Brands are struggling to broaden their reach to specific audience segments. With upwards of 30 million businesses in America competing for consumers’ attention, traditional marketing alone just isn’t going to cut it.
Enter influencer marketing—it’s been around for ages, but it’s new to many online marketers. It capitalizes on the high social credibility and industry relevance of well-positioned online writers and publications to carry a brand’s message.
According to a McKinsey study, word of mouth is the primary motivator behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions. And, when the message comes from highly credible individuals, the message carries even more weight in the minds of consumers.
About 8 to 10 percent of regular consumers are influentials, according to the same study; they produce three times more word-of-mouth messages than non-influentials do, and each message sent has four times more impact on a recipient’s purchasing decision. You certainly wouldn’t want them to talk bad about you, and imagine the benefit if influencers were to recommend you to their audience.
Given the importance of authenticity in your marketing, especially with the Millennial generation, leveraging influencers has become one of the most effective ways to improve a brand’s share of voice.
Sure, influencer marketing sounds like an easy concept to grasp, but in reality the process has many intricacies, and, it is often done poorly. From identification to relationship building, the best practices for engaging the right influencers can be broken down into four steps:
- Vet their authority
Authoritative voices differ from industry to industry, but there are three core characteristics you should look for when choosing the right influencer for your brand. They’re known as the “three R’s:”
- Relevance: The influencer is relevant to your business and shares content therein.
- Reach: The influencer has a large social media base that brings value to your brand.
- Resonance: The influencer engages with an audience – valuable to your brand—through relevant content.
A number of tools can help you assess an influencer’s “three R’s”. Here are some common favorites:
- Klout quantitatively reveals the power an influencer has on social media.
- The ClearVoice “Influencer Search” is an awesome tool that allows you to discover influencer’s content production. This includes where they publish, how frequently they publish, and how well their content resonates on social media channels.
- LinkedIn allows you to search for industry-relevant people, review their network, and determine if they are LinkedIn publishers.
- Twitter also gives you a good indication of the quantity and quality of the influencer’s followers.
It’s good to stay organized when you’re identifying a list of target influencers. Set benchmarks, rank influencers according to the three R’s, and compile all relevant info in a spreadsheet so you can easily track your influencer relationships.
- Establish yourself (and brand) as an expert
The more you establish yourself as a leader in your given industry, the more credibility you have when reaching out to influencers. Influencers get blasted with daily requests to engage with a brand in influencer marketing. To stand apart from other pitches, become a thought leader in your given space.
The chances of influencers engaging with you will increase if you have:
- Published work (on Slideshare, company blogs, digital/print publications)
- High social following (on LinkedIn, Twitter, and other professional networking sites)
- Off-page influence (through speaking engagements, books, and more)
Having some or all of these items “checked off” will help your cause greatly. For instance, if you have a Twitter following of 100, no email signature, no “digital track record”, and a hastily created brand website, consider your chances shot. Always assume that an influencer will look you up once you’ve engaged with them, so stay on the offense and pre-establish your own name or company’s name.
- Predefine relationship and process
Like any well-done marketing campaign, establishing a process is the most important. Work within your team to decide who performs each step in the influencer campaign.
Equally important is figuring out what you want the influencer to accomplish: Do you want them to write blog posts for your brand’s blog? Share already produced content? Host a webinar? This will help guide your influencer search as well.
- Reach out
Now, it’s time to engage. To start, craft an email pitch that is relevant, specific, and personalized with a clear proposition. Do not sound like a robot. Describe in detail how you found the influencer, why you want them to work with you, and what you want them to do. Include links to examples, or your own website to validate trust.
If you have not heard back from the influencer, follow up on Twitter or LinkedIn. Don’t be pushy, but simply ask them if they have received your email communication. (And, space out your follow-ups.)
Leveraging industry influencers is a must. Through initial consideration to product evaluation and purchase, influencers impact each moment of a customer lifecycle. Influencers already have the attention of a targeted and engaged audience—the audience that many brands are trying to reach. Those who don’t tap into it are severely missing out.