In this era of “fake news,” consumers largely ignore or avoid ads, and are skeptical of brand content generally. But they do value the opinions of independent (even if paid) experts, leading an increasing number of marketers to embrace this channel. According to the recent blog post Survey Divulges What You Need to Know About Influencer Marketing, “more than 70 percent of brands agree that influencer marketing is a strategic tactic to use.”
Yet many of those marketers lack understanding of how to influencer marketing well. They may use old-school PR tactics to approach influencers as journalists (doesn’t work; different role). Or they fail to do their research properly and reach out to irrelevant influencers. Or they fail to differentiate their pitches across different types of influencers.
If influencer marketing is part of your plans for 2018, here are five critical elements to get right in order to achieve success.
Generating the level of exposure and impact you’re aiming for starts with building a wisely curated list of influencers. How do you identify and evaluate those individuals?
There are several techniques to build a social media influencers list, such as:
- Creating Google searches and alerts to determine who’s creating the most interesting content in your space;
- Conducting Twitter advanced searches to see which names pop up most frequently for specific hashtags or combinations of hashtags;
- Searching for “people to follow” or “top lists” posts, such as 20 IoT Twitter Accounts You Should Follow, Seven Social Media Influencers You Can Learn From or the top 50 B2B influencers; and
- Using influencer marketing tools (see below).
Build a big list to start. Sort it by level of influence and categorize by sub-specialties or other pertinent factors. Finally, delete any names that are a marginal fit or no longer appear to be active on social media.
What would you like the influencer to do on your behalf? The right kind of “ask” to use in your outreach depends upon your goals, your relationship with the influencer, and their level of influence: is the influencer an “A-lister” with a large following who frequently speaks at industry events? Or is he/she more of a B or C list influencer?
A-list influencers are the most open to receiving original research reports (thought they may or may write about them for free). They prefer to generate their own content rather than republishing brand-produced content, though they will generally charge a fee to do this. Some are open to publishing guest posts, but usually have very specific rules for submissions.
B- and C-list influencers are generally more flexible. They are more likely, for example, to participate in expert roundup posts (A list influencers will sometimes contribute, provided the number of experts is kept small). These influencers are typically more open to publishing or contributing guest blog posts as well.
Few influencers worthy of that label will write product reviews without some type of compensation. A-list and some B-list influencers may also offer “extras” such as inclusion in their newsletters or webinar content, as part of a paid package.
Developing lists of relevant influencers, creating outreach emails, and tracking the results of your influencer marketing activities can involve significant time and effort.
Pricing varies widely based on specific features, the number of users and contacts, and support levels. It’s vital to research and evaluate different options to find the best fit for your specific business needs. Most plans make it easy to move to a higher level as your use of the tool expands.
The most common end product of an influencer outreach campaign is a blog post. Whether it’s a guest post, an influencer interview, an expert roundup, or one of those “who to follow” compilations, it’s presented as text on a blog.
But there’s no fundamental reason to limit the end result of your outreach to that format. Be creative! An expert roundup can be published on SlideShare (like this one on marketing trends), as an infographic (like this one showcasing tips for content marketing success), or even as an animated video.
As expert roundup blog posts have become more common, presenting expert opinions in an alternative format gives you an opportunity to stand out.
Your influencer outreach campaign isn’t finished once the post (or infographic, or other format) gets published. There are three crucial steps remaining for influencer marketing success.
Thank each influencer for their input. Whether it was a few sentences for use in expert roundup or a longer contribution, every expert provided something of value. Notify each influencer individually (by email if possible) them when the content is published and thank them for their input.
Promote the content across your social media channels. If you have the data to do so, call out influencers on their primary social channel of choice (that is, some are most active on Twitter, others on LinkedIn, Facebook, or elsewhere).
Maintain the relationship. “Hit and run” outreach can burn bridges. Continue following the influencers, sharing their content, engaging them on social networks, etc.. This is not only good manners, but builds connections that make those influencers more likely to respond to future outreach from you—even if you are asking for something that takes more effort than your initial pitch.
Given that millennials largely distrust and ignore advertising, influencer marketing is likely to remain a key part of the mix. But as the practice has become more common, it’s gotten more difficult to stand out. Keep these five elements in mind to help make your influencer marketing efforts rise above the noise.