One of your primary goals as a social media marketer is to expand your brand’s reach as far as possible. The others are to increase your credibility amongst your peers and followers in your industry, establish yourself as a thought leader, and of course to keep driving traffic, conversions and sales on your company’s website.
It’s no mean feat, and you’ve certainly got your work cut out for you – especially if you’re an SME or just beginning as a fresh and fledgling startup in this competitive online business environment that we all find ourselves in at present.
Indeed, the newer you are, the more daunting your primary goals will appear to be. No doubt you will be aware of your competitors and the extent of their online presence on social media. A quick search on Twitter may well uncover that some of your closest rivals already have a following amounting to a five or even six figure sum.
How on Earth do you catch them?
Well, I won’t mislead you here – growing a following of this size doesn’t happen over night. Don’t even think about buying followers from some dodgy looking tweet offering you “10,000 followers right now for just $5!!!”. Whilst you will most likely all of a sudden receive the agreed amount of followers, they invariably come from inactive accounts. That is to say that there is absolutely no merit in going down this route – sure, the number next your name on your profile page might be bigger than it was yesterday, but it will reap you absolutely zero engagement, and simply portray to your real followers that you are desperate – and this will do nothing for your credibility.
No. If you want to boost your online presence, then you’ve got to go about it the right way and the white (hat) way – and influencer marketing is one such method that you can quite legitimately use.
What Is Influencer Marketing?
To understand influencer marketing, you’ve first got to get to grips with exactly what defines a ‘key influencer’ in social media terms.
Key influencers are quite simply the royalty of the social media world. They are usually bloggers or online journalists who have an extremely large following across their social networks, and – as you might suspect – have great influence in their industry.
As a writer, content strategist and social media marketer, the key influencers in my field are people like Jeff Bullas, Mari Smith and Guy Kawasaki. Indeed, these 3 are my heroes, as they are for many others in my industry. They have massive followings on social media that put my 176,000, quite simply, to shame.
When any of these guys post a new blog, write a new book, or otherwise make any noise at all anywhere online or off it, hundreds of thousands of people pay attention. And when they offer an opinion on a service or product (like yours), what they have to say can be very pivotal as to how the rest of the internet perceives that product from thereon.
How Key Influencers Can Benefit Your Business
It’s very important that you do everything you can to gain the attention of a key influencer – so long, that is, as you manage to do so in a positive way.
Key influencers are the individuals in your industry who can shape and influence your potential customers’ buying decisions. And so, the aim of the game with influencer marketing is to engage with these influencers, and build an online relationship with them in order that you may leverage their influence and credibility in a way that is beneficial to yours.
Let’s say you were a writer of horror fiction novels, for instance, and that you were trying to make headway self-publishing on Kindle. Just imagine if you were to manage to get an endorsement from the king of horror writing himself – @StephenKing. What do you think that would do to the sales of your latest release? Here are a couple of his latest tweets:
As a fan of horror, I know that I’ve certainly bookmarked both of these recommendations in light of these tweets, as I’m sure many people like me will have done. Put simply, Mr King has done a service to both of these releases – and if you can get some of the key influencers in your particular niche to do something similar for you, then you will very quickly find your credibility skyrocketing, with your following, engagement and conversions not far behind.
Identifying Key Influencers
Ok, so your first task along the road to successful influencer marketing is to identify exactly who the key influencers in your industry are. You may well already be aware of some of them, but in order to cast your net as far and wide as you can, then you need to be catching the attention of as many influencers as possible.
Thankfully there are a number of online tools that can help you trace down and identify the key players in your industry who profess a great following and hold lots of influence.
3 Online Tools To Identify Key Influencers
- Traackr – this is not a free service, but nonetheless one of the best ones available. The Traackr team help you discover the key influencers in your market using keyword searches. They then help you begin an engagement with these people very quickly.
- Nimble – this is an influencer management tool that gives you detailed insight into all of your contacts with a single view – great for understanding these people’s influence on social media. It will also suggest contacts that you should make an effort to get in touch with based on the various keywords and industries that you identify as being important.
- Klout – this influencer tool is perhaps the most well-known of them all (though that’s not to suggest that it’s the best). Klout gives everyone on social media a “Klout score from 1-100”. The higher the number, the more impact the user is said to have. It’s also free to use, which obviously makes it attractive to a lot of SMEs.
Engaging With Key Influencers
Once you have identified a working list of key influencers, the next stage is to prioritise them based on who you believe are the most relevant and who will have the most impact on your own campaign. Be sure to focus your efforts on just a few at a time – this will make things easier for you.
Now you want to gradually start to build a relationship with these people. And the first thing to do, of course, is to start following them on social media. But don’t stop there. Make yourself known to the influencers. Comment on their blog posts, retweet their tweets, like their Facebook posts. Put yourself on their radar.
However, there’s no real merit in being obsequious. Now, that’s not to say that you should be rude and start challenging every opinion that they put forward – but rather that if all you’re doing is sucking up and saying things like “Wow!! I LOVE your new blog. Really thought-provoking!! J”, then you’re not really selling yourself as someone who has something valuable and interesting to contribute.
A good way in is to ask the influencer questions concerning the content of his/her latest blog. Ask him/her to elaborate, or what they think about a theory that you have in relation to the content. Of course, be polite, and it won’t hurt one bit, actually, to tell them how much you liked their post – just don’t let sycophantism be the dominant force of your comments.
Hopefully, one or two of these influencers will ‘bite’ and start engaging with you regularly on social media. If you’re lucky, they’ll start using your first name (and if they do then you know you’ve hooked them). By this point you should notice that your following is increasing. Other members of the influencer’s following will have noticed your exchanges, and some will start following you too – so make sure you’re always producing great content so they all have a real reason to stay.
Now is the time that you can reach out to the key influencer a little more personally. Send them an email. Explain who you are in a little more detail (but not too much – keep it a nice short and sweet ‘elevator pitch’ about you and your business). What you will want to do at this stage is to try and get the influencer to contribute some content on your site in their name. This may be as simple as asking them to take part in a survey that you’re doing, or, even better, an interview for your blog, or, even better yet, write the foreword for your new eBook.
If you can get a key influencer on board even in just a small way – perhaps they start retweeting your blog posts, or commenting on your Facebook – then you will very quickly be gaining access to a brand new and well-established audience, who will indeed be influenced to start engaging more with you and your work. Your following, your reach and your credibility will soon grow, and leads and conversions will follow hot on their heels.
How do you utilise influencer marketing? Please let us know in the comments below.