Influencer marketing has been gaining steam over the last few years. More marketers are realizing the value that an influencer can bring to the table. They normally have a significant following on social media or their blog. If you can tap into that and generate relationships with influencers, it will help extend the reach of your brand exponentially. Below, we share tips to drive engagement and ROI by leveraging influencer marketing. But first, let’s start with some basics.
What is the difference between an influencer and an advocate?
An influencer is well known in your market and can influence the buying decisions of potential consumers. They have widely-read blogs and large followings on social media channels. If you can form relationships with them, you have the potential of them sharing your content on social media, co-authoring content, and cross-promoting the results of your collaborative work. If you can access their influencer network, your brand exposure will greatly expand.
An advocate is an everyday person who loves your brand and is willing to share their positive experiences with their colleagues and friends. Advocates can be your customers, your employees, or anyone else who admires your brand and is willing to put their reputation on the line to promote it. Learn more about creating brand advocates.
Tips for driving engagement through influencer marketing
The importance of influencer marketing can’t be stressed enough. According to a survey by Tomoson, businesses are making $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing. You can see the potential ROI involved. Let’s discuss influencer marketing strategy and dig into some tips to help you realize such an ROI through a killer influencer program or campaign.
1. Define your objectives and plan
Don’t jump in head first without laying out a plan of attack. You need to define your objectives, your methodology, which types of influencers you want to approach, how you will approach them, etc. It’s best to start with the desired result and work backward from there.
Ask yourself the questions that will help you define your approach and plan of attack. What can you offer this influencer that will provide real value and motivate them to work with you? Who will determine which influencers are right for your brand and who will manage those relationships? What do you ultimately want from them? Where are the best places to engage them? What are they passionate about? What kind of following do they have?
Asking these kinds of questions will help you create a roadmap that will guide you through the process of identifying the right influencers, engaging them, and forming a mutually beneficial relationship.
2. Beware of the hustler
The internet is awash with self-proclaimed experts at X, Y, or Z. The more they need to yell about how great they are, the less value they will probably bring you. A true influencer does what she does because she genuinely has a passion for a specific topic or market. In other words, a real influencer knows their own value and doesn’t have to shout about it. Those are the influencers you want to go after.
A study by Tapinfluence and Altimeter, illustrated in this awesome infographic on influencer marketing, reports that 69.4% of influencers chose to be influencers so they could earn revenue. Sounds like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, doesn’t it? They are not in it to educate and share expertise; they are in it for the money. They often buy followers to appear more popular than they are, among other tactics, to boost their reputation. They appear to be top influencers but are really just hustling.
So always be wary of “influencers” like this. You’ll know very quickly once you start a conversation whether you’re dealing with a hustler or a genuine influencer.
3. Identify the best influencers for your needs
Are you a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond? Your level of brand awareness will certainly determine who you look to engage with as a brand influencer. If you have a huge presence in your market and a massive following on social media, it’s possible influencers will be seeking you out.
However, most of the time it’s the opposite. Smaller and growing businesses have a much greater need to find influencers than enterprise level businesses. But, it’s a spectrum, and no matter where you land on it, you need to be aware of who you are and how important you are in order to identify the influencers who will most likely engage with you. If you represent a local television station, it’s unlikely that Oprah will respond to your outreach.
Finding the right influencers is a challenge to be sure. That same study by Tapinfluence and Altimeter found that 67.6% of marketers consider finding relevant influencers their largest influencer marketing challenge. Consider your market, where you stand in it, and look for influencers who align with that.
4. Engage on social media
Social media influencer marketing has also gained steam recently. Once you identify an influencer you want to engage with, social media is one of the best ways to start a dialogue with them. You can do this in a variety of ways:
- Comment on their posts
- Share their posts
- Compliment them on the material they share from their blog
- Cite them in a blog of your own and tag them when you post to social media
- Include a compliment in your post, such as: “check out our new blog with some great insights we learned from Influencer X.”
They will start to take notice, and you may just open the door to leveraging their social influence.
Eventually, if things go well, you will be able to cross-promote your brand and theirs on social media. This is becoming increasingly important, as more than a quarter of 18 to 24-year-olds say social media is their main source of news (more than television). Those are your potential customers—and an increasingly important consumer demographic—so make efforts to engage on social media.
You can also monitor social media for mentions of your brand with social listening tools, which alert you any time someone mentions your brand. This can also help you find influencers on social media. Whether they are Instagram influencers, LinkedIn, or Twitter influencers does not matter—as long as they use channels your prospects look to for information. Social listening increases ROI, so be sure to leverage it when looking for a new social media influencer.
5. Understand the value you can provide them
Once you identify influencers and start to engage with them, you will start gearing up for “the ask” (i.e., pitching them the idea of collaboration). But before you can do so, you must understand what kind of value you can offer them in exchange for their collaboration.
Assuming you’re approaching someone who is not hustling, the idea of a mutually-beneficial exchange is feasible. You need to know what you have that they need. If you have a well-known blog, they might be interested in drafting a blog post so they can tap into your audience. This, in turn, will work both ways once the relationship is solidified.
Another great approach is offering to interview them and present it as a podcast. Influencers love to talk about what they do, and an interview gives them the floor to promote themselves and what they care about. It is free advertising for them, and a great tactic to engage influencers.
6. Don’t go for quick wins, go for long-term relationships
Enter stage left: The Hustler. They want to do a quick exchange for cash. They will post your blog article and share it for a fee. They take the money and run. That’s not what you want. A true influencer relationship is one that is nurtured over time and is mutually beneficial. You want to establish a rapport with this person and continue to collaborate with them over the long term.
This becomes easier when you use an all-in-one CRM to store information about each influencer. And because those all-in-one solutions—like Agile CRM, for example—offer full marketing automation capabilities, you can essentially use it as an influencer marketing platform. Gather incremental information about them and maintain insight into their interests, passions, areas of expertise, and any other data you want to store. This allows you to tailor your conversations with them in a very precise way.
7. Do your research and tailor your outreach
Every influencer is unique, with unique needs, interests, and a unique tone in the way they communicate to their following. Before you reach out to make the ask, be sure to do your homework. Understand the characteristics of the influencer in question, such as:
- Where does their passion lie?
- How formal or informal is their tone?
- What do they discuss?
- How do they engage their audience?
- Which social channels do they use most?
- What are their needs and how can you appeal to them?
Armed with this level of insight into who they are and what they care about, you will be able to better engage them, whether that is via email, social media, etc. Top social media influencers can be worth their weight in gold if you manage the relationship properly. According to Twitter, nearly 40% of Twitter users say they’ve made a purchase as a direct result of a Tweet from an influencer. This further drives home the potential ROI you can generate through effective influencer marketing.
8. Nurture the relationship
Once you’ve engaged with an influencer and they have agreed to collaborate, you can start to benefit from your relationship with them. But don’t throw your hat up in the air and celebrate your success just yet. If you play your cards right, you can continue to benefit from this relationship over the long term.
Just like plants need water and sun to survive, any relationship—whether it is personal or professional—needs to be nurtured to thrive. Check in with them periodically to see how things are going. Constantly brainstorm about new and innovative ideas for collaboration and pitch them to your influencer. When they put out great content of their own, write them to tell them how incredible it is. Nurture the relationship, and you’ll reap the rewards over and over.
9. Get the word out
Now that you have finally identified, engaged, and received confirmation that an influencer wants to collaborate with you, it’s time to think about how you are going to broadcast the results of that collaboration. Did you author a blog on their guest site? Blast it all over social media and tag the influencer, so their audience sees that you are working with them and becomes aware of (and hopefully interested in) your brand.
Any product of your collaboration should be shouted from the rooftops. Share anything and everything on social media. Tell your customers and prospects about your influencer relationships in your email newsletter. If you co-create something of exceptional value, you can even draft a press release about it—just be sure that it’s newsworthy and you have their permission to do so.
After all that arduous work identifying, researching, engaging, and collaborating with an influencer, you deserve to reap the rewards of all your efforts.