Jenny Force, VP of Marketing, Sysomos
Now that we’ve covered what influencer marketing is, let’s talk about factors you should consider when engaging in an influencer marketing program – and tips for interacting with influencers once you’ve found them.
1. Use Measurement to Cultivate from Within
People talking about your brand and your competitors’ brands are your first tier of influencers, but savvy marketers look outside those areas. For example, marketers at an interior decor company also check out fashion blogs, DIY blogs and construction blogs—looking for interesting overlaps.
With tools like Sysomos Search, you can determine who has the biggest, broadest reach across social networks. But the size of someone’s network doesn’t necessarily correlate to the extent of their influence.
As an outcome, you want to uncover the relevant people leading conversations and shaping opinions about your company or brand, even if those influencers are leading smaller social groups.
With Sysomos Listen, you can also identify influencers and their authority, helping you identify, engage, and build relationships with the right people.
2. Recognize and Reward Influencers
Everyone likes to feel special and in-the-know – to be that friend who’s always able to recommend the next new thing. Social media influencers are no exception.
An effective outreach strategy includes tactics for recognizing and rewarding important players in your social media circle. This typically includes creating an influencer network whose members get first crack at special content, deals, offers, and news as well as demos and inside knowledge of your product or service.
Savvy marketers may also tap particularly dedicated influencers for feedback about new products or services – brand loyalists love to feel like they’ve had an impact.
Big social media blitzes are good for sharing big news, but the strategy shouldn’t end after the first burst of interest.
3. Get Personal
As marketers, we know the value of creating personal connections. Engaging a social influencer, especially one with a big readership, is a lot like reaching out to a journalist.
Influencers are deeply passionate about their topics and probably know more about your market than you do. They will ask tough questions, and you have to be prepared to answer them.
The most effective approach is to learn about the interests of these influencers and engage with them on their turf and on their terms.
A social media monitoring tool with historical archives will not only inform you about what topics these influencers posted or commented on but will also tell you how long they have been discussing the topics.
This information will help you build relationships that make it possible to start putting your product in front of these influencers and asking them to promote it.
Of course, influence online is a two-way street, and the savviest marketers strengthen their relationships with influencers who talk up their products by giving them a mention in return.
A good practice is to pick three to ten influencers a week and link to them on your blog or other social media platform. Feature influencers with a range of reaches— your smaller influencers will be thrilled to be mentioned with the big names.
4. Tailor the Tactic to the Platform
Influencer behavior on Twitter doesn’t look the same as on Facebook, Instagram, or any of a hundred blogs and social platforms. Twitter’s reach is at its best with short, pithy updates that can be re-tweeted.
Many marketers make it a rule to update their Twitter feeds no more than once an hour (except to carry on conversations), and no less than once every business day.
Facebook users update less often and influencers are much less likely to share something purely commercial for fear of losing readers. Facebook is a great place for games and shareable experiences, and especially socially conscious initiatives like donation programs. Dr. Pepper’s Tuition Giveaway is a great example that combines a contest with a shareable social good— everyone knows someone with a college student in the family.
Other social media sites reward different tactics. On many blogs and discussion platforms, becoming part of the dialog is the best way to engage users. The most effective marketers maximize their social media efforts by cross-pollinating. For example, they share great blog posts (with their comments) on their Twitter feeds, and share great Facebook photos on Pinterest.
5. Keep Up with the Social Media Conversation
Brands are finding interesting ways to become an integral part of the social media conversation and get influencers talking about them organically.
JetBlue, for instance, is an engaging presence in the Twitter conversation between frequent flyers and other travel companies. Its Twitter updates are youthful and cheeky, just like its brand, and JetBlue is not afraid to say something a little sassy to its competitors.
Obviously that sort of personality isn’t right for every brand, but every brand can benefit from being part of the conversation. Share industry news, your reaction to it, and what you think it means for the future.
If a competitor does something impressive, give them a compliment. Be gracious or snarky on your social channels, but don’t shy away from having an opinion. That’s what keeps people thinking and talking about you.
The Bottom Line
The social media conversation—and even the platform where it’s happening—is constantly evolving. So are the influencers that marketers need to connect with.
One thing that doesn’t change is that there’s no substitute for good relationships to drive sales. Effective marketers are using measurement tools to keep their pool of influencers fresh, understand how those influencers are talking about their brand, and continue to grow their network.
Identifying your influencers and monitoring how they talk about your brand and your industry can give you valuable information that can affect all marketing initiatives, and even the future of your company.
Engaging with social media influencers takes time and attention, but it can pay huge dividends in highly credible buzz about your brand, increased sales, and new customers and customer segments.
Images by HeiroGraphic (Shutterstock)