An influencer is a good friend who has knowledge and experience, and is willing to share their “inside track” on things directly with you. Online influencers serve a similar role, but to a much broader audience. At its core influencer marketing is a type of marketing where you don’t actually communicate directly with your audience. You identify a leader who is an information broker within a specific community, and drive your message through them. Key leaders are those who have earned the trust of your target audience. In an age of information overload and advertising clutter, the influencer starts to become a very appealing proposition to both consumers and clients. Here’s why:
Influencers provide consumers
- Insider information
- Save time and effort
- Add credibility
- Help ensure good choices
Influencers provide businesses
- Large numbers of followers and reach
- Provide third party endorsement
- Direct channel to a special interest group
- Remove the perception of advertising
The truly brilliant thing about influencers is the ability for the audience to have been self selected and highly targeted already. You no longer need to comb a database for a target group, create audience profiles within social media for campaigns, or reach out with traditional media tools, because the influencer has already done the targeting work for you. They also have an established channel and reach already in place.
Influencers are nothing new though. For example, fashion magazines used to be the only broad reaching influencer for upcoming styles. Now it’s just as apt to be a knowledgeable and respected leader in that industry with a huge Twitter and Instagram following.
We could even argue that during the last US election, influencers used social media channels to inform and persuade with a reach beyond traditional news networks. For me, that event was likely the wake up call about the power of influencers, since most traditional media did not see the outcome coming. The power of those insider social networks now cannot be denied. As a political side note, if you want to dig into that further, I shared my opinions with Jim Brown on The 180 last Sunday during a CBC Radio One national broadcast. Link to it HERE.
So, you get it, influencers now matter. But short of taking your lantern out to the streets looking, where do you find them?
Here are a couple tools to help:
1. Klear Klear analyzes Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and blogs. It divides people into over 40,000 categories making it easy to distil the right people in the right categories. You start off by category, and then specify country, and then you can filter for location, network, skills etc.
2. Traackr Traackr is a dashboard type management tool where you can find influencers and track communications with them. The tools pick up their profiles across social media for posts, conversations, connections, and size of profile across multiple sites. It allows you to monitor your relationship and engagement with the influencer as well.
Of course there’s also the good old-fashioned “low tech” approach, which can still work with diligence and time. Simply check out a few hashtags that make sense for your industry. Follow the content being published on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook within those #hashtag channels. See who is sharing good quality stuff, who gets engagement, and who appears to have a strong following. Once you’ve watched for a while, join in and engage them on these channels as well as their blog posts through commenting. Over time you may score a “genuine” invitation to share more about your product, EARNING the interest and potential future influence of that person.
There are also several platforms out there that act as brokers to bring influencers together with clients more formally. Check out Tapinfluence.com The services are not cheap, but you had to know someone would make a business out of this! Tomoson.com is another one.
And once you find influencers, what’s next?
Do your research. Ensure the influencer has the desired relevance and reach. Let them be authentic. They are an influencer because people respect them. That includes how, why and when they communicate, as well as the tone of voice and style. Influencers are not a quick fix. Influencers influence generally over time. One quick endorsement might temporarily spike sales, but it’s unlikely to have long-term impact.
2017 will be the year of the influencer. It’s time to acknowledge the power that they yield. Or perhaps 2017 is the year to become an influencer yourself?