Marketing isn’t a one size fits all proposition. Marketing efforts targeted at customers, other companies and the general public each have their own nuances and approach. Marketing to influencers has become one of the fastest growing sectors of marketing and, with its new found popularity, comes a fair bit of confusion. Many companies new to the marketing game don’t understand how to identify their market’s influencers or what to do once those people have been identified. Understanding who influences your audience and how to build a relationship with those people can help companies increase their reach and strengthen their impact in the marketplace.
What Is An Influencer?
The public is influenced in a number of different ways. Direct marketing is the most traditional method and, in many cases, remains the most effective. But today’s consumers are more cynical and jaded than previous generations and many of them regard information and content straight from a company with a fair amount of skepticism. This is where Influencers step in. Simply put, Influencers are third party individuals or organizations which indirectly influence your company’s target audience. The world of fashion has made the most of Influencers for years by offering free products to celebrities. A model or movie star sporting a certain handbag, for example, can send sales through the roof overnight.
In their landmark book on the subject, The Influentials: One American in Ten Tells the Other Nine How to Vote, Where to Eat, and What to Buy, authors Edward Keller and Jonathan Berry identified five different types of Influencers:
- Activists – People who get involved on the ground level through community events, local politics and spearheading grassroots movement online and off.
- Connected – These are people with influence in the social media world. These people have active profiles, media feeds, video channels and other social media outlets with a lot of followers or subscribers.
- Impact – Trusted authorities and people with an established record of involvement in a particular cause are seen as being especially impactful.
- Active Minds – Connecting your company or product across a wide segment of the population hinges on connecting with people who have diverse interests. These ‘Active Minds’ provide a bridge between your company and people who may not normally know about your or your work.
- Trendsetters – This is the most traditional group of Influencers; the people who set the trends by being the first to wear something, use a new gadget or throw their weight behind a political or social issue.
Connecting with Influence
Once you know what an Influencer is, it’s time to find the people and organizations who fit the bill in your industry and connect with them directly. Searching online for people who are well known within the industry is the first step to identifying Influencers. There are a number of tools companies can use to identify Influencers based on almost any criteria imaginable. These tools include applications which find, identify and even prioritize potential Influencers in a specific industry.
Connecting with Influencers is best done by giving them what they want – something to write about. Reaching out directly to Influencers via email can be the best way to get the ball rolling. Appealing to their ego shows that you acknowledge the reach they have and that you understand how much they can bring the table. Simple content driven activities which can help your company connect with Influencers include
- Group Interviews – A group interview poses the same question to a number of Influencers in a given industry. Articles simply outline the question and then list the responses. This gives readers the chance to see what several experts think and also connects your company with leading names in the industry.
- Best Lists – Creating a list of the best applications, most useful tools or the best resources for your industry is an ideal way to reach out to Influencers and begin a relationship. Asking to include them on your list strokes their ego and lists are incredibly popular when it comes to content sharing.
- Ask the Pros – Creating an expert guide on an issue related to your industry lets you reach out to Influencers and offer the public genuinely useful information. This helps to forge relationships with those Influencers and promotes your company as a valuable resource as well as a collaborative organization.
Connecting with Influencers through content creation offers a number of benefits. Cross-promotion helps companies to reach a wider audience while collaboration helps to generate new ideas. Asking an Influencer to review a product, write a guest article, record a podcast or otherwise get involved with your company helps to broaden your reach and exposes you to that person’s audience as well as your own. The Influencer will want to promote their own work and will, by association, promote yours as well. This collaboration promotes your company and shows your commitment to teamwork, community outreach and connectivity.
Bob Ferguson represents collegehwhelp, a website designed to help students.