Your content marketing strategy is in place.
You have a good grip on SEO.
But you need something more.
Perhaps your content isn’t driving the kind of interest you wish it would?
But no matter what – you’re no doubt looking for effective ways to further enhance your content marketing strategy.
Here’s the deal:
The last couple of years have seen many companies and agencies explore the magic of influencer marketing.
It’s a great way to propel your marketing efforts by distancing your brand from the competition and to better engage with your customers.
Influencer marketing also helps fill the gap during an engagement dry patch.
And believe me, this happens to everyone even big companies.
What’s more, influencer marketing is one of the few forms of marketing out there that never gets penalized by Google.
And what’s not to like about that?
It’s precisely for the reasons I just laid out that so many are jumping onto the influencer marketing bandwagon.
But wait, it gets better:
A recent study by eMarketer found that 81% of marketers consider influencer campaigns to be highly effective.
What is Influencer Marketing?
We need to be clear about what influencer marketing is and what it isn’t.
Believe it or not, there are many misperceptions about it.
Here’s the deal:
Influencer marketing is about finding people who have established their voice in your industry and leveraging their authority to mutual advantage.
Simply put, it’s asking someone that your customer already trusts to talk about your service, product, or content.
Influencers might write about it in a blog post.
They might shoot and publish a video about it.
Or, record a podcast where they talk about it.
In every case, the benefit is the same for you:
You get the benefit of a third party talking about your product or service.
It used to be called word-of-mouth marketing, but the current fashion is to label it influencer marketing.
Now, you might be wondering:
Who are the influencers?
These are people who are active on blogs and social media channels and command an audience of their own.
They tend to operate in niches and are sometimes brand advocates.
Let’s break it down … there are three kinds of influencers you need to be aware of:
1. Celebrities who are active on social media
2. Journalists who are paid by media outlets and industry analysts employed by analyst firms (Gartner, Forreser, etc.)
3. Independent, third party bloggers who are not paid by a media outlet
For our purposes, we are going to focus on #3:
Independent, third party people who blog about the topics they care about, are passionate about, or as an adjunct to what they do professionally.
Often they are enthusiasts, consultants, small business owners, freelancers, even former journalists.
Want to know the best part:
There are influencers for practically every niche you can think of – and there are thousands of them!
Keep in mind:
In order for influencer marketing to work as it should, you need to take the time to do your research and figure out who influences what in your target audience.
You need to have a clear idea of who your customers are, what they want, who they read, follow and are influenced by.
Once you do that, the idea is to leverage the power the influencers have over your chosen market and your customers.
Influencers become crucial to a particular industry for a variety of reasons.
Typically, they establish trust with a niche market because they have spent a significant amount of time within the industry they in which they operate.
They build up their reliability and credibility by publishing blog posts, videos, podcast, consulting, sharing knowledge and ideas.
Along the way, they build an audience.
Once you have established who the influencers are for your market you will be able to engage them in a wide range of helpful projects for your company and brand.
So once you’ve recruited some influencers to work with you, the activity will most likely include some of all of the following:
• They may give you permission to submit content on their already successful website or authoritative blog
• They may write an article or blog post reviewing your product, service or information
• Share information about your product, service or information through social media on various accounts including Twitter and Facebook
• Create a conversation about something that you’ve done or accomplished
Some of the benefits aside from all of the above include backlink juice as well as improved white hat SEO.
I’d say that is powerful stuff.
But it gets better:
According to Forbes, this type of marketing produces a 37% higher retention rate than any paid advertising
How influencers can help your brand
When you really think about it, most of us trust recommendations from a third party more often than a brand itself.
You don’t usually trust a brand about its product or service through their ads.
But you often believe your friend, a person you trust, when they speak positively about that product or service.
The same is true for your customers.
Think of the influencer as the friend connecting your brand (product or service) with your target customers.
When you work closely 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 (readers/viewers), an influencer has the ability to drive traffic to your site.
But here’s the kicker:
• They can also drive affinity for your brand
• Increase your social media exposure
• Generate sales leads for you
• And even sell your product through their recommendation or story about their experience with your product or service.
And that is powerful.
Especially as outbound marketing is becoming increasingly challenging.
You can see why influencer marketing is becoming one of the most effective ways to attract customers and clients
And 2015 was a great year but 2016 promises to be even better.
Here’s the reason:
Modern day consumers are tired of traditional advertising and marketing.
They are bombarded each and every day.
Consumers are increasingly self-reliant, prefer to research a brand or product on their own and ask someone they trust.
Enter influencer marketing:
Influencers generate blog posts, videos, podcasts about products, services and brands.
They could be recommending your brand to their loyal following.
They could be inserting themselves into conversations surrounding the niche of your brand.
Okay, so persuading them to work with you before your competitor does can make a huge difference in the success (or lack thereof) of your product, service or brand.
Align your thinking to that of your customers
As I mentioned earlier, you must consider and understand your target market.
On second thought, don’t just think about one thing
Focus … on … your … customers!
But let’s assume you have a good handle on that.
To locate the ideal influencers, you need to take it one step further and think about the types of topics, blogs, and tweeters that your customers likely follow.
I’ll use myself as an example.
I work for an influencer marketing agency and the influencers I focus on emphasize the products and services that relate to my clients.
Some of our clients are technology companies.
Take a look at a recent blog post I wrote for my company that highlights 25 of the top technology influencers.
Followers of these blogs are largely technology aficionados, geeks, tech professionals, angel investors, executives, even other marketers who want to keep up with the latest technology and trends in their field.
Thus, when I engage these influencers I am confident that their audiences will take an interest in my technology client’s products and services.
However, had I targeted bloggers who write about fashion, even though a particular blogger might like my client’s laptop computer, their audience most likely wouldn’t care.
So with that being said, today I have something that will make you feel like you have a second sense for influencer marketing:
So, let’s dive in:
1. Start With a Good Product or Service
The first thing to understand about influencer marketing is that although it can do a great deal to maximize the impact of your product, there has to be something good to work with.
There has to be some beef, meat on the bone so to speak.
A long time ago, Wendy’s ran a TV commercial poking fun at their competitors.
In it an old lady wonders “where’s the beef” on the competition’s burgers.
Well, be sure you have the beef!
You can have influential figures following you on Facebook and retweeting your information – but if what they’re directing customers to has no real appeal, then you’re never going to achieve any real success.
Makes sense, right?
What’s more, most influential individuals in any industry will want proof that a product has some value before they will even consider lending their name to your cause.
Before you start trying to recruit influencers, make sure you have a unique selling point, an incredible product or service, and something that makes you a worthwhile investment.
2. Set Some Realistic Objectives
Now it’s time to think about the sort of value you want to get from your influencers.
What do you want to get from the program?
What does success look like?
After all, without objectives, it’s impossible to determine whether your influencer marketing plan is getting the results you want.
Think about what you want to achieve, and how you can use your influencer’s industry voice to get to the next step on your marketing journey.
Some possibilities include:
– Brand exposure via third party influencers
– Drive awareness about your product, service or brand
– Build backlinks for your brand and improve off-page SEO
– Differentiate your brand, service from your competitors’ products or services
– Generate leads for your product
Your strategy will need to be adapted according to the outcome that you want to achieve.
It should be aligned with measurable metrics too, so that you have key numbers to support the success of your efforts.
More on metrics below.
3. Make Sure You Understand Your Audience
Once you’ve prepared your goals for your influencer marketing plan, you’ll have to make sure that you’re taking steps towards making the right impression on your chosen audience.
This means developing a good understanding of how your target audience consumes and reacts to content, both online and offline as part of their decision making and purchasing journey.
It goes a little deeper than merely understanding your customer profile.
For example, ask yourself:
What kind of content they seek?
Where do they look for that information?
A good place to start with audience research is on social media.
Twitter is a good place to start.
Search under hashtags and look for content that has been retweeted and liked.
Do the same with Facebook and LinkedIn.
What content do you find that gets shared a lot? Who is doing the sharing? Who is writing the content that gets shared and liked?
Visit BuzzSumo.com and search for your keywords.
It will show you popular and highly shared content.
Again, track down the content and see who is writing it.
What content is getting shared a lot?
And remember, every day 55 million status updates take place on Facebook, and brands need to know how to filter through the noise and use the other data they can collect to connect with the people who are most likely to buy from them.
4. Identify Your Influencers
Now you know who your customers are and the audience you want to reach …
… the question to ask yourself is how you’re going to reach them?
Who is influencing them?
Make sure that the content and outreach efforts you engage in are ones that will help to lure in the influencers most important to your industry.
Here’s a tip:
Influence is always contextual – and it is crucial to remember that.
You are the person or group that knows your business best, so only you will be able to determine whether you’re speaking to the right influencers.
Focus on what social data you can locate, and take your time planning and brainstorming about which people will have the best impact for your company.
Where to find these influencers who your customers listen to?
Here is a list of influencer marketing tools you can use to find influencers important to you and your industry:
They each have attributes as well as detriments. I have found that there is no perfect tool.
More than likely, you will need to use a number of them to accomplish your goals.
Some of them are influencer marketing platforms and can help you manage your entire strategy. Others are geared to helping you identify influencers.
Let’s take a look:
Traackr – A multi-purpose tool claiming to enable you to manage influencer relationships, allow you to discover influencers, nurture relationships and then demonstrate their impact.
Little Bird – A social monitoring tool. Let’s users create lists of peer-validation ranked influencers across social platforms on various topics. Also allows you to stay on top of the conversation in their industry.
Onalytica – influencer marketing software and supporting services to help you identify industry influencers and improve relationships with them.
BuzzSumo – This content performance analysis tool can be used to identify the influencers who are creating popular, newsworthy content.
Klout *– scores social media users’ influence on a 100-point scale and takes into account platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WordPress and LinkedIn.
Kred *– Similar to Klout. You can identify social media influencers with Kred, which claims to measures influence based on Twitter and Facebook output.
Appinions – a software program that analyzes and reports on industry topics, influencers, and social channels so you can best decide what topics to write about, which influencers to target, and where to distribute content.
Exposely – Claims to pair brands with influencers who are willing to sell advertising space on their social channels and other owned platforms.
Tap Influence – A marketplace claiming to make it easy for brands to identify and communicate with social media influencers and collaborate on content creation.
Grouphigh – Find bloggers and influencers, manage your relationships, and measure the value of your content.
[*Be careful too place too much emphasis on tools like Kred and Klout. They are good starting points, but know that many of the influencers I know and work with don’t think much of them.]
5. Make Them Want to Fight For Your Cause
You’ve decided who your influencers are.
Now you need to give them a reason to care about your company, product and your cause.
The more you interact with influencers in your industry, the more you will come to learn that a successful influencer marketing plan isn’t about simply amplifying your brand’s message through an industry voice.
Successful online marketing is also about providing your influencers with a memorable and pertinent experience that makes them feel connected to your product or service.
The more your influencers care about your product or service, the more they will produce genuine and meaningful forms of sharing and interactions with your target market.
If the influencers are new to you, be sure to follow them on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Google +).
Also, it’s a good idea to engage with them too.
Be sure to comment on their blogs with pertinent, intelligent observations.
Or, better yet, offer some advice of your own to help stimulate the conversation there.
The influencers will notice your involvement.
This will help you when you decide to outreach to them directly.
Once you are ready to email them:
Take the time to compose an email that introduces yourself and your company. Be clear about who you are, where you work and compliment them on some of their content.
Everyone likes to know their content is appreciated and being read.
You should be familiar with their content in the following ways:
– their writing voice, their style
– the topics they post about
– the attitudes prevalent in their writing
– the types of products and services they seem to care about
You might also note any brand preferences they share with their readers.
Take note of these and include references to their blog posts, Tweets or other content in your introductory email. You need to show them you read or watch their content.
Be sure to be professional and polite in your email. You might ask them if they are open to a phone call with you where you can discuss in more detail your program and how you would like to include the influencers.
Be open, honest and direct.
6. Tell Your Influencers What You Want
Once you’ve tracked down and caught your influencer’s attention, you’ll need to make what you’re hoping to achieve as clear as possible from the very first step, to ensure a long and fruitful connection.
Take the time to discuss your aims with your influencers.
Remember that honesty is the best policy when it comes to achieving your goals.
You’ll probably find that just as you have some requests from your influencer – they also have requests from you, and will need to make their terms clear to you in advance.
Remember, it is a two way street.
It’s about establishing a dialog and ultimately a relationship.
And if done right will pay dividends for you later on.
Don’t expect to shove product in their hands and expect them to write about it.
How would you feel if someone did that to you?
You wouldn’t like it.
Neither do they!
If you plan to compensate your influencer for their work, then you will need to discuss how this will be done, and also speak to them about their terms or working agreement.
Be clear upfront and they will do the same with you.
7. Plan Methods of Engagement
Next, make a plan for upcoming engagement opportunities.
Be prepared to define want to accomplish, and the type of content you commonly use throughout your channels.
Some of the most common methods of engagement include social media promotion, product reviews, content co-creation, interviews, quotes, and other offline opportunities.
If its high-quality content to drive awareness about your brand, then your main aim will be to digitally amplify and emphasize its reach with the help of your influencers.
Think guest posting, co-creating content and interviews.
If you want to get more exposure for your product, arrange to have the influencers review your product for a time.
If it’s not feasible to ship your product to them, perhaps you can bring your influencers to you by creating a mini event. An added bonus to hosting a mini event is that the influencers get to mingle and meet each other as well.
This can generate additional synergy for you as them.
In my experience, third party influencers tend to be collaborative rather than competitive. Very often they will help each other out.
Keep this in mind as you move forward with your plans.
And an added bonus:
If you wish to extend the life of your content, you can always use some of the content in a repackaging strategy: convert blogs into infographics and so on that can be shared in different formats.
Just be sure to get the permission of the influencers first.
More often than not, they will grant you permission to use some of their content.
8. Get Involved in the Conversation
Your influencers will help you to get your conversation going, but it’s up to you to become a part of it and get involved with your audience in a more active way.
If your influencer is an active vlogger (video blogger), then you might join in with their subscriber list and post comments that are helpful and informative.
On Twitter, retweet the influencers content, and add them to a twitter list so you can isolate their message for easier location and retweeting.
This will help you with tracking their content later.
With Facebook, you should be liking your influencer’s posts and sharing their content with your followers, and the same applies to LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Pinterest too.
Keep in mind its nice thank your influencers when they mention your products, content, brand, or service on any social media platform.
It pays to be polite.
9. Create Consistently Unbeatable Content
A lot of brands have trouble with creating great content.
Yet with third party content being generated by your influencers you can largely solve that problem.
The more relevant and helpful the content they produce, the more likely your campaign is to get attention and shared.
It may even go viral.
Think of the content generated by the influencers in your program as part of that content marketing strategy you have in place.
How do you plan to use it?
As I said before, you should definitely share, retweet, like the content your influencers produce, but think beyond that.
What about reposting some of that content on your own site (get permission of course)?
Or, incorporating some of the influencer content into your marketing and sales materials?
Or, using select quotes on your own web site product page?
Also, keep in mind that influencer marketing offers a brand new opportunity for forward-thinking brands and companies to continue improving their online marketing efforts, and coming up with new ways to reach out to their audience.
10. Measure and Scale your program
Finally, as your influencer marketing plan takes hold and you begin to see the impact of your industry voice across your target market, you’ll need to have a strategy for measuring and scaling according to your results.
In the beginning, influencer marketing can involve some degree of trial and error.
So, be willing to experiment to see what sticks — with your influencers as well as your customers.
Some metrics can include:
– X number of third party blog posts that are neutral to positive in sentiment
– X number of videos that are neutral to positive
– Inclusion of critical keywords in each post
– X number of backlinks to your product or category page
– X number of social shares
Or all of the above.
The more you focus on measuring the correct metrics, the more you can do to enhance the efforts that are working positively for your marketing scheme, and diminish the things that might be holding you back.
Keep in mind that if you want to measure and scale successfully, it’s usually advisable to only engage with a set number of influencers at a time.
Perhaps you limit it to five or ten influencers until you get more comfortable with it.
Once you develop a process, it become a bit easier to scale.
Your Influencer Marketing Program is Ongoing
Like many different aspects of online marketing, an influencer marketing strategy is not something that your company can simply implement and forget about.
After all, you’re going to need to constantly engage and reach out to your audience and influencers alike if you want to keep benefiting from the success of an on-going project.
The value of influencer marketing continues to go up as the relationship between influencer and brand grows.
That means a certain degree of involvement by you is required.
When you begin to ignore your market experts and simply “expect” them to offer you value in exchange for little involvement on your part, then you’ll quickly begin to lose hold of any success you had begun to generate.
The aim should be to convince your target market that you care about them, and that your influencer is genuinely interested in whatever your brand has to offer.
Nurture both and you stand to benefit.
Please take a second and leave a comment.
I’d love to know what to you thought of the post.