Consumers are independent and intelligent. They want to do their own research on a brand and talk with people they trust. How do you respond when you hear someone brag about himself/herself? What if, instead, you heard an independent individual talk about their experience with you? Hearing a friend, whom you already trust, vouch for them? There is your influencer: A mutual friend who connects your customer with your brand.
“When you align with an influencer, not only do they bring their audience, but they also bring their audience’s network as well. Because of the loyalty of their audience, an influencer has the ability to drive traffic to your site, increase your social media exposure, and flat-out sell your product through their recommendation or story about their experience.” –The Definitive Guide to Influencer Targeting
An influencer recommends and generates content about your brand to the people who follow them. Influencers get involved in conversations that involve your brand’s niche. Recognizing and gaining an influencer early-on (vs. a competitor) can make the difference between success and failure in that niche.
Know your audience as clearly as you possibly can. What do they talk about? Where do you find them? Get specific for each platform. Follow the blogs, and notice the other people who follow and comment. Make sure the audience actually cares what commenters say. If you are in the right niche, but comments are lacking, you know that influencers are not strong there. Move on.
Fashion businesses utilize influencers like rock stars. If you want to know how other businesses are doing it well, start here. They reach out to known and respected fashion bloggers, send them clothing and accessories they want reviewed. The blogger posts their own photos of the items, linking back to the business site, making it easy for their loyal followers to go and buy. If this fits your business model, do the same. Send credits or gift cards to big social media users, bloggers or magazine writers so they can pick what they want to review from your business website. Start contests for products and services.
“ModCloth, a vintage clothing site does a great job of this. They are active in sharing (on social media outlets) the images their audience members provide showing them wearing ModCloth’s clothing. This makes their audience feel special, which encourages more posts about the clothing.” –Kissmetrics
Make sure the influencer fits your business:
“Justin Bieber is known as one of the most “influential” social media users with his 37+ million followers. But, would his tweet about your software really bring in sales? Probably not, because 12-year-old girls are not interested in software.” – Kristen Matthews
The influencer may fit your business, but if they don’t have the reach needed, it won’t make much difference. An influencer may also have a large following, but what kind of action do people take when information is shared? Influencers don’t force themselves on their audience; they work hard to get people to opt-in.
Mid-Level vs. High Level Influencers
Getting Oprah to mention your business or product is cool. Oprah has a celebrity that is recognized and respected, but loyalty is on a different level. She is a high-level influencer and has farther reach. But that reach includes lots of people who may be interested, but not really care on any deep level. Mid-level influencers have smaller followings. When you have smaller followings, you can do something high-levels can’t; develop relationships with individual followers. Personal relationships create a deep loyalty and stronger influence. Mid-level influencers are definitely worth finding and obtaining. A group of these can have much better action and purchase power than a high-level standing on their own.
Find the Right Influencer For You
Mathhews list is helpful:
- Personality type: Genre: Pick one or two. Decide if you need an activist, an informer, an authority, etc. to best promote your campaign or product. Examples include technology, fashion, travel, marketing, etc.
- Niche: This can be two or three. In order to promote my own product, I usually target marketing and PR influencers, as my genre and my niches are firms writing about blogger outreach and influencer targeting.
- Topics: Pick a topic that your ideal influencer sometimes talks about on social media or their blog. You will be referencing this topic when you reach out and explain why the two of you are such a good fit.
- Type of reach: Is it site traffic you are after or social media followers? Is the influencer an active blogger? Do you have a visually driven campaign and need your influencer to be on Pinterest and Instagram? Is it tweets you are after? Whatever reach you think is best for your brand, narrow down the channels and the number of followers on those channels.
Location: Social Media
Finding influencer via social media is the easiest method. Start here.
“Do a search by topic to identify conversations and see who is making their voice heard. Follow influential people, and check out who they follow. Participate in regular conversations relevant to your industry (like, say, the weekly #ppcchat discussion on Twitter).” –Dan Shewan
Find conferences in your business niche and note the speakers. Speakers are most often influencers. What names do you hear repeated in your line of business? Which articles are being linked back to repeatedly? A little research can give you a long list fast.
Influencers vs. Advocates
Advocating for a cause is not the same as being influential. A person can be a great cheerleader but not a marketing influencer. Influencers define and shape conversations. Are they following the crowd, or challenging existing conventions? Influencers have their own niche. They often have their own buzzwords and group lingo.
There are free online tools to see who is sharing your content, or anyone else’s for that matter. BussSumo and Topsy can also show you just how influential those influencers are.
“It’s worth noting that while you can sort results by several criteria, such as page and domain authority, followers, retweet ratio, and average retweets, the results won’t always display in order. As you can see in the example above, Larry has better performance in every metric than PPC Hero, which is listed as the top result. However, it’s still a very handy way to see who the major players are in your industry.” –WordStream
Here are a list of tools (and there are many more) from Lee Odden that can help you not only find influencers, but also filter, track, manage, engage, monitor and report on what you find:
Reach Is Not the Same As Influence
The number of followers is not the only thing you need to know. It’s not about numbers alone, it’s about those numbers including the right people. Carpet-bombing doesn’t equal effective action or results.
Respect the Community
Even experts forget this. You’ve got to appreciate your industry’s community. While developing and maintaining relationships with you influencers, remember that groups are made up of important individuals.
“Targeting influencers with your content is essential, but don’t overlook the “little people”; the loyal blog readers who subscribe to your newsletter, retweet your tweets, and leave enthusiastic comments on your posts. A large following isn’t the sole objective, but it definitely helps. Also remember that negative interactions tend to spread far more quickly and have considerably more impact than positive ones. Blow someone off, and you could regret it.” –Shewan
Do What Is Best For You
Your competitors may have influencers and tactics that are effective, but that doesn’t mean they are right for you. Sure, you want to know how others are doing marketing effectively and learn from them. But you take it further by tailoring your discovered influencers to match you best. No cookie cutters or cut-and-paste formula. Be genuine, be accessible and be responsive. Show your humanity.
“This kind of honesty and transparency makes it easier for people to connect with you on another level beyond the professional, and shows a more relatable side of you as a person.” – The 8 Rules of Influencer Marketing
Get influencers on your team. They can do for you and your business what you cannot do for yourself. Know your influencers well, and their audiences even better. Make sure the influencer is right for your business, that they have the reach you need, and at the level you need. Respect your industry and community, and treat everyone well –even the little guys. This kind of deep trust and loyalty is rarely found any other way.