How to be BFFs with an Influencer

You already know the influential influence of influencers and why they might be exactly the type of marketing partners you need. Now it’s time to find the perfect fit for your company, set up an awesome arrangement, and influence away. Influencing done right can be the gift that just keeps on giving when it comes to expanding your customer base.

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Find

Finding your very own potential influencer isn’t as elusive as tracking down a unicorn, but it can still be pretty challenging. There are a lot of variables at play, beyond which influencer has the highest amount of followers and will throw a post your way. We said it in the last Slice and we’ll say it again, but it’s really all about niche. Who actually caters to your audience, and who does that audience trust the most? When perusing the following search options, think about a potential influencer's niche, reach (follower count), engagement (are people actually engaging with their posts?!) and quality. After all, if you want your brand associated with this influencer, they need to be up to par. 

Use the tactics below to find some target influencers, and put them into a list for later:

  • Google: Start with the basics. Try googling your keywords and the words "influencer," "expert," "pro," "enthusiast," or however your target influencer might describe themselves in an Instagram bio to see what comes up. You never know when you might strike gold on Google; it just takes time.
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn is not just good for hitting up all those new conference connections. You can use it to find influencers by using specific keywords or phrases within the search box at the top to pull up second-degree connections who might be able to put in a good word for you, especially if you're new to the niche you're targeting. Want a food blogger? Try typing that in and seeing if you’re already indirectly connected to one! Depending on your network, LinkedIn can be one powerful search engine, and it can also give you useful information on how potential partners like to describe themselves professionally, so you can use that same language and show that you're paying attention.
  • Twitter: Similar to LinkedIn, harness the power of keywords and hashtags. Go ahead and type a few key words that your target influencer might be putting into their Twitter posts. Once you get your initial results back, hit the “people” button at the top of your results to see who those influencers might be. You can also use advanced search (located under search filters to the left of your results) if you’re looking within a specific city or location. (Bonus tip: Followerwonk is a free tool that simplifies what we just described, check it out!)
  • Instagram: See the stellar advice above, minus the fancy advanced search options. Instagram keeps it basic, but can still be an awesome way to track down those influencers. Open your Instagram app and hit Explore at the bottom of the screen, and start typing in hashtags or keywords used by your target. See who comes up at the top, as those are individuals and posts Instagram is recommending for you based on your own browsing behavior.

Before you take the next step, make sure you've really done your research on all these individuals. It's not enough to find someone good on Instagram and write their name down; take the time to look them up, find their personal website, see if they list their email address, and (this is the most important) find out if they have a media kit or advertising details up on their site. We're looking for monthly unique visitors, types of posts they'll publish for you, guidelines about what content they will and won't accept, etc. This is the kind of info you'll need the most when you try to strike up a partnership, and this research will confirm if this person is really perfect for your brand or not. 

Engage

Now that you have your influencer list, it’s time to start making some influencer magic. It’s not quite as easy as sending your product their way and expecting a post in return.

When reaching out, make sure you clearly establish both why you want to engage them (their audience, their personal brand, etc.) and what they’ll get out of it. Remember, it’s a two-way street and you’ll want to woo them a bit with how your product/service is exactly what they want to promote.

Here are some common ways that brands tend to work with influencers:

  • Guest blogs: Are you engaging a blogger? A simply blogtastic arrangement is to ask if they’d be willing to include a plug for a product in on of their posts (product placement at its finest), usually in exchange for a sample of the product itself. You can offer content too, like high-quality photos or text they can pull from, but be willing to give them a little something extra. Bloggers have brands coming to them all the time with offers and products, so think about what you can share that will help you stand out. 
  • Sponsored posts: This is as simple as it sounds. You give an influencer a product or service, they rave about it in an Instagram post or a Tweet, and they mark the post as sponsored. This is a way for you to transparently reach your intended audience through a trustworthy source; it's simply buying an advertisement. Different influencers will have different requirements for photos they're willing to post, or they'll want to take their own, so either provide visuals that work with their established aesthetic or be willing to work with them so that it looks natural.
  • Product reviews: Wouldn’t it be awesome if a noteworthy influencer reviewed your product and you could post it for the entire world to see? Check if the influencer accepts products for review first; not everyone does. And, again, be wiling to send it for free!
  • Gifts: One of the most basic ways to engage influencers is to send them gifts, whether it’s a product or an offer for one of your services. However, always reach out to them before you gift! They may not be as generous as you were hoping for and you don’t want to give away a ton of gifts for no good reason. And, don't do this unless you're super confident that it will be well-received. Is your branding on point? Your packaging? Does everything look professional? Put some effort into this so you don't end up getting a bad review! 
  • GiveawaysDid you know 90% of bloggers like to do giveaways for their readers? Your awesome product or service could be exactly the thing promoted in their next giveaway! You may have to provide multiple samples to do this, but giveaways are often promoted more than simple product reviews, and if your product ends up in the hands of a customer who might post about it excitedly since they won it, that's great!
  • Videos: Check out if your influencer has a lot of videos and if there’s an authentic way for your company to be featured! Think about makeup in a makeup tutorial or a new ingredient in a cooking video. If the influencer in question can use your product for good original content, and they can clearly see that it would be a good thing to do, they're more likely to recommend it again and again -- especially if that video will live on YouTube.

Influence

You have your influencer and your arrangement, the only thing left is to influence! Just remember to track your progress to see if it’s worth it. When giving the influencer the assets they need to post about your product, like a caption with a link to your store, make sure that link is trackable somehow; you can create it with Bit.ly.

Keep an eye on the engagement taking place on the influencer's post about your product, and try to determine if any new audience members or purchases are via influencer. Really professional partners will also be tracking this and will be able to share results with you. This is where the mutually beneficial goals you set before the arrangement come in handy!

And, of course, if customers start asking questions or leaving comments, make sure you respond! Put on your best customer service hat and don't leave anyone hanging, especially if they want to know more about what you do. Bonus points if you leave a comment thanking the influencer for sharing your product, too; we're all in this together, baby, so spread the love in case this influencer might want to work with you again in the future. 

Now go forth, find your influencer, and influence away!   

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