People trust recommendations from third-party sources even more than the brand itself. This is, in essence, why influencer marketing exists.
Influencer marketing is, in a nutshell, when marketers look for, identify, and engage with influencers. There’s an increasing trend of brands making use of influencer marketing, and understandably so: when you engage with influencers, not only do they raise awareness, but they also encourage and raise action among their audience and their network. They can increase your online exposure, and in some cases, you may find that they can sell your products even better than you do.
While more brands are adopting this type of marketing, don’t do it just because others are doing it, but do it in support of a business objective. This will give you a direction and an indication of which influencer(s) to target.
Influencer marketing consists of 3 main steps:
Before we move into each point, we need to clarify a few things about influencers:
An influencer is anyone who has the power to affect something or someone.
In reality, we all have some influence. Every day we exercise our influence, sometimes unknowingly – whether it’s at work, at home, in our personal lives, and online. However, while we may all be influential, we’re not all influential in the same topic or area. For instance, while I may have some influence in digital marketing, I’m not influential to a fashion company who’s looking for a fashion blogger for London Fashion Week. This is when relevancy comes into place – because of relevancy, not every influencer is your influencer.
Even within your own target market, there are so many types of influencers:
Ultimately, in terms of marketing, you have 5 main types of influencers, which I’ve illustrated in the diagram below:
These are influencers within your sector. They usually have a large following and are looked up to as experts in your target market.
A few takeaways from this diagram:
To get started, we need to identify influencers:
Who are your influencers? These are not only people who talk about you online but people who influence other people by what they say and what they share about you.
Depending on your sector and your brand, you might have hundreds or maybe thousands of influencers online. So, how do you find them?
The first step is social listening. Use queries to find out who’s talking about you. Your queries will depend on who you’re looking for and what type of influencer you’re looking for – a sector influencer, or a brand influencer.
If you’re looking for a sector influencer, look for:
If you’re looking for a brand influencer, look for:
When building your queries, think about the topics your influencers would write about, the type of content they would read and share, what keywords and hashtags they would use when talking about your subject area. For example, if they’re into social media marketing, they’re likely to use hashtags like #smm or #social, and you may often find them active in various Twitter chats or Google Hangouts. Before you can work with an influencer, you need to think like one.
You can find both free and paid tools to search for people talking about you but bear in mind that the quality of the tool you use has an impact on the quality of results you get. A few great tools I definitely recommend are Brandwatch (paid), Crimson Hexagon (paid), Synthesio (paid), and Hootsuite (free and paid). The choice is ultimately yours. Now, while I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty details of social listening tools and their requirements, here are some of the main features to look for in a social listening tool for influencer marketing:
Now that you’ve had your search results, you have two groups: content from people talking about you, and content from influencers. While you should target both groups in your marketing strategy, you shouldn’t target both in the same manner. So how do you spot a brand influencer? Look out for these three main points:
Now that you’ve filtered your influencers, you need to sort them by your own influence ranking. This may differ from brand to brand. Ultimately, make sure you’re looking at the following qualities:
Remember: not all influencers are the same. While the common perception of an online influencer is that they’re chatty and they constantly talk about their expertise, that is not always the case. You’ll often find people who are expert in a subject area but they remain silent about it until asked by people who view them as a great resource of information.
You’ve found the real influencers – now what?
The first step is – thank them. This is the starting point in a potential relationship between you and them, and it shows them that you acknowledge their contribution, as well as their passion, expertise, and the time they’ve spent talking about your or sharing your content to their network. Treat them as your partners.
Now, while you can’t force your influencers to talk about you, you can always encourage the idea. Don’t be pushy, as it’s quite easy to turn a brand advocate into a detractor. You can do so in many ways:
Unless this brand advocate is being paid to share your content, they’re not doing what they do to help you as a brand, but to help their network. Influencers thrive in helping their large pool of connections with genuine content and helpful information. What you offer them depends largely on the task and on how they work – accepting or rejecting your offer is entirely their prerogative.
There are ultimately three ways you could compensate your influencers:
Speaking of moral incentive: increasing your influencer’s exposure is not always a valid form of payment, and some people may find that offensive (especially if they see that you do have enough money but are choosing not to pay them). There are plenty of stories online of great freelancers who have gone through this (this for example). As your brand influencer is working for you as an unofficial extension of your brand, it is only fair that you keep their best interest in mind before your own profit.
Influencer marketing is a work in progress – there will always be new people talking about you, whether positively or negatively. If you start with this exercise, make it a continuous one. You can easily do this with the help of Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, so you can see what people are saying about you in real time.
Make sure that finding influencers isn’t just for an internal report but it’s to reach out to them, acknowledge them and engage with them.
You too can contribute to this – whenever you create genuine moments, they can trigger brand advocacy, sometimes when you least expect it.
Lastly, here’s a personal tip: connecting with influencers does take time. Don’t expect a relationship to come up from nothing, and don’t give up too easily – one key element of Influence Marketing is earning the attention and respect of influencers, and that takes work.
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