Consistent High-Performance Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing -- engaging with influential people related to your product, brand, business or industry -- is an effective way to blast through communication noise. It’s also an opportunity to build brand trust and credibility with a large audience.
Unfortunately, influencer marketing is often oversold as a magic-bullet solution or a quick-fix business tactic. Building the relationships necessary to co-produce marketing content for audiences cultivated by influential journalists, spokespersons and bloggers is neither easy nor quick. The time and effort it takes to cultivate a relationship with a key influencer is typically a larger investment than crafting targeted advertising directly to your customers. The payoff comes at the level of trust an influencer’s audience has in them, but it requires a high-effort investment to achieve.
Is influencer marketing worth that effort? Unequivocally yes, with one stipulation: that you do it the right way. First, you need to understand the landscape.
In general, influencer marketing encompasses everything from old-school public relations (PR) and celebrity spokesperson outreach to some of the smarmiest link-building efforts you’ve ever seen. In between these extremes is a gold mine of opportunity for brands of all sizes and across every vertical imaginable.
Can you still get backlinks to your website content for a relatively low amount of effort? Sure, but considering the way search engines treat irrelevant and/or low-quality links, not only will you get very little value out of the process -- but you could also set your online visibility up for penalties and consequent traffic failure.
Can the maximum effort and expense of chasing the unicorns of celebrity spokespersons and top-tier national news media exposure still pay off? Yes, it can. Why do you think Weight Watchers pays Oprah Winfrey obscene amounts of money to talk about its Freestyle program? She’s newsworthy and Weight Watcher’s target audience trusts Oprah’s recommendations. Most businesses don’t have the resources or the volume of business for that kind of marketing expense to pay off in a positive ROI.
Getting a top-tier news mention is like catching lightning in a bottle. Does it pay off when it happens? Yes, absolutely. However, do you want to put all of your eggs in that one basket to wait for that one perfect moment?
The real value for most businesses happens in between those extremes. Find the right person in the right niche at the right moment and then cultivate that connection. I’ve seen many businesses get the first part of that statement right and completely miss the mark on the follow-through.
A couple of years ago, I helped a brand with a personal-care product line. This company could disrupt the personal-care product industry if it could get the word out. Though website, social media and PR were on point, its product was so niche and so unknown that it was difficult to get the attention of customers. Its winning solution: adding influencer marketing to the mix of the good things it was already doing.
Niche News Media
While this e-commerce company was realistic about its expectations regarding news media, it recognized that there are many online publications about beauty, health and wellness. The best source for them was Help a Reporter Out (HARO) -- a free email subscription of requests for expert information from writers and content producers of all kinds. Content requests typically come from larger-scale online publications that are producing several stories a day.
Early in the process, the company scored a major mention with links in Bustle -- an online lifestyle publication by women for women. The writer was a regular contributor to not only Bustle but also SheKnows, TheBeautyBean and Livingly Media. Once it was proven that the company had great information and research to share, that writer was very open to using the brand as a trusted source. Sadly, the company fell short with its follow-through. Had it continued to nurture the relationship with that writer, it would probably still get mentions from her on a regular basis.
Another option this same company tried was a blogger relations service that packages and delivers boxes of product samples to bloggers who have demonstrated reasonable levels of topic coverage, audience size and social media reach.
BabbleBoxx is one such service with a focus on health and beauty products. Two engagements with BabbleBoxx got the company links and social media mentions from 40-plus bloggers across several niches within the health and beauty vertical. Considering the effort required from the brand’s small marketing team, this was a massive win. Seven of those bloggers wrote very thoughtful and valuable comments about the product and communicated a willingness to reengage for more.
Unfortunately, follow-through was lacking. Too many brands treat these kinds of blogger efforts as one and done, but the bloggers they’ve engaged continue writing and developing a valuable audience that trusts them.
The Long Game
Finding influencers who are a fit for your brand is easy. Between HARO, blogger boxes and outreach services like BuzzSumo, Ninja Outreach and BuzzStream, your brand can find many people that fit in that magic middle range of the influencer gold mine.
Just like selling additional products and services to existing customers is a lot more profitable than constantly acquiring new customers, nurturing relationships with influencers already familiar with you takes a lot less time and effort than convincing new influencers to engage.
• Pick the best mentions, writing and social amplification and keep in touch with them.
• Follow up to learn more about what information, insights, etc., would help them develop new content for their audiences.
• Find out if there are opportunities to create content with them.
• Offer exclusive access to experts for interviews and data for new articles.
• Support mentions or links with additional content distribution across your brand channels.
If your marketing team properly nurtures these special one-on-one relationships, you will build valuable trust in your brand and grow your presence.