Posted: Mon 29th May 2017
Building a brand through content marketing is hard. Even if you're producing great material, you need to make sure it reaches people who may become customers. That's where influencers step in. They already connect with your audience.
Nick Leech from 123 Reg looks at some simple ways to find influencers and how to get them onside and happy to amplify your message to the people you want to reach.
So you want to make a splash on social media. That's great; social media can help you reach potential customers without having to spend a fortune on advertising.
But it's not easy. With so many brands competing for attention, it can be hard to make a breakthrough on social - especially if you're just starting out.
That's where social media influencers come in. What do I mean by influencers? Well, they're the people or brands who already have the attention of the audience you're looking to attract.
So that could be anyone from a well-known industry figure, a respected reviewer, or the social media accounts of relevant publications.
In this guide, I'll look at how you can find social media influencers and convince them to share what you're doing with their audience.
Let's get started.
Finding social media influencers
Before we look at the specifics of identifying influencers, there are a couple of basic things you need to bear in mind throughout the process.
The first is that the influencers you target should always attract the kind of audience you want to reach.
For example, if you're a small business consultancy you wouldn't want to spend your time trying to get the attention of influential beauty bloggers. Really, there's not going to be enough overlap between the kind of people you're trying to target and their audience to make it worth your while.
The second thing to remember is that you need to be realistic about the stature of influencer you're targeting. If you're in the beauty products business, then you're more likely to meet with success if you target ten well-established beauty bloggers than if you go all out and try to get KimKardashian to promote your product.
Basically, you're looking to reach the biggest possible shared audience through the influencers you target, while at the same time keeping things realistic.
Ok, that's the basics done, now let's look at some specific ways of finding influencers.
The first thing I'm going to recommend is a tool called Followerwonk. It's a really easy way of finding influencers on Twitter.
Just enter relevant keywords in the search box and you'll be presented with a list of accounts that tweet about the subject you're interested in. You can try it for free here.
The second tool I'm going to recommend is Buzzsumo.
Buzzsumo lets you find the most shared articles on a certain topic. This is useful for two reasons - first it allows you to find websites that are writing about the subjects you're interested in, and it also lets you see what kind of content works well. You can try Buzzsumo for free here.
The third tool I'm going to mention is BuzzStream.
BuzzStream lets you identify sites that are influential on a certain topic. It's a really great way to find out who is attracting attention in the area(s) you want to reach. Buzzstream also has a free trial option.
Once you've got to grips with these tools, you should have a list of influential people and websites - one extra tip here is that if a website has multiple contributors, then you can engage with them one-on-one through their personal social media accounts.
Engaging influencers on Twitter
Ok, so you've developed your list of influencers but now you need to get them to pay attention to you and start talking about what you're doing.
It sounds like a big task and in a lot of ways it is. But there are plenty of things you can do to make the job easier.
The first thing to remember is that no one is going to promote you just because you ask them to - you need to offer them something in return.
In traditional advertising, that something is money. That's a road you can choose to go down if you want to - you may have noticed influential social media accounts running "sponsored" messages.
But assuming that you don't want to give influencers money to promote you on social media, what other things can you offer in return?
Well, it depends on exactly what you're trying to achieve. But here are some ideas to get you started.
The pre-warmed approach
It's a fact we're more inclined to help someone we already know, and this applies to social media influencers.
So before you start asking people to share what you're doing, you need to engage with them first.
It might be something as simple as engaging them in conversation on Twitter, or answering a question they have.
The more you can do to help influencers and make them aware of you before you start to ask them for something, the more likely they are to help you out in return.
I'd recommend using this technique before you try to implement any of the techniques mentioned below.
The PR approach
This works particularly well if you're trying to get coverage from journalists and news organisations that cover your sector.
But remember, these people will be getting scores of press releases a day, so you really need to stand out from the crowd.
Don't fire off hundreds of press releases and expect a response. Spend time writing individual emails to journalists you know cover your sector.
Also make sure that your email starts with the most newsworthy thing about your product or business - a busy journalist won't bother reading a full email to get to the juicy bit.
If you can provide a journalist with a good story on a plate, then they'll love you for it.
The free sample/trial approach
Giving away products in exchange for a review is a good way to generate relevant coverage. Just identify the relevant bloggers/journalists/industry experts and get in touch with your offer.
However, there are some things you need to remember here - the first is that it's never a good idea to insist someone gives you a good review - let them form their own opinions about it. You may annoy people if you insist they only write positive things about you.
The second is that you always ask any bloggers who link to your website after you've sent them a free product to use "no follow" links. This is to stop Google seeing your reviews as an attempt to influence its search engine rankings. A good blogger should know this and understand your request.
Thirdly, what you're doing may be considered advertising, even if no money is changing hands. With that in mind, it pays to familiarise yourself with the ASA's guidelines.
Despite these potential drawbacks, free samples and trials remain a great way to get attention.
The create great content approach
The idea here is to create a piece of content that's so good influencers will want to share it with people, promoting your business in the process.
Influencers pride themselves on sharing the best content around, so if you can give them something that's going to go down well with their audience, then they'll be happy to pass it on because doing so makes them look good.
What kind of content should you be creating? Well, that depends on the sector you're in. But you should have seen what's popular with people when you were researching potential influencers with the tools we looked at above.
One specific method you might want to try out here is Brian Dene's Skyscraper Technique. You can read about that here.
The turning small wins into bigger wins approach
It can be hard to make an impact on big influencers straight away, especially if you're just starting out.
For that reason, you may want to try targeting smaller influencers first and then use the coverage you get to help attract the attention of bigger influencers.
So you might try and get coverage from a few small but respected bloggers covering your sector and then use that content to show bigger industry news sites that people are interested in what you're doing.
Remember, people hate to think they're missing out on something, and you can use that fear to help you get coverage. (In this case, the something they're missing out on is covering your up and coming business.)
This technique is particularly powerful when you can back it up with statistics. For example, if you know a blogger covering you got thousands views on that particular post, then mention that when trying to get coverage from a bigger website - they're more likely to write about you if they think you're already attracting attention.
Of course, this method can't be used on its own, but it's a really good way to get up and running with the methods we've looked at above.
We've only just scratched the surface here, and you'll find that there's a lot of trial and error goes into engaging with social media influencers.
However, if you keep offering quality content and keep offering help to people who need it, you'll find that you get more and more attention from individuals and organisations that can provide a real boost to your business.
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