Social media remains a valuable marketing tool for a number of reasons, one of the most significant being the word-of-mouth advertising that takes place whenever people share the organization’s content. Individuals are much more likely to take to heart recommendations from friends than they are to trust seemingly random corporate messages. However, organizations that focus solely on shares from friends and family have a short-sighted view of word-of-mouth marketing’s reach.
One of the best ways to engage in word-of-mouth marketing is by capitalizing on the power of influencers. In the world of social media, an influencer is someone who has an immense amount of social capital. Celebrity endorsements are the most basic and time-tested form of influencer marketing, but social media has opened up several new options as more people earn significant followings in particular market segments.
Twitter research has shown that nearly half of all consumers use social media influencers to guide their purchasers, and 20 percent of users admitted to retweeting a message after an influencer shared a product recommendation. Two out of five users said that they had made a purchase entirely because of an influencer’s tweet. These numbers will likely only continue to grow in the coming years as more people begin using Twitter and new influencers appear in niche markets.
How Can Social Media Marketers Make Use of Influencers?
Marketers can use influencers in two distinct and powerful ways. One strategy is to extend the reach of the brand by engaging with content that influencers post in their own channels. In a sense, marketers take advantage of the large user base that an influencer has already amassed to reach potential customers. While companies can develop their own loyal following over time, influencers provide a more direct and effective way of connecting to new audiences. This strategy is most effective when organizations leverage influencers to connect to networks that would otherwise be difficult to reach based on their current market penetration.
The other strategy for benefiting from influencers involves boosting credibility. When organizations use messages from an influencer in corporate channels, those companies can quickly become more credible in the eyes of consumers. Companies may partner with influencers to participate in content on the corporate social media accounts or to simply cross-post their own content.
Who Are the Best Influencers for a Given Campaign?
Companies cannot simply engage random influencers to boost their campaigns. The choice of influencers must be a strategic one based on three key factors. First, the influencer must be relevant and actively sharing content that connects to desired market segments. Second, the influencer should have a significantly large network. If the influencer only reaches a few hundred individuals, then the value that he or she would bring to the business is minimal. The third factor that organizations need to consider is whether the influencer is an authority figure or someone who will drive engagement with their brand.
To identify the ideal influencers to partner with, organizations first need to think about whom exactly they are trying to reach with their marketing campaigns. Regardless of whether a company expects an influencer to bring in a new audience or simply expand its existing one, the company must first thoroughly define that audience to identify the best influencer. Campaigns should never try to be all things to all people, as this results in a watered down and non-engaging experience for the audience. By targeting a very specific demographic, the campaign can be moving and meaningful.
Once an organization has identified its target community, it should look at exactly who holds the trust of that audience. If the desired audience does not trust and respect the opinions of the chosen influencer, then the campaign will have minimal impact. Companies should look across several different channels to identify influencers. Tools like followerwonk, Traackr, Hootsuite, and Klout can help identify the people who most interact with a given audience and have large networks. Individuals can also use hashtags to identify potential influencers.
How Should Companies Connect with Influencers?
When recruiting an influencer for a campaign, it is best to move slowly. Organizations should first reach out through the existing conversations on social media. Events like a Twitter chat are a great way to engage with a potential influencer and demonstrate the brand’s relevance and message. The key is to build a rapport before approaching the individual with a business proposition. Organizations should keep in mind that influencers are increasingly aware of their marketing value and will likely know when a marketer is trying to recruit them.
The next step in recruiting is to create a sense of mutual value. While cash can help recruit an influencer, today’s market often requires more. Just as the brand is helped by the influencer, the influencer can leverage the brand to connect with new communities and create better content. Companies often need to show how the partnership can increase the influencer’s own social capital to get someone really excited about a formal agreement.