Shaley Ham of West Desperado shares her secrets of success.
Every photo Shaley Ham shares tells a story: adventures under wide-open skies, free-spirited rebellion, and a genuine love of life in the West. She’s a bold new kind of cowgirl – and with more than 80,000 followers on Instagram, she’s the top influencer in the Western industry. Blending rugged country roots with a fresh modern edge, the model and entrepreneur promotes products for brands and boutiques on her fashion page, West Desperado.
“I come from a rodeo family,” says Ham, who hails from the small town of Cheney in eastern Washington, “I grew up around horses and traveling to rodeos.” In 2016, she took a professional job in Portland, Oregon, but missed being on the rodeo trail. She launched West Desperado as a creative outlet and a connection with the Western lifestyle she missed.
Ham began by posting simple photos of her outfits, networking at rodeos, and growing her fanbase organically. Now an in-demand trendsetter, she’s sharing valuable insight on influencer marketing with Western businesses that want to get into the game. Here are a few things we learned.
What Is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is a type of social media marketing that shares your brand’s message via endorsements from influencers: people with a loyal online following because of their style, expertise, or social clout. Driven by Instagram photos and videos, influencer marketing is like a celebrity endorsement – only smaller and much more personalized.
How Do Brands Benefit from Influencers?
Influencer marketing uses digital word-of-mouth to boost brand awareness and build trust with a highly targeted audience. More importantly, it fosters an authentic connection with your brand and a lasting relationship with the power to convert customers. When an influencer shares their honest enthusiasm for your product, it’s marketing magic.
Just the Facts
- 70% of U.S. consumers on social media trust influencers’ opinions as much or more than their real friends. –Sidequik
- 71% are more likely to purchase a product based on social media recommendations. –AListDaily
Getting Started: Find Your Perfect Match
Your ideal influencer is the one that fits your brand the best. “The right fit means that my style and brand align with that of the business I’m working with,” Ham says. “I ask myself if the product is something I would normally use.”
Authenticity is everything, so look for a natural affinity between the influencer and your products.
Step 1: Determine Your Goals
“It’s important to know what you want from a partnership first, then it will lead you to the right influencer,” Ham adds. “Are you looking for someone with a large following to spread the name of your business? Are you hoping to receive a gallery of images to use of products you send, or are the images they post on their page enough?”
Step 2: Search, Scroll, Repeat
Search for influencers with relevant hashtags for your brand, like #westernstyle, #rodeofashion, and #countrychic (see West Desperado’s posts for more hashtag inspiration). You can also use geo-specific hashtags like #fortworthboots or #montanadesign. Browse your page’s followers to see if any have potential, and ask your plugged-in friends for suggestions.
Step 3: Sense the Style
Consider how the influencer’s feed makes you feel. Playful? Inspired? Adventurous? Is this how you want your brand to make your customers feel? Look at the photography – the tones, colors, and compositions. Does it match your style? “If you have mostly light, bright, simple photos, working with an influencer who posts moody, busy, warmer toned images might not be the best match,” Ham says.
Step 4: Check the Stats
Look for an influencer who posts regularly and has at least 1,000 followers. You might think that a bigger follower count is always better, but this isn’t necessarily true, Ham says. “Nano-influencers (influencers with less than 10,000 followers) will generally have a more personal connection with their followers who will, in turn, trust messages that the influencer shares.”
Step 5: Explore Their Feed
Follower count only tells part of the story. Ham explains: “Consider who these followers are, and if they actually see and engage with content the influencer shares.” Are followers responding with likes and comments? Click on followers’ profiles to ensure they are real people, not bots or fake accounts.
Step 6: Send a Message
“Simply reach out and introduce yourself,” Ham says. “Include your Instagram handle so it’s easy for them to find your page.” No email contact listed? Message the influencer on Instagram. Let them know you’d like to work together and go from there.
Do I Need a Contract?
“Contracts are the best way to guarantee both parties understand what is being agreed upon and that they hold up their end of the bargain,” Ham says. But there’s no need to hire a lawyer, she adds. “Simply type out basic guidelines and agreements of the partnership.”
- WHO: What parties are involved
- WHAT: What each party is responsible for
- WHEN: Timeline for content posting
- HOW MUCH: Compensation
You can also include content guidelines or requirements, usage rights, or exclusivities. “Don’t assume anything if it hasn’t been mentioned,” Ham says. Both parties should receive a signed copy.
What Does It Cost?
Industry standard is $100 per 10,000 followers for a dedicated Instagram post. However, this varies depending on the scope of work. “I customize the price of every partnership,” Ham says. Pricing is often lower for smaller boutiques or if other businesses are tagged in the post, and can be higher for story posts, giveaways, and additional images. Influencers with small followings may work for discounts or free merchandise.
How Do I Measure ROI?
You can track influencer metrics by providing discount codes for the influencer to share with their followers. They could also share an affiliate link on their stories (if they have the “swipe up” feature) or in their page bio. You can also track sales on days that the influencer posts.
Influencer marketing isn’t just about posting cool pictures; it’s about creating a genuine emotional connection. “I try to tell a story through the fashion I share, and to inspire women to think outside the box with their style,” Ham says.
With so many people listening, influencer marketing is a story that Western businesses can’t afford to ignore.