In their most simple form, influencers are those who influence. This can be done through various platforms including social media, TV, radio, print media, speaking engagements and more. Influencers come in a variety of types including celebrities, reality stars, bloggers, journalists, friends, family, employees and more. What’s important to keep in mind is that the influencer – whatever type or platform they use - must be able to connect with your target audiences. Your visions must align. In addition, you must have a realistic plan in place prior to approaching an influencer. Below, we provide some ideas on how to get started working with influencers, including where to find them and how to specifically engage them.
How should you prepare before engaging an influencer?
Research and Determine a Plan of Action
First, determine which type of influencer you wish to engage. Who is the best fit in your marketing plan for your particular service or product? For example, would your brand benefit most from an activist, a celebrity, a food blogger, or maybe someone from your organization? Perhaps your business could benefit from a variety of influencers. If that’s the case, determine who to start with based on what is achievable.
Ensure that the relationship is realistic. If you’re a small startup selling a product that many have not heard of and have no budget, seeking and trying to engage with a high-profile celebrity influencer is probably not the best choice and could potentially be a huge waste of time, money and resources.
Consider what connection you and your influencer have. Perhaps you’re a travel company and you wish to engage a popular influencer who is a travel blogger or photographer. You could probably find a connection and common ground there. You share similar knowledge, interests and could have a mutually beneficial relationship.
Next, determine the exchange or how this relationship will transact. These days, you hardly get anything for free. Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones and the service or product you’re providing is so incredible that you have influencers who are willing to promote your product or service for nothing in return. We’re not saying this isn’t possible… if you’ve proven yourself you may have influencers who are just so passionate about your business or organization that they’ll happily share about you without question or expectation. However, for others this may not be the case and you may need to provide your influencer a certain amount of product or service in exchange for their services. Whatever the case may be, thinking through and determining what you’re willing to exchange with the influencer is important.
Next, develop a plan with a strategy for what you’re seeking specifically, how you prefer to achieve what you desire out of the relationship, and what the expectations are. For example, let’s say you wish to secure a high-profile reality star influencer, with a massive amount of social media followers, to showcase your health product. You’re willing to provide them an X number of your product in exchange for an X number of social media mentions per month. Establishing what is realistic for you prior to engaging is critical. You don’t want to approach an influencer without a plan and be stumped or unable to communicate what it is you need or desire. Take time to develop a strategy that includes a budget, timeline and metrics to help you determine if the relationship is positively impacting your business or organization.
Lastly, when trying to determine the best influencer for your brand, don’t automatically disregard influencers if they don’t have a massive following or aren’t an A list celebrity. Micro-influencers, or those whom are not celebs, high profile public figures or notable experts, are just as powerful for a variety of reasons. HubSpot states it best in saying that they are often times affordable, authentic, and have a more targeted audience. Some examples worth checking out are StitchFix’s use of micro-influencer bloggers who provide fashion critiques of the Fixes. Powerful first hand influencing right there!
How do you Find Influencers?
Find out where your influencers are.
Websites & Software
There are a variety of websites and software out there than can put you in touch with influencers who match your criteria. You can search their relevance and influential connections by location, topics and more. For more information, check out sites like BuzzSumo, Followerwonk, TrendSpottr or Little Bird, just to name a few.
Why not go right to the source? If you’re looking for social media influencers, turn to social media! Start be taking time to research who is already talking and sharing about your brand. This can also be done by researching hashtags, keywords or mentions that are linked to your social platforms. If you’re not familiar with Hashtags, be sure to check out this blog post.
In addition to the websites and software mentioned above can assist with finding bloggers, you can also do some simple searches on Google to find those who fall within your niche. Similar to social media searches, type in keywords relevant to your service or product along with the word “blog” and search through the results. Pay attention to authors/names that turn up again and again or those that have a lot of readers.
A good referral can go a long way. Perhaps someone in your circle has a great referral for you that can represent and influence your brand on social media. Consider the health product example mentioned above, perhaps you distribute wholesale to gyms and your product is routinely used by athletes of all levels. One of the gyms who believe in and promote your product may have an athlete they can refer your way who can serve as a great influencer on social media. Dig into your social and professional circles to see if there are some places you can tap into talent.
Believe it or note, there are talent agencies that can help you find the best influencer for your brand. Not only will these agencies help your find an influencer that matches your criteria and theirs, but they’ll also help you negotiate a contract for their services. They essentially serve as a “middleman” in making the connection, establishing the “exchange” – how you’ll compensate them, and even will provide analytics services to track success. Keep in mind, this sort of service does come with some cost. You’ll have to keep this in mind in researching and determining your budget. So again, do your research.
Inside your organization
Now that you’re brainstorming celebrities, famous bloggers, notable news anchors and the like, don’t forget the people who are already connected to your brand. Perhaps the perfect one is right under your nose. Take time to consider another type of micro, or mini-level influencer – those that work for your brand already. Perhaps you have any employee who has a large following already on social or that represents your brand extremely well. Utilize them! You can have brand ambassadors that exist in your organization who can make a big splash with their social media presence. They, above anyone else you may connect with, know your brand best, right?
How do you engage them and start convo?
Follow the plan, keep it simple and build the relationship.
First, focus on building rapport and trust. Establish common ground between your brand and your potential influencer. You want them to be great advocates for you and ideally believe in your product of service so their delivery is passionate and genuine. Think about how you can build that relationship, if one doesn’t already exist.
Once you have a potential shortlist of influencers, take time to get to know them as best you can. Follow them, watch what content they’re posting, how they deliver their information… and perhaps even engage with them on whatever platform they are utilizing. Like, comment, share, etc.! If possible, engage with them so they know who you are. Send out those direct messages to help establish a relationship. It’s ideal if they recognize your name and even better if they know who you are when you go in for the ask.
Second, keep your pitch simple. Influencers are people and people are busy! Your influencer may already get a ton of requests and have to wade through options if they don’t have someone doing it for them. And even if they do, you want to be brief and to the point, providing necessary but enticing information. Provide a bit of insight about what your brand is and what exactly you’re seeking. Perhaps even mention, generally speaking, how they’ll benefit from partnering with you. The art is in the ask and the relationship which develops.
Lastly, just remember to get it in writing. Whatever has been agreed upon, either directly between you and the influencer, or using a 3rd party, get it all out on paper in the form of a contract. This is your business, and theirs too. You want the relationship to work out for the both of you, and if it doesn’t, you want to make sure you have a way to get out of it fairly.
Take a bit of time determining how you want to proceed. Consider who truly is the best representative for your brand? What is realistic for your business at this point? What can be managed and what can you afford? Develop your plan, analyze your options, game plan your engagement and get started!
Check out these other blogs while you're at it!