Chances are if you are reading the CMI blog, you are already executing against one or more content marketing strategies or at least thinking about doing so. But have you integrated influencer marketing into your content program?
First, what is influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing is nothing new. For years, companies have been engaging with the people and groups that their target audience looks to for information. Back in the day, companies practiced traditional PR and built relationships with a few key reporters in their space. But with the shift toward online interaction, a new generation of influencers has come upon us.
Influencers come in all shapes and sizes, such as editors, bloggers, venture capitalists, academics, trade associations and consultants. Yet one thing remains consistent — if you build successful relationships with your key influencers, over time they will be essential to marketing your company and products.
Why think about influencer marketing AND content marketing?
Often, it’s necessary for content marketing and influencer marketing to work together. In a way, they feed off one another.
Many companies engage in content marketing to build thought leadership and generate brand awareness. Working with influencers as part of your content strategy can help you achieve these goals, more quickly and effectively. By engaging in ongoing conversations with key bloggers, reporters and other influencers, they will be more apt to share your content and refer to you as a thought leader in the space. As a result, you may notice an increase in traffic to your website as well as a boost in inbound leads.
Here are some steps to help you get started:
Step 1: Identify 10-20 target influencers
There are several types of influencers for every industry, and each industry can have different criteria for what makes a person influential. So when determining influential members of your business’s community, first consider the people, sites, and services that your customers and prospects rely on for information. What blogs and online publications do they read? Where do they hang out online and offline? Who are the established thought leaders in the space? If you have no idea, consider conducting a brief survey with your customers and prospects to get first-hand insight. Sample questions for such a survey could include both open-ended and guided queries:
- Open-Ended: Do you read any blogs related to (industry/pain point)? If so, what are they?
- Guided: Please select your top sources for information from the following: (include a list).
Step 2: Get to know your influencers
Some may forget to dedicate the right amount of time to this step, but it is important. Before you reach out to your key influencers, it is essential to do your homework. Read their work, connect with them on social networks, and understand as much as possible about their points of view before initiating a conversation.
Often, business influencers realize they play this important role and will provide their own guidelines for reaching out to them. Trust me, if you follow their rules or instructions you will get better results. In general, many bloggers and reporters appreciate short, succinct pitches and dislike technical jargon and general goobledygook, so keep this in mind when trying to connect with a potential influencer. I recently shared 22 tips from tech bloggers and reporters on my firm’s blog.
Step 3: Engage with your influencers
Once you have an understanding of what makes your influencers tick, get on their radar with some outbound activities. Share their content with your audience or start posting supportive comments on their published works. You can also interact with your influencers on social channels. For example, sharing and retweeting their content and comments to your networks can help forge a connection and will indicate that you appreciate their perspective. If possible, you can even choose to reach out directly to your influencers and request a bit of their time to chat about their interests and issues first-hand.
Step 4: Creating the pitch
Now that you have been closely following your influencers, you should have plenty of ideas of what to pitch to them, right? If not, scan their recent articles and blog posts to determine topics that they like to write about. If you are still stuck, here are some general ideas I have seen work in the past:
- Share a customer success story. Influencers typically don’t want to hear about how great a company is from the CMO’s perspective; instead, they want to hear from the customers.
- Notice a trend in the space? Take a viewpoint and send along your thoughts to an influencer to hear their stance.
- Spread your news. Some influencers still love to cover standard news — quarterly revenue/sales numbers, new product launches, key additions to your team, etc. Just keep it interesting.
Step 5: Review and repeat
Influencer marketing doesn’t stop after the first pitch. Building relationships with influencers takes time and the ability to withstand rejection. And not every pitch will go over smoothly. You have to remember that other companies are reaching out to the same influencers and touting their products as well. You may hear “no, not interested,” or you may hear nothing at all. It is important to be persistent and incorporate any feedback you get into your influencer program moving forward.
If you keep up with the above steps, you should begin to notice a change within your influencer database. Over time, your influencers will begin to take note of your company or brand and will be sharing your content and recommending you to their followers.
How have you incorporated influencer marketing into your content program?
Looking for more guidance on influencer marketing? Download our complete toolkit, Influencer Marketing: The Latest Strategies, Templates, and Tools, for a simple 8-step process – including templates.