A recent report by the Pew Research Center stated that 78% of Internet users research products and services online. And this is not people going to company websites to be spoon-fed corporate descriptions – this is people engaging with brands, reading reviews, and seeing how their peers view companies and products.
A large majority of this is done through social media and if you are not a part of the conversation, you are losing out on a chance to manage and grow your brand’s reputation. One of the best ways to grow your brand’s presence is by targeting and engaging influencers, this allows you to quickly grow your brand’s awareness and influence.
These five steps will show you the ins-and-outs of targeting and engaging influencers to maximize your brand presence.
Tools to Help Along the Way:
- Klout – measures the relevancy and authority of individuals online have
- Klout for Business – reveals which networks individuals are most active on
- Alltop – creates a list of the best blogs on certain topics
- LinkedIn – LinkedIn is primarily for professionals, making it a good resource to find who has authority in your respective fields
- Facebook – given its popularity, Facebook can be a powerful way of driving engagement
- Google+ – great resource for sharing content and HD photos. Use CircleCount.com to find influential people and who your target consumer is most likely to engage with
- Blogs (Industry-related) – find blogs that correlate to your business
1. Do your homework.
Start with who you know. Using the tools stated above, begin your process by sharing content with who you already know and who is respected in your area. Reach out to people in the field that you are promoting. These should be people who are known by others in the community who communicate through social media.
If you do not know someone who you are sure would be appropriate for your business promotion, find a way to get in touch with him or her. LinkedIn is a crucial. If you are not connected on LinkedIn, now is the time to start. The people whom you are connected with on LinkedIn can help you network to get in contact with those who are key in helping you get your business out there.
Through these contacts, you may be referred to other entrepreneurs and interested parties who might have impact on the promotion of your business. Keep track of these individuals. For example, you may be friends with an entrepreneur on Facebook who is not involved in your particular line of business but who knows others that are. He or she can help you network or introduce you to some of the people who may be of help to you.
Who has influence? People with an audience – one achieved, not necessarily through automatic position (news anchors, etc.), but rather an audience achieved by the act of communicating, creating valuable content, and building relationships with other influential people. You can tell whether a potential influencer has a legitimate audience by viewing the amount of engagement he or she has on his or her personal Website or social media networks. Do people actively interact with the content or do they simply “like” or “+1” content? Are the posts of quality, or do they seem irrelevant or inconsistent with the topic?
Influence can lead to the perception of authority, and vice-versa – but an executive at a large firm who doesn’t communicate, whose audience only comes from subordinates or followers of the firm who perceive they should “follow” this individual, may not actually have real influence.
2. Find where to engage influencers.
Find out where you want to engage them based on where they are the most vocal – online (which social media outlets do they use, blogs, etc) or physical presence (what “meetups” do they attend, conferences, where they spend their time, etc).
3. Predetermine the relationship.
Know how you can benefit them before you communicate. Remember, this is a business networking opportunity. It is a give and take relationship. Find where they need help, identify their gaps, and offer expertise in that area. How will what you offer help him or her achieve his or her ultimate goal?
A good example is the interaction between small marketing agencies, and companies to offer software / programs to help them. These software companies create quality content that is targeted to small agencies. The articles usually contain tips on statistics about marketing, or how to advance small business. Examples include: “5 things you MUST do to acquire more clients”, “3 ways to stretch your marketing budget”, etc. Agencies engage this content to advance their knowledge, but also naturally share these articles because they themselves want to be seen by potential clients as “experts” in the marketing world.
Sometimes, you can benefit key influencers by doing research and sharing knowledge in areas where they have gaps, other times, you may best interest an influencer by creating something that enhances their presence as an influencer or simply gives them something valuable to share and thus keeps the cycle going.
4. Build relationships.
You must establish trust with your contacts. Make sure you make them feel like you appreciate and respect their time. Maintaining a relationship with an influencer is like maintaining any relationship. You have to give them space while also showing interest in their expertise and reciprocating that help back to them by using your strengths.
Respecting boundaries is important in any relationship. You have to know where your interest becomes too over-the-top. Any smart person can sense artificiality. Also, build your deeper relationships with key influencers, of course, but be respectful and open-minded of others as well. Don’t throw anyone out. You never know how someone else can be of help to you in the future or how you can help them. These are relationships, not single transactions.
Jay Baer, the author of Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype, writes, “True influence requires two things: audience and advocacy. Advocacy is driven by the depth of conviction, and influencers typically are less committed to the product or company than are actual customer advocates.” Understanding your influencers needs, interests, and desires allows us to create genuine advocates, rather than celebrity endorsers.
5. Acquire and maintain engagement.
The emphasis throughout this process is on building a long-term relationship. This means that after the article is posted, after the link is shared, it is especially important to further develop your connection. Actively engaging in your influencers’ businesses online as well as offline will help show your continued support of them.
You should keep in contact but not too much contact as you do not want to annoy or push away your connections. You should not only appear to care about these peoples’ businesses, but actually care. Whenever you notice ways you can help them or others in your networking, do so. Your contributions will not go unnoticed. People in your field and others will see your strengths and seek you out as a valuable commodity for their businesses.