Growing awareness of your company and content can be difficult on your own, which is why more and more businesses are turning towards influencers for help.
Nothing refers people to a business like positive word of mouth. When word of mouth comes from people who have a big influence on others, it gives your business a significant credibility boost. But let’s face it: Getting a celebrity endorsement isn’t easy, especially when you don’t have millions of dollars to offer in return. Fortunately, social media has given ordinary people and businesses unprecedented access to industry influencers.
The biggest mistake people make when they try to launch an influencer campaign is to think too big too early. They target the biggest influencers right away, essentially throwing themselves at a barricade in the hopes of getting noticed.
Occasionally, these Hail Mary efforts do work; we reported last year on a food blogger who got celebrity chef Mario Batali to retweet one of his blog links. It’s much better, however, especially in your initial outreach efforts, to target influencers who will actually respond and put their leverage behind promoting your company and your content.
Finding the Right Influencers
If you’re like many business owners, you might feel as though you don’t know where to start with influencer marketing. These questions will guide you as you make your decisions:
Who Do You Know?
Instead of reaching out to complete strangers initially, think through your existing professional connections. You might be surprised to discover you already know some influencers, or you have connections to influencers through other people.
- Your professional network. Think of influential people you may already know thanks to your professional work, your hobbies, your charitable work, or your participation in local groups, such as the chamber of commerce or your local small-business network.
- Blogs you follow. If you follow influential bloggers and comment often on their posts, particularly if you’re a recognizable member of their communities, these bloggers may respond when you reach out.
- People you follow on social media. A social media follow or Like isn’t a deep connection, but if you’re an active part of someone’s social media community, particularly if you’ve interacted with the person directly, the influencer might be open to promoting your company.
- Local leaders. Think of someone local who’s active on social media and might promote your company as a part of a local business partnership, “buy local” initiative, or community service project.
- Industry leaders. If you know leaders within your industry, perhaps through talking with them at a conference or participating in some of their courses, you have some relationship traction before reaching out to them for influencer marketing.
- Your customers. Some of the people who already follow you on your social networks could wield significant social influence. Consider sending those customers targeted promotions or previews of new products.
If you don’t know any influencers, start a list of people who you could work on building a relationship with, whether it’s through joining their online communities, attending their events, or introducing yourself at a business function. If you work with a digital marketing agency, talk to your account rep about possible media or influencer connections your agency already has.
Where Do They Hang out?
Your business benefits most from an influencer’s endorsement or sharing of your content when the person has a strong following on your targeted social networks. For example, if you primarily want to connect with Pinterest users, don’t target an influencer with a big Twitter following but no presence on Pinterest.
If you don’t have a social network in mind, consider demographics, location, and other characteristics of people you want to reach. Instead of choosing anyone who will say “yes,” target an influencer who has a significant audience within your target market.
How Much Influence Do They Have?
With some influencers, especially if you know them well or participate in their online communities, it’s easy to gauge how their promotion of your content could affect you. If you don’t really know the person, you can use tools like Klout to determine how much social media influence someone really has.
Klout uses numerical scores to measure people’s influence, both generally and in particular content areas. The median Klout score is 40, which means someone below 40 has a lower overall influence, but someone above 40 has a higher than average influence — generally speaking. Remember that when it comes to a particular subject area, someone with what looks like a lower overall Klout score could have significant social influence within your desired niche audience.
To find influencers related to your business, search Klout for key terms about your industry. For example, a search for experts (Klout’s term for influencers) in social media yields the following results:
You can see each individual’s Klout score next to his or her profile picture.
In addition to searching for people who are experts on your subject or industry, try searching for your existing customers on Klout. You can identify people with significant social media who already love your brand — which is a lot easier than cold calling an influencer you don’t know.
What Do They Share?
Reading through a potential influencer’s social network feeds and blog posts will tell you a lot about how generous they are about sharing. If you see positive mentions of other people, praise for different products, or a lot of interactions with other community members, you’re more likely to be dealing with someone who’s active and open to building business relationships online.
Persuading Influencers to Share Content
Influencers are approached all the time by marketing agencies and business owners like you. They’re constantly asked for favors by people who’ve never bothered to interact within their communities, read their work, or get to know what they’re about.
Your first goal, particularly when targeting an influencer you don’t know well or at all, is to start trying to build a presence in that person’s community. It will take time and effort, but the results will be worth it.
- Follow their blogs and leave comments. Don’t be one of those tedious blog commenters who self-promotes and drops links in the comment section. Instead, leave thoughtful, intelligent comments about what the influencer has written in the post. The influencer just might reply back to you.
- Follow them on social networks and video channels, if applicable. Again, interact with their social media communities intelligently, without continuous self-promotion.
- Introduce yourself if you get the chance. Attend a conference or other event, and, if it’s not intrusive, introduce yourself to your target influencer. You can also attend their webinars and introduce yourself by making thoughtful comments or asking useful questions.
Give Them Something They Can Use
If you’d like influencers to promote your content, give them something that benefits them as much as it benefits you. Create items your influencers will be motivated to share. For example, you can:
- Create an infographic that promotes their ideas or their work.
- Write a blog post describing how you found their advice useful.
- Compose a review of one of their books or podcasts.
- Take some of their ideas, and expand on them in a guest blog post or video.
You need to create something that will accomplish two goals: making the influencer look good, and providing something the influencer’s community can use. For instance, if you create visual content for a potential influencer campaign, create something of high quality that your influencer would be proud to share and promote. Show the community how you took one of the influencer’s ideas and used it to run your business or serve a client more effectively.
It’s not enough to create vanity content for an influencer. When you create content for a potential influencer, try to create something that’s born in genuine admiration for the person or their work. Write a blog post because the person’s advice truly benefited you, or include them in an infographic of top industry thought leaders because you genuinely believe they deserve the recognition. You’ll have a much better chance of connecting with an influencer when your effort comes from a sincere, genuine place.
Don’t Give up
Influencer marketing campaigns don’t have to cost you a dime, but they will require both time and persistence. If the process seems too open-ended or too overwhelming, ask your digital marketing agency whether they have existing relationships with influencers. These existing relationships could save you a lot of time and give you a big bang for your marketing buck.