The GCAi Digital Marketing team spoke with Christina Polaski, Content and Social Media Manager at Carbonite. After years working with social media, Polaski has noticed a fundamental shift in the way things are done. Whereas traditional PR relies on the media to tell a company’s story, the rise of social media has shifted power into the hands of consumers. More than ever, everyday consumers are the ones telling the story for companies and brands – whether as advocates or critics. Influencer relations takes that concept to the next level.
Polaski defines influencer relations as getting highly connected and trustworthy people (influencers) to advocate on behalf of your company or brand to their networks. Promoting yourself only goes so far; as the digital landscape becomes saturated with marketing messages, people are becoming increasingly skeptical. You can say whatever you want about your own company, but your audience is ultimately going to take it with a grain of salt. Influencers attribute a trusting voice to your message as they push it out to their respective networks.
Influencers, by nature, have large networks. By getting such people to tell your story for you, you are exposing your company’s message to a network of consumers that was otherwise inaccessible.
The benefits of influencer relations are clear, but finding and establishing relationships with influencers in your industry may be more difficult than it seems. Christina Polaski outlined the following six steps that companies should follow in order to develop productive relationships with influencers:
1. Find influencers that fit.
A company must look at its objectives and determine the key markets it hopes to reach, and then make a list of potential influencers who fit those criteria. Look for people whose names are everywhere in your industry. Look at people with large followings on social media, bloggers, website administrators, authors and even community leaders – influencers are more common than you’d think.
2. Monitor those influencers on social media.
Do your research. You’ll need to know how often these influencers post on social media, blogs or websites, as well as the kind of content they post. This will further determine whether or not an influencer is someone you can see yourself doing business with.
3. Interact with the influencer.
Begin by retweeting and sharing the content the influencer posts, but be sincere and detailed in what you got out of that content. Don’t be dramatic or exaggerate. A good way to do this is simply by extracting a quote from the influencer and sharing it with your network. Giving the influencer credit for his or her expertise will encourage him or her to share your post and even message you back. That should get the ball rolling.
4. Send content to the influencers – show your value.
Influencer relations is very much a symbiosis between you and the influencers. You will benefit from their influence and reach, and in return they’ll expect to benefit in some way. Send them content or ideas to use. This will not only encourage a two-way communication, but will also establish you as a resource for them.
5. Create a clear plan.
Make it very clear what you’re hoping to get out of a relationship with the influencer and what you can give to him or her. Will you seek paid or unpaid services from this influencer? The difference is pivotal. Polaski suggests starting with unpaid services and measuring the success of those services before moving on to paid.
Unpaid influencer relations aims to generate brand awareness. This can be done by having influencers retweet your social content or mention your brand name in their own content, or submitting content to their website. These services are usually much less formal than paid services and stem primarily from a symbiotic relationship with the influencer – so pay them without actually paying them. A good way to do this is by sharing unique content which your audience and their audience have not yet seen.
Polaski offered some questions to consider before seeking out paid services from an influencer. Those questions include: how many interactions per week are you getting with this person? Did your audience grow as a result of the activities? What about your following? Did the content drive clicks to your website? All of these questions will help you understand if moving to paid services is worth it.
Paid influencer relations must generate leads and result in some sort of monetary payoff; otherwise, it’s a waste of an investment. Paid services could include the influencers pushing advertisements for your brand on their page or posting your content directly on their website, blog or social media sites. The possibilities are endless.
6. Communicate the plan directly.
Engage in direct conversation. Hopefully by this point you’ve established a relationship with the influencer and communicate regularly. Email or call the influencer to share the plan you’ve drafted. Again, be very clear about what you want. Have some ideas of how you can benefit the influencer in return, especially when seeking unpaid services.
Once you’ve followed these six steps, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the many benefits of influencer relations. Getting started now is important – Christina Polaski predicts that one day it will be key influencers, rather than the media or consumers, who will be in control of the stories of companies.