Targeted Outreach: Turn Influencers Into Brand Advocates
Audiences are savvier than ever. According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Report, people are 92% more likely to trust recommendations from their peers than advertising, when it comes to making purchase decisions. Consumers feel connected to influencers and view them as their peers: they trust them more.
Leveraging the power of influencers and earned media allows brands to make the right impact on readers, buyers and brand supporters.
“When brands don’t have a pulse on their consumers, influencers fill that void and provide a valuable trusted channel for them to reach their target audiences,” says Stacey Miller, director of communications at Cision.
Social media and technology have made it possible for influencers to give their audiences a glimpse into their lives. Through a targeted outreach approach, brands can identify the right influencers and mine their conversations to create content that will attract attention. With a combination of monitoring, distribution, engagement and analytics all in one place, brands can make better business decisions, secure more media coverage and build stronger influencer connections.
Partnering with industry authorities and thought-leaders allows brands to better reach and connect with consumers. Influencers help brands gain the credibility and trust they need to build meaningful relationships with consumers, turning them into loyal customers.
The benefits of targeted influencer marketing are clear:
- 81% of marketers rate earned media as more effective than paid
- 59% of marketers planned to increase their influencer marketing budgets in 2016
- On average, businesses make $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing
Even if you know you need influencers on your side, you may not be approaching them the right way. Reaching out without knowing enough about the influencer will result in wasted efforts.
A strong influencer marketing strategy starts with research. The more you know about the influencers in your industry, the better equipped you are to make a strong connection with them. Evaluation is the difference between success and failure. Follower count alone will not tell you what you need to know to determine whether or not an influencer is a good match for your brand.
“When choosing an influencer to work with, make sure their goals and what they represent are similar to your brand,” says Miller.
Here are eight key insights to help steer your brand’s influencer marketing strategy in the right direction:
Reach: How big is the influencer’s audience? Make sure they have a significant following to make an impact, but don’t be afraid to also consider micro-influencers with smaller audiences. They may be able to make a bigger difference if their audience is more engaged.
Engagement: How engaged is the influencer’s audience? Do they participate in conversations? An engaged audience shows an influencer’s ability to communicate their message and motivate their followers to take action. This is more important than reach alone.
Topics of Coverage: What is the influencer talking about? Determine their commonly discussed topics and delve deep into the details. For example, don’t just look for influencers discussing a broad topic such as sports. An influencer may be a sports journalist, but if she only covers tennis and you’re looking for a football influencer, she is not the right match.
Original Content: Look at what the influencer is writing about on their blog or discussing on their podcast. Do their ideas line up with your brand’s? If you can get an influencer to create content on your behalf, your brand will benefit from their influence.
Geographical Location: In what region is the influencer located? Ensure the influencers are experts in the target geographical area where you either have a presence or are interested in expanding your brand’s presence.
Culture and Demographics: To reach new audiences, tailor your message by age, gender, lifestyle or education. All of these factors will influence how your audience responds to your message. The influencer you target should have an audience that closely mirrors the one you aim to reach.
Preferred Social Channels: What channels do your influencers most frequently use to engage with their own audiences? Is your audience using the same channels? When reaching out to influencers, remember that most journalists and influencers still use email as their preferred method of contact.
Biographical Information: What other information do you know about the influencer? It’s important to get to know the influencer on a personal level, not just professionally. This allows you to create deeper, longer-lasting relationships.
Manually sifting through all of this data can be challenging but with the right communication software, you can easily identify the key influencers in your industry, engage with them and measure the effectiveness of your strategy – all in one place.
Choosing the Right Influencers
Pitching journalists and media outlets is not a new tactic for brands. Securing brand mentions in a newspaper or magazine was traditionally the sole function of PR, but today, this doesn’t pack the same punch. While newspapers and magazines have a large audience, not everyone in that audience will be interested in your brand.
If your strategy is focused solely on the media, you’re missing out on a number of other influencers who may be more impactful for your brand.
“Anybody can be an influencer as long as they inspire people to act,” says Miller.
We’ve compiled a list of five different types of influencers to help you make the right decisions when planning your outreach:
Celebrities: Instantly recognizable and with a large audience at their fingertips, partnering with celebrities can expose your brand to new audiences and prospects. Celebrities will expect to be paid in exchange for advocating for your brand. Paid celebrity endorsements require special consideration to ensure your audience view the collaboration as authentic.
Journalists: Journalists inform audiences of important and relevant news. To get journalists’ attention, your brand’s outreach needs to be newsworthy, relevant and interesting. If not, your pitch is sure to go unanswered.
Social Media Influencers: From YouTubers to Instagram personalities, these influencers gain popularity online and often discuss what’s new and trending. Reach out to these influencers to review your products or services, create content for you and become a brand ambassador. If they’re talking about your brand, your audience will take note.
Experts: Experts that are well-educated with years of experience are credible resources in your industry. Engage experts in conversations surrounding your brand to create trustworthy content and position your brand as a thought-leader.
Organic Advocates: These influencers are similar to social media influencers but most likely have a smaller audience. Organic advocates are fans of your brand and are already talking about it online. Aligning with them is an easy decision and will make sense for your brand and the influencer’s audience.
Before reaching out to an influencer, consult your media database to find out what platforms they are active on and what their preferences are. Not all influencers communicate in the same way, so always do your homework before making contact.
Consider the demographic of their audience, and other communities their audience is active in, to glean additional insights about whether the influencer is truly right for your brand partnerships.
Targeting Your Outreach
Influencers are protective of their audience and will only work with brands that they believe will benefit their audience. When reaching out, demonstrate how a relationship with your brand can be mutually beneficial. This is key to motivate them to tell your story.
“Influencers are cautious about who they partner with,” say Miller. “They’re endorsing your brand and putting their name on the line, so they want to make sure you have a good brand story and a solid product or service to back it up.”
So what’s the best way to appeal to influencers? Here are three steps to help you foster solid relationships with influencers:
Influencer outreach should begin long before you send your pitch. The influencer should know your name, your brand and what you are about before you approach them about working with you.
Follow the influencer on social media, taking an interest in their work by sharing their content and commenting on their posts. Read their social feeds to get to know them on a personal level and start building a connection. Engage them in conversation – even if it’s about something that doesn’t have anything to do with your brand.
Always provide value to the conversation: don’t just post to post. Share something that will benefit the influencer and their audience e.g. original relevant research from your brand. This will help you gain credibility and earn the trust of the influencer and others in your industry.
Engaging with the influencer allows you to learn more about the influencer, making pitching to them a simpler task. It also helps you to build a relationship, so when you decide to pitch, they’ll be more receptive.
As you follow the influencer on social media, look for opportunities to offer your brand’s expertise. For example, if a journalist tweets about a story they’re writing and you have something valuable to contribute, tweet back and offer to be a source. To avoid wasting yours and the journalist’s time, ensure the story is relevant to what you do. Not every story opportunity will be right for your brand.
When you’re ready to invite the influencer to partner with your brand, focus on the value of the partnership. What’s in it for them? If the influencer doesn’t see how they, or their audience, will benefit from a partnership, they won’t be interested.
Consider offering a monetary incentive. Influencers are contributing valuable time and resources to help your brand. Their compensation should reflect that.
The incentive doesn’t always have to be a monetary one, says Miller. “It could be an exchange for your products or services or the reach that comes with the media coverage you both generate together.”
Think about the influencer’s goals and how your brand can help achieve them. Present your idea in a clear and concise manner. Be specific about expectations and goals and what you want the influencer to do. Whether you want them to promote your brand’s product or create content on your behalf, give clear instructions so the influencer knows exactly what you want them to do but be careful not to micro-manage. Give the influencer direction, but let them have control over their own content.
If your emails are going unanswered, don’t be afraid to test different messages and refine as you go. Track all of your messaging and analyze the data regularly.
Influencer outreach doesn’t end once the influencer agrees to work with you. Continue to stay in contact with them to maintain the relationship you’ve worked so hard to build. When you build a strong relationship with an influencer, you ensure their loyalty and trust in your brand. Plus, when another opportunity arises, that influencer will be ready to work with you again.
Keep a working list of the influencers you’ve engaged with. Track what they talk about and make note of any changes. Influencers evolve and sometimes change topics or focus, so someone who was once the perfect partner may not continue to be.
Influencer outreach must be constantly assessed to ensure your strategy is making the biggest impact.
The Power of Influencers
Influencers are key to better connecting with your brand’s audience, but finding the right brand partner isn’t always easy. Listening to key conversations taking place within your industry, allows you to identify the right influencers to partner with and find valuable opportunities to advance your brand.
By thoroughly researching the major and minor players in your industry, learning their goals and motivations and then communicating your brand’s value to them, your influencer outreach is sure to be on target. What’s next? Create content that will harness the power of your targeted influencers, attract and motivate your audience and position your brand at the forefront of your industry.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stacey Miller is the Director, Communications at Cision. In her current role, she leads a team of internal and external communicators while managing the strategy and execution of media, influencer and analyst relations, social media and community development. During her ten years with the company, she has pioneered influencer marketing, employee advocacy and social selling programs through both traditional and social media.
Her programs have continually shown measurable increases in brand awareness, positive sentiment, competitor mindshare, news volume, customer retention, leads and sales. An internationally sought keynote speaker, her writing has appeared in Forbes, CIO and VentureBeat. Stacey is frequently quoted in online publications as well as published books, including several college textbooks. Consistently mentioned in "top people to follow” and “up and coming pros” lists, Oracle named Stacey a finalist for its Community Manager of the Year Award in 2012.