Something you might be hearing marketing and SEO experts talk about more and more is the importance of connecting with influencers to raise the visibility of your brand and even drive more traffic to your website.
But what are influencers? Why are they so important? How do you identify them and how do you reach out to them?
What is an influencer?
An influencer is, as the name would suggest, a person who has the ability to influence other people towards liking a specific product, brand or service. In the context of online marketing and SEO, influencers are people who are active on social media and blogs; they often promote brands they like and look for high quality content that applies to their niche, and they tend to have a lot of followers who want to hear what they have to say and are guided by their opinion.
Jay Baer cautions that “True influence drives action, not just awareness”. In other words, when a key influencer recommends something, their followers will actively seek it out.
Why are influencers so important?
Backlinks have long been viewed as a vote of confidence from a third party about the quality of a website. However, with so many companies having bought low quality, spammy links to boost their rankings, Google and the other major search engines have had to get smarter about assessing the quality of backlinks.
We discussed this to some extent in our recent blog about How implied links could benefit your SEO in 2015. Search engines are looking for clues that people are talking about your brand on their websites and on social media, viewing these mentions as a third party recommendation. If you can get someone that the search engines view as an influencer talking about your content, then this can have a positive impact on your search engine rankings and drive more traffic to your site.
One way to gauge how Google might see a site in terms of its influence and authority is to use the Moz Open Site Explorer where you can enter a web address and see its domain and page authority. Although you can only see a limited amount of data and run a limited number of searches without signing up as a paid Moz Pro subscriber, this can give you some idea about the perceived authority of a website. A good strategy is to foster links with higher authority domains.
Influencers impact on more than your SEO
Today’s consumers are savvier than ever before. We live in a world where advertising is everywhere we look – on our phones, on our TVs, on our computers and tablets, on bus stops and buildings. Businesses have to work hard to be heard over the noise and it would seem that consumers trust third party recommendations far more than they trust specific brands.
It makes sense. When marketing your business, products or services, you’re bound to highlight the good points, the reasons why you think people should buy from you. It’s unlikely that you would talk about your business in a negative light. A third party – someone completely independent of your business – is likely to have a more objective perspective.
When an influencer talks about your business, their audience is likely to sit up and take notice, visiting your website to find out more, engaging with your brand on social media and even buying your products or services. Having an influencer on your side is a fantastic way to attract new customers.
How do you find influencers that are a good fit for your business?
Not every influencer will be a good fit for your business. Someone may have thousands of followers but appeal to a completely different audience.
Singer Katy Perry, for example, is currently the most followed person on Twitter. If she talks about a brand or event to her 65 million-plus followers, it’s big news but ONLY IF it’s a brand or event that would appeal to her audience. If Katy Perry were to retweet a post about air cooling systems or accounting software, it might raise some eyebrows but it’s unlikely she would influence many people to take action. If a fashion or cosmetic brand could get on her radar, however, her influence would no doubt lead to an influx of new customers and sales.
So, how do you find influencers who are a good fit for your business?
- Social media monitoring – Is anyone talking about your business specifically? Or, if not, is someone talking about your niche? For example, imagine you specialise in hypnobirthing and realise a pregnant celebrity is asking about hypnobirths – they would be a good person to connect with on social media. When you look at your audience on different social media platforms, who do they follow? Do the same names keep coming up? One site that can help you track social mentions is http://socialmention.com. Simply type in your business name, products, services or the influencer you want to know more about and see what mentions come up.
- Research hashtags – It’s worth spending some time looking at what hashtags your influencers are using. A helpful site is http://hashtagify.me/, which offers some free data to identify popular hashtags and top influencers for those hashtags. https://www.hashtags.org/ is also helpful.
- Set up Google Alerts – You can set up Google Alerts to notify you any time your business, name or niche is mentioned and indexed by Google. In fact, you can create Google Alerts for any word or phrase you like. If you sell specialist equipment, for example, you could set up an alert to find out who’s talking about it, then reach out to the person to tell them how your product fits what they’re looking for.
- Get your customers talking about your brand – Back in 2013, ASOS ran a campaign where they asked their customers to film a short film on Twitter Vine showing them unwrapping their ASOS order. They then posted it to Twitter Vine using the #ASOSunbox hashtag. This was a great way to get ASOS trending, create loads of brand advocates (i.e. the customers) and attract the attention of influencers, such as KISSmetrics, who then blogged about the campaign.
- Look for influencers on LinkedIn – LinkedIn is a great platform for spotting influencers. These might be people who are regularly published on LinkedIn Pulse, who have large followings and All-star profiles. Do you have a mutual contact in common who could introduce you? If not, think about sending a targeted message introducing yourself within the context of what the influencer does.
Reaching out to influencers
Once you think you have identified an influencer, it’s important to do your homework. Are they credible? Do you feel confident about having your brand associated with them? Although they have plenty of social media followers, how many of those people are actually engaging in conversations? Sometimes people have bought Facebook likes, for example, to look more influential than they really are.
One piece of advice is to look for mid-level influencers who have the same or a similar target audience to you. A mid-level influencer is someone with 2.5k to 25k monthly followers who has a big enough audience to make waves but a small enough audience to properly engage with the individuals within.
Many of the more high profile influencers will be approached all the time by people looking to capitalise on their influence and reach. You may need to become a face and a name to them before they will give your brand a mention; it isn’t enough to send out a press release or a template message. You need to get to know the influencers, create conversation, look for mutual contacts and create a genuine connection.
It helps to give the influencer a reason to mention your brand. You might want to send them free samples to review, offer a prize to their audience, give them a shout out to your own audience, write a guest post for them or even connect with them as an affiliate (be transparent about this to your customers). These are all ways of reaching out. Show the influencer how they and their audience will benefit from connecting with you.
Thank you goes a long way
If an influencer does give your business a shout it, it’s important to acknowledge the gesture with a public thank you (this works well for the influencer as it puts them in front of your audience), a private message or even a gift. One business coach I’ve spoken to sends at least one gift to an influencer or client every week. It can be something as small as a newspaper article she thinks they’ll like or a pretty notebook she knows they’ll love but her point is that she strives to show the person that she values them as an individual.
Have you reached out to an influencer before? How did it work out? Have you ever noticed an upturn in your social media followers or website traffic as a result of an influencer giving your business a shout out? I’d love to hear your experiences in the Comments below.