Third-party endorsement of your products or services can make the difference between business success and failure. Getting influential third-parties to actually cite you, your company, products, or services can seem an insurmountable, confusing task. Smart businesses, however, turn to classic PR with some digital twists to own influencer marketing and turn third-party power into positive cash flow to the business.
Generally, goals for influencer marketing include generating community buzz, news, mentions, interviews, placed articles, support, branding, and retention. Other goals include positive relations with industry leaders, internal corporate stakeholders, peers and the influencers themselves to support media relations crisis management. Sadly, too many businesses lack the time, resources and know-how to make this happen. Or do they?
Influencer marketing means various things to marketers, both B2B and B2C. Motivating authoritative players to frame your business in a positive light can generate powerfully positive results (nasty negative ones as well). Understanding a range of objectives and tactics is essential to go from unknown to becoming an influencer in your own right.
1. Discover who the influencers really are.
The only way to know who influences your targets is to research everything you can. Media and influencer databases help, but nothing beats digging in personally to see who writes about your space in media, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social channels. Do the hard work, because it can be a great learning experience.
2. Get Influencers to know your brand.
PR 101 time: You must distribute meaningful content to thought leaders, high authority users, journalists, bloggers, vloggers, etc. Nobody else is going to tell your story if they don't understand it themselves. Distribute via news releases, social, email, phone - even track them down (politely) at conferences. Be patient, though. Their job is to understand an industry - not to be your advocate. Distribute solid, though-provoking, insightful content. Be of value to them first.
3. Secure editorial mentions, feature stories, contributed articles and other coverage.
The stronger the content shared with influencers, the more likely you will become part of broader coverage. A news release alone is not PR. It is one of countless tools in the PR toolbox. Think more broadly with a calendar-driven, well-conceived content distribution machine to help establish your relevance across all external and internal communications channels.
4. Don't let Influencers escape your story.
Do you see the self-fueling outcome happening in this sequence? Doing the basics of solid PR and content can extend exponentially among and through influencers. Your message is seen/heard broadly, but you can make it even louder for influencers by targeting them directly through inexpensive paid amplification via Twitter. You can also drive your message for pennies per view via powerful paid Facebook amplification of short, crisp video messages. Solid organic PR, combined with smart paid social makes your message practically inescapable.
5. Become an influencer.
Great content is foundational for all influencers. They have something of interest to say to specific audiences. Executed well, others in your space may well start looking to you as an influencer for industry insight and commentary. They might even start hoping you talk about them. Credibility reigns supreme in marketing. Become the authority others seek.
Unfortunately, social media's business impact cuts both ways. Wielding influential authority is not limited to famous players. Anyone with a mobile phone and a social media account is potentially a power broker.
Ask United Airlines. United experienced viral social media backlash and calamitous PR after ripping a man out of his seat so a crew member could fly, all captured on phone video by another passenger. A prime example of instant-influencer marketing at its worst.
Much damage is also done to business reputations through word of mouth, friend to friend, peer to peer. User review sites ranging from Yelp to pissedconsumer.com can have devastating results on a business.
Smart entrepreneurs will continually think through the myriad influencers (good and bad) as they strive to engage these stakeholders for the best possible outcomes. Never stop assessing and re-assessing the influencer landscape. Today's at-home-mom or basement handyman blogger can quickly emerge as tomorrow's influencer goldmine.
Get started sooner, rather than later. Three quick steps will get you on your way:
- Study your landscape of influencers to understand who they are and what trips their trigger.
- Craft a meaningful editorial content calendar. Topics should be helpful to the influencers--not a list of great features and benefits of your product.
- Distribute, distribute, distribute - then amplify, amplify, amplify.
Start manageable, but make it a priority to become the relevant content machine your influencers will get to know and love. The love returned might well transform your business.