Your audience is savvier than ever and no longer trusts advertising or your brand. The only way to reach and make the right impact on readers, buyers and brand supporters is to leverage the power of influencers and earned media.
The reason your audience flocks to influencers over your brand is simple: they trust them more. Consumers feel connected to influencers and view them as their peers. According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Report, people are 92% more likely to trust recommendations from their peers than advertising when it comes to making purchase decisions. [click to tweet]
“When brands don’t have a pulse on their consumers, influencers fill that void and provide a valuable trusted channel for them to reach their target audiences,” says Stacey Miller, director of communications at Cision.
Social media and technology have made it possible for influencers to give their audiences a personal glimpse into their lives. Through a more targeted outreach approach, you can identify the right influencers and mine their conversations to create content that will attract attention. And with a combination of monitoring, distribution, engagement and analytics all in one place, you will make better business decisions, secure more media coverage and build stronger influencer connections.
To better reach and connect with consumers, brands need to partner with the authorities in their industry. Influencers help brands gain the credibility and trust they need to build meaningful relationships with consumers and turn them into loyal customers.
The benefits of targeted influencer marketing are clear:
59% of marketers planned to increase their influencer marketing budgets in 2016
Even if you know you need influencers on your side, you may not be approaching them the right way. Reaching out without knowing what the influencer is all about will result in wasted efforts. A good influencer marketing strategy starts with research [click to tweet].The more you know about the influencers in your industry, the more likely you’ll be able to make a strong connection and a bigger impact on your audience. Evaluation is the difference between success and failure. Looking at follower counts alone won’t tell you everything you need to know to determine whether or not an influencer is a good match for your brand.
“When choosing an influencer to work with, make sure their goals and what they represent are similar to your brand,” says Miller.
Here are eight key insights to examine to steer your brand’s influencer marketing strategy in the right direction:
Reach: How big is the influencer’s audience? Make sure they have a significant enough following to make an impact, but don’t be afraid to consider micro-influencers with smaller audiences. They may be able to make a bigger difference if their audience is more engaged.
Engagement: How engaged is the influencer’s audience? Do they participate in conversations? An engaged audience shows that the influencer is successful at communicating their message and motivating their followers to take action. This is more important than reach alone. [click to tweet]
Topics of Coverage: What is the influencer talking about? Determine their commonly discussed topics and delve deep into the details. For example, don’t just look for influencers discussing a broad topic like sports. An influencer could be a sports journalist, but if she only covers tennis and you’re looking for a football influencer she won’t be the right match.
Original Content: Look at what the influencer is writing about on their blog or talking about on their podcast. Do their ideas line up with your brand’s? If you can get an influencer to create content on your behalf, your brand will benefit from their influence.
Geographical Location: In what region is the influencer located? Make sure you are looking for influential journalists that are also experts in the target geographic area where you either have a presence or are interested in expanding your brand presence.
Culture and Demographics: In order to reach new audiences it’s critical to tailor your message by age, gender, lifestyle or education. All of these factors will influence how your audience responds to your message [click to tweet]. The influencer you target should have an audience that closely mirrors the one you aim to reach.
Preferred Social Channels: What channels do your influencers most frequently use to engage with their own audiences and what is the best way for your brand to reach the influencer? Often, the social media sites where they engage the most are the ones you should use to reach out.
Biographical Information: What other information do you know about the influencer? It’s important to get to know the influencer on a personal level, not just professionally. This allows you to create deeper, longer-lasting relationships. Sorting through all the data on your own can be a hassle, but with the right communication software, you can easily identify the key influencers in your industry, engage with them and measure the effectiveness of your strategy – all in one place.
Choosing the Right Influencers
Pitching journalists and media outlets is not a new task for brands. But while getting mentioned in a newspaper or magazine used to be the end-all, be-all of PR, today it doesn’t pack the same punch. Newspapers and magazines do have a large audience, but not everyone in that audience will be interested in your brand. If your strategy is focused solely on the media, you’re missing out on a number of other types of influencers who may be more impactful.
“Anybody can be an influencer as long as they inspire people to act,” says Miller. [click to tweet]
We’ve compiled a list of five different types of influencers to help you make the right decisions when planning your outreach:
Celebrities: These influencers are instantly recognizable and have a massive audience, so partnering with them could expose your brand to tons of new prospects. Celebrities will expect to be paid in exchange for advocating for your brand. Be cautious of this because your audience could view a celebrity sponsor as unauthentic.
Journalists: Your audience looks to journalists to inform them of important and relevant news. To get journalists’ attention, your brand’s outreach needs to be newsworthy, relevant and interesting enough to catch their attention. If not, your pitch is sure to go unanswered.
Social Media Influencers: From YouTubers to Instagram personalities, these influencers gain popularity online and often discuss what’s new and trending. Consider reaching out to these influencers to review your products or services, create content for you and become a brand ambassador. If they’re talking about your brand, your audience will take note.
Experts: These influencers are known as credible resources in your industry. Experts could be doctors, scientists, CEOs, professors or other types of professionals who share their ideas and opinions. They are well-educated and often have years of experience. Engage experts in conversations surrounding your brand. Their perspective will be valuable to your audience.
Organic Advocates: These influencers are similar to social media influencers but most likely have a smaller audience. Organic advocates are the ones who are already fans of your brand and talking about you online. Aligning with them is an easy decision and will make sense for your brand and the influencer’s audience. The type of influencer you target will determine your outreach method. While most journalists prefer to be contacted by email, social media influencers will most likely prefer communicating on social since it’s their native platform. Before reaching out to any influencer, consult your media database to find out what platforms they are active on and what their preferences are [click to tweet]. Not all influencers communicate the same way, so you should always do your homework before making contact. Also be sure to consider the demographic of their audience, and other communities their audience might be active in. Going levels deeper not only into who the influencer is, but also how the communities that follow that influencer engage, can glean additional insights about whether the influencer is truly right for your brand partnerships.
Targeting Your Outreach
Simply asking an influencer to partner with your brand won’t convince them to do so. You need to show them the value of working with you.
“Influencers are cautious about who they partner with,” say Miller. [click to tweet] “They’re endorsing your brand and putting their name on the line, so they want to make sure you have a good brand story and a solid product or service to back it up.”
Influencers are protective of their audience and only want to work with brands that they believe will benefit their audience. When you reach out and engage, demonstrate how a relationship with your brand can be mutually beneficial, which is key to motivating them to tell your story. So what’s the best way to appeal to influencers? Here are the three steps you must take to ensure influencers partner with your brand.
Don’t let the first time you make contact be when you pitch your partnership. Influencer outreach should begin long before that [click to tweet] . Make sure the influencer knows your name, your brand and what you are all about before you approach them about working with you. Start by following the influencer on social media. Show that you take interest in what they do by sharing their work and commenting on their posts. Read their social feeds to get to know them on a personal level and start building a connection. Engage them in conversation – even if it’s about something that doesn’t have anything to do with your brand. Make sure you always provide value to the conversation. [click to tweet] Don’t just post to post. Share something that will benefit the influencer and the audience. This could be something such as original research from your brand. This will help you gain credibility and earn the trust of the influencer and others in your industry. By engaging with the influencer, you’ll learn even more about them which will help make pitching easier. Engaging allows you to build a relationship ahead of time, so later on they’ll be more receptive to your pitch.
When following the influencer on social media, look for opportunities where you can offer your brand’s expertise. For example, if a journalist tweets about a story they’re writing and you think you have something to contribute, tweet back and offer to be a source. But make sure the story is relevant to what you do. Not every story opportunity will be right for your brand. When you’re ready to invite the influencer to partner with your brand, make sure you focus on the value of the partnership. What’s in it for them? If the influencer doesn’t see how they or their audience will benefit from a partnership, they won’t be interested.
Consider offering a monetary incentive. Influencers are contributing valuable time and resources to help your brand. Their compensation should reflect that. But the incentive doesn’t always have to be a monetary one, says Miller. “It could be an exchange for your products or services or the reach that comes with the media coverage you both generate together.” Think about the influencer’s goals and how your brand can help achieve them. [click to tweet] Present your idea in a clear and concise manner. Be specific about expectations and goals and what you want the influencer to do. Whether you want her to promote your brand’s product or create content on your behalf, give clear instructions and make sure the influencer knows exactly what you want them to do. But be careful not to micro-manage. Give the influencer direction, but let them have control over their own content and behavior. If your emails aren’t getting responses, don’t be afraid to test different messages and refine as you go. Track all of your messaging and analyze the data regularly.
Your outreach program doesn’t end once the influencer agrees to work with you. You must continue to stay in contact with them to maintain the relationship you’ve worked so hard to build.[click to tweet] When you build a strong relationship with an influencer, you ensure their loyalty and trust in your brand. Plus, when another opportunity arises, that influencer will be ready to work with you again. Keep a working list of the influencers you’ve engaged with. Track what they talk about and make note of any changes. Influencers evolve and sometimes change topics or focus, so someone who was once the perfect partner may not continue to be. Influencer outreach must be constantly assessed and reassessed to ensure your strategy is making the biggest impact.
The Power of Influencers
Influencers are key to better connecting with your brand’s audience, but finding the right brand partner isn’t always easy. By first listening in on the key conversations in your industry, you can begin to identify the right influencers to partner with and find valuable opportunities to advance your brand. By thoroughly researching the major and minor players in your industry, learning their goals and motivations and then communicating your brand’s value to them, your influencer outreach is sure to be on target. What’s next? Create content that will harness the power of your targeted influencers, attract and motivate your audience and position your brand at the forefront of your industry.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stacey Miller is the Director, Communications at Cision. In her current role, she leads a team of internal and external communicators while managing the strategy and execution of media, influencer and analyst relations, social media and community development. During her ten years with the company, she has pioneered influencer marketing, employee advocacy and social selling programs through both traditional and social media.
Her programs have continually shown measurable increases in brand awareness, positive sentiment, competitor mindshare, news volume, customer retention, leads and sales. An internationally sought keynote speaker, her writing has appeared in Forbes, CIO and VentureBeat. Stacey is frequently quoted in online publications as well as published books, including several college textbooks. Consistently mentioned in "top people to follow” and “up and coming pros” lists, Oracle named Stacey a finalist for its Community Manager of the Year Award in 2012.