As an industry, we’re forever going on about why you should be doing influencer marketing- hopefully we’re well on our way to convincing you all, since 84% of marketers are planning at least one influencer marketing campaign this year. Now, this is all well and good, but we need to take the next big step and educate the industry on how to get started. Of course, this journey starts with thoroughly understanding the why so we can easily progress onto the how. As we’re all fully aware by now, the first obvious step is identifying influencers relevant to your brand; the next step is arguably the most pivotal moment in terms of determining your success however- engaging with those influencers to get them on your side. It’s quite simple- influencer marketing works because there’s something in it for the influencers- brands must understand and leverage this. How do you get those influencers to want to engage with you? How do you get them to love your brand, or even favour your brand over others? Any brand doing influencer marketing undoubtedly wants to achieve these things, but not all know how to get there.
It’s very easy to get caught up in thinking of influencer marketing as a straight forward linear process, or a tactic similar to the likes of social media advertising- it isn’t. You cannot engage with influencers off of the back of a one size fits all algorithm- every human has their own algorithm. While the objectives may be the same: amplifying your brand’s messaging to increase brand awareness and ultimately increase sales as a result- the ways of getting there are very different. Influencer marketing involves real, emotionally intelligent, fickle beings- as cliché as it is, it’s H2H (human to human) – so we have to approach this very carefully and tactfully, by understanding all the ways in which humans tick.
The fact of the matter is, it’s in our human nature to get put off when there’s an element of desperation. If a brand is bombarding an influencer with daily emails, tweets and offers for them to work together then an influencer may not be very receptive to this. On the flip side of this, it’s also in our human nature to feel a sense of flattery when offered exclusivity. Therefore an influencer is far more likely to want to work with a brand if they believe that there’s an array of other influencers that want to work with them too. The desire should be a two way street where the benefits are undeniably mutual.
In order to get on an influencer’s radar, you have to warm them up over a steady period of time- lots of light touches so that they’re able to naturally familiarise themselves with you without feeling bombarded. If an influencer is able to make this transition themselves, without feeling like they’ve been bought, then this results in legitimate, genuine, brand advocacy. Here are ways in which you can get on influencers’ radars.
Light social media touches
An influencer is far more likely to sit up and listen if your name becomes familiar over a longer period of time. An effective way of doing this is by making light touches on social media. If you see a relevant tweet or a piece of their content, like, re tweet, share or comment on it. You’re engaging with them in a way that isn’t entirely direct, but still very visible. They’re going to pick up on your name both consciously or unconsciously over time, so when you engage with them directly, they’re likely to feel some kind of connection with you from the offset and are therefore likely to be more receptive.
This is all while they’re probably being bombarded by other brands and individuals that are desperate for the chance to work with them; weekly cold calls, daily emails and outright brown nosing- often by completely irrelevant brands that aren’t aligned to the influencer’s interests or expertise at all. You want to show an appreciation for them and their work, all while giving the impression that you have something to offer them too- you should aim to work with them on the grounds of there being mutual desires and interests. Value them, but also your brand and its offering too.
Help them increase their influence first
While it’s important to keep your own end objectives in mind, don’t jump straight to the point- think of influencer relations in the same way you think of any relationship- no relationship happens over-night, nor is it a decision one person can make expecting the other party to enter happily with no questions asked or clear benefits to be had. A relationship by basic definition is a mutual desire to come together in unity, in which you booth seek to gain.
If it seems from their perspective that you recognise their work and believe that they deserve more credit and influencer status within the industry, and that you want to help them with this, they’ll be appreciative. Not only this, but they’ll be far more likely to want to help your brand too.
Offer attractive opportunities to collaborate
It’s important for you to carefully consider and create desirable collaboration opportunities for the influencer in question. This way, regardless of how familiar an influencer is with your brand, they’re still likely to give your offer consideration. Understand their personal interests and personality. How old are they? If they’re a millennial for example, then they’re likely to respond differently to particular opportunities than say an influencer of the baby boomer generation. What are their hobbies? What are their passion points?
Taking the time to research and understand will ultimately create more attractive and personalised grounds for collaboration, which they’re more likely to accept with open arms. Not only this, but they’ll recognise that you’ve either 1) done your research or 2) there is a naturally strong influencer:brand alignment.
An example of this is Zoella: while she’s one of the most popular and well known social media and YouTube influencers, she appears more selective in terms of the kinds of brands and projects she works on, compared to some of her peers. Opportunities that she frequently seems to take up are projects around anxiety and mental health, since this is a topic she is passionate about on a personal level. So with this being the case, if there were ever a project in which she’d forgo her hefty price tag, this is likely to be it.
Don’t take the ‘if you throw enough at the wall some of it will stick’ approach
Of course, the law of probability will always play a part, so the more influencers you contact the more response you should receive. However, playing the numbers game will leave you with finite spare time to dedicate to relationship building. Stick to a select few ‘key influencers’- this will enable you to take an ‘always on’ approach in which you have the time and ability to feasibly build long lasting relationships. Give yourself a longer timeline, have bundles of dedication and patience. Once you get to the point of having a genuine relationship with an influencer, you will gain far more value than you would from a one-off project with an influencer.
This is also a far more effective and efficient way to reach the wider influencer community. Target the ‘key influencers’ in the top tier- once a relationship has been built with them, this will naturally filter down to the wider network- after all, Forrester claim that 6.2% of the key influencers drive 80% of the conversations online.
It’s so easy to become obsessed with all things social media, particularly in the influencer marketing sphere. Once a foundation has been built through virtual engagement, arrange to meet and get lunch or coffee, or invite them into your office for the day, for example. This doesn’t even have to be a 1-on-1 arrangement- if your brand is hosting or attending an event, invite them along, or better yet, invite them to be on a panel.
If this isn’t logistically possible, arrange a phone or Skype call. Putting a voice or better yet a face to the name is so valuable and will differentiate your brand from others’. It’s also far easier to have an open, unstructured conversation this way, which will enable you to get to know them on a personal level. You can discuss projects that you’d like to work on, exchange stories, wisdom and perhaps even contacts.
Once again, you can almost guarantee that the vast majority of brands will not even consider this. Put yourselves in their shoes- are you going to favour a brand that is blunt and transparent in their approach and intentions, or a brand that pays an interest and would actually like to meet and get to know you and your work?
Answer their readers’ comments
If an influencer has posted a blog post, tweet, or status stimulating a series of follower contributions and questions, seek to actively get involved. If you see a question that you’re able to answer confidently, with the belief that it will be in line with the kind of response that they’d give themselves, take it upon yourself to add your 2 cents. Not only will they appreciate that you’re helping them out, but they’ll see that you’re also a like-minded knowledgeable expert.
Again, this is a great way of getting the influencer to become familiar with your brand and name, without directly engaging with them. This could also encourage them to make the first move.
However, ensure you’re not commenting on anything and everything of theirs, or this may appear very transparent.
Introduce them to someone in your network
If you have connections with other relevant influencers, brands or perhaps potential prospects that may be of interest, then introduce them. Since this is on the forefront a selfless task, this will demonstrate that you value them and genuinely care about them gaining value from your relationship.
This may also result in them doing the same, opening up new influencer engagement opportunities or new potential business.
Just ensure that they’re entirely relevant and of interest.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alicia manages Onalytica's content creation and collateral to help new and existing customers get the most out of their influencer programs. She also plays a large part in the design and user experience of Onalytica's SaaS influencer marketing platform, to ensure that the platform best serves clients' needs. Alicia is passionate about educating the industry on influencer marketing best practice, one thought leadership blog post at a time.