Would you prefer taking travel advice from Anthony Bourdain or Rachel Ray? While I’m sure Rachel has traveled quite a bit in her day, Mr. Bourdain is a travel connoisseur. Whether it be Spain, China, Seattle, or Japan, he’s seen it all and documented most of it, so he’d likely be your best bet.
Now imagine if you were a hotel owner, and you could get Anthony Bourdain to rave about your accommodations on his social media platforms. That would be pretty game-changing for your business!
Ok, so the chances of a celebrity of this caliber tweeting about your business are quite slim, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find social media influencers in your niche to rave about your business to your mutual target audience – but how? And who are these so-called social media influencers? This post will answer all these questions, and more! But first…
A social media influencer is someone who influences others through their social platforms. When you think about influential social profiles, big names like Donald Trump and Justin Bieber likely come to mind, but the reality is that there are social media influencers in every industry and niche. This provides your business with a unique opportunity to identify, pursue, and leverage these social media influencers to grow your sales, lead flow, and ultimately your revenue stream.
This form of marketing can be extremely powerful if done well. In fact, 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions are made from word-of-mouth marketing. Just think about your own personal purchasing history. Aren’t you more likely to buy something when someone you trust recommends it highly? Twitter also conducted a powerful study that found that 40 percent of Twitter users make purchase decisions as a direct result from a Tweet from an influencer.
To sum things up, social media influencers can help you…
What marketer does not want to do all of those things? Now that you’re keenly aware of how powerful social media influencers are, you might be wondering: Who are the social media influencers in your industry? How can I go about identifying social media influencers? Well, I’m here to help you find them!
RELATED: 19 PPC Influencers You Need to Follow (& Their Best Advice)
Uncovering the influencers in your industry is the first step to growing your business with influencer marketing, but before you dive in, it’s critical to ensure you’re targeting the right influencers.
Who is your target audience? You likely already have a clear picture of your audience from your other marketing efforts, so now you need to dive into this audience’s interests a bit deeper to determine who they follow and where they consume information.
For instance, if you sell to mainly 30-something, work-from-home mothers, research who these mothers follow, where they read reviews, what social platforms they spend the most time on, where they consume news, and so on.
In order to determine your social media influencers, you first need to ensure that influencer is targeting the same audience as you. For example, if you sell SEO software, don’t just assume that the king of SEO, Rand Fishkin, is the person you need to partner with. Your audience might be much more novice and have no clue as to whom he is. Perhaps you’re better off looking for an influencer in the small business advice space.
If you have multiple audiences, you might need multiple social influencers for these varying demographics, so focus on your top selling audience first, and go from there.
Now that you have a clear idea of who your audience is influenced by, it’s time to find out how to find influencers. Luckily, there are several tools that can help you uncover your social media influencers, including…
Buzzsumo has their very own influencer suite that allows you to discover, follow, reach out, and analyze influencer data. They have a powerful search engine that allows you to find key influencers around topics and locations, and additional tools to help with your outreach efforts. Buzzsumo also allows you to export influencer data so you can use it in other platforms or for reporting purposes. Whether you’re trying to find influencers on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, this is a great tool.
While Buzzsumo is not a free platform, they do offer a 7-day free trial so it is definitely worth taking advantage of that to see how influential their tool is to you.
Followerwonk is a Moz product that is completely free! This tool will allow you to discover influencers on Twitter by searching for Twitter profiles or Twitter bios with keywords. You can also further customize your search by adding a location, name, or URL.
The search results will provide a list of Twitter influencers along with their number of tweets, followers, how many people they’re following, their account age, and social authority.
Followerwonk also allows you to build a list of potential influencers to engage with. Keep organized by using Twitter lists to track these influencers and stay on top of your engagement efforts.
My favorite social media management platform, Hootsuite, also provides a free influencer tool to use their search streams to discover social media influencers by monitoring relevant conversations. How cool is that? You can then make a Twitter list through the platform and save them into an easily trackable stream to begin your engagement efforts.
If Instagram is your audience’s platform of choice, then this is the app for you! TrendSpottr is an app created by the masterminds over at Hootsuite that helps you spot the trends (including the trending influencers)!
Photos, video, and influencers for any tag or topic can be discovered through the app, and there are also tools to engage with key influencers, see which hashtags are trending, select lists of popular tags, and share trending posts. TrendSpottr also won’t break the bank, at only $4.99/month!
You probably haven’t heard of this last one (kidding), but just doing some plain old Google research is also a good place to start finding the social influencers in your industry. Researching your audience’s interests will likely lead to LinkedIn groups, Reddit conversations, or popular blogs or websites that your audience frequently visits. Dig in and discover who your influencers are by using the most powerful search engine around.
So what now? Well that leads us to…
Now that you’ve found the right influencers, how can you get them interested in you? Here are a few tips to influence your influencers.
The first thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to sloppily start messaging, retweeting, and sharing every one of your target influencer’s posts. When they see you’ve “liked” 25 of their Instagram posts from 2015, they are more likely to be creeped out than flattered.
Rather, make sure to put some strategic thinking and planning behind your initial outreach efforts, and allow your first message to simmer for a moment. There is no need to turn into an overly eager salesperson.
In fact, here’s one way to make this outreach process feel even less salesy…
There are tons of online conversations going on through various platforms, and if you’re truly pursuing a social media influencer, then this individual absolutely participates in many of these conversations. How could they be an influencer by just keeping to themselves? Whether it be on Reddit, LinkedIn Groups, or niche webinars, you should be able to find where your influencers hang out online, and then you can conveniently start hanging out there too.
For instance, Twitter chats are a great place to make your existence known to your social media influencers. These are conversations on Twitter that occur at the same time each week, and are organized by a common hashtag.
For example, there’s a #SmallBizChat, which takes place on Wednesday evenings at 8PM EST. Typically chats are led by one designated individual who provides questions to keep the conversation moving. The great thing about this strategy is that you can join these conversations, lightly participate, and as time goes on your social media influencer targets will start recognizing your Twitter handle. Then, when you actually do reach out it won’t feel random, and your social influencer will be much more likely to respond.
There are Twitter chats for virtually every industry. If you don’t believe me, check out this extensive list!
Yet, there’s one way of reaching out to social media influencers that tops all others…
Nothing tops making a real, human connection. You might be shrugging and thinking, but these are SOCIAL MEDIA people. Well, yes, I’m aware we live in a world where people often walk into inanimate objects due to texting while walking, but there will always be something to say for real human interaction. Whether or not you personally enjoy it, study after study has proven that interacting in person is far more impactful then communicating online.
So, should you just show up at your influencer’s doorstep with a 45-slide PowerPoint presentation on how you could partner together? Absolutely not! Rather, if your influencer is local, keep an eye on their social feeds to see the industry events they tweet about. Register for those same events, and try to make a natural human connection.
Come prepared with an idea of what you’d like to say, but make sure to listen and ask your influencers questions about themselves (people love talking about themselves!). Keep the initial interaction light, and exchange business cards so you can reach out later on. Someone is much more likely to respond to a nice individual they met at a networking event over a random LinkedIn message.
While it is probably not worth taking a flight to connect with an influencer in person, if it just so happens that your influencer is going to an event a few blocks from your house, then why not make the effort to meet in person?
You should treat reaching out to a social media influencer the same way you treat finding a new job. Use the people you know to get connected the people you want to know!
This isn’t a groundbreaking strategy, but it is one you might not have thought of. Search through your social media influencer’s friends and see if you have any mutual connections. Chances are the world is smaller than you think, and working in the same industry, you likely do! Then reach out to the person you have in common and ask them to make an introduction. This will ensure your social media influencer doesn’t feel caught off-guard by a miscellaneous reach out.
Last but not least, it is critical to track and manage your outreach efforts to ensure you’re not either overbearing or forgetting about your social media influencers. Since you’re likely reaching out to influencers at various times, it is important to keep tabs on your outreach dates and times, methods, success and/or failure of these attempts to ensure you’re making the best effort to engage with, but not annoy these individuals.
With this type of due diligence, attention to detail, and persistence in your outreach efforts, your social media influencers will be ready to engage right back in no time.
So, what now?
Now that you’ve made friends with your social media influencers, the time has come to leverage them to grow your audience. The thing to remember here is that these relationships need to be treated like your most treasured personal relationships in a sense. For instance, if a colleague asked you to grab drinks after work every few Fridays, but you never asked her to hang out outside of the office, do you think your friendship would stay intact? Absolutely not! She would stop asking, and your relationship would remain strictly professional.
So, you should ask social media influencers out for drinks? Well, not exactly. Rather you need to provide your influencers with some type of value-add on your end rather than just asking them for favor after favor. For instance, let’s say you want your influencer to write a guest post for your blog; offer to write a post for their blog in return. Or partner with them on something they’re interested in doing (which would likely benefit both parties).
So, what types of things can you collaborate on with your newly engaged social media influencers? Here are a few ideas to try!
This is a great and fun way to partner with a social media influencer and grow both of your audiences simultaneously! You may have run some of your own giveaways in the past. Perhaps you ran a promotional giveaway for a shopping holiday like Black Friday. While these are great and all, if you partnered with one of your social media influencers on a contest you could not only reduce your efforts, but double, triple, or even quadruple the number of email entries you receive!
As a foodie and nutrition graduate student, I follow a number of nutritional bloggers on Instagram, and one thing I notice is that they’re constantly doing these joint co-marketing campaigns (and convincing me to try and follow new products).
Take this example of an Instagram giveaway from one of my favorite nutrition foodies, Rachael’s Good Eats, who partnered with the nut butter bar company, Perfect Bar. Perfect Bar and Rachael teamed up to promote each other, and run a fun giveaway where Rachael had contestants simply like, comment, and follow Perfect Bar, and the winners received three free boxes of the snack bar. And man, am I disappointed I didn’t win!
Check out Rachael’s post – with over 10,000 likes! Clearly a success for both parties. Rachael also benefited with some love from Perfect Bar, which you can see in their post below.
Ok, fair warning – this idea comes with a bit more strategic planning and hard work, but it can really work wonders. Build something together! Whether it be a physical product or an app, creating a real, purchasable item together will tie you to your social media influencer for a much longer time, and guarantee that you’ll be gaining attention not just from your audience, but from theirs as well, on an ongoing basis.
A great example would be beauty brands collaborating with social media influencers on limited-edition products that the influencers can then promote to their large audiences on YouTube, Instagram, etc. Take Kathleen Lights, who has 2 million Instagram followers and 3.6 million YouTube subscribers. She collaborated with the small makeup brand Colourpop to create an eye shadow palette, and as you can see her audience is loving it.
Perhaps you’re not quite ready to take the step into product creation with your social media influencers. Not to worry, there are easier ways to partner with your influencers and break the ice before diving into a full-out revenue-generating partnership. Co-hosting an industry event is a great way to form a stronger relationship with a new influencer and bring both of your companies together to share a drink and strengthen the bond.
Take the example below of a re-occurring tech event that occurs in Boston, is co-hosted by the Boston startups Appcues and Wistia. Drunk User Testing is where Boston techies get together to have a few too many drinks, try out new software features, and provide candid feedback on various beta features (the drinks help with the candid part). While this isn’t really a lead generating partnership, it starts to form the relationship, provide a place to swap ideas, and strengthen the bond between the two companies.
So you’ve built a bond with a social media influencer who happens to work for a company that fits very well with yours. Perhaps you own a golf course and your social media influencer sells golf clothing. This presents a great opportunity to run a special discount together. Who doesn’t love a good discount? And if your social media influencer incentivizes their website visitors to buy a round of golf at your course for a 25% discount on a new golf outfit, why would they turn this down?
West Elm, a modern e-commerce furniture company, does this well! West Elm partnered with delivery mattress company, Leesa, to incentivize people to buy Leesa Mattresses for not only a 15% discount on their new mattress, but also $50 off their next West Elm purchase. Both companies benefit due to a wider audience being exposed to their products or offerings.
Last, but definitely not least – if you’re in a B2B industry it might not make sense to design a product together or provide large discounts, but what may work better is co-hosting a webinar or video series. This is a nice inbound marketing approach to teaming up with a social media influencer on a regular basis to swap ideas and grow each other’s lead generation efforts.
For example, way back in the day WordStream partnered with Moz founder Rand Fishkin on a content marketing webinar. Larry Kim and Rand Fishkin are both influencers in the online marketing space, but with slightly different specialties, and this partnership allowed them each to reach a different but relevant audience.
Feeling inspired? Then get out there and make best friends with all of your social media influencer crushes! The potential to expand your business to new heights with these relationships is so high, and this guide should help set you on the road to influencer marketing success.
Margot is a content marketing specialist at WordStream and nutrition graduate student at Framingham State. She loves all things digital, learning about nutrition, running, traveling, and cooking.
See other posts by Margot Whitney
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