It was Malcolm Gladwell who first highlighted to me the importance of Influencers in his book, The Tipping Point (a great read that explores the processes that can lead an idea, a concept or a even a product from obscurity to ubiquity). These trend setting, trusted, vocal, well connected folk will spread your message on your behalf to their vast audiences.
You’ll know this concept already and probably tend to think of it more as ‘successful word of mouth’ than a social media strategy – getting the right folks to advocate your brand is time honoured, very efficient and can offer glorious ROI – but if you’re wondering how the oft mentioned Influencer can help you grow your social media followings, extend the reach of your content marketing and get your messages in front of your target audiences then you’ve come to the right place. In this post I’d like to demystify the Influencer and explore ways to leverage their super powers (mostly for good and a tiny bit for evil).
What is a social media influencer?
In terms of social media, an influencer is an individual who has been identified as someone who can amplify your content towards their own large followings, earning you shares, retweets, more follower and more likes. All those signals that Google loves, boosts your social profiles as a traffic channel to your website and grows your own following. So a good friend to have eh?
How do we identify Influencers?
There are several ways to approach this and we’re going to use Twitter as an example. We like to use a few tools and my favourite at the moment (although not limited to) is Follwerwonk. Now owned by Moz, Followerwonk allows you to dissect your followers, and more importantly your competitor’s followers and order them by various metrics (amongst all sorts of other geeky and interesting things). The most important of these is their Social Authority. This is a score out of 100 that takes into account their follower to following ratio, their activity and the age and usage of their account to give you a strong indication of their likely usefulness as an Influencer.
This is a snapshot of our followers but as you can see whilst the top few are unlikely to notice us or really appeal directly to our target audience, but @psmith and @danbarker are certainly well worth reaching out to as they have high Social Authority scores, would appeal to our target audience and may well be interested in our content (and thus spread it on our behalf amongst their audiences). Or they may not, some you win etc! But if you don’t (indirectly) ask you don’t (directly) get…
From these sorts of reports you can take a look at their accounts, see what they’re tweeting, what they’re retweeting, who follows them (very important as their followings are the audience we want to reach via them), whether they sit in your topic sphere and so on.
Using the same strategy you can also have an in depth peek (possible oxymoron alert…) at your competitor’s followers. Whilst it’s critical to know who amongst your existing followers are worth reaching out to, you should also be employing a little competitive intelligence to uncover those followers that your competitors have grabbed that you’d benefit from teasing across to your side too. If they follow them, should they not be following you?
Using the same process; ordering by Social Authority, you’ll be able to draw up a list of targets you’d like to leverage and/or get on board.
So what does a good influencer profile look like?
Ideally you’re looking for somebody who blogs about or gets involved with your general content subject matter. This may not be your specific industry vertical but rather the ‘adjacent content’ you’re creating to target specific audiences or influencers
Your ideal Influencer will likely have lots of folks following him/her that you want to reach but not so many following them. They’ll be regular retweeters of content and tweets in their sphere. If they blog regularly themselves this is a big plus as it helps us with our outreach strategies (see below).
The more you start reaching to influencers and getting them on board the sooner you’ll start to get a feel for identifying them – nothing like actual action to spur on expertise!
What do we want our Influencers to do exactly?
Good question, I’m glad you asked that because it’s oh so easy to fly blind with social media, putting effort into content and tweeting this, sharing that and Instagramming the other might seem like time well spent but without focus, targets and goals how can you achieve measurable ROI? And ROI, as Brucey would say, means prizes.
We want our Influencers to do all sorts of things but most importantly we want them to spread our word. We want them to retweet our content to their audiences and we want them to advocate our products and our brand.
Why do we want them to retweet our stuff?
If your tweet (preferably with a juicy link to one of your sensational blog posts) gets retweeted then it gets put in front of the retweeter’s audience. Clearly if your identified Influencer retweets your tweet then it’s getting coverage across the feeds of their significant audiences. This in turn can lead to you getting more followers and the potential for your tweet to get retweeted again throughout this potent network you’ve targeted – good eh? Not to mention the fact that the mega social signals you’re pumping out might just turn the head of a certain search giant that we all strive to stay on the good vibe side of…
But it’s not just about the retweets…
Influencers aren’t just there to retweet your stuff. They can offer a deeper, longer term value than that. Outreach is important not just because it’s an essential strategy for engaging Influencers but because it’s about connecting with people; it puts the social in social media. If you’re making friends and allies, not just one-tweet wonders, then you’re putting networks in place that are always ready to advocate your brand.
How do you reach out to potential influencers and get your self on their radars?
There are several ways to get their positive attention and it’s not a difficult process. The most important thing to remember is that you’re connecting with real people and real people respond well to kind words and are motivated by a little strategic ego boosting.
Try some of these:
1. If your Influencer has recently written a post about Squirrel Keeping and this sits nicely within your content zone then why not write a piece about Squirrel Kebabs? You’re simply acknowledging (advocating) their work and showing them your similalry themed post. Flattery gets you everywhere. Then you follow your blog post with a tweet like…
“Inspired by @influencer’s fab post on Squirrel Keeping, we’ve written our guide to the best #squirrel #kebabs (insert link to your post here)”. Not forgetting to add a nice squirrely picture to your tweet.
2. Taking flattery to the next level why not write about somebody directly? An interview is an ideal format. Simply reach out to your Influencer and ask them for a brief email interview. Send them a few questions via email and turn their answers into a blog post about them. Followed by a tweet…
“Check out our awesome #interview with Champion #Squirrel Breeder @influencer…” (link, image etc)
3. Expanding on that theme grab a whole bunch of potential Influencers and write about them all in a single blog posts (in a wonderfully positive light of course), topped off by a series of appropriately scheduled tweets (not all fired out together, somewhat telegraphing your true intentions and negating the flattering perception you’re trying to create)…
“@influencer is one of our favourite all time #squirrel bloggers! Find out why in our post: 5 Squirrel Bloggers You Need To Be Reading…” (link, photo etc)
Here’s a post we ran for one of our clients recently: Top 5 Interior Design Blogs You Must Read…
We reached out to all of the bloggers mentioned in this piece and got a great response, all the bloggers were very grateful and retweeted and followed our client’s profile!
The traffic to Jaga’s website from social media has risen 1370% this quarter (Sept-Nov 2014) – so we know it works!
Of course there’s so much more that can be squeezed out of this but hopefully this gives you a little steer on how to identify, leverage and look after your influencers and get more of that lovely traffic flying into your website.