By now, you've undoubtedly heard the term "influencer marketing," and you've probably thought about adopting it as a strategy. But you may not know the full scope of the strategy, why it's important, or how to implement it in a practical way that enhances your other online marketing efforts. Since I'm a major proponent of the benefits of influencer marketing, I'd like to dispel some rumors, lay everything out on the table, and point out exactly how influencer marketing can aid SEO and content marketing.
The Benefits of Influencer Marketing
First, let's identify the basics of the strategy. "Influencer marketing" refers to influencers, which is a broad term describing anyone in your industry who has a noteworthy, influential presence. These are typically CEOs, consultants, and other movers and shakers who have large social media followings, big networks of connections, and most importantly, a captive audience. They may have their own content platforms, or they might post only on social media--what's important is they carry a lot of weight in your specific circle.
With influencer marketing, you'll be leveraging this pre-existing system of connections and influence for your own brand's benefit. Among the benefits of this approach (specifically for SEO and content marketing) include:
Personal Brands and Corporate Brands
Before I get too deep into my discussion on the proper use of an influencer marketing campaign, I want to clarify the important distinction between personal and corporate brands. Corporate brands are businesses or organizations posting on their own behalf (such as with Home Depot's Twitter feed). Personal brands are profiles of individuals, who are typically associated with a business but publish content under their own names. Generally, personal brands are stronger influencers because people trust other people more than they trust corporations. They're also easier to get in contact with, and are more likely to do you favors.
As you might imagine, using your own personal brands in influencer marketing is similarly advantageous. You'll be treated more as an equal, and you'll be trusted more from the outset. It's possible (and sometimes advantageous) to use corporate brands on both sides of the equation, but personal brands are a safer bet.
Targeting the Right Influencers
To build momentum early, you need to target the right influencers. First, make a list of all the influencer you can find on your target platforms (whether that's in the blogger sphere or a specific social media platform). Then, narrow down your list to the people most appropriate to your industry. When you first start out, it's a good idea to reach out to lesser-knowns, and then work your way up to more noteworthy personalities--otherwise, you might get snubbed more often.
Getting the acknowledgment and/or support of an influencer isn't exceedingly difficult, but you're going to see mixed results. Start by following them, making occasional comments on their work, and sharing their work on your own profile. If you're lucky, they'll take notice and start sharing some of your material, completing the loop. If this doesn't hold true, you can escalate your engagement, asking them questions about the industry, or even asking them for their opinions on a piece you recently published. The goal is to get them to engage with you, however you can, to increase your visibility on the chosen platform. For help with this, see How to Get Influencers To Boost Your Social Media Reach.
Ongoing Relationship Building
One engagement shouldn't be enough to satisfy your hunger. If you want to maximize the results of your strategy, you have to build and maintain your influencer relationships over the long haul. Reach out to them regularly, share their content, and continue to comment on their material. The more often you do this, the more engagements you'll get, and the more personable and approachable you'll seem to new followers.
Becoming an Influencer
The last thing I'll mention about influencer marketing is becoming an influencer in your own right. Once you've begun to build up more relationships with influencers (preferably with your personal brand), you'll start to become more recognized and noticed in those circles. Aided by more powerful, unique content, you'll start building a following that rivals those of your original influencers, and soon you'll be able to call yourself an influencer. From there, your responsibilities should center around building your reputation, building an even bigger audience, and maybe paying your strategy forward by helping some up-and-comers build reputations of their own.
If you engage in any kind of SEO or content marketing strategy, influencer marketing is a must. It enhances your campaigns, objectively, and it costs nothing but your time. Plus, there are several peripheral benefits to influencer marketing I didn't even mention because they don't directly affect SEO or content marketing, including authority by association, real-life networking advantages, and future job/client/partnership opportunities. Try it out and see how it works for you--my guess is you'll be pleasantly surprised.