As an extension of a brand’s PR and social strategy, the use of influencers is much more valuable than traditional marketing push tactics.
According to The Earned Media Opportunity, “Influencers can self-select and have a multiplier effect, influencing many others to convert at higher rates than paid media. This makes earned media especially effective in increasing pre-qualification of prospects and increasing engagement.”
To use this tactic successfully, influencers must be found strategically. It’s the right person coupled with the right targeted message, platform, and audience that gets the job done. Many brands are retreating from targeting the influencers with the largest followings, focusing instead on those who have the most relevance to their customers. Reach becomes the second factor in the equation.
Finding the right influencers
Finding influencers isn’t hard. What’s trickier is finding the right ones for your brand. It is important to research your customer first. Factors to uncover are age, gender, lifestyle, buying habits, and brand preferences. A good question to ask is, “Who reaches our brand’s demographic?,” not “Who has the most followers?”
Often the best influencers are the consumers already talking about your product or service. They’re so authentic that people can’t help but follow along. Your job is easy — just fan the flames every so often to get them to champion the brand even more.
The people with “real influence” have a couple of key qualities, including:
Relevance. Look for people who not only know your market, but also enjoy talking about it. Location can play a factor if you’re trying to grow reach and impact in a city or region.
Reach. Maybe you’re looking for breadth in terms of followers, but keep in mind depth, such as a powerful niche. Both approaches work, but the choice depends on your brand’s goals and outcomes.
Resonance. You may have found a super-smart and savvy blogger or vlogger, but is their content being shared or commented on? Social amplification is a must.
Once influencers have been identified, they need to be vetted through a combination of tech and human intelligence. Analyze your influencer data. Who would be a good fit for your current PR initiative on Instagram? Who should be saved for a future Facebook Live campaign? Keep a working list of influencers. You never know who might turn a campaign into an astounding success.
Media outreach has become more difficult this past year, not only because of the political atmosphere, but also due to growing popularity of social media and influencer marketing.
Influencer outreach borrows from media relations and traditional networking, but the audience is influencers, not the media nor a PR peer. When you reach out to influencers in the right way, everyone wins:
Research who you are contacting and their media outlet.
Look into more than just how this person relates to your brand. Knowledge of past work, interests, and strengths is how you get influencers to say “yes and thank you for understanding my work.” Furthermore, 82% of journalists say PR pros can improve by researching and understanding their media outlet.
Know what to include in your pitch. Create a pitch tailored to the influencer and unique to your brand. Consider that the use of multimedia is increasingly important when presenting ideas. Media respondents said they “always” or “often” use multimedia elements 70.5% of the time, compared to their use of data that respondents rated at 56% of “always” or “often” usage. Use visuals or videos of a work site or a specific product’s use, and include photo credits and captions that clearly describe a photo’s content, as well as the dateline city and the source.
Communicate through email. Don’t use messenger apps or phone calls to contact potential influencers – 90% of respondents indicate email is the best way to directly pitch an idea.
Send a clear message. It should be specific, such as a call to action. Set expectations and goals at the beginning. Do you want influencers to promote, share, or create content? Give clear instructions, but don’t micromanage.
Determine metrics for success. If the goal is brand awareness, determine the numbers that prove success. Institute metrics for the outreach itself, just as you would when pitching a story or starting a new PR initiative.
Document everything. Influencer outreach isn’t scalable without documented processes. Share them with the team. Revisit them regularly. When influencer marketing is happening online, change is the only constant.
Refine. Analyze the data gathered from interactions with influencers. Let it guide next steps and improvements with outreach, as well as the overall program.
Reaching out to influencers and getting them to participate isn’t a one-and-done activity. When influencers drop off the grid, follow up. Find out what’s going on before dismissing them and moving onto another person. Other times, influencers have life changes. Your fashionista has turned into a mommy blogger. That’s great if you have an audience of fashionable mommies-to-be, but not so great if the target is single, career-focused females.
However, not all influencer relationships are going to stand the test of time. It’s why you created and continue to update a list of influencers in the first place.
To be successful with relationship management, consider these tips: Stay in touch, ask for feedback from your influencers, delegate the work of managing your influencers, review the metrics, be ready to change, based on feedback and metrics, and influencers are important friends.
As trust in traditional media drops, well-implemented marketing is becoming increasingly important. Good influencers now have an even bigger role in the success of your brand. Not only do they make it a little more “human,” they also provide unprecedented reach as their following grows with social media.
Most of all, your brand becomes the influencer’s friend over time. And what do people do when they have a really good friend? They spread the word.