The internet is a bonus and a bane to most people. You can research anything, get your message out inexpensively, connect with people around the globe, and entertain yourself for hours. But it also has created a need for itself. It has a constant hunger for content. It provides a large bullhorn for people to pronounce their views and others are listening. That’s why influencer marketing has become so hot.
Photo Credit: Christina Morillo
What Is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is a type of word of mouth marketing. Just like big brands may use a celebrity endorsement such as an athlete who wears the brand’s sneakers, influencer marketing uses well-known (or well-followed) internet personalities to talk about their product, service, event, etc. Just like in celebrity endorsements, this influencer has a fan base and is likely considered a pro in a given area. There are people who will buy your product/service or look into your organization just because the influencer talked about you.
Where you find an influencer varies by what you sell or what you want to promote. Generally, you’re looking for someone with a stellar reputation or hardcore following. You want active followers too, not just numbers. You might find an influencer in:
Your industry (such as a thought leader)
Your service area (for instance, you sell makeup and you might select a YouTuber who does makeup tutorials)
Your ideal demographic (selecting someone who’s hot with a group you want to break into like Gen Y)
Your local area. Unlike celebrity endorsements, you don’t need someone who’s well-known globally. You just need someone who can activate an audience. If your business is local, your influencer can be local too (but doesn’t have to be if you’re willing, or able, to venture into e-commerce).
Influencer marketing is excellent for your business because it increases interest and traffic when you choose the right influencer. However, there’s more to it than just selecting an influencer. Like anything else, the approach matters. If you alienate an influencer, you’re worse off than if you never approached them, to begin with. People with big audiences know how to use their bullhorn.
If you’re going to approach an influencer, know the following things to avoid annoying them:
Before approaching them, research the kinds of posts they do, who their audience is, and what they often talk about. Are they an expert in their field or just a charming personality? This is important because you want to match your brand with their approach. For instance, if you are a conservative investment firm with a conservative audience, it’s likely you don’t want to reach out to a boisterous, albeit entertaining, loud mouth.
You want your influencer to appeal to your ideal demographic. You also want your product or service to be a good fit for their audience. It doesn’t matter how entertaining the influencer is, you don’t want to use someone who could only awkwardly speak of what you sell. For example, an influencer with a large “mom of toddlers” following might not be the person to approach to bring more attention to your gun range.
Keep in mind, the influencer and their audience don’t have to directly use your product or service. But they have to be in a position to buy it. Moms are a great example of that. Women may not wear men’s cologne but they do buy it. You could easily use a female influencer to “sell” your cologne as long as her audience does the major purchasing for their guys.
Which brings us to...
Unless you are lucky enough to stumble upon someone who has a big audience and no brand affiliations, they likely have a protocol in place on how they interact with brands, products, and services. And you’ll need to work with that.
Figure out what it is you want from them and then see if it matches what they’re willing to do. Answer the following questions before contacting them. You want to have the ask solidified in your mind so that you’re not wasting their time:
Do you want them to actually sell your product? This is generally done through a customized URL to your site. If you want them to “sell” it, will they get a cut from the referrals made online? This is common practice.
Do you want them to just see a demo, and if interested, proceed from there? What are your expectations a review? Comment? Endorsement?
Do you want them to mention your business in a blog post or write a blog just about your product or service?
Do you want them to host an event at your business?
Do you want to be interviewed by them or featured in some capacity on their website?
Do you want them to attend your event?
Do you want to be on their podcast?
Do you want to pay them for a sponsored post on their blog or social media profiles? Make sure what you’re asking or they’re offering falls within the terms of service for what they’re allowed to do on the social media platform of your/their choice.
As you can see there are many ways to interact with an influencer. Figure out what you’re asking and then approach them about it. Decide on something that is mutually beneficial. Keep in mind, some influencers will do it for free as a service to their audience, some will want a commission of anything sold through their affiliate links, others charge a fee for service. If they charge a fee or receive an affiliate payment, they should disclose this on their blog or post. Look on their site and in their social media posts to see if they do this.
While you’re doing your research you should also take a look at the affiliations they currently have. It’s important to know their allegiances and whether it is direct competition for you. For instance, if you offer a subscription box similar to Fab, Fit, Fun and you want them to pitch yours instead, you should be prepared with a compelling reason on why they’d make the switch.
Be honest ahead of time if you’re a competitor of someone they’re already speaking about. Sometimes they’re not formally affiliated with them and will gladly check out your things too.
Influencer marketing is hot these days because word of mouth marketing is. People believe reviews of complete strangers and those reviews influence the way they buy. Working with an influencer can give you a new and/or bigger audience. But if you’re going to approach them, do your research first. They likely get approached a lot. They don’t want the same old boring pitch of “I saw your blog post, it was great.” These approaches look like bots wrote them. Be specific. Let them know your pitch is directed right at them and benefits them in some way too. When you do this, you’re on your way to creating a mutually beneficial relationship and those are always the best kind.
Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and WritersWeekly. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com.
Christina is an introverted writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.