Influencers are the power brokers of digital marketing. One mention from them can deliver record-breaking traffic to your site. And they don’t just deliver traffic, either. An influencer’s mention is an implied endorsement, and that means trust. The people who come to your site based on an influencer’s mention trust you more. They’re “pre-sold,” in a sense.
That’s why so many marketers vie for influencers’ attention. Unfortunately, that makes getting that attention even harder. Most major influencers get hundreds of emails a day. They have thousands of people sharing their stuff on social media, and their voicemail is probably full of messages from breathless admirers.
So how do you break in? Keep reading to find out.
The first step to getting the right people to notice you is… to pick the right people. For example, every blogger in the digital marketing world probably wants to get the attention of Neil Patel and Jeff Bullas.
These are guys with ridiculous amounts of clout, huge followings and websites that get tens of thousands of visitors a day. They also probably get hundreds – maybe even a thousand – of pitch emails every day.
That’s a problem. Because these guys are so well known, and in such demand, getting their attention could be a major project. So let’s make things easier for you, okay?
As you know, some keywords get massive traffic – and there’s massive competition to rank for them. Other keywords get less traffic, and often have far less competition. Smart search engine optimizers go for the sweet spot between those two poles. They try to find “long tail keywords” that get
- Good traffic
- Are likely to convert
- Have little competition
So let’s try to do that with influencers.
Before we talk about how, I’ve got some data to back up why this is a good strategy. A recent survey from the influencer agency CollectiveBias found 30% of shoppers are more likely to purchase a product endorsed by a non-celebrity blogger than a celebrity. As the report says, “Of that number, 70 percent of 18 to 34 year-olds had the highest preference for “peer” endorsement.”
So it’s not just influence and coolness that makes influencer marketing work. It’s getting the opinion and experience of someone like ourselves. We want to know what’s worked for people like us.
Smaller influencers (aka “micro-influencers”) are more like us than mega influencers. So to continue our keyword metaphor, small influencers may have a higher conversion rate than larger, less targeted influencers.
They’re less competitive to reach, too. Where a major influencer might get hundreds of pitches a day, a micro-influencer may only get a dozen or so. That means it’s far easier for you to get their attention.
There’s one other benefit with micro-influencers: There’s more of them. While there can be only about a dozen titans in each niche, it’s possible for there to be a couple hundred or more smaller influencers. It depends on the niche, of course, but generally you’ll have far more people to choose from if you don’t limit yourself to the heavyweights.
Having more micro-influencers means something else: Choice. You may be able to find an influencer that’s a better fit for your brand if you look to people with smaller audiences.
Sadly, that last bit does bring up the big drawback for smaller influencers: Reach. While a heavyweight might get you in front of, say, 500,000 people, smaller influencers may have audiences a tenth of that size.
If a smaller audience can still deliver all the results you need, that’s great. But if you’re a big brand who’s looking to triple your brand recognition, you may need to work with a dozen smaller influencers to hit the visibility you’d get with one mega influencer. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, but you’ll have more people and campaigns to manage.
Use the right mindset
Simply going after smaller influencers will make your job of getting noticed far easier. But we’re not done yet. There’s another shift you’ll need. And that’s to talk to influencers the right way. Talking to them in the right way means you’ll need to think of them in the right way first.
What do I mean here? Well, Mark Schaefer said it best: “Influencers are people. Don’t pitch them, befriend them.”
There are several positive consequences of this:
- You’ll immediately become more patient with the process of building relationships with influencers (it does take time).
- You’ll stop thinking in terms of “what’s in this for me” and shift toward thinking of “how can I help them?”
- You’ll come off as far more authentic. This is a big deal with influencers – most of them are not corporate types. Many of them are not driven by earning money (motivated by it, maybe – but they’re really in it for the love).
It also helps to understand what influencers want. Every one of them is different, of course, but here’s some research on what they tend to be motivated by:
Make a short list
There’s one last filter to apply before you dive in. Basically, this step just makes you more realistic. It’s to pick no more than 20 influencers to build relationships with. And I do mean no more than 20. Actually, 5-10 is smarter.
Having a short list of target influencers does several good things:
- It makes you focus on which influencers could really help you, versus just trying to find anyone who could maybe help you.
- It means you’ll have to survey the field of potential influencers. Think of it as modified market research. It’s always good to know who’s in your niche and what they’re up to.
- Limiting who you reach out to gives you more time to build relationships with the people who do matter.
How you pick the people on your short list will depend on what your goals are for your influencer marketing. That’s going to be different for everyone, of course, but here are what some of your peers’ goals are:
Here’s a list of possible attributes to use to evaluate influencers with:
Now go find them
Armed with all that information, the next step would be to find your influencers. If you know your niche well, you’ll probably immediately think of at least five possible partners. But don’t stop there. There are plenty of tools to help you find potential influencers. Here’s just a few of them:
Make your move(s)
At last! You’ve done all your homework, including defining what you want from these influencers. You’ve got a carefully chosen list of people who are influential enough to really help you, but not so in-demand that you’ll have a hard time connecting with them.
Now you just have to roll out the relationship building part. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Follow them on every social media platform they’re on (if you aren’t already).
- Sign up for their email list, or for their RSS feed if they haven’t figured out how to build their email list.
- Start sharing their content in your social media accounts.
- Leave comments on their blog. The sooner you can do this after they publish, the better – see #3 in this post.
- If they’ve got a book on Amazon, read it and leave a review.
- Don’t just share their posts on social media – reply and comment on them, too. This is also known as starting a conversation… at least that’s what people call it in the offline world.
- Mention their posts and other work formats on other blog comments you leave, and in the content you create. Link to their site a few times.
- If they’re doing a webinar, get on it. Ask them a question.
- Figure out which channels they prefer to communicate in. Some people respond to emails, others are more likely to respond to a direct message on Twitter, or maybe InMail on LinkedIn. To get the specifics of how anyone prefers to communicate, try the online tool Conspire.
- When you feel you know them well enough to send an outreach email, spend extra time crafting the subject line. It’s got to be concise, but it should also demonstrate how well you know their work. It’s critical that your email passes that first “inbox cull”, where people just delete every email they can.
- Open your outreach email with praise that’s specific enough so they’ll know you really know their work – not that you’re just saying you know their work.
- If you’re asking them to share a piece of your content, only pitch them something they’ll be interested in. You’ve read a lot of their work by now, or watched a lot of their videos. You should know what they love, what irks them, and what might just rile them up. Use that knowledge to craft a pitch they’ll care about. Remember – many influencers get 100-300 pitches a day. They might reply to ten, max. What can you say to them that will make your pitch be the one in ten (or the one in 30) they’ll respond to? In my experience, influencers tend to respond to original research better than anything. They want new information – not another listicle on a topic that’s been written about a hundred times before. If that means you have to put in 5-10 extra hours doing the research… is it worth that effort to create a piece of content this person just might actually share?
- Have a platform of your own. In other words, have a website, build a social media following, grow your email list. Publish or curate content that’s as good as you can make it. Influencers are attracted by good work, smart ideas and people with something to say. If they’re going to put you in front of their audience, your platform needs to be good enough to not make them look odd for promoting you.
- Ask them to contribute to a roundup post. This is a great way to take a new but developing relationship one step further. Roundup posts acknowledge the influencers’ expertise, but aren’t a big commitment to fulfill. Usually it takes only 20 minutes or less for an influencer to contribute to a roundup post. Don’t want to do a roundup post? Simply reach out to the influencer and ask them for a quote about a topic you’re creating content for. Sometimes it helps to send over a draft of the piece of content so they can get an idea of the context of the piece.
- Offer to guest post on their blog. If you know you can deliver content that’s as good as what they publish, this is a great way to give back to your influencer. It’s even better if you can pick a topic that qualifies as evergreen content. That way the influencer can hold your piece for when they need something in a pinch. This gives them more flexibility, though it means you may have to wait a month or so to see your post published.
Getting the attention of influencers can be hard, but you’ll triple your chances if you just:
- Focus on smaller influencers (but not too small)
- Think of your influencers as friends rather than targets for one-time campaigns
- Choose a short-list of influencers that are really worth the time investment building a genuine relationship requires
Once you’ve got that down, the rest gets far easier. Just start acting like you would if they were already partnering with you. Follow their work closely. Interact with them online. And when the time comes, communicate with them in a way that demonstrates how well you know them.
What do you think?
Have you done any influencer marketing for your business? How did you get to know the people you partnered with? Leave a comment and tell us how it went.