By Josh Ledgard
Remember when Paris Hilton was one of the most influential people in America?
No matter how annoying she was, no matter how many times you wanted to rage against the machine every time she said, “That’s hot,” no matter how much you and everyone you knew hated her… there she was selling perfuming, wearing tracksuits, hosting events, promoting brands, and basically influencing the heck out of the early 2000s.
That, my friends, is influencer marketing and it’s one of the most important elements of your marketing strategy that you haven’t implemented yet. Let’s talk about how you can use this type of marketing to build an engaged audience around your brand.
Influencer marketing is a type of marketing strategy that involves recruiting key people to promote your brand.
Although influencer marketing can take many forms, it usually goes hand in hand with the social web. The social web plays a pivotal role in how consumers discover new brands and then build relationships with those brands.
In influencer marketing, brands identify the audience they’d like to market to and then find then reach out to the leaders who have a persuasive pull on this very audience.
It’s a different approach to marketing. The traditional way to share your message or promote your product was to pay for ad space and then cross your fingers and hope that someone would try it. However, with influencer marketing, you pay an individual (or their agency) to promote your message. It’s a lot more personal, and that’s why it works.
One mistake that a lot of brands make is trying to go after the biggest name they can think of. Your influencer doesn’t need to be a household name to be an effective influencer for your brand. As long as that individual can reach and persuade your target audience, that person is an influencer.
In other words, you don’t have to recruit Paris Hilton. There’s plenty of other, more appropriate influencers you can all upon to persuade your audience.
Notice I said “persuade”. It’s not enough to get in front of your target audience with the message. You need to find someone who can actually get their audience to try or buy your product.
While there may be plenty of folks you can tap, you need someone who has credibility with your target audience. This person needs to be someone who has an opinion and reputation that your audience trusts.
Influencers are often active on the social web. They’re bloggers, vloggers, social media superstars, or all of the above.
Now, let’s talk about how influencer marketing can benefit your brand.
Influencer marketing works because people connect better with other people. The era of people trusting big business is long gone. It left with your pappy’s generation. Today’s generation trusts a relatively impartial third party. Someone who isn’t acting as the company’s spokesperson, but rather as the people’s advocate. You find that trust between an influencer and his audience.
Banner blindness is a thing. In fact, people don’t even need to go blind to banners now that ad blocking software is so freely available. 41% of people use software to block ads these days. So, if you’re relying on website ads– or even Google ads– to get in front of eyeballs, that window’s closing fast.
(What does work is Facebook ads. Check out this post to learn more: A Beginner’s Guide to Winning with Facebook Ads.)
Stuck in a rut and not sure how to effectively promote your newest products or services? Hand over marketing to influencers. Influencers will often create new and inventive ways to promote your brand that you had never considered before.
A recent study from Mckinsey found that word of mouth marketing results in more than double the amount of sales you’d see from a paid advertising campaign.
So, now that you’re convinced to give it a try, how do you get started with influencer marketing? Here are the broad strokes:
You must understand your audience first. Before you decide who should carry your message decide who they’re carrying it to.
What are your marketing objectives? Do you just want to increase awareness for your brand, do you want to move product? Having a clear vision of what you want to accomplish will help you find the right influencer for your brand.
There are a lot of ways to find influencers for your brand. Let’s discuss the top three ways:
Good ‘ole Google
Do an Internet search for influencers in your niche. This is probably the most time-consuming way to find influencers, if you’re starting from scratch. You’ll need to go through websites, read blog posts, watch videos, and find people with whom you have a natural affinity.
An Influencer Marketplace
Social Media Monitoring
Use a tool like BuzzSumo to find influencers who are already having a conversation about topics you care about You can also go to Twitter and search for hashtags the old fashioned way.
If you’re already creating some buzz, I like the idea of finding people who are already talking about your brand and approaching them with an opportunity to partner with you.
You’ve got to check out your potential influencers before you approach them. But you won’t stalk them in a creepy way. Instead, you’re researching them to help you understand who they are. Things you’ll observe is:
Ask yourself, Who will influence my target customer’s decision to purchase my product/ attend my event/ download my trial?
In other words, don’t get caught up in the numbers game. Although quantity of followers may seem important (and it does matter a little), it’s not as important as quality of followers. Go with an influencer who has the trust of their audience and the ability to encourage their audience to try something just on their endorsement alone.
You’ll know this after taking a while to observe the influencer in action. Pay attention to how well they interact with their audience. The level of intimacy and trust are important factors in determining their potential effectiveness at promoting your brand.
Once you feel confident that you’ve selected the right person to carry your marketing message, it’s time to approach them. Start off slow, unless you’ve found them on an influencer marketplace. Develop a friendship, follow them on social, subscribe to their email list, promote their brand, and share their content. Then, after you’ve established a relationship, ask them if they’d be interested in promoting your brand.
So, you need to have a plan in place… In fact, you need two plans in place.
First, you’ll need to market to the influencer, and
Second, you’ll need to prepare a marketing campaign for the influencers to present to his or her audience.
Here’s how to do just that:
Once the influencer is onboard with your brand, you need to have something prepared for him or her to experience. Whether it’s your product/ service or an event surrounding your product/ service.
Consider creating an immersive experience for your influencer. For example, many brands invite key influencers to their events to try or experience a product or service. This gives the influencer something to document and then share with their community (think YouTube vlog or Snapchat story). This can generate excitement and be part of your marketing campaign for the influencer.
As I mentioned above, immersive experiences are great for marketing because there’s a go-to campaign there. However, there are other ways your influencer can promote your brand to his or her audience. Here are few examples to pitch, but your influencer may also have ideas, too.
-A product review
-A contest or giveaway
-A native ad for your product
-A tweet promoting your product
-A live event (promote your product by asking an influencer to show up at your event)
-A video sharing the experience at your event
I recommend giving them creative license to present your brand in a way that’s respectful to you while remaining authentic to the influencer’s voice. Otherwise, it will feel too scripted.
Here’s an Important Note to Keep In Mind:
While you may be paying the influencer, his loyalty is to his own audience. Authenticity, transparency, and trust are the basis of his influence. And this is a social pact agreed upon by the influencer and the audience. As a brand, you must respect that.
Don’t insist on glowing reviews or else. Allow the influencer to be truthful about your brand/ product/ event, even the parts that they may not like.
You can’t expect influencers to prove your brand for free. Well, you could, but they won’t. Instead, you need to make it worth their while. Here are few ideas on how to compensate your influencers, but of course, you’ll need to work out the details on an individual basis:
What’s your favorite influencer, and why? Tweet us @kickofflabs on Twitter with your answer.
Don’t forget to download this email template that you can use to reach out to influencers.