By Sharon A.M. MacLean
We know now that creating content, especially blogs, tops the list of every how-to strategy for marketing online.
You’ve got a few choices: You can publish your own blog, infographic, video or podcast, to name a few methods. Or you can distribute content acquired from other sources.
Another option is to find people with influence to help share your story through the clout they’ve built up across the different platforms.
We call this influence marketing. It’s the practice of working with prominent people online to spread the word about your products and services through social media.
I keep reflecting on how traditional publishers previously owned the influencer market. No more. Today, an assembly of bloggers can do the same thing—maybe better.
Here’s how Kraft foods recently handled a promotion for Christmas. Kraft cherry-picked 180 bloggers with verified fans and readers who fit the right customer profile. Each influencer wrote an original recipe that featured a Kraft ingredient and each recipe drove readers to a redeemable coupon at Target.
The national brand spent $43,000 to generate nearly 760,000 blog post views from around 180 recipes. Kraft engaged a snappy new platform called TapInfluence and the campaign was less expensive than traditional advertising.
Small and medium-sized business can do the same thing with sweat equity on a smaller scale by building their own lists of bloggers and developing relationships with them.
Influencers help with everything from increasing sales to public education campaigns, event promotions, fundraising, and new product introductions.
Yet, where do you even begin to find influencers?
Start within your own networks and move out from there. Build a database to keep track of these elements:
- Name of influencer
- Preferred network
- Audience size
- Age group
- Engagement: Clicks, comments, shares, likes, retweets, pins, re-pins
- Advertisers represented
- Notes from conversations to remember what you heard them last say
Of course, there are hundreds of directories for over 250 million bloggers on the planet. When you run out of names from your personal circles of influence, try expanding your search of these directories:
Be prepared to give ideas about your audience to prospective influencers, as well:
- Topics important to your audience
- Background information for your clients who are considering making a purchase
- Answers to questions that your customers have not thought to ask
- Online sources that customers research for information on similar products and services
What flummoxed me, though, was a way to rank bloggers with whom to develop relationships. Below is what Kyle Wong, founder and CEO of www.pixlee.com pictured above, figured out. I love it.
Influence = Audience reach (#of followers) x Brand Affinity (expertise and credibility) x Strength of Relationship with Followers.
Here’s 8 more points to remember:
- Don’t confuse volume of contacts with influence.
- Set objectives: Know what you want to achieve and make sure that you reach your targets.
- Think long term. Invest your time, attention and interest in the other person. Be careful not to be seen as only making contact when you want something from an influencer.
- Spot opportunities. Are you able to introduce the blogger to people within your network? Do you see potential partnerships or sponsorships to involve the blogger?
- Don’t forget your “everyday” customers and brand advocates. More than celebrities in your niche, this type of influencer/follower can boost small no-name companies to higher profiles.
- Mention the blogger on your own website or blog.
- Link to them – both hyperlink and other social media channels. Follow them on Twitter and retweet their best tweets. Suggest involving them in other more interactive ways – e.g. interviews or video
- Remember that bloggers are legally required to disclose if they are being compensated much in the way that traditional media must identify advertorials as paid messages.
In addition, when a blogger writes about your story and receives compensation, it is deemed a “sponsored post”. This means any hyperlink must be classified as ‘no-follow’ links which means they are not counted by search engines when calculating page rank.
Establishing presence in the digital world can seem overwhelming. Publishing a blog and identifying 10 influential bloggers to form relationships is a good place to start.
Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.
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