It’s a well-known fact in the social media marketing world, particularly in B2C marketing, that influencers can make or break a brand. According to Forbes, connected customers are more influential than ever, reaching more people than TV and print ads – and there’s no shame in providing the influencers with compensation. In fact, 60 percent of companies with a social media budget have provided influencers with cash, trips, gift cards, coupons, free products, and more to get the ball rolling. But before companies start sending out the goods, they need to identify the influencers to get the most out of their social media budget.
1. Start with a search
Influencers are nothing if not enthusiastic, and they are already blogging, tweeting, and instagramming about competing products and services. Identify the terms and hashtags they’re using in their posts. For example, a cosmetics company may want to not only search for their company’s name but competitor brands, in addition to terms like mascara or lip gloss.
There are plenty of free tools that can monitor social media on a basic level, such as setting up Google Alerts or working within one of the many social media management tools, like HootSuite or TweetDeck.
However, for the real heavy lifting, companies may want to invest in a social media monitoring tool that helps identify sentiment (whether the post is positive or negative) and scores influencers, such as Sysomos, Simply Measured or Traackr.
2. Determine the range of influence
Influence isn’t just about followers, fans, or the number of posts made about a particular topic. Influencers engage their audiences and are considered trusted authorities on their subjects. They are able to get their followers to take action and are often considered minor celebrities in their area of expertise. For example, a fitness blogger may not be a household name, but among fitness enthusiasts, she might be very well-known. She may have a very loyal following that clicks the links she provides in posts and purchases a certain brand of activewear because she promotes it.
Things to consider before identifying someone as an influencer are:
One mistake companies make is sending freebies to everyone with, say, a mommy blog, even though some of these mommy blogs are read by a very small circle of people and have very few interactions. Another red flag includes poorly written posts, as most companies want their brand ambassadors to reflect a certain image.
3. Start a conversation with the influencer
Just as most people wouldn’t walk up to strangers and immediately try to sell them products, immediately trying to be chummy with an influencer can backfire. Instead, brands need to approach influencers carefully, particularly lesser-known brands looking for help boosting their profiles.
According to Paul Gillin’s The New Influencers, influencers want a discussion, not a blind pitch. Brands need to learn not only about the influencer, but about the influencer’s audience. Only then can they tailor their pitches to resonate with the influencer, once the influencer has been identified.