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The Influencer rules!

You’ve heard of them: the cyberstars with huge followings that influence their devoted audiences of fans to use or purchase the cool-thing d’jour. And like them or not, in today’s economy they have powerful influence in the marketplace.

If you hope to maximize social media to promote your product, to help you improve brand awareness, increase traffic, and drive your brand’s message to your target audience, jump on the bandwagon!

And they are ubiquitous. Everywhere you look: social media, blogs, columns, digital and print ads, and television. Because traditional advertising has become less effective, influencer marketing is the go-to alternative these days  in attracting leads and customers.

Pawns can become kings.

Influencer marketing works because it uses tactics like word-of-mouth marketing and social proof, which are now critical aspects of any successful marketing strategy.

Whether it is good new or awful news, buyers today trust their peers, friends, and people they admire more than the companies selling the products and services they buy and use.

There are two distinct brands of influencers. There are brand influencers and brand ambassadors, and are often confused  A brand ambassador is just a cyber-age term for spokesperson. They are paid to tout a product. We know who you are, Joe Nameth.

Ah, but the new kid on the block is the brand influencer.

This persona has the look and feel of a true person, but like the ambassadors they too receive rewards totout products. But in a different way. Instead of cash for their good words, the influencers receive different types of rewards.

Their rewards or renumeration are often indiscernible to the public, but are important for you to know nonetheless. Remember, nobody in this world does much for free. Armed with that understanding, influencers can make or break a young business, and it’s better to cultivate them if they can assist your growth. So how do they get “paid”?

Well it depends on type of influencer we are cultvating and what their goals are.

The Micro-influencer

Micro-influencers have a relatively modest following of thousands or tens of thousands of people within their niche. They create relevant content for their audience and communicate with them via social media platforms, blogs, other written publications, websites, and forums.

Due to the size of their following and the type of content they create, they typically have high engagement rates. Having a smaller audience allows micro-influencers to bond with the people who follow them more regularly (as compared to a celebrity with millions of fans) via their channel. This makes them appealing to work with for businesses looking to develop personal relationships among their target audience.

How to Work With a Micro-Influencer

Micro-influencers can be established on a variety of channels. So, once you’ve chosen the micro-influencer you’re going to work with, you can have them write a post about your service, share an online review, or post a picture on Instagram with one of your products. Due to the manageable size of their base of followers, they’ll be able to engage with your target audience on the content they share about your products and brand.

This way, they can answer any questions the audience members may have about your products, communicate their experience with your products, and direct audience members to your website or customer support team if necessary.

Micro-Influencer Example

Micro-influencer Fitness Girl shares content about health, fitness, and travel. She often works with an athletic clothing brand, to promote their products and brand awareness among her under 21.4K followers. she fits the clothing brand image and lifestyle, and her Instagram page has thousands of followers who fit the profile of their target audience — this is what makes her a great micro-influencer for this product.  

Big Wheel

In her bio, Fitness Girl shares a code for her followers to use at check out (so her sponsor can track her success promoting their brand), she links to their Instagram page in all of her promotional posts, and interacts with her followers on these posts by responding to their comments and questions and liking their messages.

Celebrity influencers are famous people with large followings — typically in the millions — who are known across many industries. They’re widely recognized and, therefore, have the potential to be very successful in influencing your target audience.

Even if your target audience doesn’t overlap with all of your celebrity influencer’s fans, having them promote and/ or use your product or service is a powerful form of social proof. Since celebrities are so well known, they’re effective at reaching multiple audiences across various channels.

The Celebrity Influencer

Since celebrities are so well-known, there are many ways to work with them. You may focus on social media, print or online ads, TV commercials, blogs, or other written publications.

You can ask the celebrity to pose for pictures promoting your products, explain why their audience members would love your products or services, provide coupons and discount codes, or write reviews telling audience members why they stand by your brand. You may even sponsor an event the celebrity is hosting or attending.

Example of a Celebrity Influencer

Amazon sponsored Khloe Kardashian’s baby shower — with 93.7 million followers on Instagram, a reality TV show, several entrepreneurial endeavors, and a famous family, it’s safe to say many of Amazon’s customers recognize Khloe. By sponsoring her baby shower, they were able to feature their wide range of baby registry and maternity products.

In addition to Amazon publicizing the fact they sponsored event, Khloe also shared a post on Instagram thanking Amazon for making the party planning and baby registry creation processes so simple. She tagged Amazon in the post and shared a link to her baby registry for her fans (and Amazon’s target audience) to review and shop on their site.

Okay, so that is not likely to be your primary influencer resource, but think about all the “almost Famous” people you may know. Your former babysitter who is now a local weatherperson, your high school friend who is a TV personility. You know some people who are now famous, just think about it. Maybe even it is Kevin Bacon.

Failing that, there is this influencer:

The Blog Influencer

A blog influencer is someone who writes for their established blog and has thousands, or millions, of subscribers and readers. Their reach and influence sets them apart from garden-variety bloggers (meaning, they aren’t just writing for themselves or a very small group of people).

The Buzz.

Lifestyle blog influencers are now celebrities in their own right. They self-publish articles on all kinds of topics, including health, beauty, fitness, environment, and basically creating a lifestyles to makes readers happy and feeling good. Blog subscribers often have a meaningful, social media following, ads, books, and the blog they created. Often they have millions of audience members and fans who keep up with them.

How to Work With a Blog Influencer

To collaborate with a blog influencer, you may write a guest post for their blog, ask to be mentioned in one of their posts, or sponsor a post about one of your products or services. If you sponsor a post on the influencer’s blog, you can also provide images of your products for them to share as well.

Social media influencers

These guys are well-recognized on social platforms, such as Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter, and are followed by thousands or even millions of people. Social media influencers share content about a wide range of topics such as health, workouts, cars, diet, outdoor activities, travel, fashion, art, beauty, and interior design.

How to Work With a Social Media Influencer

These are the big-dog influencers. No micro here. Once you find a social media influencer with an established image that works for your brand, posts content you feel complements your products or services, and has followers who are also members of your target audience, you can determine what type of content you’re going to have them promote.

If the influencer is on Instagram, you may have them post a picture with your product and tag your social account. If they’re on Facebook, you can ask them to share a live video of them opening your product and if they’re on Twitter, you can have them write a brief statement about your product and pair it with a picture of them holding it. On YouTube, you may have the influencer share a video of them using your product while explaining the reasons why they love it.

On any social media platform, you can also have an influencer host a contest or giveaway with your products or share coupon codes.

Example of a Social Media Influencer

Joy Bauer is a nutritionist, health expert for The Today Show, and Twitter Influencer. Her 157K followers and fans on Twitter consist of health-conscious, nutrition-focused individuals who enjoy learning about Joy’s healthy recipes, lifestyle, and diet tips.

Joy worked with La Croix on a sponsored Twitter post featuring a twist on one of their sparkling water drinks. The post directs audience members to a family-friendly recipe on Joy’s website promoting the sparkling water and recipe with images, nutrition information, preparation time, and an anecdote about why Joy loves it.

Key opinion leaders (KOLs) are high-level experts on a specialized topic within a particular field. For example, a KOL might specialize in makeup application, the Paleo lifestyle, or Bikram yoga. If your business is looking to attract audience members in a very specialized field, a KOL is a great option — due to their expert knowledge on a certain topic, KOLs are trusted contributors in their industries and have followings of people who are also invested in those subjects.

How to Work With a KOL

KOLS, like micro and celebrity influencers, are present on many channels, such as social media, blogs, other written publications (like academic journals), and ads. Therefore, your business has many options for how you decide to work with a KOL.

You might have them review one of your products on YouTube, mention you in their column, write a blog post about your brand, share a post about your product on Instagram, or pose with your product for a print or digital advertisement.

Example of a KOL

Kandee Johnson is a makeup influencer with over 3.9 subscribers on YouTube and over 1.8 million followers on Instagram. She’s a makeup artist pro — her expert knowledge on makeup application makes her a key opinion leader in the makeup and cosmetic industry. Kandee shares thousands of makeup tutorials, makeup tips and tricks, and product reviews on YouTube and Instagram.

Now that we’ve covered the different types of influencers your business can work with, let’s review how to find these influencers so they can begin helping you reach your target audience.

How to Find Influencers

Identifying the right influencer to work with might seem like a daunting task — so, we’ve put together this list of ways you can use to find the right person to help you improve your brand awareness and reach.

Google Search

The most straightforward way to go about an influencer search is with the help of Google (or any search engine). Remember an influencer is already creating content in your field and reaching your target audience. So, a Google search for industry-related terms and keywords will surface experts in those areas.

Review articles related to various topics in your field, conduct individual searches for people you’ve heard of or know are already high impact contributors, and scan industry-specific sites and web pages for influencers.

Social Media

You can also search for influencers on various social media platforms. Whether or not you’re going for a social media influencer, most influencers will likely have some sort of social media presence — their profiles serve as a great way to learn more about them.

On social, you can search for keywords and phrases, specific users, hashtags, and tagged audience members on specific posts (brands and social users may have tagged influencers you could potentially work within posts). Don’t forget to look in the comments sections of high-traffic posts related to your industry or type of work as influencers may have posted comments and interacted with members of your target audience there. You can even get some ideas from influencer posts on your competitor’s accounts.

Referrals

Use your current network (professional and personal) to obtain referrals. Look for KOLs on LinkedIn and ask your team if they’ve recently followed any micro-influencers on social who regularly post content that’s compatible with your brand and image. If you’ve worked with any influencers in the past, ask them if they’re willing to connect your business with other influencers they know as well.

Blogs

Reading blogs is another great way to locate influencers — that is, both the blog authors and their sources. Scan for the people mentioned in the blogs. Perhaps the blogger is reviewing their work, mentioned a quote from them, or asked them to contribute to the piece.

Additionally, themed publications (business, art, beauty, or fashion) often do expert round-ups where they feature dozens of influencers. You can research the individual further to determine if they’re a good fit for your business.

Just a bunch of people chatting.

Influencer Software

Due to the rising popularity of influencer marketing, various technology and software have emerged to help businesses identify influencers and measure their success.

Two of the most popular options include BuzzStream and BuzzSumo.

BuzzStream allows users to research influencers. As a user, you also can build profiles, review the influencer interactions, measure their success through engagement metrics, and review their contact history.

BuzzSumo allows you to identify key influencers that are popular among your target audience. It also allows you to analyze which types of content perform best for influencers and review the content of your competitors.

Talent Agencies and Agents

If you’re looking to hire a specific celebrity influencer, it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to send them a direct email or give them a call (although that’d be pretty cool). Instead, you’ll probably have to go through a talent agency or work with an agent to determine whether or not that celebrity is willing to work with your brand and for what price.

We’ve reviewed the different types of influencers and how you can find them — now, let’s dive into how you can create your business’s influencer marketing strategy. A strategy will allow you to manage all aspects of your relationship with an influencer. It’ll also ensure they’re successful in helping you achieve your goals.

Credits: thanks to Hubspot for some of this content and their awesome contributions to the world of marketing.