The following are 10 tips for putting an influencer strategy together for your business:
Don’t just start reaching out to everyone who has a blog. Define your long-term vision for an influencer strategy and how you are going to measure success. Furthermore, don’t try to boil the ocean right off the bat. Start small with your strategy until you have a concrete process in place to scale.
Every marketer wants the Guy Kawasaki and iJustine of their industry to talk about them, but those are what we call Tier 1 influencers (meaning huge followings and very busy people). Your influencer list likely won’t contain several Tier 1 prospects, and that’s okay. Concentrate on cultivating relationships with Tier 2 and Tier 3 influencers—people who have attentive followings but are more narrow in their focus. By getting subject matter experts talking about you online, you are more likely to draw in an audience that is actually interested in your product or service.
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, build a list and then immediately start emailing influencers. I’m a big believer in giving before asking. Show them you’re a person and that you’re actually interested in their own business objectives before ever talking shop. This could start with a few comments on their blog posts or engagements via social media channels. The deeper the connection you have with influencers before you invite them to your program, the more they’ll be able to envision the positives in working with you on content creation.
No one likes a canned email. When sending a message to the influencers you wish to court, address them as a subject matter expert. Acknowledge that you know they are an influencer, and be honest about how you came across them. I suggest reading their recent social channel activity to see where they are, what they are doing, and what they are talking about to ensure you know whether it is the right time to engage them with a request.
If you’re developing an influencer marketing strategy to support your brand, understand that honesty is always the best policy. It’s important not to avoid the terms of your working agreement—what do you expect from your influencers in working together, and how can you compensate these professionals for their work? You will find that if you take the time to listen to these experts’ thoughts and professional goals, and align your strategy to achieve both of your objectives, monetary compensations often take a backseat in the whole process.
As opportunities come up for your influencer team to create content on behalf of your brand, make sure the lines of communication are open and that you’re never telling them to write, but rather asking them. Even if you have an agreement in place, your team should feel comfortable declining any request. Ask them what they would be interested in doing around a certain activity.
To get influencers talking about your brand and specific topics, you must empower them to do it. Give them things such as articles, white papers, e-books, press releases, event tickets, interviews, etc. They might use them, they might not. But don’t assume they will know your brand’s point of view on their own.
Your influencers know their audience better than you do. Let them drive the content approach. Give them information or ideas as thought-starters, but for the most part, enable them to create content in their own voice and tone. And don’t be overly critical of their writing skills, unless they ask for it. Remember, they have a following for a reason, and their writing skills have not kept their audiences away.
Many times, it’s the influencer who gets in trouble if disclosures related to sponsored content are unclear. Inform the influencer what he or she needs to include to ensure compliance. You can also work with a company such as CMP.LY, which focuses solely on this topic.
Whether or not you provide unique tracking tags, you should regularly share metrics with your influencer team or automate reporting through a platform such as Skyword. It’s important to track metrics at the influencer and program levels so you can optimize your approach and evaluate relationships accordingly. You may be working with professionals who have developed a strong social audience, but that audience may not be interested in your product or service, despite your best efforts to align with the right people. Recognize this early, and continue to evolve your influencer marketing strategy to create the perfect niche.
NOTE: I am in no way, shape or form saying this is THE recipe for executing influencer marketing programs and that if you follow these 10 things, you’ll have a network of influencers at your fingertips in no time. What I can say is that I’ve executed dozens of these programs over the past decade for some pretty amazing brands, and these tips come as a result of what worked for me and what most certainly did not. Do with it what you will.