Rise of the social media influencer – how to identify and engage with brand advocates.

Do you run B2B marketing or B2C marketing campaigns? Have you included social media influencers in your overall social media strategy? Whether your objectives are to increase brand awareness or to improve traffic and generate leads, social media influencers can be integral brand advocates.

Social Media Influencer

What is a social media influencer?

Consumers trust recommendations from third party sources more than a brand itself. They are turning off from traditional advertising and are more likely to take recommendations and research a product/service for themselves.  An influencer is the bridge between your brand and your audience, someone who can “sell” your product through their story or experience.

They are not social media specialists and are not normally paid, but are a trustworthy voice that your audience are willing to listen to.

According to Nielsen’s Global Trust in Adverting 2015 report

“The most credible advertising comes straight from the people we know and trust. More than eight-in-10 global respondents (83%) say they completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of friends and family. But trust isn’t confined only to those in our inner circle. In fact, two-thirds (66%) say they trust consumer opinions posted online—the third-most-trusted format.”

How do you identify an influencer?

Social media influencers can reach your customers through their blogs and platforms in a way your brand may not be able to, so it is important to identify influencers that fit your brand.

Questions to ask yourself when building your influencer engagement strategy.

How relevant are they to your brand or how relevant are they to your target audience and or campaign? They may have 100,000 followers on twitter, but do they represent your brands ethos and can your target audience relate to them? At OST, when I look for influencers for our FMCG brands, I not only search foodies, I also look for mummy bloggers and sports & fitness influencers (perfect for Instagram marketing).

Do their audience engage with them? Again, the number of followers are not always relevant to how fitting an influencer is to your brand, but more if and how the audience engages with an influencer. A golden circle of follower numbers, which have the most engagement, tends to be around 1,000 – 4k at around 4.5% and 4k to 100k at around 2.5% with the engagement rate decreasing the more followers an influencer has. From personal experience of working at a social media agency, when an influencer has over 100k followers they don’t always manage their own social media, therefore it can be difficult to engage with them on a personal level.

How valuable is an influencer? How much can you benefit from a relationship with a particular influencer? Will they tweet a couple of times or is there a longer term gain? Perhaps they will create featured blog posts, host a twitter chat focused on your product/service, periscope a “how to” about your product/service or always use you as their brand of choice.

How to engage with social media influencers.

It is important to nurture these key relationships and at OST we use Traackr, an influencer management platform, to do this. Things to implement in your strategy:

Follow your potential influencers on their platforms. Create lists and tabs so you can easily access their content and listen to their conversations.

Engage with your influencers by sharing and commenting on their content. At OST I have conducted influencer engagement for several large brands and I’ve found that mid-range influencers respond best to genuine conversations.  Don’t just play a “yes man”, there is no value in commenting “nice picture” or “I agree”. Pose interesting and somewhat challenging questions to encourage your influencer to engage back, make them feel valued and to position your brand as knowledgeable on the subject.

Give them early access by telling your influencers about upcoming campaigns, products and competitions so they feel valued and primed ready to spread the word. At OST I helped develop a community of 20,000 barbers, who created the buzz around a product launch long before its availability to buy. The conversations took on a momentum of their own with the influencers answering enquiries. They did my job for me.

Follow up outside of social media by sending them some products, exclusive deals or by agreeing a plan for further featured content. This is a regular practice of mine at OST and works really well for FMCG digital marketing. Our audience are delighted to receive goods and will undoubtedly post about it to say thank you. Through this you could be building brand advocates for life at a very low cost to your company.

So, if you are looking to increase brand awareness, improve brand reputation or generate traffic to your site make sure social media influencers are part of your marketing strategy.

If you are interested in Social Media Influencers you might like to also read: How to identify online influencers, Why influencer marketing scares the pants off advertisers and How to create your influencer marketing framework.

Luke Brynley-Jones
Date: 11th April 2016
Category: Content Marketing Social Media Marketing Social Media Strategy

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