Customers are more likely to trust someone when they are not on the company payroll. Of course, it can’t be just anyone. If your cousin Joe tweets your praises to all four of his followers, you won’t see an uptick in sales. However, if an independent blogger with 30,000 followers in your target market mentions that she’s very impressed with the results of using [insert your product here], you can bet you’ll feel the impact.
Obviously positive influence from someone with clout is good for business. That’s just common sense. The real question is: How does my company get that third party endorsement?
There are three steps you can take to grab the attention of online influencers.
1. Identify Your Influencers (Both Big and Not-as-Big)
Start with your target customer base, and find out who has their attention. For example, if you are advertising a B2B analytics tool for digital marketers, you can’t do much better than Avinash Kaushik, an author, blogger, and “marketing evangelist” with over 100,000 Twitter followers. If he writes about the wonders of your web analytics program, big name businesses will take notice.
Keep in mind you’ll want to target multiple influencers at different tiers. Sometimes smaller followings can be much more engaged (i.e. loyal) than vast audiences. When Marc Jacobs launched a new handbag, Vogue.com publishers couldn’t attract more than three comments. When lesser-known Fashionista.com shared the same article, it generated 125 comments.
2. Learn Everything About Them
If you attempt to engage an influencer with content that is irrelevant or uninteresting, or long winded, they won’t bother to respond. Most influencers have worked hard to carve out a niche and cultivate their own focused following. They are looking for content that will help reinforce them as an expert – not just your company’s CEO.
Do your homework and know the influencer you hope to engage:
- Read what they publish, and what their readers publish in the comments; be sure to comment as well.
- Check out the people they follow for insight into what types of content they pay attention to.
- See where they are most active. Do they tweet every five minutes? Are they initiating or moderating discussions on ?
If their most popular posts contain detailed case studies and statistics, give them a story filled with interesting data and surveys. If it looks like something that will benefit their readers there’s a good chance they’ll snatch it up.
3. Consistently Share and Engage
You can’t send out one tweet and expect an influencer to notice. You’ll need to earn their trust by retweeting and commenting on their blogs, and sending them material they can use. They’ll block anything that looks like it was spit out by a robot, or if the pitch is irrelevant for their audience.
Get involved in the places your influencer is already active. Join groups and discussions on Google+ and LinkedIn, contribute the comments on blog posts, and ask them friendly questions on Twitter to grab their attention. And don’t forget to send them an invite to connect with a personalized message explaining why you value their work.
Once you get to know your influencer, make their lives easier with short pitches that answer the question. “why should I care?” Some like Tweet pitches – you only have 140 characters so you’re forced to focus on what really matters. I talked to one blogger in the healthcare IT industry who says he hates long pitches where PR people describe the market. “The message will start off with how x company is changing a market trend but by the end of the message I still don’t know what the heck is changing. They lose me.”
Climb the Spiral Staircase
The 3 steps above are cyclical. Think of them as your ascending spiral staircase to success. The new PR is about building brand identity and value over time with consistent content and customer interaction. Make sure any content you provide your target influencers is very targeted to followers who care about the topics he or she covers on their blogs and social networks.