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Influencer marketing seems to get brought up by almost every client I work with. The idea of influencers is seductive, isn’t it? Someone has clout with an audience, and you just tag them in! What if market penetration was as easy as having someone say to their massive following, “This product is the best!”?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Influencers are people, too (unless they’re famous Instagram hedgehogs). They have their own interests to think about and they are typically choosy about which brands they publicly associate themselves with.
Then, there’s finding the right influencer. A bodybuilder influencer's following isn’t going to be interested in high heels. There might be female bodybuilders following this influencer, but do you think they follow looking for advice on which shoe to wear? You have to have the right person for the job.
Here are five tips on how to find and choose the right influencers.
Look at the Influencer’s Audience – Not Just Their Brand
The audience is the goal, right? These influencers gather others around a cause or idea in a trusted, safe place where they can seek out more from their favorite kinds of content, or share their own experiences with others.
It might be hard (and expensive) to create meaningful engagement around your BBQ content if you’re reaching an audience as enormous and diverse as all of the followers of a whole cooking network. You would need to find an influencer with a more niche following – one who works in and for the BBQ’ing community who can be trusted to know what they’re talking about.
Ensure the Influencer’s Style Fits Your With Your Strategy
Every influencer has their own style. This style includes the networks they share their content on and the way they inform their audience that their content was sponsored.
Do some research to make sure that their presence online and offline aligns with what you are expecting. If they don’t have a Facebook following, but you have ads running on Facebook, maybe you should go with another influencer. If they have less-than-desirable ways of signifying sponsored content, give them some guidance on how your brand prefers to be represented.
Build a Relationship with Your Influencers
Remember, these influencers are consumers, too. These are your ideal customers. You don’t want your customers to buy one thing and then walk away forever, right? You want them to enjoy using your product so much that they come back for more and they share their experience with their community.
Keep honest and consistent communication with them. Make the endeavor feel collaborative rather than making them feel like you’re just buying their time.
If they enjoy working with you and they enjoy your product and your brand, they’re more likely to share your content more than once and create unexpected content using your products again.
The real bottom line is, their followers will believe them more if they sound genuinely excited to share about your brand.
Use a Third-Party Vendor for Large Campaigns
I’ve worked with a couple of vendors who create and sell these relationships, and it works for specific situations.
Product launches are especially successful with vendors who use proprietary platforms to attract and incentivize growing micro influencers.
These perfect little influencers are hard to find. You could spend days or even weeks looking for the right size of influencers for your budget, reach goals, and content needs.
With the help of a vendor, you not only cut down the time it takes to find the influencer, but half of the work in creating the relationship is already over.
One vendor I worked with used a platform to track the micro influencer’s achievements with points that they could then redeem for products. That kind of motivation is worth buying.
Before researching vendors, consider your budget and your future needs. Vendors are expensive, and once they have created the relationship with the influencer for you they technically own that relationship.
Make Your Influencer Content Work Hard
Use influencer-created blogs and recipes and create your own content from them. Link your websites together and tagging them in social media posts.
Repost their content on your social channels. Follow the content they share with you and engage with their audience in the comments. Use their photography. Send out their content in emails!
In most situations, once they’ve agreed to collaborate with you on content, you own it as much as they do. It’s best practice to let them know up front how you intend to use the content, but most influencers will be making content that they’re proud to have shared in other networks.
A Word of Caution
Take a look at the content your brand owns, has earned, and is planning to put out, then compare it to the influencers you’ve been researching.
Are you on equal playing fields? Or are they light years ahead of you with no chance of you ever catching up?
If the answer to this last question is "yes", you might need to take a few steps back.
Once that influencer’s content is out in the world, the goal is that their followers will come back to your content to learn more about your brand and products. If they come from world-class content only to find text-heavy web pages and 10-year-old YouTube videos, they’re going to go back to their safe place and never return. Once you've peaked their interest with their trusted influencer friend’s content, you need to have equally engaging content of your own to keep them interested.
Use influencers wisely, and they will penetrate audiences for you and help you draw them into your community. They can make the best performing content you’ve ever owned, but they also might not be exactly what your brand or product needs right now.
There’s a lot to think about and research before beginning, so don’t jump in head first without a solid plan and long-term strategy. Go forth and collaborate!