If you’ve browsed YouTube lately, you’ve no doubt realized that influencer marketing is a big business. Social proof– the idea that customers will rely more heavily on testimonials and experiences of other individuals–is a powerful marketing tool.
There’s a reason why if someone like Lebron James tweets about a band he’s listening to or a restaurant he’s eating at, people listen. Often, that band or restaurant can expect a spike in web traffic, downloads, or reservations before too long.
As a small business, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get someone of King James’ status on board. However, there’s more than one way to delve into the influencer marketing realm.
What is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is a form of marketing that focuses more on an influential individual rather than the potential customer themselves. Like the example above, the goal is to have Lebron James talk about your product or service to their audience as a form of promotion.
In the online world, Lebron James is not the only influencer. In fact, there are hundreds, if not thousands of influencers who have built impressive followings on social media. From YouTube stars to Instagram models, there’s an influencer out there that’s not only right for your small business but within your reach.
How to identify influencers
Your first step is to identify the influencer or type of influencers you want to connect with. This will be largely based on the type of business you run. For example, if you run an online store that sells baby products or items for new mothers, there’s a large community of mommy bloggers and vloggers out there to connect with.
Identifying the influencers you want to build a relationship with is a matter of simply paying attention to your industry. Take a look at the individuals with a platform (blog, YouTube channel, etc) and take note of their activity. How often do they speak? What is the size of their following? Do they ever promote or review products and services?
If they have a large following and speak often on your industry, odds are you’ve found an influencer. The next step is to see if their brand aligns with yours. Influencers come in many forms and before reaching out, you want to make sure their brand and yours can coexist.
The last thing you want to do is waste anyone’s time by trying to build a relationship with someone whose brand goes off in a different direction from yours. Spend some time reading their articles or watching their videos. Ask yourself if this individual is right for you.
There are a few different ways to engage the influencers you’ve identified as potential candidates for your influencer marketing campaign. The easiest way to reach out is to simply, well, reach out.
Most influencers don’t get to the level they’re at by being anonymous, so odds are they have contact information available. Whether that’s a website, a twitter handle, or an email address: the easiest way to get the conversation going is for you to make contact.
Your initial contact should be a brief message that introduces yourself to the influencer. Give them your elevator pitch. That is a short synopsis of what you do, why you do it, and what makes you unique. Let them know you’ve seen their work and were wondering if they might be interested in learning more about your product and maybe trying you out.
Now, odds are you may not reach your influencer on the first try. If they have an especially large following, it’s always possible your message will get lost in the mix. Tech-savvy influencers may also have autoresponders set up on their email or social media messages to screen their contacts.
Don’t get discouraged. After all, no one said it was going to be easy, right? There’s nothing wrong with reaching back out in a few days or weeks if you haven’t heard anything. The key is to not be pushy and don’t cross the line into creepy stalker mode! No one likes that.
Say it with video
If you want to stand out, sometimes you have to stand up. It’s easy enough to send an email to an influencer, however, you can also show them you’re serious and say it with a well-made video ad.
Create a short introductory video that invites influencers to connect with you and learn more about your product. The video doesn’t have to be focused on any one specific individual, but rather the influencer community as a whole.
Show them you mean business.
You can always go the freebie route
Who doesn’t like free stuff? The answer is no one. Sometimes to reach the right influencer, you need to let them know what’s in it for them. While you don’t want to “bribe” them exactly, there’s also nothing wrong with offering them a free trial or sample in exchange for their thoughts.
Remember, these are individuals who make their living (or at least a portion of it) by giving their opinion on YOUR industry. If you provide them with a sample of what it is you do, odds are they’re going to talk about it.
Best case scenario: they love your product and become a brand advocate. Worst case? They don’t like it and odds are they won’t badmouth you because you were nice enough to send them a free sample.
Use a paid service
One of the dirty secrets in influencer marketing is that a lot of what you see online is actually paid for. Services like Buzzsumo, Octoly, Pixlee, and others allow brands to research, identify, and connect with influencers in their space.
The services range in price as well as scope. Some services are mostly geared towards helping you discover who the influencers in your industry are while others offer full-service outreach, hiring, and influencer marketing campaign tools.
Of course, the prices range as well. As a tool, Buzzsumo is a relatively low-cost place to get started. At the very least, it will help you discover influencers in your industry and includes outreach tools as well.
Forming a relationship
In an ideal scenario, your relationship with an influencer will be born out of mutual admiration for your respective services and a passion for the industry you both occupy. A foodie blogger might love your online food delivery business, and a mutually beneficial relationship can grow.
You may find yourself going the route of running paid influencer marketing campaigns, and there’s nothing wrong with that either. Many of the YouTube reviews you see for cosmetics and household products are actually paid reviews or were done in exchange for free products.
Though these types of reviews are not as random and organic as they seem, they still tend to be honest. Even by going through a paid service, there is never a guarantee that your review will be positive. The service wouldn’t work if every review was glowing or if every brand had a presupposed guarantee of a positive review.
Still, the best influencers who operate in this fashion are not prone to unnecessary cruelty or explicitly badmouthing any product. As long as you maintain a professional focus and properly vet the influencers you would like to form a relationship with, you can be successful with influencer marketing.