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Think back to your last big purchase, let’s say a new oven.
You probably started out your search getting to know your options and narrowing down what features you wanted in the item you purchased (4 electric burners with a timer and a broil setting). Then, you tried to find out which oven was rated best for the features that were most important to you and was within your price range (your search might have taken you to Home Depot or Lowe’s to cost compare).
Somewhere between researching the item and actually buying it, you probably got input from friends, family, coworkers, online forums, or online reviews. Feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of info out there, you turned to the people or places you knew you could trust for unbiased reviews or feedback. You might have asked, is this brand better than another? Why does this one cost $200 more? Is that extra feature worth it? What oven do you have? Do you love it? Why?
We look for others’ feedback to validate our thoughts and help guide us in making the best decision or confirm that we made the right choice. Our desire to get others’ feedback before we make a purchase is what makes influencer outreach marketing so powerful, and therefore, important to many marketers.
What exactly is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is the practice of building relationships and collaborating with influencers of your target market. These collaborations will spread the word about your brand to your target audience through a voice they know and trust, and thus increase brand awareness. Collaboration could mean providing content for a blog post on the influencer’s blog, letting the influencer take over your brand’s Instagram profile, or encouraging reviews by providing product or services to the influencer.
With influencer marketing, a high-quality piece of feedback created by an influencer can reach more people and have more of an impact than the brand or business could do by itself. In order to do influencer marketing right and in an authentic way, you have to be patient, persistent, and sincere. It’s a slow build, not for those looking for a quick bump in site traffic with little effort. However, if you’re looking to increase brand awareness, build a community, and/or expand your network, influencer marketing is one of the best options for you.
The benefits of influencer marketing
If you’re still not sure about influencer marketing, here are a few more reasons why it’d make sense for your brand to do it.
Talk to the right people at the right time
Influencer outreach is a more focused approach than broadcasting your message to millions and hoping it will stick with a small percentage of them. Working with influencers means you’re talking with the right people at the right time without wasting effort or budget. It doesn’t matter if your brand has millions of followers – all that matters is that you have a connection with the right influencers to help spread your message. I’ll get into how to find the right influencers in detail further on in this post.
Build credibility and trust with consumers
You can tout how amazing your brand is all you want, but consumers are going to look beyond your site for info about your brand. According to this Nielsen survey, 70% of consumers worldwide say they trust online consumer reviews above other forms of advertising. Simply put, people trust other people to help them with honest advice and reviews. Influencers are the source of that honesty and authenticity, without the bias of a brand or business, for many people.
When you ask influencers to promote content or spread the word about your product or service, they lend you their earned credibility and trust as well as the attention of their fans. That’s a huge deal. Many more people will see your content piece or your product compared to who may have seen it by simple social or email broadcast methods. The reason is because your brand might not have the loyalty or attention that an influencer has with his or her fans.
If you look at the chart below from Technorati’s 2013 Digital Influence report, you’ll see that many people will get information via retail sites to influence a purchase. But that’s not the only place they will be getting information. Going back to the oven example, you may search Home Depot to see all the ovens they have available, but you’ll look to influencers to help you narrow down your choices or decide on the specific oven you want to buy. What’s more interesting here is that blogs, social media networks, and forums (all places where influencers are active) also rank highly as places that can influence a purchase.
Image via Technorati – emphasis mine
People do not look for information about a future purchase only on your site or a retail site. They’ll be looking all over the place and that’s why it helps to have influencers talking about and reviewing your product on their blogs, in forums or groups, or on social networks. These different locations online can influence your customer wherever they may be in their customer journey.
Improve your profits
As mentioned in the Nielsen study above, it’s been proven that consumers trust online consumer reviews, such as reviews by influencers, above advertising. These reviews can directly impact your bottom line, too. This study showed that if three negative reviews posted about a product or service were in search results, the business could lose 59% of potential customers. And if there are four or more negative reviews, 70% of potential customers will bow out. 70%!
It’s understandable that there will be a few negatives amongst a sea of positive reviews. Influencers can help with boosting your positive reviews and coverage of your brand or product in search results. With positive reviews and coverage displaying in search results, the negative reviews will ultimately be diluted.
Also, this study on influence marketing budgets showed that for every $1 spent on influencer marketing, businesses made $6.50 on average in returns. Clearly, collaborating with influencers can improve your profits as well as brand awareness as a business.
How to Do Influencer Outreach Right
The first thing you need to know about influencer outreach is that this process takes time. There is no quick way to build a relationship without seeming schemey or insincere. Patience and persistence will help you a lot more in the long run here than trying to sprint towards the finish line.
Our influencer marketing process is involved so I’ve broken it down for you into bite-size pieces. That way you can digest each one, come back to it, and try it out for yourself before getting too far along. Here’s what you can expect:
Step 1: Research your influencers
Set Your Goals
The best way to start influencer outreach is by setting SMART goals for your effort.
When you’re doing your research, you’ll want to bring it back to the goals of the outreach – what are you trying to accomplish? Let’s say I’m an oven manufacturer and one of my goals with influencer outreach for my company is to connect with people who are considering a new oven and convince them to purchase my oven because it’s better, hotter, or more energy-efficient. By keeping my goals in mind, as I’m searching for influencers to help me reach this goal, I will be less likely to go after just any influencer, but rather hold out for the right influencer who best helps me get to my desired end result.
For example, if one of the advantages of your oven is that it preheats in record time, you would want to reach influencers with audiences who have concerns about wasting time, such as working parents. You wouldn’t want to focus on influencers who create elaborate recipes because time savings won’t be as big of a deal to them. Using goals to focus your influencer marketing will help you get better results in the long run.
Develop Keywords and Topics of Interest to Your Audience
Defining keywords and topics of interest will guide your research and make it much more effective. That way, you won’t waste time researching influencers who may be the wrong fit for your brand or have nothing to do with the audience you’re trying to reach. When you start, it’s better to be more specific than to research topics or keywords that are too general.
For example, if I’m trying to establish credibility for my oven brand, I’d have more luck with a keyword phrase like “food bloggers who bake regularly” than just “food bloggers.” That’s because the phrase “food bloggers” can encompass a lot of different types of bloggers, such as restaurant reviewers, cocktail makers, or grill masters (none of whom have any credibility when talking about ovens). By using the keyword phrase “food bloggers who bake regularly,” you’ll find more influencers who people trust to provide them a review on an oven.
I’d highly recommend getting your core team involved in figuring out your keywords or topics before you start the actual research on influencers. Research without this forethought will take you down a lot of useless rabbit holes.
Qualify Your Influencers
You may think that a person with a million followers is always the right influencer, but I’ve seen success with influencers who’ve had anywhere from 5,000 to 25,000 followers. In my example, as I’m working to build awareness about the oven I’m selling, would I rather have an influencer who had 10,000 followers with an interest in baking and who was a pleasure to collaborate with, or an influencer who had 2.5 million followers, but who only blogged about baking once in awhile and wasn’t very communicative or reliable? The answer is easy in my mind.
In influencer marketing, follower count is indeed bullshit when measured alone, and quality often wins out over quantity.
A lot of how you qualify your influencers goes back to the exact goal you’re trying to reach. By making sure you’re talking to the right influencers, it’ll be much less of a stretch when you pitch them an idea and you’ll also reach the audience you wanted to reach.
Here is the data and questions I consider when I want to identify an influencer for a particular project:
– What do they write about?
– What topics are important to them?
– Do they align with my brand?
– Domain authority (DA) of their blog (if they have one). DA can provide an indication of the site’s value and credibility.
– Helpful tip: I keep Mozbar on my browser for a quick view of the DA of a site.
Demographics or psychographics of the site’s audience
– You can find much of this information in the advertising section of blogs and sites, if it is available.
– You can also search for recent media articles about the blog or site for additional user data.
– If you can’t find demographics or psychographics of the audience either of the above ways, you can use Facebook Ads Manager with their Audience Insights tool by checking out who is following the influencer’s Facebook page. That’ll give you more information about their audience.
Response rate/engagement rate
– For Twitter: check out their retweet or @contact rate on Followerwonk.
– For other social networks: do a quick review of the influencer’s latest posts or photos. Are people commenting on their posts and are they commenting back? Applause such as likes or favorites come second here because it’s easy to click like, but much harder to actually think of something to write.
– Where are your influencers most active? Since you won’t be qualifying your influencers on only these numbers, you need to look at just the channels where they are most active (rather than all the channels they are on).
– Have they worked with other brands or companies before? If so, then you know they’re open to collaboration.
Sometimes all you need to start your influencer research is one influencer. There are different ways to be a sleuth to expand your influencer research organically:
- Who does the influencer talk to regularly on Twitter?
- Who does she/he retweet or share via Facebook?
- Who comments on her/his Instagram photos regularly?
- Who has she/he collaborated with on guest posts in the past?
- What additional topics are important to your influencers as a whole? Can these be added to your keyword and topics list to use in researching other influencers?
Yes, there are tools will help make all of this research less painful, but they can’t take the place of actually going to the influencer’s blog or social media profiles (meaning multiple profiles – you can’t call it good after looking at them only on Twitter). You should budget at least 5-10 minutes of research per person to qualify them using the criteria above as well as your own criteria.
I’ve assessed a ton of tools in the past couple of years, but only a few have stuck: Followerwonk, BuzzSumo, Moz’s Open Site Explorer, and another tool that you’ll read about in the next post of the series. I’ll go into more detail on how I use tools in the following posts, too.
Involve Your Team
One last thing before I wrap up this influencer marketing step: influencer marketing is not a one-person show. It takes a team’s effort to pull this together. I rely on a team of 3-5 people to brainstorm keywords and topics, do the research, review influencer research, connect with influencers, develop and review the pitches, and maintain the relationships with influencers (steps you’ll see in the second and third posts in this series).
I like to tailor the team based on the client so that the team members feel personally invested in the outreach we’re doing. Keep that in mind as you plan influencer marketing into your strategies.
Step One Complete
There’s no time like the present to get your influencer outreach process kicked into high gear. Set your goals. Define your keywords or topics. Figure out how to qualify the influencers you find. Use tools and involve your team to save your sanity.
This is the first step to working with influencers in a way that will be mutually beneficial to both your brand and the influencer. This method of working with influencers will build trust, a community, and awareness for your brand.
Once you’ve done all that, you’re ready for Part 2 of influencer marketing.
Influencer Marketing Part 2: Steps for developing a relationship
In our next post in this series, I’ll guide you through the steps of developing a relationship with an influencer so that you can more easily connect with them as an actual human (something that can prove to be difficult when you’re developing relationships for a brand).
Part One: What is influencer marketing, reasons why you should do it, and how to research your influencers
Part Two: How to add influencers to your Engagement Pipeline, follow influencers, connect with them by being human and authentic, and help them before asking for help
Part Three: How to develop the ask and keep the relationship alive