These days it seems like we’re in need of some unique marketing tactics, and although influencer marketing has been around for quite some time, it’s not something many companies have perfected. This particular type of marketing is a great way to propel your business forward and should be one method that never gets old or “penalized”. The biggest question most people have is how do you start without coming on too strong.
Influencer marketing takes a lot of careful planning in order to make sure it continues to grow, and this requires a plan. For many companies influencer marketing just happens, but sometimes you’re not so lucky and/or you want to grow this approach for your business. You have to ask yourself: What exactly is influencer marketing and how can I make sure I’m successful?
What Exactly Is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing refers to finding people who have a voice in your industry. You want to see who really influences your target audience and then build a relationship with that person or company. The idea is that those who are influencers have a lot of power when it comes to swaying your target audience. This could be for a variety of reasons, but typically it just means that the influencer has probably been in the industry for quite a while and has built up credibility and trustworthiness through reliable articles, projects, referrals, etc.
There are several different things an influencer can do to help you:
- Write a blog post or an article about your company and publish it on their authoritative website (or another website they may know).
- Allow you to submit content to their website (again, it’s most likely an authoritative site that brings in a lot of targeted traffic).
- They can share information about your company on their social accounts.
- They can share something you’ve done on their own social accounts (+1, retweet, etc.).
Of course, someone who can persuade your target audience because they are credible took a long time to get there. In other words, you can’t expect to reach out to an influencer and immediately strike up a partnership to help get your brand name out there through someone your audience trusts. You have to prove yourself so an influencer will want to work with you in the first place, and this isn’t always easy.
How to Get Started Creating an Influencer Marketing Strategy
In case you need a little bit more convincing: according to a SocialChorus report from 2013, influencer marketing campaigns drive 16 times more engagement than paid or owned media. It will take some time to create a solid strategy, but it’s well worth it in the end.
Below are a few tips to getting started with influencer marketing.
Find the Influencers: Determine your target audience and find those influencers.
You first have to identify your target audience and then see who out there is able to reach and influence that audience. If you’re still a little bit unsure who your audience really is at this point, I recommend spending some time on your own campaigns and gathering data to see who exactly is clicking your content. Buyer personas are also a great way to get a feel for your audience, which you can learn more about here on our blog if you’re interested.
Once you have a good feel for your audience, you want to determine what they are reading, what platforms they are using, what they are sharing, etc. As you go through and do research, you might see some of the same authors popping up often. Take a look at these authors’ social profiles and see how much influence they really have. You want to look not only at the number of social followers, but the quality. It’s also a good idea to look at other things they have written to see the quality of commenters and the content in general.
In most cases, though, the influencers will really pop out and be easy to spot (you probably have some in your head already, right?).
Build the Relationship. Reach out to these influencers and have something to offer.
Building a relationship is what will take the most time in the process, so you’ll need to have a plan. You can’t just send an email and assume you’ll be answered. You have to gradually build up your own credibility and visibility online in order to be noticed. I recommend taking the following steps:
- Connect and interact on social media. Social media is your easiest first step. They probably get lots of requests each day, so even if the influencer doesn’t accept right away (or ever), it’s worth a try. If they accept then great, if not, you can still share their content on your own social channels. The more you comment on their articles and share content, especially if you can tag them in that content, the better chance you have that they will notice you and see that you’re serious. Hopefully after a while they will accept your request to connect if they didn’t initially.
- Reach out for content contributions. Once you think they know who you are, attempt to email them directly and ask to submit content to their site. Again you might not get an answer right away, but this is a good way to show that you know your stuff and you’re ready to help get involved.
- Don’t forget to focus on more than one person. It’s worth mentioning that you shouldn’t only focus on one influencer at a time. It’s also important that you continue to work with other publishers who maybe aren’t influencers. If your Twitter is full of the same three people’s retweets, it’s not going to make you look good!
- Try to meet face to face if possible. Believe it or not, this isn’t as hard as you might imagine. Most influencers speak at different conferences. If you can attend, make sure to sit right up front and introduce yourself when the time is right. This is the best way to form that relationship. Once you do build that relationship, wait until you feel comfortable to ask them if they will share your content or help you in any way. In reality, just having this relationship should be enough to help out your company organically—sometimes you never have to ask for a thing.
- Stay Consistent. Keep in touch and keep your quality material coming.
You don’t want to stop talking with an influencer the minute you have his/her email address and they start sharing your content. Continue to contribute to your site, continue to talk with them at conferences, and continue to share their material. It’s important that you spend time on your own site as well, but you have to remember that these relationships need nurturing to be successful.
When will influencer marketing work best? Influencer marketing works best when you have a little bit of authority yourself. It’s hard to jump right into this form of marketing if you don’t have a solid portfolio of content or a fairly good following on social media. Influencers don’t work with just anyone (likely a big reason they’ve established themselves as influencers), so you have to prove yourself.
If you’re interested in some examples, check out this article to see more of the best influencer marketing campaigns of 2013 from the Huffington Post.
Have you used influencer marketing in the past or created a strategy for influencer marketing? Let us know what worked for you and what didn’t in the comments below.
Feature Photo Credit: highervisibility.com
Image Credit: thinkstockphotos.com; Photographer Ridofranz