Social media has changed the face of word-of-mouth marketing, providing everyday people with massive platforms for sharing their opinions about businesses online. These so-called “influencers,” who’ve been loosely defined as consumers who are able to mobilize opinions and create reactions when talking about specific topics, can have a major impact on a local merchant’s online reputation.
Rather than sitting idly by while influencers dictate what’s being said about their businesses on social media and review websites, merchants are beginning to reach out to these social media users on a personal basis. More than 4 of 10 marketers say they plan to increase their influencer-marketing budgets in the coming year, according to data from Altimeter Group, with the vast majority of spending going toward social programs.
Here are eight strategies that marketers should consider when reaching out to influencers online.
1. Focus on the influencers who matter. “First, businesses need to find these influencers — see who’s talking about your competitors and whether or not they’re driving social media engagement. Research their relationship with the competitor and get the skinny. This will help you avoid wasting your magic on an internal brand evangelist from a competitor’s marketing department. Check their Twitter bio, LinkedIn profile, and see for what topics they’re influential.” (Elisabeth Michaud, uberVU)
2. Forget about titles and follower counts. “Forget about job titles or the prestige of a media outlet. Influencers come in many shapes and sizes. Some are journalists, some are social media influencers, and some are bloggers. More importantly, they fall on a spectrum of influence. When working with journalists, an associate editor can be just as important as the editor-in-chief. After all, who knows where that associate editor will be in five years? The same is true with online influencers. I may have 2,500 Twitter followers today, but who knows where I could be in a few years. Don’t pay too much attention to titles. Focus on the individual people and how well they match your outreach goals. This is more important than their exact number of followers or title.” (Marc Cowlin, Meltwater)
3. Disclose who you are. “Always disclose in any kind of influencer outreach that you’re the brand/marketer and if any kind of compensation is involved. Don’t try to be tricky or sneaky in fostering advocacy. After the engagement, regardless of performance, always thank your influencer and leave on appreciative, positive terms. The worst thing you can do is leave on a sour note and turn an influencer against you.” (Thomas Kim, Rio SEO)
4. Show some originality. “While it’s tempting to put together a template that you can copy, paste, and send to any potential promoter, it doesn’t come across well on their side. It only takes a couple of minutes to have a look at the content they post and a few of their photos to get an idea of what the influencer is about. If you can show them that you understand what they do and who their followers are, they will appreciate your diligence and are much more likely to become a promoter for your brand.” (Chase Hattie, QuickShouts)
5. Don’t waste an influencer’s time. “Being cognizant of time is key when reaching out to an influencer. Acknowledge that you value theirs and always express your gratitude. Be straightforward regarding the ‘ask,’ and know what you’d like the relationship to look like. Social is really just two people connecting, so being genuine really helps build something long-lasting.” (Sarah Nagel, Sprout Social)
6. Ask influencers to make introductions. “As in all things, a warm introduction is best. If you’ve worked with influencers in the past, tap them for intros to someone new. Power users are receiving tons of unsolicited offers, and they’ll respond most quickly to names they know.” (Rob Fishman, Niche)
7. Have a firm offer. “Only engage an influencer when you have a firm, clear offer with a price attached. Once you present that offer, give a window of acceptance—say, 72 hours. You must establish credibility from the outset. And never pull an offer once an influencer has accepted. That tarnishes the brand and makes it difficult to establish relationships in the long run.” (Jonathan Davids, Influicity)
8. Show appreciation. “It’s important is to congratulate and show your appreciation for your users by providing them with badges, a personal note, or some other form of recognition. Everyone wants to stand out from the crowd and be recognized for what they do well. This will keep users coming back time and again, because you’ve shown some form of investment in and appreciation for their work.” (Matt Myers, Tidal Labs)
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.