Finding your influencers

Recommendations are a vital part of finding answers. We all have people we turn to when we need advice. It could be a parent, boss, friend or colleague. If they don’t have the answer — and they don’t always — we look further afield.

Today, more often than not, this means using social media.

Influencer marketing
Influencer marketing is the process of identifying, engaging and supporting the people who create the conversations that impact your brand, products or services. Influencers are likely to be buyers themselves, as well as recommenders of products or services to their own audiences.

Social media has supported the growth in influencer marketing, by focusing on individuals who have influence over potential buyers. Consultants, analysts, journalists, academics and standards bodies are all examples of business influencers. Endorsements no longer need to come from celebrities to be valuable and credible.

Once you become aware of who your influencers are, you can aim your marketing activity at these individuals, in the hope that they’ll share your information with their wider audience.
How to identify influencers

The answer to this question isn’t as simple as “look up their Klout or Kred score” (I’m not knocking either, but they’re not a sufficiently robust measurement in isolation).

Rarely will anyone claim to be “an influencer” (if they do, beware — they may not be trustworthy), and it’s impossible to “buy a list” of influencers.

Keywords have a value beyond SEO — they must be part of your content strategy. Keywords help you define your own messages, and find those who are leading the conversation in those areas.

The most simple way to identify influencers is to listen. Use Google Alerts for your keywords and follow your keywords as hashtags on Twitter.

You can use the advanced search areas of Twitter and LinkedIn to find people who include your keywords in their bio. As a third party tool for Twitter, Followerwonk is very useful.

Quite quickly, a few people will reveal themselves to you. Check them out and bingo — you’ve found your potential influencers.

Size does (and doesn’t) matter
I briefly mentioned “check them out”. This is critical, and not so quick.

While your influencers need to have a large audience, it’s not about the number of followers, connections or likes. This strategy is not a popularity contest.

You can assess the credibility of a potential influencer by the quality of their content, the frequency of their updates and the level of their engagement (response to comments, retweets and so on).

Although the influencer has a role to play within your sales process, they won’t want to be seen as a sales person but a person with knowledge and, in turn, a good authority. It’s important that the content shared by an influencer stays within the context of their own content plan (back to credibility).

If you like what you see, consider reaching out to them. Engage with them — follow them, send them a message, respond to their posts. Do your research on what content they’re broadcasting and provide them with content they’re likely to share.

Shortcuts (or not)
There’s no shortcut to influencer marketing — it takes time to research and manage — but it can be very effective for either standalone PR activity or to amplify other marketing efforts, such as events or new product launches.

For social media users, influencers are a great filter — they often do all the hard work so others don’t have to. I certainly know who the key influencers in my timeline are, and actively look out for their content… they often have the answers before I even know the question!