By Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard, PR Foreman
Recently, you’ve been hearing a lot about “Influencer Marketing” or “Influencer Relations.” But what exactly is it, how does it work and is it right for your company’s marketing strategy?
Sometimes referred to as the “new media,” a comprehensive marketing communications strategy often will include influencer relations as a tactic for expanding a brand’s awareness.
What is an influencer?
An influencer is someone that has a large social media following and actively engages with its audience to “influence” them on his or her opinions. While “influencer” might conjure up ideas of Kim Kardashian touting the latest waterproof eyeliner or designer handbag, there are influencers in the industrial, manufacturing and contractor space, as well. While some of these influencers might not boast the same Instagram audience numbers as Kardashian’s 149+ million followers, their audiences can be very significant for the market they are in.
A large social media following can be relative. Nano influencers, with 1K to 10K followers, have small, niche and highly engaged audiences. Micro influencers, the next tier up, with 10K to 50K followers, are often the most informed opinion leaders in their niches and typically have a very engaged community of followers who rely on (and trust) their content.
If you are a nano/micro influencer in a niche market such as woodworking, developing relationships with companies that are promoting the tools or supplies you use can be mutually beneficial for both parties. For the influencer, it provides the opportunity to be the first to experience innovative products and share their experiences and opinions with their followers, providing appealing content that keeps their followers enthralled and looking for more. For the brand marketing products, it provides an authentic, engaging opportunity to get your products or services endorsed by an opinion leader and visibility in front of your target audience. Plus, repurposing influencer content is a great way to showcase the influencer and also add credibility to the brand.
According to research, consumers are much more likely to trust peer recommendations than advertisements. By finding the right influencers in your target audience, brands can build credibility by using a trusted source in the community and, thus, increasing sales. Even for the B2B niche, influencer marketing is about partnering with industry experts to add credibility, distribution and engagement to great brand content.
Questions to answer before launching an influencer program
Before jumping into an influencer relations program, evaluate your company and its offerings and decide if it is a good fit for a program. Does your brand have an e-commerce presence? The idea is for influencers to drive awareness (and ultimately sales), so if there is not an easy, online process in place to purchase your products, now might not be the time to launch such a program.
Do you have an active presence on social media? If not, your effort will be wasted or certainly not amplified to the level that would move the needle for your brand.
Finally, are your products or services ready and ample? No point in engaging an influencer who creates intense interest amongst his or her followers, only to frustrate the followers when the product is unavailable or on back order.
Once you’ve decided that an influencer program is a fit for your brand, you’ll want to develop a strategy and set some goals and objectives and create a process. You’ll also want to track and measure your results.
Influencer relations vs. media relations
Influencer relations, as mentioned earlier, have been likened to media relations. Build and nurture relationships with influencers in a similar fashion as you do with the media. Influencers are interested in trying products they care about and many are looking for the next big thing to show their followers, in the same way a trade media editor may be looking to write about the next industry trend. But they are different, too. People tend to engage more with influencers than they do with traditional media. While someone may read a story and not necessarily share it online, they would be more inclined to share a post or image from an influencer.
Another difference is that the collaboration between brand and influencer is typically done for a monetary fee, free products or a combination of both. If your product doesn’t lend itself to being sent out to influencers, consider planning an influencer event where you bring influencers together at a trade show or industry event to experience your products and engage with their peers, as well as the brand.
Getting started with influencer relations
You may want to consider a trial run program, especially if upper management is skeptical, to see what type of success you can expect. Remember, like anything, curb expectations and allow the program to grow and gain momentum naturally.
Influencer marketing is here to stay and is growing to be an increasingly popular tactic for reaching target audiences and gaining market share. Getting influencers to persuade your audience can drastically work in your favor when executed properly.
Have questions about whether an influencer relations program is right for your brand? Or need help strategizing or implementing your influencer program? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for our next post on influencer marketing, “Tips for Implementing a Successful Influencer Relations Program.”