Influencer marketing isn’t a new concept: it’s a known, timeless marketing force of nature. But digital ecosystems can sometimes make processes feel overcomplicated. Should you tweet or email influencers when you write about them? How aggressive should you be when asking someone to share a blog post that you’ve written? How do you keep influencers engaged for the long haul?
If only someone could sit down and write a definitive ‘etiquette’ guide with detailed answers for every question. The challenge, however, is that the answers aren’t always straightforward. Every person, company, and industry has its own systems for best practices.
But there are some universal process optimization tips that can help the influencer outreach process feel less nebulous, confusing, or awkward. Here are a five tips to keep in mind when planning your strategy.
1. Strive to build lasting, long-term relationships with leaders in your industry
Influencer marketing isn’t a PR stunt; the brand-building benefits should be secondary to your core strategy. Your ultimate end goal should be to build relationships with leaders in your field.
Focus on creating a platform for influencers to reach members of their target audiences. To see this idea in action, take a look at Teachable, a company that sells SaaS software for courses. The company uses its blog to feature interviews with expert instructors in their fields:
The value proposition to influencers is that Teachable is connecting them with new audiences. Meanwhile, Teachable becomes a resource for valuable stories.
2. Don’t be superficial with your outreach
Many marketers are under pressure to launch campaigns quickly. As a result, they may cut corners—for instance, by creating an “influencer marketing strategy” that involves a few click-to-tweet buttons and interesting quotes.
While these tactics do have the potential to be effective, they need to be a part of an end-to-end process. Your readers want a cohesive, interesting story, and your influencers want to hear an interesting value proposition (i.e. more exposure, the opportunity to communicate their stories in a different way, an outlet for reaching a new audience).
Instead of citing an existing secondary source, conduct an original interview with a new angle. When your blog post launches, don’t just tweet the people featured; reach out with a ‘thank you’ email, with friendly sharing instructions.
Position your brand as a strong collaborative platform. You never know what relationship-building opportunities may come up later Consider the case of Greats Brand, a luxury men’s shoe line, as an example. In addition to influencers endorsing the products, the company partners with athletes to design core product lines.
Influencers who genuinely like your brand will want to support your growth. Use your influencer marketing strategy as an opportunity to build a rapport with individuals who may become a bigger part of your brand down the line
3. Offer a strong value proposition to the influencers that you bring into your community
If there’s one thing influencers have in common, it’s that they’re busy. Talented as they are, their time is high in demand–it’s up to them to pick and choose how to spend it. That’s why your company needs to offer a strong value proposition to your influencers. Here are a few ideas to help you come up with the right approach to pitch your idea:
- Give your influencers the opportunity to be part of your brand’s story. Provide an explanation around your mission and vision to show how you align and why it’s important for you to join forces. Share your founding story, and describe how your company aligns with your influencers’ values. Successful people often want to give back to their communities and will be open to hearing your recommendations.
- Help your influencers expand their reach. If you’ve built an extensive brand community, offer to share the content that you produce together. You may even consider co-branding a marketing initiative or sharing your email lists for lead generation purposes. Bonus points if you’re able to help your influencers tap into a new audience.
- Help them share an interesting story. Influencers often have messages that they want to promote but may lack a channel to do so. Offer up your brand as vehicle for them to tell an untold story or teach a valuable concept that they haven’t been able to do in other forums. Give them a resource that they can share within their own communities, too.
For inspiration, take a look at the ‘Ask Me Anything’ (AMA) feature on GrowthHackers.com. This SaaS company, featuring a community of talented marketers from around the world, regularly hosts virtual events with experts to answer questions. In exchange for sharing their knowledge, AMA guests reach a new audience of growth marketers from around the world.
When reaching out to influencers, answer the question “What’s in it for me?” right off the bat.
4. Don’t limit your strategy to already-visible people
Remember that influence comes in all shapes and sizes: it’s not always the person with the biggest Twitter following that has the best story to tell. Instead of focusing on the same people everyone else is targeting, look for influencers in hidden corners.
For instance, you could seek out a founder with an unknown company but high-value customers. Chances are, this person likely has a private email list or strong referral network. Or, you could reach out to an individual who seems to be an educator in a particular field.
Not every human being wants to spend time on Twitter, having conversations with people in 140-characters or less. Many people prefer to be lurkers, maintaining relationships one-to-one. Others prefer to share knowledge outside of the realm of social media.
Look beyond mainstream media to find individuals with unique, interesting stories. Your audience will enjoy their unique perspective, and your influencer will appreciate the opportunity to have a valuable message to share with his or her own community.
5. Give your influencers structure
If you mention an influencer in a blog post, webinar, or tweet, don’t expect him or her to automatically reciprocate. Offer up a little structure: for instance, if you’d like your influencers to tweet an upcoming co-branded webinar with your company, supply some suggested web copy, along with some recommendations on how many times to tweet about it and what hashtags to leverage.
Your influencers are busy people. While they’re happy to help, they don’t live and breathe influencer marketing like you do (that is, of course, unless they’re influencers in the space of influencer marketing). They need you to take the reigns and show them exactly what steps to take.
Remember that at the end of the day, you and your influencer are after the same goals. Don’t be shy, and don’t worry that you’re asking too much. Of course, you don’t want to bombard your influencers with too many requests. So don’t be pushy — make some of your emails optional to read. Condense essential steps into a set of short, concrete, and easy-to-follow instructions.
Success with influencer marketing doesn’t just happen. A successful strategy requires a process of careful planning and practice. Every person who you introduce to your brand will have different goals and objectives. Don’t assume that you know what your influencers want: ask questions to make sure that you’re headed in the right direction.