When was the last time you researched a brand, product, or service based on the personal experiences of someone you know, or on the enthusiastic recommendation of a celebrity you follow? We’re all influenced by certain key figures in our lives, whether we realize it or not. Apply that influence to your marketing efforts, and you’ll take advantage of a uniquely powerful tool in this age of “going viral” — a tool known as influencer marketing. Let’s take a look at how you can put influencer marketing to work for your business.
What Is Influencer Marketing?
To understand how and why influencer marketing works, think about the difference between word-of-mouth endorsements and traditional advertising. The latter bombards its audience with sales pitches and recommendations from “the experts,” or from actors hired to enact (not always convincingly) scenarios involving specific products or services. Since the average urban American is inundated with more than 5,000 such ads every day, it’s not hard to see why audiences have stopped paying attention to them.
By contrast, influencer marketing is the equivalent of your best friend praising a product or service and suggesting that you really ought to check it out. These “friends” are key influencers. They’re typically individuals who have developed a type of digital celebrity through large, loyal social media followings, although they can also be traditional celebrities as well. When these folks talk, you listen — and you buy.
Finding Your Audience’s Key Influencers
How can you tap into the enormous sway of the Internet’s key influencers as a means of promoting your own brand? The first step is to identify which key influencers your ideal buyer is likely to follow. (For instance, male teenagers are likely to be swayed by a different key influencer than, say, senior women.)
This also means determining which social media channels your ideal buyers make the most use of, based on their interests. LinkedIn Groups would be a safe bet for business owners interested in B2B solutions, while Facebook might serve as a more useful home base for B2C marketing. Content marketing tools can help you pinpoint the most lucrative channels for your specific audience and industry. Explore these channels and pay attention to the most vocal and visible media posters and conversation-starters, the ones who get tons of views and responses. These are your key influencers.
Growing Your Own Grapevine
Determining who your key influencers are is one thing; getting their attention and cooperation is another. If you want them to notice you, start by noticing them. Mention them in your business’s blog or on your main website pages, quote some of their more memorable statements (especially the ones that apply to your solutions), and reach out to them directly to see if they’d like to contribute a guest video or article to your own digital presence. By building a mutually beneficial relationship with these key influencers, you’re building an association that won’t go unnoticed by the influencers’ followers. Before long, those followers will start following you, too, potentially boosting not only your target market but also your brand reputation and sales.
As big an impression as influencer marketing can make, it pays to employ a degree of subtlety when growing your grapevine in this manner. Take the time to join the most popular online conversations, interjecting the occasional (genuinely insightful) comment without plugging your brand relentlessly. Mention key influencers in passing rather than trumpeting their names at every opportunity. Keep it organic, and keep it real — because that’s how you influence today’s buyer.