If you’ve been in the marketing industry at all for the last few years, you’re sure to have heard plenty about influencers. But who are influencers, and what do they have to do with marketing?
To most people, influencers are figures with trusted, authoritative opinions and expertise. For marketers, though, influencers are also a class of people whose views can have an incredible impact on brand loyalty and purchase decisions.
Influencer marketing is the strategy of leveraging this authority to have influencers promote your brand, product or service. This involves active outreach.
But influencer outreach isn’t as easy as it might sound. It involves more than just cold calling or emailing influencers and asking them to sell your brand to all their followers. It involves time, effort and, most importantly, trust.
Want to learn more? Take a look at these 5 essential influencer outreach best practices.
1. Define Your Goals
What are you hoping to accomplish with your influencer outreach campaign? Just retweets and shares of your latest content? Are you guest posting or link building for SEO? Are you looking to boost brand awareness, or to drive conversions? What kind of audience are you trying to reach? It may sound obvious, but starting with specific goals in mind will make the rest of your outreach strategy a heck of a lot easier—and more effective to boot.
“Without clearly defined #goals, you’re missing the bedrock of any successful #influencer outreach campaign” TWEET THIS
2. Do Your Research
Not all influencers are created equal. Depending on your niche, your target audience and the goals for your campaign, you’re going to want to find different sets of influencers with different strengths and personalities.
Some might be great for getting the word out about a brand or business on Twitter, YouTube or other social media platforms. Others might be active bloggers ideal for guest posts or link-building. Aligning your research with your campaign’s goals is key to researching your influencers.
When the time comes to do the actual nitty-gritty of researching and finding the right influencers in your industry, there are plenty of great tools and resources to rely on:
Klout. Klout is one of the better-known influencer research tools, and for good reason. Klout grades social media users on a 100 point scale based on their calculated “Klout Score,” or total influence. Klout also provides tools for exploring and finding influencers in a variety of given niches.
BuzzSumo. BuzzSumo is a viral content research and aggregation tool designed for SEO experts and content marketers to find trending topics in given areas. Its paid tier of service also includes numerous tools for researching and analyzing influencers.
Traackr. Traackr is a premium influencer marketing platform that specializes more in managing existing relationships than creating new ones, but does offer robust tools for discovering and connecting with influencers at the enterprise level.
Of course, there’s also the old-fashioned way of finding influencers—staying tuned in to your industry or area of expertise, and finding out who people listen to by listening yourself.
3. Nurture Real, Honest Relationships
Once you have a list of relevant, high-quality influencers to target in your campaign, you have roughly two possible plans of attack:
Get to know them, or
Immediately ask them to do you a favor
One of these is a lot faster, but the other actually works. We think you can guess which is which.
Anyone who’s thought of as an “influencer” is almost certainly deluged with pitches, requests and downright spam on a daily basis. Most of it gets ignored. The only way stand out from the riff-raff is by actually developing a relationship with your influencers, based on mutual interests and respect.
You don’t have to be best friends overnight, but some effort helps. Follow your target influencers on relevant social media channels. Share their content. Start to interact with them via comments or replies. Leverage any mutual connections you might have.
Over time you’ll become a familiar face—which gives you a tremendous advantage over the competition. (Not to mention, connections with influencers will set you on track to become an influencer yourself some day!)
“Develop a relationship with your industry #influencers based on mutual interests and respect” TWEET THIS
4. Create the Right Content
The same blog post or infographic probably isn’t going to appeal to every industry expert in exactly the same way. Don’t be afraid to craft content with a specific influencer or set of influencers in mind.
Know a blogger with a soft spot for creative infographics? Make one that plays to her taste! Depending on your industry—and your own strengths as a content creator—blogs, white papers, original case studies, lists, videos, slide shares, free tools and scores of other forms of content can be created to maximize your chances of getting boosted by your influencers. Topics can (and should) also be targeted to their interests.
Of course, it goes without saying that no matter what kind of content you create and for whom, quality is the bottom line. Original, engaging content that actually adds value to the conversation is a must. Why would a respected influencer bother promoting anything else?
5. Make Your Pitch a Personal One
Once you’ve put in all the time and effort of nurturing a genuine relationship with an influencer, it’s time to finally make your pitch. Here’s a basic sample of a pitch email:
I was following your conversation on Twitter the other day about [topic], and it got me thinking. I wrote this blog post on the subject, and I think your fans would find it a worthwhile read. Feel free to share or link to it in an upcoming post.
Thanks, [Inbound Marketer]
This is a pretty broad example, but it demonstrates a few key points. Namely, it’s concise, offers a specific value proposition and doesn’t just use some copy-and-paste template. If you’ve played the long game of actually building an organic relationship, then an email like this will seem less like a marketing pitch than one pal touching base with another—and that’s not something you can fake.
Successful influencer marketing outreach can expose your brand, product or service to wide new audiences much more organically than with just about any other tactic. Done right, influencer marketing accomplishes so much more than just selling a product or service—it builds a genuine relationship between a business and its customers. Isn’t that what good marketing is all about?