DIGITAL – How to work with influencers

In the second in the series of Digital Posts – Amy White, founder and editor of Social Butterflies, an online magazine for entrepreneurial, digital-savvy women explains, ‘How to work with influencers’.

Amy White is a digital marketer and editor who specialises in producing quality content for consumer brands. With over 16 years’ experience working in editorial and account management, she spent her twenties working for Guardian News & Media in various editorial roles before moving to its in-house creative agency. Amy project managed a huge variety of lifestyle supplements and websites for the Guardian and the Observer. Now living in Bristol, Amy works as a freelance consultant and offers a range of digital marketing services: content marketing, digital strategy, social media, influencer outreach, WordPress, branding, SEO, email marketing and analytics.

 

If you’re a brand wanting to gain social media coverage these days, it’s all about the influencer. For those not familiar with the term, an influencer is someone who has a significant following on social media and ‘influences’ consumer spending decisions. When I say significant, it broadly falls into three tiers: the global media celebrities with millions of followers (but do not engage with their followers), the likes of Kim Kardashian; the social media celebrities whose stardom may have been born on the platform with followers in the region of 50-500k region (however, as their follower numbers rise, they become less engaged and more unobtainable); lastly the micro-influencers with followers of anything up to about 30k. They may have fewer follower numbers, but they have hyper-engaged, niche audiences, and if you connect with the right ones it can really boost your sales. For the purposes of this article I will be focusing on how to work with micro-influencers.

Making connections in the days before social media (yes, that time did exist) would have probably required PR services, but the immediacy and privileged access social media gives you, means small businesses can contact influencers directly without the need for PR intervention. That’s good news for you if you’re a small business with a miniscule marketing budget. If you follow some simple rules you can start to build meaningful relationships with micro-influencers. I’ve outlined my tips and suggestions below and they are applicable for all the main social media platforms: Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

 

MAKING THE RIGHT CONNECTIONS

Like any kind of business relationship, it all starts with the initial approach. The beauty and simplicity of social media is that it allows you to make small, friendly gestures of contact without feeling exposed or obligated. You don’t even have to commit to following someone to like their posts or comment/retweet/share their content. This casual approach allows you time to suss out who is engaging with your audience. This is absolutely fundamental – there is no point courting someone with 50k followers if they’re all 12-years-old (assuming that’s not your target market of course!). So you need to understand not only who your audience is, but also who their audience is. It takes time to establish where the natural synergies may lie, but it’ll be worth it. Think of a Venn diagram with your customer in the middle – you want to connect with influencers who are engaging with your customers.

BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

Once you have a clear idea which influencers are the right fit for your business you can begin to make a more meaningful approach. But don’t launch straight in there, take your time and build up a rapport with someone. You never know, a natural conversation may lead you to the outcome you want. I would always advise people to be friendly and true to their personality: social media success thrives on authenticity these days. We’ve all become so media savvy as consumers, so an approach that seems contrived, brusque or out of context might be counterproductive. Engage in their content, answer the questions they might ask, comment on other people’s comments. Don’t just blindly like everything and leave generic, fake sounding platitudes. Nothing stands out more than the blanket comments of “great photo!”, “you’re fab”, and other such banal commentary. I’m a fan of creative emoji use (particularly on Instagram), but if you’re trying to sell a product with a serious message behind it, then you need to be careful about your tone.

LIST BUILDING

So, you’re following the right people but it’s difficult trying to keep track of all the key players spread across different social media platforms, so now is the time to get organised. You need to create a spreadsheet of all your favourite influencers with their contact details, which you can update and sort by category. It will be invaluable to your business and save you time searching online. Categories I would suggest including are: name, email addresses, blog URLs, social media accounts, domain authority, location, brands they may have worked with, notable connections they have with other influencers. You can customise the list to suit your business needs, but I promise you having this organised in a searchable way will help streamline your marketing processes.

 

MAKING THE RIGHT APPROACH

In preparation for writing this article I spoke to a number of influencers about the good and bad approaches they’ve received over the years. For reasons of professional anonymity, I won’t name names, but needless to say some of the anecdotes were bizarre, hilarious and sometimes downright cheeky. One company wanted a ‘personal review’ of a pelvic floor exercise contraption, that looked like something from Fifty Shades of Grey (they also wanted the item returned…). The mind boggles. At the other end of the spectrum a well known radio and TV personality told me she’d been asked to review a holiday package in Florida, all expenses paid, with a professional contract outlining all social media expectations. It’s important to remember these people are working hard to make a living at blogging, vlogging etc, and some of them have another job as well. So, when you do approach people, don’t expect something for nothing: they have bills to pay like the rest of us. If you insult people by assuming free coverage by sending them a sample product you may get short shrift – accessories do not pay the mortgage! This new kind of media promotion is still finding its feet commercially, so there are no hard and fast rules about what individual influencers may charge, but as long as you approach them respectfully you can’t go too far wrong.

CAMPAIGN MANAGEMENT

Let’s imagine you’ve successfully made your approach and established a professional dialogue with your chosen influencer. You’ve even negotiated your terms – success! But it’s not just about agreeing payment, you need to be clear about what you expect in terms of social media coverage and that they understand that too. You don’t want any embarrassing confrontations down the line which lead to animosity. Write down what you expect for the money you’re paying – a simple contract signed by both parties is the easiest way to set out your terms. Also, if you make a professional approach in this way you may get recommended to their influencer friends and contacts, and so it becomes a virtuous circle. And don’t forgot to maintain these relationships (if they’ve been successful for both parties obviously). Working with good people is beneficial on both sides, and remember the social media world may be global in its reach, but the micro-influencer world for your niche market is a small one, so it pays to be nice.

 

If you follow these simple rules you should be able to make genuine, relevant connections with social media influencers to help grow your brand. Best of luck!