Strategic advertising and public relations will help build awareness of your brand, but word of mouth recommendations reign supreme.
According to the 2013 Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising, up to 84% of respondents say they consider “earned advertising” (word of mouth and recommendations from friends and family) to be the most trustworthy element in their purchasing decision-making process.
Influencer marketing is another way of describing word-of-mouth advertising. It centers on attracting the interest and loyalty of a few key individuals (rather than an entire target market)—individuals who have a clear, demonstrated influence over potential customers.
As noted, these can be friends or family members, but with the advent of social media, word-of-mouth is also digital. Many of us now look for advice and guidance to influencers on various social media platforms—advice and guidance that often directly shapes our consumer decision-making process. It makes sense to focus your brand-building efforts on influencing the influencers, so they can share news and recommendations about your brands with their networks —resulting in a potentially dramatic increase in the range and scope of awareness of you and your business.
- Write an article or blog post about your business.
- Promote news and information about you.
- Invite you to become a guest blogger on their site.
- Share links to your original content with their fans or followers.
Who are the influencers in your field? Such individuals can be industry experts, popular bloggers, high-profile thinkers and others. If some of these people are already part of your professional network, it’s worth your time to make sure they know something about you and what you do. Keep in mind influencers can have a vast following, but “niche influencers” with a relatively small following can still have a sizeable impact on your brand.
Read the influencers’ blog posts. Comment on the posts, while making sure your comments add value. This makes you a more significant part of the ongoing discussion and will likely catch the eye of the influencer. Nowadays, you shouldn’t be adding links to your website within the comment as this automatically reads as spam.
A demonstrated record of participating and adding value is the start of the most important aspect of influencer marketing—building a relationship with individuals whose words carry so much weight with others. Relationship-building steps include:
- Following influencers’ social media accounts.
- Retweeting their content.
- Inviting them to provide a guest blog on your site.
- Posting a guest blog on the sites that they follow.
- Asking to contribute a guest blog on their sites.
If you’re just discovering who the key influencers are, take a close look at their blog posts and get a sense of their fans as well. Chances are, these people are equally passionate about the subject and might also be valuable influencers in their own networks. It’s certainly helpful if they become familiar with your brand, too.
Forging relationships with key influencers takes time. Be patient in your communications with them (the hard sell won’t work). The process is similar to cultivating prospects for an eventual sale. Success rarely comes overnight. Your goal is to foster trust and that requires a concerted, ongoing effort.
Influencer marketing can favorably affect all of your business objectives, as long as you stay focused on building a long-term relationship and adding value to the online conversation.