Influencer marketing is becoming an increasingly popular, and powerful, tool for marketers. As recently noted on the V3*Broadsuite blog:
“The beginning of the year brought the usual deluge of posts about trends and predictions for marketing in 2017. A common trend across quite a number of these posts—including pieces from Forbes, Entrepreneur, NewCo Shift, and AdWeek—was increased use of influencer marketing.”
According to Google Trends, search interest in the term really began to take off in early 2016. Average weekly searches for the phrase have quadrupled over the past 18 months.
Yet like a hammer (or more extremely, a chainsaw) influencer marketing is a tool that can cause more damage than benefit if not used wisely. To quote Voltaire (maybe Spider Man—but probably Voltaire), “With great power comes great responsibility.”
The tactic is hardly new, with more than 70,000 articles and blog posts devoted to it. But it is still, far too frequently, poorly executed.
Want to get better results from your influencer marketing—and just as importantly, look like you know what you’re doing? Here are six keys to make it successful with influencer marketing.
Make It Relevant
Influencers can spot “spray and pray” outreach a mile off. Sending a pitch completely unrelated to an influencer’s sphere of expertise is the fastest way to get your message ignored or marked as spam. It’s unproductive and makes you look clueless.
This blog, Webbiquity, is dedicated to B2B marketing. It covers a range of related topics: social media, SEO, business blogging, content marketing, WordPress, and marketing technology tools.
Within the realm of marketing, it’s a fairly broad target. Yet it gets completely missed—a lot. Here’s a sampling of subjects I’ve been pitched about in the past few months:
- Craft beer brewing
- American-Islamic relations
- Beacons (as in Bluetooth radio transmitters, not lighted warning signals)
- A portal for freelance accountants
- Waterfowl habitat conservation
- An AI driving assistant phone app
- Healthcare reform
- Rings and pendants (as in jewelry)
- Home mortgages
- Men’s health (digestive issues, specifically)
- Early childhood development
- Natural honey
- An “augmented reality dating application” (I don’t even want to know)
- Home renovation
- A travel-booking app
You get the idea. Fascinating subjects all (except maybe the dating app), but—completely irrelevant to Webbiquity.
Make It Personal
Beginning an outreach email with “Hi there” is possibly the fastest path to getting it deleted. In the minds of most influencers, if you can’t bothered to, at the very least, find and use their first name, you may as well be trying to move a large sum of money for a mysterious Nigerian businessman.
But using a person’s first name is just a start, a foot (or perhaps just a toe) in the door. Explain why you are reaching out to them, specifically. Why are you interested in a specific influencer? More importantly, why should they be interested in you?
Another great way to get your pitch ignored while coming off as a jerk is to use a line something like this:
“I found your blog while searching for industry-specific news and updates.”
Really now? The influencer reading this is thinking: “Okay, I’ve been pouring my brain, heart, and soul out on this blog for five (or seven, or 10, or 12…) years, and you’re acknowledging you just now found it. Never read it before. And yet you want me to do something special for you?”
Doesn’t matter what it is, they won’t read that far.
Make It Real
Are you looking for a relationship or a one-night stand? Just as with dating, in influencer outreach, the quality of the people you interact with tends to be directly proportional to the length of the relationship.
Particularly when trying to reach “A-list” influencers, invest some time in the relationship before asking for anything. Follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn, like and share their content, maybe comment on their blog or social posts. Give them a reason to open your email.
If the first they ever hear from you is a request to do something for you, your odds of a positive response go way down. You’re just another imposition on their time.
Make It Strategic
While relevance determines whom to contact when doing influencer outreach, strategy is about what you ask them to do.
Many A-list influencers will have specific instructions for outreach posted on their blogs or websites. Some won’t accept guest posts at all; some will, but have specific requirements for length, links, and other attributes; and few will write guest posts. Money is often involved. Some top influencers offer specific “packages” of content and promotion activities for a fixed price.
A-list influencers are focused on protecting their brands, so pitches must be precisely tailored to appeal to them. B-list bloggers and podcasters focus on expanding their brands, and so are often more open to guest posts and participating in expert roundups. And C-list content producers are building their brands, so they are generally the most flexible (though you’ll need to work with more of them to get a significant impact).
Make sure your “ask” fits each influencer not just topically but also in terms of what he or she values.
Make It Quality
If you do get an opportunity to provide content to an influencer, make it worthy of their venue. An infographic? Make it unique and informative. Podcast? Prep for the questions. Expert roundup contribution? Showcase your knowledge with detail.
And above all, if it’s a guest post—make sure it’s well written. Use online writing tools like Grammarly and Hemingway App to fix run-one sentences, passive voice, subject-verb agreement, and word choice issues.
It’s unbelievable how many “professional writers” can’t write their way of a figurative paper bag (though they may get confused and call it a literal paper bag). I see guest post submissions almost weekly that would never have made it past my 8th grade English teacher, Sister Claire (her unforgettable motto: “Good, better, best. Never let it rest ’til the good is better and the better best!”). Some wouldn’t have even made it past my 4th grade English teacher, Mrs. Drinkwine (God rest her soul, and yes, that was her real name).
Make It Easy
The simpler the request, the more likely a “yes.”
Public relations (PR) firms (interns?) still routinely send out “pitches” with some variation of: “XYZ Corp. is proud to announce the release of its newest yada yada. Contact me if you’d like to schedule an interview with the CEO.” That boilerplate from the last century may still work with the dwindling number of “traditional” journalists, but it ineffective and inappropriate for influencers who write blogs to support their businesses—not as their businesses.
One PR firm recently sent out a request to a number of bloggers asking for two-to-three sentence answers for an expert roundup. Nothing wrong with that, except…the email then listed seven questions! It’s basically a guest post request at that point. Ask for an answer to one question, or maybe give the influencer a choice of answering one out of two or three options.
A quick request to share a post, on the other hand, is easy to say “yes” to. Influencers like Robbie Richards in SEO and Babette Ten Haken in the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) periodically send out short email messages highlighting their latest content and including pre-written updates for Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks. All the recipient needs to do is copy the pre-written tweet or update and paste it into Twitter or LinkedIn. Making this approach works relies on quality as well as infrequency (once per month is good, twice is probably the max).
Use these six practices and your influencer outreach will not only be more successful, but also more enjoyable. Your outreach will feel more like conversations with friends and less like one of those awkward after-work hours “networking” events.