One of the most important things you can do on social media is to build strong, lasting relationships with your community. In order to accomplish this you’ll need assistance from outside your business. There are individuals willing to help you in that process, they’re social media influencers.

Social media influencers can drive engagement and word-of-mouth communication to your brand at a higher rate than standard organic methods.

There are two main issues though when it comes to identifying someone as an “influencer.”

One issue is that you don’t want to deem them with that title just because they have thousands of followers. The second issue is you may not know what to look for that classifies someone as an influencer.

There must to be a middle ground toward influencer marketing. It starts with you understanding the goals of your brand and what the influencer will accomplish. Creating goals and outlining each party’s responsibilities, possibly including it in a social media proposal, is essential to see results.

We’ll discuss how to identify social media influencers and also how to team up with them to further your reach.


How to Identify Social Media Influencers

What defines an influencer for your brand? There are certain things an influencer must have in order to pass the test. Here are three key criteria to look for when identifying them.

  • Context: An influencer differs for every brand because they’re contextually fit. This is the most important characteristic when targeting the right influencers for your brand. For example, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has been one of the most “influential” social media users with over 100 million followers. But, would his post about your software really bring in sales? Exactly, so defining context is the key.
  • Reach: After you establish someone as being contextually fit for your brand, you’ll want them to have a solid reach. That way they can share their content or positive recommendation in a manner that actually will be heard. For example, if you were to get Gordon Ramsey to do a shoutout for your restaurant saying its one of the best places he’s ever eaten, that would go a long way.
  • Actionability: If your targeted influencer is contextually aligned with your brand and has a far enough reach, then they’ll be able to cause action by their audience.

Influencers don’t force themselves upon their audiences. They are an “opt-in” network so if they’re not sold on your products/services, neither will their audiences.

Loyalty is a huge advantage when it comes to influencers giving shoutouts/recommendations to their audiences. They’ll soak up recommendations like a dry sponge


Where to Look for Your Ideal Influencer

There are countless of ways you can find your ideal influencer. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, blogs, and the list goes on. Monitoring social media and searching for bloggers are two great starting points.

Social Monitoring

Social media monitoring allows you to find influencers who advocate for the genre or niche you have outlined. For example, someone may post heavily about sporting gear but not mention your website as an awesome place to buy sporting gear. Well, this is someone you want to engage with and expose your brand to.

By tuning in to your social media mentions and blog posts about your brand, you will find influencers and advocates you didn’t realize you had.

  • Social Mentioning: Mentions allow you to type in your company’s name to discover mentions on different outlets. There’s software out there that can help you keep up with social mentions: Buzzsumo, Klout, TweettReach, just to name a few.
  • Follow Hashtags: Identify the hashtags that your target influencers are using. For my company, I follow #socialmediamarketing and #influencer. By tuning in to the conversations surrounding these hashtags, I’ve identified active talkers in these categories. Once you start finding influencers that seem like a good fit for your brand, I recommend putting them in a Twitter list so that you can organize and follow them most effectively.
  • Google Alerts: You can set alerts for keywords pertaining to your brand to identify people who actively write about topics in your niche.
  • LinkedIn: Why not use LinkedIn to help find influencers? Enter specific keywords or phrases within the search box to pull up second-degree connections and those who are directly related to your search.
  • Twitter: Twitter’s advanced search options give you a lot of opportunity to reach specific audiences or find those who are addressing niche crowds in your industry.

Blogger Influence

Technorati has a report that shows us that 86% of influencers also operate at least one blog. Bloggers arguably have the strongest influence in the wheel of influencers. One of the bonuses of targeting bloggers is that they almost always are active across many social media platforms.

When locating influential bloggers for your brand, start by searching for blogs in your genre and find the niche(s) by reading through the posts to determine if they write about relevant post topics.

After making a list of the contextually relevant bloggers, then its time to locate their SEO stats and social media information to pinpoint the ones that equal the best reach for your brand.

Manually sorting through blogs to find all of the criteria that you outlined when you gave your influencer an image can take a long time. Luckily, there are a lot of really good blogger outreach tools out there to make this process easier.

There is a tool to cover every part of the spectrum. If you are a small business wanting to do minimal blogger outreach, then I’d recommend checking out Inkybee or BlogDash. Mid-high level firms who are going to be doing a lot of influencer targeting should check out GroupHigh or Buzz Stream.


You’ve Identified and Have a List, Now What?

Now that you’ve identified your ideal influencer, its time to reach out to them. Scary right? No!

Every great influencer relationship starts with a single email or direct message. Having the right outreach email/direct message can make or break your influencer campaign.

If you want to work with an influencer, you’ve got to have a memorable pitch. In this case, you’ll want to send an open-ended email to determine the influencer’s availability and rates.

Here’s an example Aaron Agius, director of Louder.Online, shared in Entrepreneur:

“Hi [name],

My name is [your name] from [company]. I’ve been following your blog since 2013.

You’re recent post [blog topic] really resonated with me. I thought it was something my audience would appreciate, so I shared it with my social media and email subscribers.

I wanted to get in touch with you to discuss [topic] further, and see if we can work on something similar together.

If you’re interested we can set up a phone call this week to discuss starting a collaboration that would bring value to both our audiences.

Best wishes,
[Your Name]”


Compensate Influencers

If someone is going to spout good things about your brand, they need to be compensated. It doesn’t have to be financially, but it can be, though. The point is you want your influencer to feel like there is something in it for them.

They are busy and most likely on the move so for them to stop what they’re doing to give you a shoutout/recommendation your products/services you should consider compensating them.


Six Ways to Compensate Influencers

Here are six ways to compensate the influencers you find for your brand:

  1. Financially: Can paying an influencer to recommend/shout out your brand really mean anything? If the passion for your brand is truly there, maybe this could be okay sometimes.
  2. Shout Outs: Sharing a post they write about you on your social media outlets will get more traffic to their site and make them feel important. Also, something as simple as a tweet that says “Thanks for the awesome shout out!” will do wonders.
  3. Pay-Per Sale/Lead: Traditionally known as an “affiliate marketing model,” this one presupposes ongoing payouts to the influencer — every time the visitors that they refer perform an action desired by the advertiser.
  4. Pay-Per Engagement: Using a cost per engagement model to align advertisers’ expectations and goals with influencer-driven performance. Example: a view of a video on YouTube, or a link click in an influencer’s Tweet about your product.
  5. Product Discounts/Giveaways: Offering a discount or giving them a product from your brand will really incentivize an influencer to keep talking about you.
  6. Commission: For influencers who are actively inserting themselves into conversations about your brand and bringing you sales, it’s not a horrible idea to give them some sort of commission.

There’s six ways to compensate influencers for investing their time and energy into marketing your brand, product, or service.


Influence On

Now that your ideal influencer isn’t so elusive and you know where to start looking for them, don’t let your outreach campaign relax when it comes to being tactful. Avoid messaging them and listing off all of the cool things about yourself and ask them to check out your brand.

Its critical that you keep your cool when it comes to contacting influencers. They can help direct your brand in the right direction.

Think about your social media influencer relationships for the long term. If you use or abuse your influencer relationships, it can come back to bite you in the worst way. With a little research and collaborative effort, you’re on your way to boosting your brand’s identity to new heights.

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