Are you itching to discover how to use influencer marketing in your social media strategy?
You’re not alone.
This may be the MOST POWERFUL marketing weapon you’ll ever wield.
But before I load you up with actionable influencer marketing ammo, let me take you on a little trip into Ancient Rome.
It's 140 AD. The legendary Gaius Appuleius Diocles is at the height of his chariot-racing career. He's fast. He's ferocious. He's an ancient-day Michael Schumacher, with a whopping 1,400 victories under his ever-expanding belt.
But like the Formula One racers of today, he's not just competing for the fun of it.
He earns a chariot-load of cash every race, through sponsorship. The Roman equivalent of 15 billion dollars over his entire career in fact – in exchange for his representation and endorsement of prominent local businesses.
Because Gaius is a hero. He has status.
He has influence.
By aligning with him, the businesses of Rome can expose their brands and offerings to his colossal fanbase. And by gaining Gaius’ endorsement, these companies can win the trust of the gazillion Roman citizens who worship the floor he rides on.
Why the brief history lesson, you ask?
Because this was a case of influencer marketing, in its infancy.
Fast forward to 2016 and social media has changed the face of marketing as we once knew it.
It allows companies of any size to instantly connect with target prospects worldwide, with the mere twitch of a finger.
And more importantly (for the sake of this blog post at least), it allows you to easily communicate with the influencers in your industry. The celebrities of your sphere. The modern day Gaiuses.
It makes influencer marketing accessible to all of us.
THIS is the concept that led to the transformation of my company, The Creative Copywriter.
I first discovered its enormous power just 2 years ago. And it was the foundation on which I built an extremely successful, bottom-line-boosting social media strategy for my business. And subsequently, for our clients.
Are you ready for me to reveal my secrets?
The more you read of this blog post, the more you'll understand exactly how to use influencer marketing in your social media strategy. And you'll soon have a pocket-full of powerful, actionable tactics that you can start putting into practice TODAY.
How to Use Influencer Marketing in Your Social Media StrategyHow to Use Influencer Marketing in Your #SocialMedia Strategy - http://bit.ly/1UqIzpk (by @KonradSanders on @PostPlanner)Click to Tweet
Who are influencers and how can they help your social media strategy?
According to BusinessDictionary.com, influencers are "individuals who have the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of their (real or perceived) authority, knowledge, position or relationship."
They are the celebrities of the digital world. The thought-leaders of your sphere. Each with tens to hundreds of thousands of devout social media followers, eagerly awaiting their updates. And tens to hundreds of thousands of blog readers, hanging on their every word.
Now imagine if someone with such incredible influence over your target audience shared your blog post on their Facebook page. Or retweeted one of your tweets. Imagine if they involved you in a Twitter chat about a hot industry topic. Or publicly endorsed your new product or service.
And let's say you'd built an actual relationship with this influencer – a friendship even – and they did all of the above regularly.
Sounds pretty powerful, doesn’t it?
Then get your noggin round this:
With the tactics I'm about to reveal, you could build the above relationship with not just one of these power influencers – but a hundred. With the potential combined social media following of over 2 million!
Starting to understand how valuable influencer marketing could be to your social media strategy?
Then keep on reading.
Here comes the juicy part...
10 Steps to Influencer Marketing Success
1. Identify Your Influencers
First thing's first. Identify the influential players in your ballgame.
- By using tools like Klout, Kred, Traackr, Followerwonk, Little Bird or Buzzsumo.
- By paying attention to the Forbes top influencer lists.
- By Googling 'top [insert your industry] influencers’.
This valuable post by Lee Odden will quench your influencer-finding queries. And then some.
If your company offers a range of services or products, and you abide by Neal Schaffer's content bucket philosophy of sharing content (which you can learn about in his book: Maximize Your Social), then you might want to identify 3 or 4 different lists of influencers.
For The Creative Copywriter, for example, the services we offer fit snugly into 4 overarching buckets; branding, copywriting, content marketing and social media. Thus the content we choose to create and curate remains faithful to those 4 topic areas.
And likewise, the influencers that we have identified, segregated and done our darndest to build relationships with are experts in those very same four fields.
I reached out to Branding badasses like Bernadette Jiwa. Copywriting queens like James Chartrand. Content marketing masters like Joe Pulizzi. And social media megastars like Diana Adams and the rest of the lovable Post Planner possy.
Now pause for a moment. And stroke your chin pensively...
Which types of influencers would you love to have on your side?
Are there any individuals that spring to mind right off the bat?
Do your research. Compile a list of 30 - 50 influencers according to your company's content buckets. And then...
2. Segregate and Separate Your Lists
The influencers you've mushroom-picked are very special people.
You'll be giving them a whole heap of love and attention over the next umpteen months or years. So let's make sure their content and comments don't get swallowed by a sea of promotional marketing tweets or "here are 20 more pics of my awesome holiday" Facebook updates.
By following them all on each relevant platform (step 1), then separating them from the masses (step 2).
Twitter has an invaluable list-building feature. Just click on the ‘Lists’ tab on your profile dashboard, then ‘Create New List’, like so:
Call it “[your industry] influencers/experts/gurus/masters/rockstars” -- or whatever other creative synonym you can muster up at the time. Then add your chosen thought-leaders to it by:
- Visiting their profile.
- Clicking on the ‘more user actions’ tab (the cog-like icon).
- Selecting 'Add or remove from lists’.
And voila! Your Twitter influencer list is good to go.
You can then view a thread with only their updates – avoiding the noise and constant marketing dribble that likely swamps your home feed all the bloody time.
This will be super handy when it comes to steps 3 to 10.
PS. If you're lucky, someone in your circle may have created the perfect – or near perfect – influencer list already. In that case, copy it and save yourself a heckload of time. Yoink!
Facebook doesn't have an equivalent list-building feature, but you can follow and interact with other pages as your business page. If you only follow valuable influencers' pages (from your company page, NOT your personal profile) then your home feed will only populate with valuable influencers' updates.
This will give you the perfect stomping ground for schmoozing them.
Google+ works like Twitter. Create separate 'circles' for your influencer lists. And if you don't know how, this post by Kristi Hines will reveal all.
If you play the follow/unfollow game on Twitter or Google+ for fast growth, then make sure to whitelist your influencers. You certainly don’t want to unfollow a powerful ally purely because they haven’t honored you with a follow-back yet.
It will take time and a bit of hard graft to grab their attention and earn their respect. So have patience my friend.
Great. Now you're ready to....
3. Build a Memorable, Valuable Profile
Here's the thing,
Influencers tend to have A LOT of fans and followers. Hence the classification.
This means they see shedloads of tiny profile pics and gravatars every single day. Hundreds, if not thousands, every week.
You’ll need to stand out from the crowd if you want them to take heed.
Be the pixie among orks. The flower among weeds. The diamond among gravel.
By making sure your social media profiles are uniquely and distinctly branded, gloriously memorable and dripping with value from every orifice.
When the social media and content marketing influencers on my list saw my memorably distinct, vintage, circular profile pic cropping up on their Twitter notification feed daily, they took notice.
I stood out.
And after clicking through to my profile – where they found a value-packed thread of carefully curated content and pearls of branded, copywriting wisdom – they thought to themselves; “hmmm, this guy knows his onions. He’s worth paying attention to”.
This is the effect that you should be shooting for.
And in order to do so, ask yourself these questions:
- How can you make your profile pic and gravatar memorably different, yet in tune with your core brand identity and values?
- Should your profile pic be a face or a company logo (hint: influencers are more likely to build relationships with real people, but if you’re a well-established brand already, the latter may be wiser).
- What can you do with the rest of your profile to reinforce that potent, memorable brand identity?
- What branded, valuable and/or entertaining imagery can you post on a daily basis to strengthen it further? You know, stuff like this:
(but aligned with your brand identity, not mine).
It’s time to get a-chin-stroking. These posts should give you a splash of inspiration while you’re at it:
How to Design Social Media Images for Brand Recognition (Social Media Examiner)
The 10 Elements of a Successful Social Media Profile (Kissmetrics)
4. Make 'em Laugh. And be Real.
It doesn't matter how prestigious they are. Influencers are people, like you and me.
And people like to laugh.
If you want to develop real relationships with influencers in social media, then be a real person.
Be social. Be friendly. Be funny. Be honest. Be relatable. And treat them like you would your bestest pals.
Keep your eyes peeled for any influencer updates that are a little more personal, and a little less corporate. You know – "just had the best cup of coffee ever", "happy weekend everyone" or "my daughter just graduated high school!" - that kinda stuff.
That's your chance to chime in with a witty (or super nice) response, as you would with one of your mates.
How often should you strike?
As much as possible. Without crossing over into ‘stalkery’ or just plain flippant territory. You'll have to have a little tact in order to get the balance right. You know, like in real life social situations.
Aaron Lee vowed to chat to at least 5 Twitter users every single day since he started his social media marketing journey. He now has close to 500,000 followers... Why not take a leaf out of his legendary book?
But whatever you do, keep your social media updates firmly on-brand.
I.e. Don't say things like 'fur shizzle ma' nizzle' if you're representing a well-respected law firm. Comprende?
5. Help Your Influencers Out. A lot.
'You Scratch My Back I Scratch Yours' is how influencer marketing works, in a nutshell.
The more good deeds you do for your influencers, the better the chances of them a) noticing you and b) feeling inclined to help you back (at some point or other).
So share their blog posts and vlog episodes across all your social media channels, constantly.
Retweet their valuable tweets. Re-share their insightful Facebook updates. Endorse their new books publicly. Pick out pearls of wisdom from their articles and turn them into quotes, always making sure to tag them, like this:
And while you're there, leave long, insightful comments under their blog posts which a) reveal what you loved about them, b) add more value and in-depth analysis, establishing you as a fellow industry thought-leader, and c) encourage the influencer to engage in some good old back and forth with you. Maybe even some jocular banter.
After months of love and attention, they'll associate your little branded profile pic and gravatar with value, respect and hopefully a smidgen of friendship too.
And what's the beauty of this strategy?
It works two fold. Curating your influencer's content will not only get you well and truly in their good books. It'll also turn your social channels into value-packed, industry-relevant streams of content. The kind of juicy streams your target audience will just lap up!
And don't forget…
6. Flattery Will Get You Everywhere
Who can resist a dash of flattery every now and then? Especially when done publicly...
They're just as susceptible to charm and compliments as us regular folk. Particularly those who we might class as industry thought-leaders, but haven’t quite achieved that Brangelina level of fame yet. (Which is why you should target mid-level influencers as well as the big dogs).
So give them public 'shout outs' across your social media platforms. Like these:
On Facebook and Google+ you can tag people (and pages) too. But with a larger word count to play with, why not fire out a longer list once in awhile? Like so:
Again, this tactic is a double-pronged attack. It will...
- Get you on your influencer's radar.
- Benefit your followers by directing them to valuable, must-know experts and brands in your field.
Now it’s time to...
7. Ask Them Questions. Straight up.
This little trick worked wonders for my brand.
The main aim: to engage influencers in discussions. And by doing so, pump a load of fuel into your influencer marketing engine. The secondary aim: to get world-class answers to your genuine niggling industry questions.
By tagging a few big names in, you're more likely to get a response than if you just ask a single influencer. Unless you've already built a solid enough relationship with them.
Here's an example:
In this case, if I’d just said, “@NeilPatel - can epic blog posts increase your bounce rate?’ it may well have been too forthright. Verging on rude, even.
But by addressing multiple ‘masters’, and playing the flattery card again, you're much more likely to spur a discussion.
Because humans like to follow trends. That's just how our brains are wired. If EVERYONE is doing something, we can’t help but want to be a part of it.
In the case of thought-leaders, they’re much more likely to get involved if grouped together with other big names. So get name-dropping. And influencer-tagging. With any luck you’ll end up in a heated debate with the world’s top experts in your industry. Regularly.
...which of course will raise your profile tremendously.
Keep this psychological trick in mind when asking influencers to contribute to list posts on your blog via email. Be specific about the other big names you’re reaching out to, and it’ll be far easier to persuade them to follow suit.
8. Keep Nudging Them to Share
Getting influencers to contribute to your blog (like in this expert list post or this awesome interview post) will obviously boost your profile, credibility and blog traffic. But what’s in it for them?
No matter who you are, being referenced as an expert or influencer boosts your reputation.
Everyone loves a bit of free promotion. And the easier you make it for a busy influencer to broadcast their expertise with just a click or two, the more likely they are to do it – and the wider your net will be cast.
First up, email them directly (if you can) or send them a private message with a link to the finished piece, telling them that it’s live and asking them kindly to share it with their followers.
Make it clear you’re reaching out to them directly to involve them in the process, instead of just piggybacking on their expertise.
This means they can frame their involvement however they want. It’s a helluva lot more polite than firing something at them, publicly, out of the blue.
Once you’ve established a connection, don’t stop there.
When you tweet the blog post or share it via any other social media channels, make sure you tag, mention or thank the influencer by name. That way, they can just hit the RT or Share button without having to think about it - instantly growing your reach.
It’s such a simple step… that many people overlook.
So, to recap:
Email them first. Then post updates about your collaborative piece of content across your social media platforms; each time making sure to tag them in it. With any luck, you’ll get the same piece of content shared multiple times by each influencer, and thus expose the same piece of content multiple times to their ginormous audiences.
And here’s another trick...
9. Drip Feed That Influencer Wisdom
Dropping in sharp, smart quotes from top voices in your field is a perfect way to bolster each point in your social media updates and blog content. And to strengthen your influencer marketing efforts.
Savvy marketing strategist, Gregory Ciotti (from Sparring Mind), calls this The Drip Technique.
You simply “drip” in features throughout the piece, grabbing quotes and excerpts from personalities with your ideal audience and putting them in where appropriate. -Gregory Ciotti
See what I did there?
This was an example of The Drip Technique in action. I dropped in a valuable, relevant quote from a top industry expert (Gregory), which supported my point. You can apply the same technique to your social media updates and other content channels.
Again, it’s all about adding irresistible value to individuals that you want onside.
Think about it from their perspective.
Producing regular content and new ideas to share on social media is hard graft. But if someone takes a little of that pressure off by repurposing your words and crediting you properly for it, you get to add that to your output at no extra effort, while at the same time basking in the glory of being a quotable expert.
Perhaps it’s even a good excuse to re-post or retweet the original content the quote came from, letting you milk the moment even more.
And, of course, the more influencer wisdom you drip feed through your blog post, the more social media shout outs you can make. And the more conversations you have an excuse to start with people you admire.
And, by tagging and mentioning all of these influencers alongside a link to the post, the more potential retweets or re-shares you can bag.
10. Get the Best Minds on Board. And Collaborate.
When considering how to use influencer marketing in your social media strategy, you might be thinking that the best approach is to ask for as little as you possibly can.
And sure, as I’ve said, anything that makes their involvement smoother and easier is going to win you brownie points.
But as it happens, asking for a tiny tidbit is not necessarily the most effective way to engage someone you really respect.
We humans place more value on the things that take us more effort.
It’s natural. We can’t help it.
A whole bunch of studies by the amazing behavioural economist Dan Arierly have shown that, first of all, we’re hard wired to place higher value on things that we’ve created ourselves or have become deeply involved in – we can’t stand to see them wasted.
Secondly, once we’ve committed to doing something, it physically pains us not to see it through.
And thirdly, contrary to what you might expect, if you really want to secure someone’s loyalty, getting them to do you a favor is more effective than offering to do them a favour.
The psychological reasons behind this are kind of complicated, but it boils down to this: the more emotionally invested you are in something, the more effort you’ll put into making it a success.
And, of course, the more time, energy and attention you give something, the greater your emotional investment.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you call a stranger out of the blue and demand that they clear out their schedule to accommodate your next big project.
If you come on too strong with no context or connection, you’re likely to get shot down.
But what I would say is this:
The more you get an influencer to collaborate on your project, the more emotionally invested they will feel.
If you can get them to contribute more than just a pre-packaged quote -- if you can get them to pitch in ideas, direction, creativity, to help develop a project instead of just ticking a box -- you won’t just get a better piece of content to share, you’ll also have a much stronger ally when you come to making it a success on social media.
So have a good hard think about what kind of social media collaboration or joint-content-piece could get the people you’re talking to excited about chipping in.
Perhaps you’re interviewing them on a podcast or video, giving them a chance to really show off their views and expertise. Perhaps you’re running a joint webinar, or a Twitter Q&A. Perhaps you’re profiling them in an eBook -- or even sharing the writing duties and giving them credit.
The more you make it clear that you’re deferring to their wisdom and giving them free rein to be the expert, and the more you allow them to pour themselves into the project, the closer they will feel to the result.
Then, when it comes to promoting and distributing the content on social media, the more help you’ll have in getting it out there.
And, of course, the closer your collaboration, the more your audience will start to see you and the thought leaders you admire as peers and colleagues, allowing you to bask in the reflective glory of their success as well as your own.
So don’t be shy.
Reach out to the best minds in your field, offer them a shared platform, and make yourself part of their tribe.
Go get ‘em tiger!