Customer opinions have always mattered, but never more than in the age of social media. Consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than double the sales of paid advertising, according to research by McKinsey, and 84% of consumers say they trust word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family above all other sources of advertising.
Pinpointing the right influencers to target — those most likely to impact the purchasing decisions of other shoppers — involves looking at a combination of location, demographics, and reach. It also involves crafting a deliberate and personalized strategy on the part of the marketer, since local influencers aren’t always comfortable being contacted by merchants and brands looking for their help.
Here are six strategies for how businesses of all sizes can effectively reach out to local influencers.
1. Find a good fit. “The first step in working with influencers is to start by identifying the right ones. This can be as simple as finding top local bloggers who cover your industry to working with a partner or platform that specializes in influencer marketing, so they can help you identify influencers. The key is to find a good fit. Look for influencers who speak to your target audience, who have local influence, and who can bring your message to new consumers.” (Tiffany Monhollon, ReachLocal)
2. Don’t be afraid to go offline. “Reaching out to local influencers can and should be easier than finding any other type of influencer, mainly because you’re already on common grounds with them. People are more likely to help or partner with someone that’s close to them, as opposed to someone on the other side of the world. When it comes to initiating contact with local influencers, make it known that you’re operating within their vicinity and don’t be afraid to take the relationship offline. Offer to meet them at a local cafe for a coffee. One of the many struggles that businesses have when trying to work with non-local influencers is that it can be very hard to build solid business relationships online, which in this case you won’t have to worry about.” (Chase Hattie, QuickShouts)
3. Numbers aren’t everything. “When it comes to reach, realize that numbers aren’t everything. A social media user could have an impressive follower count on the surface, but when you dig deeper, you may find that their actual engagement and influence is pretty low. Aim for influencers who are genuinely engaged with their audiences, who are respected within the communities, and whose content is being shared and adored by other users. It’s not strictly a numbers game when it comes to working with influencers, so don’t assume big numbers mean big influence.” (Tiffany Monhollon, ReachLocal)
4. Define success and track results. “Measure the incentive conversions to help justify the spend, and ensure you have the proper measurement tools in place to define success and performance results. For instance, if your definition of success is viral lift in conversions, make sure tools are in place that can provide the right attribution in your metrics. The biggest mistake that merchants make when it comes to reaching out to local influencers is not having a website developed for quality user experience and a specific conversion.” (Karisa Macias, Rio SEO)
5. Write personal emails. “For initial outreach, take the time to customize a personal email to each influencer. If you’re working with a blogger, you could establish rapport around a recent article of theirs you liked. Make sure that you’re treating each influencer with courtesy and respect for their time. For example, check their website or blog to make sure you’re using their preferred platform for communication — some like email, some prefer Twitter, and others use web forms. Reach out the way they want to be reached, and you’re more likely to build a connection.” (Tiffany Monhollon, ReachLocal)
6. Use an influencer marketplace. “You can cut a lot of corners by using influencer marketplaces to find those who are actively trying to seek sponsorship from merchants. Websites like Adly, Klout and QuickShouts.com all offer ways to find, contact and purchase sponsored posts from influencers across a wide range of geographical locations. Not only do these sites offer an easy way to find relevant influencers, but they also provide you with buyer protection from frauds and fakes — something that you must be weary of when dealing with these types of marketing strategies.” (Chase Hattie, QuickShouts)
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.