Businesses are abuzz about influencer marketing. But what does "influencer marketing" mean? Do you have to contact Beyonce or Tom Brady to get involved? Or will any person do?
What Is Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing not a particularly new concept. People have been using famous personas to advertise brands and promote products at least since radio and TV because popular (and probably before).
The initial idea was that if someone your audience admires endorses your product or service, that offering is seen as "better" than its competitors. The audience trusts what famous people say. In fact, they may not even realize that those famous people were paid to say something nice about your offerings.
Today, however the word "influencer" has taken on a different meaning and influencer marketing can be used in more subtle ways. For example, you can:
Have an influencer with a small but loyal following include your product in an Instagram post or write about your offering in an article.
Include an influencer in an article you write, let the influencer know that he or she is mentioned, and hope that person will advertise the post on his or her social media channels.
Invite an influencer to speak in a webinar so you will get more people signing up for the event.
What Makes A Good Influencer?
Influencers in this day and age encompass a broad range of people. Anyone in your market with a solid reputation and following can be considered an influencer. Influencers can include:
Your customers - Their testimony adds weight to the trustworthiness of your offerings.
Your employees - Their knowledge strengthens your validity as a business.
Third parties - Third-party validation through market experts, media persona, or consultants offers an unbiased point of view that can bring new audiences to your business or underscore your philosophy or offerings.
These influencers don't have to have hundreds of thousands of followers (hence the reason they are sometimes called "micro influencers"). That said, they do have to have the right followers.
For example, if you are looking to bring in a marketing-related crowd or people who are interested in equality in the workplace, I'd be a good person to enlist. If you are looking to bring in an expert on diabetes or celiac, I'd be a terrible person (but you should contact my smart friend Phyllis Kaplan).
Approaching an influencer you know (like a customer or employee) is fairly straightforward because you already have a relationship. The more challenging question is how to approach an influencer you don't know. So...
How Should I Approach An Influencer I Don't Know?
Let me start by telling you a few ways NOT to approach an influencer:
Hi! I was doing a search and came across your blog. I can't be bothered to include your name here, or the name of your blog, for that matter. I'd like to enlist your help on something that has nothing to do with what you write about. Or maybe you could add something about my product to the blog post you wrote a year ago for another publication. What do you think?
Um...No. And no.
Oh, did I mention - NO!
I'm not joking when I say I've received pitches that are similar to the one above. Scary but true.
Everyone has limited time, and influencers are usually more beset by demands from strangers than your average person. That's why it's critical that you do your research before you reach out. Understand who your influencers are, what their areas of expertise are, and whether or not they might be interested in working with you.
Once you've got that down, create a personalized email that references something interesting you've read or heard that was created by the influencers. Make sure you let influencers know exactly what you'd like to do to work with them, and how it could benefit them.
What Are The Rules Of Influencer Marketing?
Here are a few Influencer Marketing dos and don'ts:
Do ask them what their fee is. Don't ask them to do things for free for which they require a fee (for instance, don't ask writing consultants to write a full blog post for you unless you plan to pay them).
Don't ask them to do anything that's not ethical (e.g., advertise your product or service without letting their audience know they're being paid).
If you want experts to review your product or service, do offer them a free account or product to try out. Don't expect that they then OWE you a review - or that you are guaranteed a positive review.
Do ask them if they want to contribute a short thought to a round up article or content piece. Don't ask them to answer a ton of questions (see the point above around fees).
Do highlight and publicize their answers or articles or reviews. If you wrote a round up piece that mentions them, do provide them with links so they can share the final piece with their audience. Don't bury their answers in an endless post that includes tons of experts.
Do send a thank you note.
Wondering how many experts to include in an influencer post? At the end of this article is a great infographic from Webbiquity that can give you some ideas (check out that amazing lady on line 24!). Note that not all answers are the same. That's reflective of the fact that round up posts and influencer marketing in general are still relatively new concepts. There are not many hard and fast rules at the moment.
The main thing to remember is to be respectful and use common sense. That will get you far - in influencer marketing and in life, as a matter of fact.
Do you use influencer marketing? Let me know what you've done and the results you've gotten. Tweet me up at @HollyChessman or send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Holly runs Holly Chessman Marketing, a premier marketing firm that provides strategic advice, digital services, and social media guidance and education. Named one of New England’s Top 40 Influencers in Content and Digital Marketing, Holly has worked with a broad range of tech companies and fully understands the power of online engagement. She is passionate about equality in the workplace as well as implementing marketing strategies that result in quick growth, rapid revenue and happy customers. Holly is regularly quoted in a variety of major publications including Forbes and Maximize Social Business. Holly is also not afraid to embrace her nerdy side (as evidenced by her love of Neil Gaiman and her “talking” TARDIS).