“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” Like Obi-Wan Kenobi, we wish we had an array of Jedi mind tricks at our disposal when delivering content to the right sets of eyes and ears. But in the realm of content marketing, it’s less about using the Force and more about persuading mere mortals to convey your message for you.
Enter influencers, the brand ambassadors who businesses are bringing on to help your advertising feel less like, well, advertising. And if you think hiring these savvy self-starters feels like a fleeting trend, think again: According to this Forbes article, influencers are the future of advertising.
Why Does Your Business Need Influencers?
The human element of influencers helps make your message believable. You can think of influencer marketing like word of mouth. When you follow someone on social media or read their blogs, you’ve forged a relationship with them that, to some extent, feels personal. And, because you feel like you are getting a sneak peek at their behind-the-scenes life, you expect their actions and represented image to be authentic and transparent.
Because of this perceived transparency, you believe that any influencers you follow wouldn’t sponsor a product that they don’t believe in. This belief results in a built-in credibility. And when you hire an influencer, their credibility is transferred to your brand, providing a trusting new audience for your message.
Having influencers is all about expanding your audience in a thoughtful way. You’re using them to reiterate and personify your brand identity, but the partnership is also about connecting a new audience to your brand through the influencer; an audience that isn’t necessarily following you on digital channels but has the same interests. This goes both ways: Your brand and the influencer are pooling audiences to build a mutually beneficial relationship.
In short, your influencer should grow and educate both your audience and theirs.
How Can You Find the Right Fit?
Sometimes picking influencers is as easy as finding a superhero movie at the multiplex, but in crowded and rapidly evolving fields, influencer spotting can be a challenge. Here are three helpful steps:
Figure Out What You Want In an Influencer
Make a list of questions to ask about your needs and wants. Who already uses your product, and who could do their job better if they started to use your product? Who do you follow and who follows you? Say the current age range of your audience is 30 to 35. Do you want to grow that audience, or do you want to shift it to target a younger demographic? Or, are you trying to grow by sheer number? Whatever your aim is, use your influencer to bridge that.
A good influencer …
- Posts content in line with your brand’s basic message and which aligns with your target audience
- Is noncontroversial
- Believes in your product
Likewise, you should believe in their brand. Again, cross-promotion is the key to a successful influencer partnership.
Use the Right Tools
Influencer software and social-media-management platforms, like Julius or Klout, are a good starting point because they can give you a 360-degree look at the influence of individuals, organizations, and brands across multiple networks. You can also use the social-listening functions built into analytics tools such as Sendible, Hootsuite, and Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
Whichever tools you use, run your searches often. As people move from one topic to the next, the influencers in your niche can change from month to month or even week to week.
Do Your Own Research
Software is a great starting point, but the downside is that it doesn’t evaluate potential influencers against your company’s brand. So whether you use software or don’t, you’ll have to do an audit of all their social channels:
- Check to see how many followers they have.
- Investigate what their engagement rate is like.
- Evaluate what they post for brand alignment.
Know your deal-breakers and take the time to look for them. Maybe a potential influencer’s online conversations are highly political and your brand aims to stay nonpartisan, or an influencer only uses organic products and you’re trying to promote one that isn’t. Maybe they have another sponsorship with your competitor.
What’s a deal-breaker is up to you. Just remember that your influencer is an extension of your brand in the same way that you’re an extension of theirs.
What Should Your Relationship Be Like?
Your influencer can wear many hats for your company — guest blogging, social media, retweeting, and sharing your posts — depending on what best aligns with what you’re trying to promote. And they should share what they do on your behalf through their own personal channels to increase reach.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to how your influencer should be promoting your brand, so be creative, but also be smart. Keep in mind that the work needs to align with your end goals, and you want to be able to measure that.
Show Them the Money …
Providing value is the key to winning over influencers. We’ve talked before about serving influencers with content that’s useful to them, such as SlideShare presentations or infographics they can use when they make presentations to C-suite decision-makers. Create content that aligns with their roles and you’ll be more likely to be their “plus-one” at meetings with higher-ups.
If you’re trying to reach a consumer audience through influencers, plan to provide value in the form of payment. Influencers’ time, attention, and endorsements are valuable, so build influencer compensation into your program’s budget.
But Don’t Undermine Your Own Value
Above all, this is a partnership, so treat it as such. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their performance and reach, especially when negotiating prices. There should be a fit from both sides.
Their audience should come to you and, in the process, your audience will get to them. A classic win-win.
Reaching your influencers doesn’t require you to save the universe, but you might want to have a lightsaber handy, just in case. If you need help navigating the content marketing galaxy, contact me.