A key part of any successful content marketing campaign is to ensure your output gets seen by the right people. It’s all very well publishing brilliant blog posts, taking care to ensure they’re optimised for search, but the best way to elevate your presence and extend your reach is to find prominent figures with similar demographics, and get them to share your content with their audience.
Utilising such Digital PR opportunities can see a growth in social media interactions, higher referral traffic to your website and, ultimately, increased sales. Thus, failing to take influencer marketing seriously is to undermine your whole content strategy.
There’s no shame in asking for a helping hand to maximise your online impact, especially if you can collaborate in mutually beneficial ways, so here’s a few tips on finding influencers who can accelerate your growth.
Influencer research 101
As with most things in business, failing to plan is planning to fail. Thus, it’s crucial that any influencer outreach you conduct is carefully aligned with your content marketing strategy and there are clearly defined goals that can be easily measured.
If you’re a large, consumer-focused brand with products to promote, you may see the value in seeking celebrity endorsements, usually in the form of sponsored social media posts, putting your wares in front of a huge number of followers; the idea being to raise awareness and, ultimately, drive sales.
However, there are several considerations to weigh up before handing over wads of cash. Firstly, if your objective is to gain street cred by piggybacking on celeb status, then going down this route could buy you some fans. However, if the aim is to generate backlinks to boost your website’s SEO, you may want to look for influencers with more niche audiences.
Ask yourself whether spending £10,000 on a one-off celeb endorsement is really worth more than taking time to develop long-term relationships with 50 bloggers or website editors who have the potential to become genuine brand advocates? If you sell high volumes of high-ticket items, the answer may well be yes, but for many businesses this approach will be out of the question.
Additionally, you have to think about how authentic sponsored posts appear to savvy internet users; do people really believe celebrities have a heartfelt passion for ‘Product X’ when the hashtags #ad and/or #sponsored accompany their photos? Probably not. And then there’s the whole issue of transparency, i.e. making it clear that you’re paying for promotion, which we discuss further in our Native Advertising vs Content Marketing debate.
Real influence inspires action, not simply awareness, and very few online celebrities have sufficient power to send customers directly your way. Tagging your brand alongside a snazzy snap is unlikely to pay the bills, so be careful not to blow your budget on celebrity ego boosts. If you do wish to send free gifts in exchange for online exposure, be sure to allow freedom for honest reviews rather than scripted snippets, as these will undoubtedly resonate on a deeper level.
Finding the right influencers for you
There are several free tools you can utilise to help you pin down powerful people that can help enhance your reputation. Here’s three of the most popular:
- Social Mention – an aggregator site that analyses real-time data to showcase who’s talking about you, your brand, your products and your industry. Simply type in your chosen keywords and see who’s saying what across Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.
- Alexa Site Info – If you’ve identified a potential influencer, assess their blog URL on Alexa to see an estimate of how much traffic they receive and how they rank globally. You can also see related sites, and which sites are linking to their site, potentially opening doors to other influencers.
- Klout – Those who fancy themselves as social influencers can sign-up to Klout, and their metrics are then monitored to determine a score from one to 100, taking into account reach, amplification and potential impact. Those with a high Klout score are, theoretically, more valuable influencers.
Once you’ve unearthed a few potential partners, follow all the links they post on social to see how relevant they truly are. Are they an established voice of authority with plenty to say, rather than publishing only occasional ramblings? Do others comment on their posts and share their content?
Study who they engage with and track how far their influence spreads. If you like the cut of their jib, it’s time to start interacting with them; share their blog posts, retweet and like their updates, answer their questions (or ask them one).
They’ll hopefully take notice and grow familiar with you, and this nurturing process is important because it’s a much more natural way of doing things rather than going straight in and directly asking them to retweet/share/link to your content.
If you’re proactive about engaging with them, there’s a good chance they’ll reciprocate and organically start to promote you in some way. The next step I usually take is to add them on LinkedIn, being sure to write a personalised message rather than the automated ‘Please add to me to your network’ note.
Let them know which of their blogs you enjoyed, and focus on how you can help them rather than the other way around. Point them in the direction of your content (especially if you’re able to naturally link to it within one of your blog posts), and hopefully they’ll respond with their thoughts, potentially even shouting your praises on social and linking to your work in the future.
Of course, this relies heavily on you having awesome content that’s worthy of their attention and subsequent distribution, so it pays to invest in quality content creation first.
Happy customers are the best influencers
The best type of influencer is always going to be your current customers/clients, as they’re the ones with the most genuine relationship to back up your credentials. We’ve previously written about the importance of case studies for successful content marketing, and asking for a little social media promotion should follow naturally.
If you can generate a few testimonials, reviews, retweets and links from those that know and trust you, your reach and reputation will soon blossom. You could even go one step further and create some form of affiliate programme, potentially offering your current crop of clients a finder’s fee for any new business they can push your way.
Consider what’s going to inspire real action. An expensive nod from a social media star, or glowing endorsements from real customers who can rave about you with warmth. Influencer outreach certainly works, as does researching high-quality websites to publish your content, but you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot if you jump straight to chasing third-party support before encouraging current customers to sing your praises.
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