If you keep up with the latest developments in digital marketing, you've probably heard a lot lately about something called “influencer marketing.”
At its core, it's really nothing new.
From Britney Spears for Pepsi, to Michael Jordan for Nike, to Orson Welles for frozen peas (seriously, look it up),
Brands have long been recruiting public figures as spokespeople for their brand.
Social media has been a game changer for this kind of thing. It used to be that you had to be a major national corporation to even consider this kind of marketing strategy.
Good luck getting Christina Aguilera to rep your tiny local boutique at a price you can actually afford.
But now, there's a class of people who maybe aren't quite celebrities — not in the way that Ariana Grande or Kim Kardashian are celebrities — but who have their own little sphere of influence.
Some of these people have tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of followers.
Some of these people are better known than others. You might have heard of someone like Jeffree Star, recently named by Forbes as one of the top beauty influencers of 2017.
He's not on the level of someone like Kanye West or Kendall Jenner, but he's been building his own dedicated following since the ancient days of Myspace.
These social media micro-celebrities are called “influencers.”
Getting Jeffree Star to rep your cosmetics line isn't cheap, but for every J-star, there are quite a few smaller-scale influencers whose brand advocacy you actually can afford.
And that can be pretty darn powerful.
These people have clout. Their audiences look up to them and trust them. They have appeal, whether it's a down-to-earth authenticity, their creative output, or an aspirational high fashion aesthetic.
And, they're happy to take your money in exchange for a promo.
But how do you find these people?
In a recent podcast from Social Media Examiner, marketing expert Neal Schaffer explains a step by step strategy you can use to find the right influencers for your particular brand.
How to Reach Out to Influencers
Before you contact influencers, find who they are. Do a lot of Google, Twitter, and Instagram searches and create a list of the people you want to contact.
You can’t manage relationships with 1,000 different influencers. For the purpose of a campaign, aim for 5 to 20 people.
Start with the people who might require a paid approach because they still may be interested. You never know when your product is going to tickle someone’s fancy.
Keep your influencer relationships manageable by keeping the pool to 5 or 20 people.
For example, Neal worked with a company whose product reduced certain illnesses in babies between the ages of six months and three years. He found that influencers who were more expensive might reduce their price because they really wanted to work with that brand.
After you contact 10 to 30 people, look at how you approached them and see who responded. You’ll get an idea for market price and expectations, and you can adapt based on that information.
Through this, you’ll find your tribe of influencers. Look for situations where you both have a vision for the relationship and move forward with the ones where your budget and their expectations match.
There’s nothing wrong with doing 100% organic or 100% paid.
However, if you’re doing 100% paid, you don’t have to offer a few thousand dollars to each blogger. You could send free product or a nominal amount. Show that you value the time they take to write a blog post or send a tweet, and offer a token of your appreciation.
I ask Neal how to broach the subject of an endorsement with an influencer. Neal reiterates that you should engage with potential influencers on social media before the initial contact. That might spark a conversation that can help you.
When you do reach out, send an email or message that lets the influencer know you’ve been following each other on social media. Also, reference one of their articles that you loved and shared with your community and tell them that it resonated with your fans. Then, mention you’re trying to get the word out about your product. Ask if they work with companies, and if so, how.
You can also let an influencer know you’d love to send them one of your products to try and get their feedback. Or offer them something to use as a giveaway on their blog. Determine what you can give that would be valuable to them.
Once again, don’t specifically ask for a blog post or anything else. Just know that if they really like your product, they’ll probably talk about it naturally anyway. You can also look at businesses an influencer has worked with in the past to develop an idea of the influencer’s expectations.
To learn more about influencer marketing, check out the full podcast and transcript over at Social Media Examiner.