For the vast majority of companies, it doesn’t get much better than a local influencer. Certain global influencers can have a reach that would help just about any company (Mark Cuban comes to mind), but by and large it’s the local influencers who can really bring conversions to your website. This is not only because local influencers are closer to the action—and in many cases more trusted—but they’re also easier to connect with from a company standpoint.
It takes a lot of effort and trust to build a relationship, but when it comes to those in your community you have a lot more ammo to work with. What do I mean by this? You have more in common, less competition, better mutual connections, to start. The hardest part is finding these influencers in the first place.
Who are Local Influencers?
Influencers, in general, are people who have a lot of reach and trust with your target audience. Over time they have proven themselves to be credible, so they are not only highly connected to your audience (and therefore have a large reach), but they’re trusted and persuasive. If you have an influencer on your side, they can help get the word out to the right people better than you could have done on your own because they have this reputation. Celebrities are the most obvious influencers, but of course every industry has their own smaller “celebrities” who have similar power.
A local influencer is exactly as it sounds—someone who influences your local audience. Just as local SEO is more targeted with less competition (and therefore more successful for a business), local influencers can be as well.
How Local Influencers can Affect Your Local SEO
In one sentence, local influencers can help improve your local SEO by getting the word out to a targeted audience through social sharing, natural links, and traditional mentions.
The idea is that the good publicity from such a reputable source will help spread the word—helping your company earn more natural links, more reviews, etc.—so you become more authoritative in your niche. The more authoritative you become, the higher Google will rank you on local search and the more visibility you will get. It’s basic SEO logic, which you can learn more about here if you’re unsure how SEO works.
First Step: Know What a Local Influencer Looks Like for Your Business
Before finding a local influencer, you need to be able to decide what makes someone a local influencer for you. There are sure to be a few obvious names in the industry, but oftentimes there are influencers out there that you actually have to find (and not just “know about” automatically). To understand what a local influencer means to you, create a list of what criteria that person should meet. This criteria will essentially be characteristics that can help your company reach its goals.
A few ideas include:
- Having an up-to-date blog with quality content
- Experience in the industry
- A large number of quality followers on their social media accounts
- Connections with the press, community events, etc.
Once again, this is not a one-size fits all approach. It’s up to you to determine what “local influencer” means in your industry, with your audience, and for your specific business. Spend some time asking yourselves these questions and creating a list. Once you do, you’re ready to go out and find the right people.
How to Find Local Influencers
Below are different ways, places, and tips for finding those local influencers who will help you improve your local SEO:
Go to Local Networking Events and Conferences
As a local business you’re likely attending these functions for networking purposes anyway, so this one is a no-brainer. This is not only the perfect place to meet local influencers and start to create a relationship right away, but pay attention to what’s being discussed. Is there a name or two that you’ve heard more than once? If so those may be good people to research and learn more about.
It’s also a great idea to be very candid at events and not only try to meet and hear about influencers, but actually ask who everyone sees as an influencer in your industry. Take your own mini poll and mention that you’re looking to expand your network—you’ll be surprised at just how open people are to helping.
Ask Customers how They Found You, and Include “Influencer” as an Open Option
Whether it’s on a Thank You page, job application, or just before an appointment, a good local business will have a survey or drop-down menu asking how someone found the company. The choices are usually Internet, Job Board, Yelp, Social Network, Friend, Newspaper Ad, etc., but you don’t often see an option of “Influencer”.
While you may want to use the term “celebrity”, or something more generic, add this as an option and then leave a space for your customers to tell you who exactly taught them about you. This is a great way to get a direct list of local influencers that you can then check out on your own using the criteria above.
Do Your Research on Social Networks
One of the best ways to find local influencers is to head to social media. Start filtering down people by those in your area and those who have a good number of followers. Domain News suggests you look for “middle level” influencers, or those with 500 to 2000 followers, because A-list influencers will be uninterested in leveraging your business in the early stages. This is great advice and can help make your searching easier and give you better results.
I recommend starting with Facebook and then working your way to LinkedIn and Twitter. Make sure that the influencer has a strong presence on all three networks and make sure that you have mutual friends and followers. The more mutual connections you have, the more of an influence someone is to your audience specifically.
No matter what network you’re searching on, however, it’s important to always look at the content and quality of followers. Make sure they are frequently posting quality content, as a large number of followers doesn’t always mean they’re a trusted source. If a lot of the connections aren’t active (a quick way to do a check is to see if they have a lot of followers without pictures), that’s also a red flag.
Use a Tool Such as Followerwonk or Buzzsumo
There are many different social media tools out there that specifically work to help you find influencers in your niche (it’s usually up to you to determine if any have a local connection). Moz’s Followerwonk is a great option for Twitter. It not only helps you see information about your own followers and posts, but it will try to find the best people out there to share your content (aka influencers) based on Twitter analytics.
Below is a screenshot example I took using the tool. As you can see, I typed in “Memphis digital marketing” to see if there was anyone on Twitter active with those keywords. I got a few ideas and have a lot of their information right there ready to go. I can now use those names and do more research to see if they’re the right people to work with.
Another great tool to try is Buzzsumo. The free version of BuzzSumo gives you a daily limit, but allows you to look up a keyword phrase and see where it has been mentioned on the web. You can then click “View Sharers” to see who is sharing that content (these are going to be the people who actually want to help you). Once you do that, filter down by retweets to see who has an active audience retweeting topics related to your local business. Below shows a screenshot from Buzzsumo that shows how it works:
The Pro option for the tool ($99/month) even has a tab specifically labeled “influencers” there to give you ideas, so that’s the way to go if you have the budget available.
Extra: What About Google+?
Google+ Ripples got a lot of press a year or so ago when it came to finding local influencers, but as of March 2015 they have been discontinued. However, that doesn’t mean that Google+ is completely out of the game. Even though their specific tool for finding influencers is gone, you can still use the network the same way you would the networks above. Look at your analytics and see if you notice anyone sharing your content and then do your research. You may always want to try looking at your competitors’ pages to see who their influencers are.
Ask Your Loyal Customers in Person
Last but not least, a great way to find these people is to actually ask your loyal customers. Even if your customers aren’t all local, still send out an email letting everyone know that you’re looking for new opportunities. It’s really as simple as that. Even getting one name can be a good lead into working with someone new.
Again, you don’t have to say “influencer”. In fact, you don’t have to mention wanting to find people at all. Ask your customers what blogs they read, where they get their news, what events they attend, etc. This will be a good lead into finding the people who can help you.
Your Next Steps
As discussed above, finding local influencers to connect with is half the battle. The other half is knowing how to reach out, make an impression, and create a lasting relationship so you can both help each other when it comes to online traffic and your audiences.
How do you find local influencers and how do you utilize those relationships to improve and grow your local SEO? Do you have any personal success stories? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.