You’re marketing your business, but you’ve become stuck. Maybe you’re trying to break into the scene and don’t have any fans. Maybe you’ve hit a wall and can’t seem to raise your profile.
Influencer marketing is the strategy you need.
What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is pretty simple. You’re exposed to it countless times a day in one form or another.
There’s a reason Nike’s Air Jordan is one of the best selling sneakers of all time – it’s been closely linked to basketball legend Michael Jordan (so close it’s named after him). It comes with his endorsement.
And endorsements are a big deal. Kristen Matthews, Director of Marketing at influencer intelligence app GroupHigh says “People are wired to trust a third party recommendation more than someone talking about themselves. Whether it’s a guy at a cocktail party trying to promote himself for a date or a brand trying to convince a consumer that they are the best—it’s all the same.”
According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising report, we’re far more likely to trust recommendations than any other form of advertising, even if we know the recommendations are part of a marketing program.
Basically, influencer marketing is the leveraging of key leaders to promote your brand. It means using someone else’s audience to grow your own by having the influencer share your content to their fans or make an outright recommendation of your business.
Influencer marketing is leveraging other people’s audiences to help grow your own.
An influencer is someone with an audience that’s similar to your own. If you don’t have much of an audience yet, target influencers who have audiences similar to who you think your audience should be.
How do you find influencers?
You don’t need a giant list of influencers. In fact, due to the majority illusion, you only need a few. Research from the USC Information Sciences Institute found that it only takes a few influential people to create an appearance that everyone is talking about your brand.
This means you don’t have to build a giant list of potential influencers. You should target a small list of people who would make the best symbiotic relationships (part of working with an influencer is providing value to them as well, but more on that in a minute).
Finding influencers isn’t an easy task. 75% of marketers say identifying influential people is the hardest part of performing outreach.
- They’re active – Don’t waste your time on anyone who hasn’t blogged or Tweeted in more than two months. They might be influential, but they aren’t useful if they aren’t engaging with other people.
- They aren’t too big – Sorry, Bill Gates isn’t going to plug your B2B SaaS. He won’t respond because you don’t offer anything substantial in return for his time. Instead of going after the biggest fish, approach smaller influencers who are willing to partner for your level of reciprocity. As your audience grows, approach more influential people.
- They’re relevant – Sharing a similar audience isn’t enough. An influencer’s brand needs to relate to your brand. For example, a social media scheduling tool would have the same audience as social media manager, but the manager isn’t likely to plug your product because he wants to steer people to his services.
- They must have an engaged audience – Potential influencers need to have an audience that actually pays attention to them. There are plenty of “influential” people with thousands of followers (some of which may be fake, purchased accounts), but they never get any likes, comments, shares or retweets. These people aren’t any use to you. Engagement is tough to measure. All you can do is look through the influencers feed to see if fans are active.
Now that you know what makes a good influencer, let’s find some.
Step 1: Start your list with people you already know
There’s a chance you already know of several influential people in your industry who share the same audience. Put them on the list right away. Pitching them will be easier than pitching unknown people because you’re familiar with their work. Add their names, URLs, and Twitter handles to a spreadsheet.
Step 2: Use an influencer scoring index
An influencer scoring index is an application that runs algorithms on different online personas to determine their influence on the web. They aren’t perfect, but they’re good for inspiration. Check out PeerIndex, Followerwonk, Klout and Kred.
Step 3: Search for relevant topics in BuzzSumo
BuzzSumo is a tool that shows you the most shared pages on the web. Search for a basic topic that an influential person in your niche is sure to have covered. For example, a sales expert must have written something about setting up a sales funnel. You would search for “sales funnel” and see who wrote the most shared articles.
Step 4: Join LinkedIn and Facebook groups
Groups on these two social networks are often run influential people. Even if their creators are not especially influential, they are definitely trying to be influential, which means they’ll be willing to work with you. Search for your niche, join as many groups as you can and poke around.
Step 5: Scour Twitter and follow accounts
Finding influential people on Twitter is simple. First, search for a keyword in the search box. You can use a hashtag if you’re sure an influencer in your niche would have used it. Second, click the “People” filter. This will bring up a list of account. Start investigating and following each.
Step 6: Look at the retweets/shares
Follow people in your industry, even if you don’t think they are influential. Watch who they retweet and share. Do you notice any trends or patterns? Whose name pops up in conversations?
At this point you should have at least five or 10 names on your list. It’s alright if you have a lot more than that, too. All niches are different; some are more popular than others. If you have a lot, pick out the top 10 that are most likely to work with you.
How can you partner with influencers?
Working with influencers is about building a relationship. They’ll expect you to give just as much as you take. The key is to become a valuable person to them.
The best way to open a dialogue with potential influencers is to give them something without asking for any compensation. You could offer free exposure by asking for a quote to fit into your next article. Or you could start with a simple, “Hey I loved your post on [topic], I shared it wherever I could.”
Make sure to find other ways to pop up on your influencer’s radar. For instance, you could go through some of their Twitter history and retweet whatever’s relevant to your audience. You could link to the influencer a few times from your website (then send a quick “Hey, just to let you know” email).
Any correspondence with the influencer should be personal. It’s OK to use a template email to reach out to new people, but customize it considerably for the receiver. Make sure you’re familiar with their work and their brand so you can say meaningful things.
You should be focusing on the top 10 people who can make a difference to your brand, not hundreds of people. So invest time and effort into building new relationships.
Finally, be open with the influencer about your goals. They know how the world works too. They want to grow their brand as well. Tell them that you’re looking to partner with influential people and you’re happy to reciprocate wherever you can.
Over time, you’ll build a network of VIPs who mean a lot to your brand. You’ll notify them of content before you tell your email list or social fans.
You’ll give them opportunities to comment on your content. You’ll give them chances to test your new features and give feedback before anyone else. You might even give them discounts on your service or commissions on affiliate sales.
In time, your influencers will become partners who genuinely want to grow your brand.