There’s barely anyone the sphere of social media influence doesn’t touch. With Facebook amassing more than 2.5 billion users, Instagram trailing not too far behind and LinkedIn growing in size each year, its reach keeps expanding.
Chances are that your target audience – everyone from a UI/UX designer fresh out of grad school to the VP of a high-profile investment firm – is already there, practically laid out on a platter so you can reach out to them. But the trouble with Facebook, Instagram or any other algorithm-based social media platform is that they operate on pay-to-play models for businesses and brands. So it can be difficult to increase your organic reach and be heard by your audience.
Teaming up with someone that already has the reach and credibility that you’re striving for, that is, an influencer, is an advantageous growth strategy you could use to establish yourself and then keep the momentum going. And that’s not all you stand to gain from influencer marketing.
Benefits of Influencer Marketing
With 93% of marketers experimenting with it, it’s safe to say that influencer marketing is something of a crowd favourite. But if you prefer not to trust the masses, here are just some of the reasons influencer marketing is so loved.
Influencer content bridges the gap between what consumers want to see and what brands want to show them. It’s great at improving brand awareness and connecting your brand with targeted customers. No matter how advanced your outreach campaigns are, you can’t reach every single person from your target audience on your own, so customer retention is extremely important. Everywhere you look, from data protection laws to ad blocking services, there’s a crackdown on collecting and using third-party cookies. So traditional ads are fast becoming a thing of the past.
Besides, consumers are growing increasingly tired of salesy messaging. If a whopping 95% of them want brands to cut down on salesy messaging and increase content from industry experts and influencers, don’t you think you should listen? There’s also the small matter of just how much people trust influencers over brands. And why wouldn’t they? Influencers are real and relatable – the best demand drivers you can ask for. Leveraging them to promote your brand doubles up as word-of-mouth marketing and increases your target audience’s likelihood to buy.
Think of it this way. Niche-specific influencers are already in touch with your ideal customer. Not just that, they look like them, talk like them, have the same problems as them. So when an influencer recommends a product or service saying it worked for them, their followers, for lack of a better word, follow them.
Smartly-strategized influencer content can give your lead generation strategy a boost by nurturing these leads or redirecting them to your social media account or website.
But social media influencers aren’t the easiest people to reach. With their massive following and regular collaboration requests, you can’t really be surprised if your attempt to slide into their DMs isn’t successful. So here’s a handy guide on doing it right:
Find relevant influencers and build a list
Influencers aren’t exactly rare to come by on social media. Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat – they’re all chock-full of influencers. But their voice might not be the right one for your message.
Sending out proposals and requests to every influencer that focuses on your industry, and working with whoever responds isn’t a sound strategy. Nor is getting dazzled by the number of followers they have.
You can segment them into lists based on their following, but that’s only the starting point. Are they a mega-influencer, a macro-influencer or a micro-influencer?
Use freemium tools like the ones Phlanx and Influencer Marketing Hub provide to find their engagement rate amongst other useful information.
If your influencer marketing campaign has a broader aim, say brand awareness, then take a look at metrics like clicks. Look at their conversion stats for sales, impressions for finding targeted leads and so on.
Get to work finding their contact information. Get good at managing your contacts’ phone numbers, email addresses, the like. If they’re serious about their work, they most likely have an email address for work collaboration displayed right under their bios. But some are more private, or maybe you found them through a secondary source – like a repost. In which case you’ll have to find their email address yourself. However, if you discovered them through a blog they wrote, use an author finder.
Engage with potential influencers before sending a pitch
You don’t just shove flyers and product purchase forms the first time you come into contact with your prospects, do you? There’s a reason it’s called a sales funnel, not a cliff. So use the same systematic approach when it comes to influencer outreach.
Steadily build your rapport with the influencers you want to work with using different channels. Interact with their Facebook or LinkedIn posts with appreciative comments and/or questions you might have.
Repost their posts if you think it’s something your followers would be interested in hearing. Participate in their Twitter polls. It shows the influencers that you’re genuinely appreciative of their content and according to an Onalytica report, there’s a good chance it might even land you a free collaboration.
Once the influencer has noticed you and/or engaged with you, don’t jump the gun and ask for a collaboration right away. Keep the conversation flowing naturally, so that they’re more likely to respond positively when you do approach them.
Craft a personalized pitch and optimize it for each platform
On popular platforms like Instagram, mega-influencers get multiple requests a day from people and brands they know nothing of. And it’s not that much easier to collaborate with a micro-influencer either. With their highly-engaged but compact set of followers, these influencers have much more to lose by partnering with a business they know little about. Anything pitchy – impersonal, self-centered, pushy – won’t work with them.
So here’s what you can do:
Reach out to them on a platform they use. If they’re more active on LinkedIn, connect with them there. Send them a message, and follow it up with a comment on one of their recent posts. That lengthy email can wait.
Make your greetings personal and appreciative. Prove to them that you chose them organically. Along with their name, showcase your awareness of their content and your recognition of its value.
Tell them who you are and what you do. Even if yours isn’t a very cluttered industry, they might not have heard of you before. So give them a little background, or resources like a product demo or free trial they can use to get to know you better. Get their inputs about your products or services before you ask them to collaborate.
Include a simple, clear CTA in your pitch. Is it a review you’re looking for? Or specially-generated content for your business? Spell it out for them.
If you’re asking them to create content, provide them with clear guidelines without cramping their creative liberty over their content. You can also simultaneously offer to set up a quick meeting to take them through the specifics.
Use the right conversation starters
Social media influencers are businesspeople, not philanthropists. As with all famous people, they probably have more than their fair share of freeloaders asking them for favours. So it’s very important to start off on the right foot.
Express in very certain terms how you can help them in return. While there has been a sizable increase in the number of brands compensating influencers in cash, if you don’t have the budget for it, or you’d rather take things slow, there are other options.
If it’s a simple request you’re making of them, like a quote or expert tip to include in your informative post or asking for a backlink, offer something simple in return – a free link or any other form of payment in kind. You can also offer free product sample(s) in exchange for a review.
Or show support through a weekly or monthly roundup of useful content created by some of them and post it on your account.
If they’re also active on another social media platform, but don’t have the same following that they do on their primary platform, you can offer to promote their content to get them some more eyeballs. Regular comments on their blog posts, or a review for their book on Amazon or Goodreads can also be a suitable method to compensate them.
Don’t limit yourself to only one channel
If you’ve sent them a direct message, or several, on LinkedIn, but haven’t heard back from them, it might be time to try contacting them on Facebook, or another channel. Most social media influencers engage with their audience across multiple platforms, so it’s not that difficult to reach out to them through a different mode.
Your earlier message(s) might simply have gone unnoticed, or not made enough of an impact, so you should try amplifying your message before moving on.
A lot of serious brand collaborations take place over email. So whether it’s an influencer you’re trying to contact, or their agency, you can send them an email. Just make sure to check it’s still functional and in use.
Sending email to invalid addresses impacts the performance of your whole campaign and decreseses the deliverability. Also, consider retracting an email if it was sent by mistake. Avoid using spammy language and techniques as influencers are aware of it and after accidentally opening a spam email they send it directly to a spam folder.
And lastly, but most importantly, believe in the power of follow-ups. If you’re doing mass outreach and don’t have the time to email each influencer individually, you can use Campaigns to set up a personalized sequence, schedule for your follow-ups and monitor response rates.
Even though influencer marketing is one of the most cost-effective methods of marketing, coming in neck-and-neck with email marketing, it’s still an up-and-coming tool. With the pace at which social media platforms evolve, it’s better to closely monitor the results of your influencer marketing campaign using KPIs aligned to your goals. You can also use a multi-channel approach and collaborate with different types of influencers to find the right mix for your business.
Irina Maltseva is Head of Marketing at Hunter. I enjoy working on inbound and product marketing strategies. In my spare time, I entertain my cat Persie and collect airline miles.