Influencer marketing is a strategy to introduce your message to a wider audience by building relationships with well-connected authorities. The idea is that those individuals will create a conduit to new customers, usually by connecting their name with your brand and sharing your content.
Your potential buyers are overwhelmed and likely annoyed by the sheer volume of marketing messages they receive from brands. By earning a stamp of approval from people they respect, you have a better chance of breaking through the noise and creating a positive first impression.
Just 3% of individuals generate 90% of the impact online. Those folks are thought leaders, subject matter experts and brand advocates who have a public voice.
Sure, celebrities can be powerful influencers, but we can’t all have the budget and the brand to snag them as spokespeople. With all respect to Oprah and Queen Bey, there are other influencers you can set your sights on who can provide a more direct route to your customers. You need to find the ones that have the most credibility with your potential buyers and care about the things that you care about.
Successful influencer marketing requires three things: strategic targeting, an effective engagement strategy and meaningful content.
Finding the right influencers
It’s important to understand the types of influencers to target so you can customize your approach to them. We categorize influencers according to their underlying motivations and the ways they can amplify your message. Three types of influencers we typically encounter in a B2B environment are:
- Industry analysts — particularly in a B2B world, these folks carry weight in the buying process. Nurturing relationships with analysts can be a long-term project. Jointly developing whitepapers, inviting them as guest speakers in webinars and providing regular briefings are all part of a structured analyst relations program.
- Bloggers/journalists — these folks are hungry for content. You’ll have the most luck attracting their attention when you can help them draw connections to current trends and share real-life examples.
- Connectors — these are people who love being in the know. If you can offer them an unusual, educational piece of information, they may share it just to bolster their own reputation as an authority and satisfy their desire to help people.
We use databases of experts and social media tools to identify influencers, but you also can do this organically.
One great place to find influencers is by setting up a social media listening post. Identify who is writing about the topics that interest you. Even if they are not writing original content, they may be curating content and sharing those articles on social media. Use this list as a jumping off point and then expand. Who do these people follow? Have they built some handy Twitter lists to which you can subscribe? Who is quoted in the articles they write — can you follow those people?
Building an initial list of potential influencers is only half the job. Now you need to rank them.
Not all influencers are created equal
To find the influencers that are the best match for your goals, we developed a framework we call “FIT” (Footprint, Impact, Target).
- FOOTPRINT: To reach a wide audience, your influencers should have a public voice. Their online footprint is a measure of their total audience size, including web visitors, newsletter subscribers and social media followers. They also may act as go-to sources for journalists and be regulars on the speaking circuit.
- IMPACT: This is a measure of how much activity an influencer triggers when sharing content or offering an opinion. We look at the level of engagement and social shares the content generates as well as the domain authority of the influencer’s website. For many industries we also consider influencers who many not have a large social media presence, but carry a lot of weight among industry insiders.
- TARGET: Just because an influencer has a strong social presence does not mean that person can help you reach a specific target audience. For example, if your business is selling point-of-sale systems, finding an influencer who covers the retail industry in general may not be the best path to your buyers. To see how relevant they are, we review keywords used, timeliness of content and depth of coverage. We look for influencers who focus on topics that are most relevant to your business and are most closely connected to the needs of your potential customers.
You can score potential influencers by calculating their “FIT” and then prioritize your outreach strategy accordingly.
How to engage influencers
In order to make a connection with an influencer, personalize your outreach as much as possible. Some influencers may prefer engaging on Twitter or LinkedIn, some on email and others in person at industry events.
When you make contact, reference other articles they have written or opinions they have shared and show how your business/product/mission/content is connected to their priorities.
Tend to relationships carefully
Like much in life, your relationships with influencers require some quid pro quo. You are asking them to help share your story. You need to help them achieve their goals as well. Here are some ideas to make influencers feel valued.
- Universal truth: people love the sound of their own name. Mention them in your own blog and link back to their site. Add them to curated lists. Share their content and include their Twitter handle.
- If they take action, thank them! A quick note on social media or a personal message can go a long way.
- If you host a trade show or user conference, find a way to give them special access. Offer free tickets if you are allowed. Or, dub them a “guest blogger” and give them a badge and a front row seat, with the expectation that they’ll share the proceedings with their followers.
Bring in the content
Having a steady stream of authoritative, original content is essential to influencer marketing success. In each outreach, point influencers to a specific blog, paper or other content you want them to read and ideally to share. Pull out key data points, quotes or examples in an email to them — and don’t forget to tie them back to the interests of the influencer.
As your relationship develops, you may ask influencers to help create original content. They could be a guest blogger for you, write a review of your products or interview your team. You could even provide them a sneak peek of hard-to-find data and let them be the first to share it.
How do you measure success?
We review influencer marketing programs in terms of their impact on an organization’s brand as well as its sales pipeline. To evaluate success we look at several criteria. For example:
Brand building. How can you tell if people are talking?
- Increase in traffic to your website
- More followers and shares on social media
- More inbound links to help with your SEO
- Earned media coverage
Pipeline. What happens as a result of the bump in activity?
- Higher conversions on your website
- More meetings for your sales team
- Meetings with a different mix of people, or people at a higher level
Influencer programs can start small and grow. Use the FIT method to identify and rank potential influencers. If you find the right influencers and you have the right content to share, you can amplify your marketing efforts and make a big impact.
Interested in learning more about the intersection of content marketing and influencer marketing? Let’s talk.