Influence Marketing Strategy

The web and the rise of social media have created an opportunity for companies and brands to connect with their target market in ever more imaginable ways. One highly effective method is to focus on the influencer. In this article we discuss elements of what makes and influencer and how you can create a strategy to indentify, interact, and court these individuals or groups.

What is the Influencer Strategy?

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association defines an influencer as:

 

A person who has a greater than average reach or impact through word of mouth in a relevant marketplace.

 

Your job as a company, brand or marketer is to indentify, seek out, and engage with these influencers to gain the support of the influencer for your business, product or service.

 

Something has changed—years ago before the internet the influencers where our close friends and family members, mainstream media, and magazines like consumer reports. Now with the latest phones, computers, and social networks each person has the ability to influence well beyond their own social circle.

 

It’s been known for years that major purchase decisions like cars and appliances are often made after consulting parents or even older members of the family. What is surprising even today is the amount of purchase decisions that are decided after a search or after polling your friends within a social network.

 

This is your opportunity—find the people who influence others within your market or niche.

Finding an Influencer

Your first step with Influencer Marketing is to identify who is and isn’t an influencer within your market.  This is the part that will be highly subjective given your individual market. At this point you will want to spend a little up front time deciding how you or your team will define an influencer.  An influencer within you market should have…

  • A blog
  • A twitter account. If so how many followers and how active?
  • A Facebook account. Personal and business or page?
  • YouTube account?
  • A writer or creator of content
  • What other networks are they part of?

You won’t be able to answer all these questions initially but you do have to have some sort of starting point. Without it when you move onto the next step of research and finding an influencer you wont know how to qualify or quantify the information you are finding.

 

Insider Tip: Based on our experience most writers for both newspapers, publications, or larger blogs also have their own blog or website, participate in social media, and can be readily found and contacted.

 

Product Example for the Hiker

Throughout this article we will use the example of a new shoe designed for people that hike. Our goal is to increase awareness for our product, get it reviewed, and to find influential people to talk, use, and hopefully evangelize about our product.
 

From here we will focus on finding the influential media organizations, blogs, social media users, and other influencers within our market.

Get Into Conversations

Before we dive in lets focus on defining our target market and what they talk about. This is where you want to think about the terms and phrases used by people who buy your products or services. What type of things do they discuss or comment about? What competitor names do they use? On a basic level you want to create a list of the subjects, products, phrases, and content that they would create.

 

For our hiking example here is what we have came up with:

 

General Phrases

  • I love to hike
  • Hiking
  • Hiker
  • Just went hiking
  • Backpacker
  • Love to hike

Competition and Products

  • Keen Vorageur Low
  • Keen Targhee
  • Hi-Tec Altitude
  • Kayland
  • Asolo
  • North face
  • Ortlieb
  • Kelty
  • Osprey

Please note that typically our list would be much larger than this but because this is an example we will limit it to a few core phrases, products, and competitors

What Are You Looking For?

Before we move on let’s talk specifically about what we would be looking for with our hiking example. First we would look for someone that is passionate about hiking. Someone who if they have a blog they update it regularly and has points of engagement (comments, retweets, likes).
 

We also would take into consideration mood, whether or not this person has reviewed other products or talks about products. If they have social accounts we would spend time looking at their streams of interaction. Do they interact or are they just pushing out messages. How many followers, friends, and engagement points do they have.

Search Results

Your first step is to find what websites, blogs, and other related results display when searching for your key terms. For instance below is what comes up for just searching hiking:

 

 

You’ll want to visit at least the first 5 pages of results. While doing this here are some things you should focus on doing.

  • Finding more keywords and phrases
  • Look for connections to other sites and networks
  • Note and record social networks these sources are part of

Insider Tip: you could spend hours and hours on this task alone—we suggest that you block out a certain amount of time and treat this as a high level research. Create a spreadsheet or use another tool listed below for bookmarking or highlighting this information for later.

Real Time Search

Our favorite way to explore a new market and find influencers is by using real time search.  We will use a few real time search engines to search for our phrases listed above. This will give us an initial view of who is currently talking about hiking.
 

The first tool that is extremely valuable is a RTS engine called SocialMention.com – Real Time Search. Here are the same results for the Hiking search:

 

 

You’ll notice here on this search that it gives you a wealth of information. From sentiment, reach, passion, to top keywords, and top users.  What is great about social mention is that you can also select a channel from blogs, microblogs, bookmarks, comments on blogs and news sites, and even video websites.

 

Another great tool for real time search is called Collecta.com. What makes this site stand out is that you don’t have to click the specific link to see the detail of a comment or conversation. It intuitively provides it in a tree format right on their website. You can also subdivide your results by comments, updates, photos, and videos.

 

Here is the same search on Collecta:

 

 

What we are looking for here are engagement points. We also want to be learning more about what people are currently discussing or releasing within blogs, social networks, and news websites. After a while it should be obvious when you find someone that is passionate about your product, industry, or service.

Blog Search

Since blogs can play a huge part of our outreach we would also want to spend time searching the blog networks for blogs, posts, and comments on hiking and related phrases. Here is the results from the phrase “love to hike” on Google Blog Search:

 

 

Beyond the real time search engines which work well for searching blogs and comments on blogs here are the blog search engines we find useful:

Social Media Tools

Social media offers one of the best opportunities to connect with an influencer. For those that embrace this means of communication it is a must to use this channel. You could almost say that influencer marketing wouldn’t be possible without the advent of social networking. While blogs and search does play a role it takes on a whole new form when we inject social media.

  • Twitter search – Twitter gives you the ability to easily search their mircroblog platform, simply visit search.twitter.com.
  • Facebook Open Search – It’s not well known but you can search the public timeline of Fadcebook. If you prefer a more search engine approach here are two sites that allow this, YourOpenBook.org and OpenFacebookSearch.com.
  • Real Time Search – We went in depth with real time search above but it’s worth mentioning here that most RTS engines allow you to search within open social networks. We find these to be tremendously useful for social search as well.
  • TweetGrader – This is a great tool to really figure out if someone on Twitter has influence. Beyond that you can learn who they influence, who influences them, and get a grade to focus your efforts on building relationships.
  • Twitalyzer -  great tool for finding influential twitter users as well as provides some great analytics.
  • WhosTalking.com – social media search that combines networks such as friendfeed, indenti.ca, myspace blogs, and plurk.

 

Influencer Marketing Management Tools

Influencer marketing is still relatively new so there isn’t the same plethora of tools as there are for social media and search engine research. Still there are some great tools that are worth a mention:

The first is BuzzStream. This tool allows you to visit a website and click a bookmarked link to gather relevant  content and contact information for a website or blog. You can then rank, rate, note, and tag this entry. It also is great for a team environment as you can send this contact to other team members to contact or interact. Think of this as an influencer CRM.

 

Another great tool for gmail users is called Rapportive. When you open an email from someone it scours the web looking for what social networks this person is a member of. It also gives you the ability to easily add notes and keep a running history of your contact with this person.

 

Flowtown is a new tool that is starting to really make a name for itself. At first glance it might just look like a email marketing system but it goes well beyond that. With the ability to easily create campaigns for social media touch points.

Engaging an influencer

Now you’ve found your influencers, you’ve created a list of touchpoints and interaction opportunities it’s time to move onto the next step. Here is where you actively engage and begin to create a relationship.  While we can’t get hyper specific we can give you some general guidelines to follow when engaging influencers:

 

Understand the audience you’re trying to reach. Make sure you “understand” them.  If you’re not familiar with a particular target audience, find somebody who is a member of that community or shares their interests and let that person handle communications.

 

Focus on learning about the people you want to build a relationship with. With blogs and social media you can learn tons about a person’s likes, dislikes, and interests. Use this to your advantage. For our hiking example we might find that one person loves to hike a specific area of Arizona. Since someone on our team has been there and loves this area as well this might be an opportunity for the two of them to share similar experiences.

 

Focus on providing relevant content – these are content items that people will want to re-publish or share with their audience. Let’s say we happened upon someones blog post who talks about the time of the day you should start hiking. Let’s say you know of a study that went into detail about this. Providing a link and your thoughts to the author of the blog post is a great example of providing highly relevant content.

 

Their Audience. You also want to make what you share highly relevant to their audience. Spend time making sure that the content you offer has value to the people you’re trying to reach and the people they are trying to reach.

 

Understand boundaries.  Be aware of the boundaries of the relationships you create and what you do and don’t have permission to do. 

 

Patience. Be patient and respectful. Building relationships takes time and effort. Also keep in mind that everybody is busy. For even moderately influential people in your target market they have other companies and products vying for their attention. You need to create a unique way to approach and interact with these people as often as possible.

 

Value. Give value first. Focus on what is important to them.

 

You’ll notice that most of these tips are basic relationship building tips but tailored to the digital era. We bring these up because there is something about sitting behind a computer screen that makes people sometimes do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do in person. The technology and tools make it relatively easy to find influencers but what makes this strategy worthwhile is your ability to effectively create relationships.

Influencer of an Influencer

Another little known element of engaging influencer is that these people are typically influenced by other people. While that might seem obvious what isn’t so obvious is that the influencer of the influencer might not even show up on your radar.

 

So when you start identifying influencers within your market or niche look for opportunities to figure out who a person looks to for inspiration, new thoughts, and unique ideas.

In Conclusion

The opportunity to connect with people that influence purchase decisions, ideas, thoughts, and opportunities for your target market has never been greater. The key is finding these influencers and engaging them by creating a meaningful relationship.  This should be one marketing strategy that every company, brand, or organization should invest and operate within.