An influencer marketing strategy is one of the older methods out there, but it’s also one of the few marketing approaches out there today that is pretty safe from the many Google penalties that keep popping up across the web. First we had Matt Cutts discounting guest posting, then we saw major websites getting penalized, then the horror stories of manual penalties for smaller websites started to surface. Needless to say, we as marketers need this right now.
If you aren’t sure what an influencer marketing strategy is, don’t sweat it. It definitely takes some hard to work to make it work for you, but in the end it’s something you can dive right into no matter what type of business you run or what kind of current marketing you’ve been using.
How Influencer Marketing Works
Influencer marketing is all about finding authoritative figures in your industry (influencers) and trying to work with them to help your brand. Once you know your target audience, you should be able to find different people who are swaying that audience's decision because they are so popular and trustworthy in the community (more on this in the next section). In general, an influencer becomes an influencer because they have been around for a long time, published credible studies, given insightful opinions, etc.
An influencer can help your brand in a few different ways:
- First, he/she can write a blog post about your company and publish it on a website that gets a lot of views from your target audience. If you can get a stamp of approval through an article this way, you can start to edge your brand into the likes of the others that are so authoritative.
- Second, an influencer could allow you to contribute content to his/her website. This isn’t as ideal as the first option, but it helps get you in front of that targeted traffic once again.
- Lastly, influencers can help you simply by sharing your content or information about your company. Generally the influencer would mention or link back to your brand on his/her social media accounts.
For companies that have been around a long time, influencer marketing might just happen. However, for most companies just getting started, you have to really work hard to create this kind of strategy, and it isn’t going to be a quick process.
Strategies For Creating An Influencer Marketing Plan
When most people decide they are going to create an influencer marketing plan, they assume that reaching out to someone will be enough. Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case. Influencers spent a long time to get to the position they are, so they want you to prove yourself as well.
Below are a few steps to getting started with this process describing how to find influencers and then what to do once you find them.
Finding the Influencers
Identify your target audience.
This should be a no-brainer. You should know who your target audience is by now, but if not then now is definitely the time to make that distinction. Figure out who is clicking on your content and gather data to see if you can find trends.
Determine what your audience is reading, sharing, and where it’s all happening.
Once you know who your audience is and have gathered all of your data, you have to go out and see where this audience is getting their information. Figure out what platforms they like to read most, where they like to share most (social media, their own blogs, etc.), and what types of content they’re typically sharing. This will help you understand your audience, what they want to see and where they want to see it.
Look to see who is being quoted and featured on all of these different platforms.
As you go through this process, take notice of people and/or companies that are being quoted a lot or shared often. As you visit blogs, you may even notice that one author seems to be writing and contributing content everywhere. If you think you’ve found someone who is very active, take a look at his/her social profiles and see what they’re all about. If they have a good number of followers and they are publishing quality stuff on quality sites, you’ve probably got an influencer.
Building the Relationship
Connect on social media.
This will help you get your face out there for influencers to start recognizing it. You might not connect right away if he/she doesn’t recognize you, but it’s worth a try. Continue utilizing steps 5 and 6 below and then try connecting again if it doesn’t work. If it does work, then you can be sure that he/she is starting to see the content you're posting.
Reach out to contribute content.
You want to offer something first, so content is a great place to start. Once you think they know who you are you can try and email them to submit content to their site. This will help show that you’re committed and interested in helping. Of course, make sure you’re sending your absolute best content.
Attempt to meet someone in person.
Conferences are typically full of influencers. If you can attend a conference, I highly recommend it. Check out the speakers and people attending before you go and have a plan to introduce yourself. Face-to-face interactions will go a long way with this type of method.
Extra Tip: I talked with Adam Heitzman, Managing Partner of HigherVisibility, who explained that consistency is key. He said, “Always stay in touch with someone even if they aren’t allowing you to contribute at first. Continue to comment on their blog and check in with them so they know that you’re really in it for a long partnership. I’ve had people ask me to help them and then I never heard from them again. As you might imagine, that type of interaction plays a lot into my decision to help or not help.”
It’s also worth mentioning that influencer marketing lends itself well to taking baby steps. In other words, you don’t have to reach the top influencer right away. There are different levels of how influential someone may be, and that’s OK. Start small, establish yourself, and then approach the influencers who are really at the top.
Do you have an influencer marketing campaign setup? What are you doing to help connect with influencers? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below.