How to identify and approach your top influencers

Posted by Rowena Heal on 9 Dec, 2015
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‘Influencer outreach’ has become something of a buzzword within digital marketing circles lately, but there’s still a lot of confusion over who our influencers are, why we need them and how to approach them.

Mass emailing bloggers with a large following won’t yield results. However, if you can locate, reach out to and build relationships with contextually relevant bloggers within your niche, and they’ll soon be driving converting traffic to your site. This is the power of an influencer.

Read on to find out how to identify and utilize your influencers for better exposure and more traffic.

What is an influencer?

Various definitions have been given to an ‘influencer’. For the purpose of this article, we’re referring to an individual, active in a space you would like to be appearing in, sharing content relevant to your brand, to a large and engaged community.

Outbound marketing is dwindling. Savvy consumers just don’t want to be bombarded with billboards and television ads. They prefer to carry out their own research and read recommendations from people they trust.

This is where influencers come in. An effective inbound marketing technique, influencers build content around your industry and brand, and engage in relevant conversations with applicable audiences.

The crucial part, as Jay Baer notes, is to remember: “True influence drives action, not just awareness.” In other words, it’s of little use engaging with a person with thousands of Twitter followers if the readers of said person’s content aren’t relevant to you.

Why do I need influencers?

With over 50% of people using social to learn about new products, and 70% saying they trust product reviews from their social following, the importance of working with influencers is clear.

They are your consumers’ friends; a trusted source for product recommendations. By aligning with (the right) influencers, you’re not only bringing them on board with your brand, but their audience too.

And, thanks to a loyal following, if contextually relevant, these influencers have the ability to drive traffic, increase social exposure and even sell your products.

How do I identify influencers?

You should already know which customers you’re targeting. You now need to identify the blogs they’re reading, topics they’re interested in and who they’re likely to follow for advice.

From this information, you can create an ideal influencer persona. This should cover personality type, the genre they specialize in (stick to one or two), topics they talk about, and the type of reach you’d want from them – whether that’s site traffic, or additional social followers, for example.

From here, you can start locating influencers to match up with your ideal persona.

Your competitors’ influencers

A great way to start identifying potential influencers is by investigating who your competitors’ advocates are.

After carrying out competitor research and analysis to determine the brands you’re competing with, use tools like Social Crawlytics and Followerwonk to input your competitors’ URLs and locate their most engaged and influential bloggers.

Export this list and go through it to locate those most relevant to you.

With social listening

Social listening can help detect your influencers, including current brand advocates you may not have realized you had.

With a tool such as Hootsuite, you can set up streams monitoring brand mentions to see who is already talking about you. Additionally, monitor relevant keywords and hashtags your audience is conversing on to keep tabs on industry news and questions, as well as identify active speakers within these topics.

Monitor these people, via listening tools or by building Twitter lists, and look out for opportunities to introduce them to your product.

Using Google alerts

Like social listening, Google Alerts can help identify those already talking about your brand, as well as people covering relevant genres and topics.

Set up alerts for variations of your brand terms. Not only can you log, and begin engaging with, those talking about you, it’s also an effective method of managing your online reputation as you can quickly jump on negative comments.

Build alerts for varying, valid keywords, relevant to genres and topics you’re targeting. By doing so, you’ll soon find blogs and writers influencing within your niche.

Locating relevant content

You can begin building a list of influencers by identifying them with a tool like Buzzsumo. Here, you can enter a topic, keyword or username of an existing influencer and it will identify relevant profiles.

Check out their blogs to determine whether the niches they cover are relevant enough. Then, you can analyze their social and site metrics to decide whether the figures fit the reach levels you’re aspiring for.

How do I reach out to my influencers?

It can be difficult to pick the best method to interact with your influencers; what’s fundamental is that you ensure each approach is individual and tailored. Don’t hit your whole influencer list with a generic, blanket email.

Via email or social

Keep emails and social messages succinct. Introduce your brand, talk about why you’re interested in them and elaborate on the mutual value exchange likely to come from collaborating.

Avoid being too abrupt, and don’t brag about your product.

Utilizing user generated content (UGC)

Generate content from advocates by sending out products or trial services for review. You have a few options here, varying from giving the blogger the product, sending them items to give away to their followers, or giving them a gift card they can use towards something of their choosing. The latter also allows them to review the full experience that comes with using your site.

Don’t forget to publicly thank them for their contributions via social sharing. They’ll appreciate it, as it’ll boost the reach of their content, and will encourage them to continue working with you.

Monitoring conversations

Being active in relevant discussions not only helps you identify influencers, but allows you to build a rapport with them.

This doesn’t mean butting in where you’re not wanted, but by engaging with relevant social conversations or with those commenting on your blog, you can create content addressing their queries, or even ask them to contribute a post of their own.

From identifying the right people, to reaching out and maintaining a rapport, building a relationship with influencers can be a lengthy progress.

Lay out a clear goal of who you want on board and what you’d like to see as the outcome, however, and you’ll soon find influencer marketing a rewarding process.  

If would like to read more on how to benchmark your competitors online content, read this guide

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