influencer links, Newman says.

“I was expecting to run the campaign for a week, and it sold out by 6 P.M. the same day,” he says.

Social media is a powerful digital marketing tool, and influencers offer retailers a chance for an untapped audience with consumers. Most of Built Bar’s sales come from influencers. Luxury apparel marketplace Orchard Mile Inc. dedicates web pages for its influencers to conduct live selling events. Online marketplace Jane spent four times the amount it did on influencer campaigns in 2023 compared with 2022 to increase its sales.

With the marketing tactic growing in popularity, retailers need to have a clear vision of what their influencer strategy is. That takes time to vet the right content creators that fit with the brand. The goal is for the influencer’s message to resonate with their followers — and entice them to go and buy. But this doesn’t come without risk, as brands give control to the influencer. A highly polished and produced video ad can come off as disingenuous and turn off even the most loyal followers. But paying a flat fee or incentivizing influencers with affiliate link commissions doesn’t guarantee a positive review.

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