"Turn strangers into friends
Turn friends into customers
And then... do the most important job:
Turn your customers into salespeople."
Seth Godin - Flipping The Funnel
This timeless quote is the foundation upon which influencer marketing is built. While a business may enjoy a countless number of brand advocates, influencer marketing focuses on cherry-picking few ones who have measurable influence over significant segments of potential customers.
Once influencers are identified and targeted, the business reaches out to them to build win-win relationships and co-create successful marketing campaigns.
Simply put; influencer marketing is one of the most intelligent tactics that harnesses the power of word-of-mouth marketing.
When I discussed B2B content marketing trends for 2016, I gave specific examples of how some of these trends are highly relative and shouldn't be taken for granted by all businesses. However, that's NOT the case when it comes to influencer marketing.
Why Is Influencer Marketing Important For Every Business?
- A whopping 92% of consumers prefer making buying decisions based on trusted referrals recommendations more than any other resource. (Source: Tapfluence)
- Word-of-mouth marketing generates twice the sales as from paid advertising (Source: McKinsey)
- More than 60% of 13 to 24-year-olds are willing to try a product recommended by a YouTuber they trust (Source: MediaKix).
- Businesses make $6.50 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing (Source: Tomoson)
Now that we've taken the "Why" part out-of-the-way, the rest of the article will focus on the "How": How can you leverage influencer marketing for optimal ROI?
I'm in love with Anthony Robbins timeless quote: Questions are the answer which simply means that if you ask quality questions, you will get quality answers.
Top 5 Influencer-Identification Questions
Before seeking online help for picking the right influencers for your business, take the time to carefully identify them by answering the following questions. You will be glad you did!
1. Would Your Target Customers Follow And Trust Brand Recommendations From Your Chosen Influencer?
If you have done your homework by accurately identifying your buyers personas, answering this question should be a piece of cake. It goes without saying that clearly understanding your target market's content consumption habits is a prerequisite for crafting your content marketing strategy as a whole.
In other words, I assume that you already know the types of topics your personas are interested in, which social media platforms they are most active in and so forth.
The right influencer must perfectly fit into all the above. To ensure you are on the right track, you may ask your existing customers about their favorite online go-to places and use their feedback as a foundation for tracking down your influencers.
2. Is The Influencer Suitable For Your Budget?
You definitely have a preset budget for your influencer marketing campaign so going for the top influencers may not be a sound choice for a small or mid-sized business.
Fortunately, with the ever-growing popularity of influence marketing, marketers are relentlessly studying and categorizing influencers based on various criteria.
In fact, extensive market research has been conducted about mid-level influencers. These are the influencers who have a decent audience reach and can offer a budget-friendly solution for small businesses.
3. Can The Influencer Fit Into Your Unique Business Constraints?
You need to keep in mind your target market demographics as well as any other constraints prior to searching for the right influencer.
For example, if you operate a local business, then obviously the scope of the influencers you seek will be limited to your geographic location.
4. What Type Of Influencer Are You After?
Influencers come in different flavors. Your job is to choose the right flavor for your customers' taste. Influencers may be mainly bloggers, YouTubers, or popular on Instagram or Pinterest and so forth.
In addition, your choice of the type of influencer should be integrated into your overall content marketing strategy.
5. Can Your Chosen Influencer Add A Real Business Value?
Jay Bear, one of my favorite go-to experts, made a very valid point when he noted that: "True influence drives action, not just awareness."
Can your chosen influencer drive action and offer tangible business results? The answer is "Yes" if (and only if) the following conditions are met.
- Audience Reach:
It's a no-brainer that an influencer must have a substantial audience reach in order to be worthy of your time and effort. However, having a large number of followers is not a sufficient criterion for influencer selection.
- Followers Engagement Rate:
Engagement is a very important indicator as well. To what extent can the influencer's content trigger followers interactions? Does the influencer initiate ongoing conversations with his followers? Do they perceive him as trustworthy? What's the rate of followers comments, shares, retweets and so forth? Needless to say; the more, the merrier.
- Brand Expertise:
It's best to go for an influencer who is highly knowledgeable about your industry. Unlike audience reach and engagement rate that can be measured automatically, brand expertise requires careful examination of influencer's content. I assume that you that you must have scrutinized potential influencers content when you answered the question "1" in order to ensure that they are a good fit for your buyer persona. As you do, keep in mind to measure their brand expertise as well.
In his outstanding article about the explosive growth of influential marketing, Kyle Wong, summed up influence in the following equation:
Influence = Audience Reach (# of followers) x Brand Affinity (expertise and credibility) x Strength of Relationship with Followers
How to Track Your Ideal Influencer
Now that you have painted a crystal clear image of your ideal influencers, you're ready to track them down. I recommend following these steps in the same order.
Influencer Tracking Step 1: Check Your Existing Brand Advocates
"Start with the ones you know" - An evergreen sales and marketing tip that I LOVE. In order to fulfill your holy mission of finding the right influencer, start with your existing brand advocates. You never know: Perhaps the right influencer is much closer than you think!
I recommend using SocialMention because, as the name implies, this tool enables you to track mentions of your brand across various platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs.
I firmly believe that the best influencer you could ever find is an existing brand advocate who fulfills your influencer-identification criteria. Think about it: Wouldn't it be effortless to approach someone who has already taken the initiative to promote your brand?
That's why; it's worthwhile to start your influencer-hunting journey by thoroughly checking your existing brand advocates.
Influencer Tracking Step 2: Consult Your Customers
Some of your customers and loyal fans may not have the "influencer factor" but they are still invaluable to your business. On the one hand, you would spare no effort to maintain their loyalty, upsell/cross-sell them, and get repeat business from them as well as their referrals. On the other hand, their input can be tremendously helpful in crafting your content marketing strategy as a whole and finding the right influencers in the process.
I will repeat what I mentioned in my answer to the question "1" above because I want to emphasize the following crucial point: "Ask your existing customers about their favorite online go-to places and use their feedback as a foundation for tracking down your influencers."
Influencer Tracking Step 3: Let Automation Do The Work!
Take advantage of the free analytics tools to filter and narrow down your influencer search. For example, you may use Google Alerts to track mentions of keywords related to your brand. In addition, you may search for relevant hashtags and review the profiles of people who use them.
Once you pinpoint few potential influencers, you may create Twitter lists for them in order to closely compare their content until you make up your mind about your chosen ones.
If your budget allows, consider investing in advanced influencer marketing solutions.
If you're a beginner in influencer marketing, it's wiser to go for the "less is more" approach because building relationships with influencers cannot happen overnight. It requires time and dedication but once you learn the ropes, you may increase the number of influencers.
Time Is Money...tell Me About It!
If you believe that finding the right influencer is hectic and time-consuming, rest assured that you're not alone! In a recent survey conducted by GroupHigh, a blogger outreach service provider, a whopping 90% of surveyed marketers indicated that they use a blogger outreach tool primarily to save time.
If you are too busy to handle influencer marketing on your own, consider working with well-reputed marketing agencies (such as Laundry Service and The Mobile Media Lab) in order to lift that heavy burden off your shoulders.
Saving The Best For Last
We discussed in vivid detail how to identify and track influencers. Stay tuned for upcoming articles in this series as I will be covering:
- How to build win-win relationships with your ideal influencers?
- Master smart influencer pitching tactics
- Creative ways to compensate your influencers if you're on a shoestring budget
- How can influencer marketing enhance your content marketing strategy as a whole?
- Is influencer marketing the new "inbound affiliate marketing"?
- Do you have what it takes to become a highly paid influencer?
- Plus detailed case studies and success stories
A Healthy Dose of Inspiration
Until we meet in the near future, you may check these influencer marketing case studies as a healthy dose of inspiration.
I look forward to reading your insights on the comments. To your success!
Influencer Marketing 101 Series:
Hand-Picked Related Articles:
- How To Use Influencer Marketing To Strengthen Your Social Media Presence
- How To Track Your Outreach Campaign
- How To Execute A Killer Outreach and Link Building Campaign
* Lead image adapted from @sage_solar