Every industry has influencers—people who have the ability, because of their power or knowledge (real or perceived), to influence purchase decisions. Hollywood has celebrities, fashion has models, and business has its moguls.
The internet is no different. Social influencers are bloggers, social media personalities, or industry experts who have developed large and loyal followings by being insightful, entertaining, engaging, transparent, humorous, and—most importantly—human. This connection creates a bond between social influencers and their fans and followers that give these influencers unprecedented authority.
For a long time, “influencer marketing” was about leveraging these people to get in front of their audiences, but that’s not a long-term strategy (and it’s not very nice). A better, mutually beneficial approach is partnering with them to improve everyone’s brand.
3 Key Benefits of Integrating Influencer Marketing With Your Content Marketing Campaign
No matter where you are in your content marketing campaign, influencers can help take you to the next level.
- Influencers can keep content relevant. Influencers spend every day in the trenches with their audiences, so they understand the market better than anybody else. Partnering with them from the beginning of a project or campaign can provide brands with some extra insights.
- Customers trust customers. Because the relationship between an influencer and his or her audience is built upon transparency, a friendly recommendation from a trusted influencer is going to be three to 10 times more likely to convert a customer.
- They can cut through the clutter. If fans receive an email, or see a social post from someone that they readily follow, they are much more likely to open that email or click on that link than the same message coming from a brand they may be familiar with but don’t have a personal relationship.
If you can get enough influencers talking about your product or your brand, you start to really get noticed. Gini Dietrich, Founder of Spin Sucks, recognizes the momentum that built when Spin Sucks (the book) started getting picked up and shared by PR professionals:
When Spin Sucks was published, I introduced the model we use internally for our clients, called the PESO Model*. From there, it began to grow in the industry as more and more PR professionals adopted it. The big coup came when Mashable interviewed me for a story. It’s been instrumental in both building brand awareness for Spin Sucks and in PR professionals looking to us as the authority on modern PR.
Image: PESO Model. PESO stands for “paid, earned, shared, owned.” The model demonstrates how true brand authority can be found at the intersection of these four types of media.
In short, influencers boost your content’s credibility. Their counsel can help brands stay relevant, and their endorsements (which they’re more likely to give if a brand has partnered with them and sought their advice from the beginning) speaks louder than your content alone.
Identifying and Recruiting Your Top Online Influencers
The trick is finding the perfect influencers for your target audience and your content marketing. To really make an impact, you need to look for partners. The right influencers for your brand:
- Maintain audiences that align with your target market
- Share your brand’s passions and values
- Are willing to partner with you in a mutually beneficial relationship
Identifying potential influencers to partner with can be tricky, but there are tools that can help, such as:
These tools all come at a price, but they track relevant conversations and the influencers that are leading them, and even provide a management system for reaching these influencers.
Once you’ve found potential influencers, start getting to know them. Follow their social media profiles, engage in their conversations, share their content, etc. If you’re not sure that someone is a good fit for your brand—just ask. Ask them about their passions, their motivations, etc.
When you’re sure that an influencer is a good fit, send a private message or pick up the phone (yes, this really works) and be straight-forward about what you’re looking for—and what you have to offer. Remember that a working partnership is mutually beneficial, so be prepared to detail how you are going to help the influencer:
- How can you expand his or her audience/network? Do you have a relevant audience to share with the influencer? Can he or she publish on your content platform(s)?
- What kind of perks can your brand provide? Sneak previews? Merchandise? Event access? Personnel access?
- Are there other opportunities you can create for training or education that will benefit the influencer in his or her niche?
Remember that the relationship between influencers and their audiences is built upon trust, so you have to prove to them that you are worthy of their (and their audiences’) time and money.
How to Partner with Influencers to Amplify Your Content Marketing Campaign
Make sure you have a clear plan for the role influencers will play in your content marketing strategy before you get them on board. Simply creating content and asking them to share it is not a partnership or a sustainable relationship. Create a plan for how they will be involved in your content campaigns:
- Amass invaluable market insights. Consult with influencers on what topics are driving engagement in your industry and which platforms to use to reach your target audience.
- Attain ringing endorsements. Give your influencers a sample of your content in return for a positive endorsement on their social platforms or blogs. Consider sending a pre-publication draft to them for a positive quote to include in the content or on relevant landing pages.
- Share each other’s platforms. A great influencer marketing tactic is to swap guest posts or interviews. This gives both your influencer and your company a new platform to promote each other’s brands.
- Create collaborative content. Take your market research to the next level by collaborating with influencer(s) on a comprehensive and engagement-focused content plan. Influencers live off of creating engaging content and can completely transform your content marketing efforts. For example, in our latest definitive guide, The Definitive Guide to Social Media Marketing, we asked a select list of top influencers to contribute their advice (example below). Not only did it provide value to our audience, it gave the participating influencers exposure to a large group of people as our definitive guides are heavily promoted.
Influencers and Marketing Go Hand and Hand
Too many influencers have been abused at the hands of brands who just wanted to pay for their audiences (usually with cheap give-aways), but most genuine, long-term influencers have caught on and are highly protective of their audiences. Earn their trust by being worthy of it, and consider influencer marketing a partnership.
Start paying attention to who is driving conversations in your industry, and get to know them. (And if you just can’t find them, check out some of those tools we mentioned.) If an influencer is a good fit for your brand, and you’re willing to make it worth their while, establishing a relationship will be easier than you might think.