Imagine that you’re walking down the street, glancing in store windows, when a store owner suddenly comes up to you and starts telling you how great their new line of summer clothing is. Now imagine a different scenario where you’re walking down the street and you run into a fashionable friend who tells you that they really like the new summer clothes at a certain store. Who is going to be more likely to convince you to check out the clothing line for yourself?
This, in essence, is influencer marketing. The idea behind influencer marketing is that consumers trust the word of friends, family, established tastemakers, and well-connected individuals in their industry more than they trust the word of a brand. If those influencers recommend a certain product, consumers are more likely to check out the product for themselves than they would be if they were marketed to in a more traditional way.
Tastemakers can be a huge boon to small businesses because they often have a larger or at least a different audience. When these influential people or organizations talk or write about your business, they’re expanding your reach as well as giving you their stamp of approval. Influencer marketing can be a highly effective tool, as long as you’re putting in the effort to build relationships with key individuals who have the audience you’re interested in.
How Does Influencer Marketing Work?
There are several different channels where influencer marketing usually takes place:
Blogging. If an influential blogger likes your products or services, they might write a positive review on their blog or include a relevant link to your own blog in one of their posts. Google pays attention to domain authority when ranking sites, so if you get a mention or link on a high-traffic site, you’ll boost your search engine ranking as well as expose yourself to a larger audience.
Social media. Tastemakers may also share a link to your blog or product page on popular social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. They may also give you a +1 on Google, which isn’t as obviously apparent to their followers, but which will still boost the authority of your website. In some cases, an influencer might share your content on a niche-oriented social media site like Reddit, which may help expose you to qualified leads in a niche audience that you might not have reached otherwise.
Guest posting. If you write high-quality, informative content, you may be able to write a guest post for a popular industry website. Even if the site you’re posting on won’t let you link back to your site in the body of the article, you’ll usually still be able to add an author bio that explains where you work and includes a link.
How Your Business Can Use Influencer Marketing
Locate your audience. You’ve likely already done some research to determine who is buying your products—or you have some idea of who you’d like to buy your products. Once you’ve established a specific buyer persona, think about who your buyer persona is likely to follow online. For example, if you’re trying to sell CRM software to hotels, then you would want to locate the blogs and social media accounts that people in the hospitality industry are most likely to follow.
Reach out to influencers. In-person meetings tend to be the best for building relationships, so use live events like conferences as an opportunity to introduce yourself to influencers. When possible, setting up a one-on-one meeting with an influencer will allow you to have a more in-depth conversation. If you’re not able to meet up with influencers in person, reach out to them through meaningful comments on their blog or other social media channels.
Prioritize your influencers. The whole idea behind influencer marketing is reaching out to the few individuals who can have the biggest impact, so don’t fall into the trap of trying to reach out to too many people, or reaching out to tastemakers who aren’t relevant to your industry and your audience. Find a few key individuals and dedicate your efforts to building a strong relationship with them, rather than half-heartedly trying to build relationships with a whole lot of people.
Don’t make it all about you. The fastest way to turn influencers off your brand is to blatantly ask them to help you sell your product. Remember, it’s not all about you—there needs to be something in this exchange for the influencer as well.
Offer free trials of your product or service. If you’re rolling out a new product or service and want to start building buzz, one of the best ways you can do this is by offering a free gift or trial to key influencers. If they like the product, the hope is that they’ll decide to tell their followers about it.
Write a guest post. One great way to benefit from influencer marketing is to share a guest post on a well-respected, high traffic blog. However, these blogs are usually pretty selective, so you need to write outstanding content if you want to get published. Before you write your post, contact the site editor or blogger and pitch them a couple of article ideas. Include links to writing samples if you have them and briefly explain why you’d like to share your post on this site. If the blogger does accept your pitch, follow their submission guidelines closely and stick to any deadlines they give you in order to maintain a good relationship.
Be willing to help out others. Influencer marketing is a two-way street, so be sure to share links to high-quality industry articles on your social media channels, or let others in your industry share a guest post on your blog. When you help others out, they’ll be more willing to return the favor in the future.