Influencer outreach has become the post-modern, social media version of celebrity endorsement. It can create social chatter and with the right targeting it can be the trigger for sustained ROI. With Facebook becoming very much a 'paid' platform, making it very difficult for page managers on tight budgets, we have to look for smart marketing techniques and develop strategies that can have sustainable impacts on business objectives without spending ridiculous amounts on advertising. In this post I give details on how to start an Influencer Outreach programme using Twitter.
Many brands find themselves spitting into the wind when looking to increase brand awareness, seeking 'advertising' budgets to boost or promote any marketing message in an attempt to cut through the high volumes of noise occuring across social media. Yes, we need advertising budgets to amplify our creativity, but one must not rely on these budgets alone to deliver sustainable success.
In the connected age, where terms like fan engagement get attributed when a brand creates a compelling piece of content that drives fan participation, it is our job as marketers to understand why did the audience react in a way to this content that made it seen as successful marketing. We look at viral marketing and we know that for this reaction to occur there needs to be a push from the brand, but what else? In many campaigns, the key ingrediant to making any content spread, is an influencer outreach stratetgy. Aligning the brand with a group of highly influential individuals or accounts that collectively can create an impact.
To gain large awareness, we need to create an impact, we need to ensure that we align with 'trusted' and 'well known' partners, our super-fans: top and mid-tier influencers in your space that can give us reach as well as credibility via their buy-in to what we are doing.
So as marketers wanting to deliver against our objectives on an achievable budget, without relying wholeheartedly on advertising spend, we need to now understand more about influencer outreach and how it works.
It is becoming increasingly important to any social media strategy that those in charge of engagement focus on finding the correct influencers in different categories through analysis and influencer mapping.
Defining an Influencer
An influencer can be defined as someone who has the power to sway or affect opinion based on prestige, wealth, ability or position. There are three key attributes that need to be met in order to identify an influencer.
They must be:
- A trusted and credible source for the topic or category of choice
- Have good reach to your target market
- Be engaged with your target audience
Influencers are important for several reasons. Firstly, they can create mass awareness to a brand or campaign. Secondly their ability to influence means that they can change behaviours. Thirdly, a brand message is more likely to have impact coming from an influencer, who has a base of fans and credibility. Finally, influencers can influence direct action in the same way as celebrity endorsements in traditional advertising can.
Whilst the reach of even one influencer is useful, brands should seek to build up a community of influencers from different backgrounds, in order to enable a substantial impact on the business.
Influencers vs. Advocates
It is important to understand the difference between social media influencers and advocates, in order to target the right people. This is a common mistake and one of the reasons why it is important for a brand to hire social media experts to manage their activity. Let's break down the difference between an influencer and an advocate.
- Natural affinity towards a particular topic of interest
- Incentive-based relationships
- Engaged community
- Large reach
- Natural affinity towards a brand
- Likely to be more trusted
- Happy to discuss the brand without any need for incentive
- Lower reach
As above, influencers have a natural affinity towards a particular topic of interest, whilst advocates tend to be drawn towards a certain brand through some form of emotive decision making. Next, influencers tend to work on incentive based relationships, whilst advocates are happy to discuss the brand without any need for an incentive. Finally, influencers are part of a more engaged community and have a larger reach, whilst advocates have a lower reach but their opinion tends to be more trustworthy ie: An Amazon review.
Types of influencers
We have developed a model for five influencer groups, which can be split into three sub categories.
- Celebrities, who fit into the 'scale' category. This means they are important for reach and will leverage their network in order to add to the scale of brand awareness. They will talk about the brand or product using their status for some sort of incentive, such as payment. We see brands many sports brands particularly using celebritiy endorsements for scalability.
- The next subcategory is 'talk-ability' in which there are two groups; citizens and advocates. These two groups may not have the largest network, but these are your everyday consumers, the mass market who will be discussing your brand, products and messaging with their networks.
- The final sub-category is 'positive association', which is made up of ambassadors and professionals. Ambassadors will build credibility through borrowed interest and endorsement. They are typically remunerated for their involvement, where association with the brand is mutually beneficial. Professionals will publish and share content about brand and products based on their job function, usually with a particular focus on a singular topic, and can offer well targeted spaces for a brand.
Once you have identified the influencers you want to reach, you may want to follow the additional criteria below:
- Tone of voice - is this in line with your brand?
- Has a powerful social media following
- Large amounts of engagement per update (mentions, comments etc).
- Updates their account regularly (at least 5 times per day)
In sourcing influencers, there are many ways to go about it. We tend to undertake this process in a scientifc manor, ensuring that all bases are covered. Social media analytics tools are incredibly helpful in effectively identifying influencers as they allow you to:
- Identify conversations related to core topics in specific markets
- Identify the people most active in those conversations
- Understand the language being used to drive conversation in this space
- Understand who has the most authority or influence in those conversations (who we want to go after)
There are countless paid tools like Sysomos MAP, Radian6 and Sprout Social that can assist in sourcing influencers, but for those that don't have paid software, I also recommended using Followerwonk and Social Mention.
When using any software, you'll want to create a new search for associated keywords you would expect your target influencers to use and be sure to include well-known hashtags for your target market as well as a list of terms to exclude.
Your influencer outreach plan will be stronger if your content is shared by influencers who are in similar networks to each other. A great free tool called http://mentionmapp.com can be used to map out who your chosen influencers are engaging with most and on what topics they are conversing. Use MentionMap to identify related influencers to those you've already found and add them to your list to build it out further.
Once you have your list of potential influencers, prioritise them by influence and start contacting them. You should be making your approaches via people who have had experience in digital or PR as it is a careful balance of content, tone and tact.
Before making any approaches you must also explore incentive opportunities. Depending on the status of the influencers, some will have come to expect people and brands to entice them with more than an idea and some content.
Influencers are key to improving brand image, and building up a network of influencers from different categories will help build up a core set of fans. Social media allows brands to target fans and followers, and the use of influencers is central to this, and is one of the main factors as to why social media is such an effective method of marketing in comparison to traditional marketing methods.