By Alexandra Tachalova

Nobody likes when an ad interrupts their content. Especially online ads, which seem to be everywhere. They can be irritating, intrusive, and misleading. Clearly, there’s a public bias against ads, and people try to avoid them by any means possible. In fact, Canada is the seventh largest market worldwide for ad spend, and 25 percent of Canadians utilize ad blockers across desktop and mobile devices.

Consequently, it’s getting harder for brands to reach their target audiences via traditional ad channels, so they are forced to invent new ways to connect with their potential and current customers. One way is by partnering with influencers.

According to Google Consumer Barometer, 28 percent of Canadian consumers claim that they learn about new products from other people (mostly influencers) or through online research. Moreover, 88 percent of global consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

 

What does this data mean? It shows that influencers help encourage nearly one-third of Canada’s potential buyers’ behavior. Furthermore, they’re a more trusted source than traditional ads. So, it’s no surprise that more and more brands are turning towards influencer marketing to cut the line to their customers’ purchases and loyalty.

You can find multiple influencer marketing definitions online, but in a nutshell, it is a way of getting your brand in front of your target audience by building relationships with influential people within your industry.

Influencer marketing may also be considered a form of digital PR since it aims to build brand awareness and connect the brand with its relevant audience.

The biggest advantage of influencer marketing is that it allows companies to avoid the skepticism people usually have with standard marketing messages.

Brands from around the world collaborate with influencers. You may have heard of some of them yourself.

A good example of a successful influencer marketing campaign is an initiative, managed by Hollywood Branded, for Pala Casino Resort and Spa. They hosted 21 bloggers (out of 200 total who were invited) to the property. In return, they asked each influencer to produce a minimum of three pieces of content, and the results were overwhelmingly positive:

  • They had an overall reach of over 28 million people.

  • There were 87 pieces of content coverage, which led to over 50,000 engagements.

  • The brand gained over 1,000 new Facebook likes.

B2B influencer marketing relies on different techniques than B2C. However, it can also benefit from collaborations with influencers. For example, Okta, an identity management company, has shown how promoting itself through customer advocacy can bring tremendous results to the table. Business clients are more likely to show you trust if you are endorsed by other prominent figures in the industry. That’s why Okta encourages client testimonials, including one from Adobe. Okta shares them on their website and encourages people to share the videos.

Influencer marketing has benefits beyond promoting your products or services to the most relevant audience and increasing general brand awareness. Here are three additional positive aspects.

1. Influencer marketing can allow you to promote your product on a shoestring budget.

This works especially well for businesses that have just launched and can’t afford to invest in paid channels.

A good example is the Zest tool, which is a content sharing platform with AI built in. It was launched in November 2015, and, at first, was solely distributed to experts in the digital marketing community. When they posted their solution on ProductHunt, they got over 1,300 upvotes right off the bat and support from marketers around the world.

2. Influencer marketing helps you build an expert community around your brand and fuels trust.

With the help of influencer marketing, you can build a strong community around your brand. The experts can help you promote your new products and content by mentioning them on their blogs and social media channels. Also, many influencers contribute to industry blogs, which means they can spread the word about your brand even further. This, in turn, builds trust with your brand with a broader audience.

3. Influencer marketing improves your search visibility.

As mentioned, some experts run their own blogs and also participate in guest blogging. This means, as an influencer partnered with your brand, they can allocate links back to your site in their content. Links are listed among the most important ranking signals in Google, so in addition to brand awareness, you’ll be getting a solid boost for SEO.

If these reasons helped persuade you to try this tactic, the next step is to work out your influencer marketing strategy. It will give direction to your efforts, help you avoid the most common pitfalls, and give you a path to achieve outstanding results.

Like any other digital marketing discipline, influencer marketing requires a strategic approach in order to achieve substantial results without wasting anyone’s time.

That strategic approach begins with setting specific goals for your influencer marketing campaign and deciding which metrics you’ll use to measure success.

Set up the right goals

The goals of your influencer marketing campaign should align with your business’ needs.

Depending on your current situation, your goals can include:

  • Traffic (any non-paid source is applicable here)
  • More branded search queries
  • More brand mentions
  • More referring domains
  • The growth of your network: the number of influencers with whom you can engage and who you can involve in your marketing activities.

The importance of setting the right goals can’t be overestimated. These are the foundation of your campaign, and if you fail to determine what exactly your efforts are for, everything that comes next — campaign execution plan, reporting metrics, etc. — will fall apart.

For example, if your main goal is to drive high-quality brand awareness, you need to collaborate with experts who contribute to the top-notch industry blogs. However, if you need traffic above all else, you should work with bloggers with broader reach; the quality of their blogs is secondary. As you can see, these two goals imply contradicting and almost incompatible execution plans.

Once you define your goals, you’re ready to move to the next step: creating a list of influencers to work with.

Besides looking for influencers on Google, which is an excellent technique, use BuzzSumo. This tool lets you look for the authors who are creating the most engaging content in your niche. In particular, it shows you a list of the most popular posts on topics that revolve around your target keywords. Also, it shows the top blogs within your niche to which these authors are contributing.

Another way of finding influential experts is to use Followerwonk. With the help of this tool you can search for target keywords in users’ Twitter bios. You can also export the list of followers of a well-known brand within your niche and sort them by their number of followers. This way, you’re revealing the most popular followers of that brand — allegedly, these are the people with the most influence.

Finally, you can use a tool called Pitchbox. It puts together a list of your industry influencers and gives you their contact details, such as their email address, social media profiles, and website address. It also helps you automate the process of communicating with these influencers, which drastically streamlines the process of outreach.

How does it work? As with many other tools, it requires a list of target keywords. After that, the tool searches for the most popular content pieces that rank for those keywords and pulls out the author names and their contact details. Please note that for better results, these keywords should be as accurate and detailed as possible. Otherwise, you may end up with irrelevant contacts.

Your first impression can only be made once. Keep this in mind when you reach out to new influencers. The biggest and most common mistake that marketers of all levels of expertise make when communicating with experts and influencers is to ask for something before providing any value.

Just like your influencer marketing strategy takes planning and effort, your initial message to and communication with influencers is paramount. Here’s an example of an excellent communication outline you can use.

  1. Find a way to provide them with value. Research what they’re currently working on and find a way for your brand to help them. For example, you could promote their website or content across your social media channels, give them products to test, or send them your swag. If you decide to give them swag, don’t just send leftovers from your last conference. Personalize the items for a particular person. It shows that you care and want to invest in the relationship.
  2. After this, you can ask if they are willing to help you promote your brand. Don’t send them a to-do list; just ask if they want to collaborate with you. You may be surprised, but if you deliver the first step well, the majority of influencers will say, “Yes!”
  3. Think about the future. How can you involve them in your marketing campaigns? Some ideas include featuring their quotes in your posts, inviting them to host an event — a webinar, podcast, or Twitter chat, for example — and delivering co-branded content.
  4. Maintain the relationship. Always keep an eye on their newly published content, promote it across your channels, and stay in touch to let them know that you care about what they do. This will help you create a really strong connection between your brand and the influencers.

Sometimes your relationship with an influencer will continue for years in a productive, mutually beneficial way. Just as you continually evaluate your marketing campaigns, monitor your relationships with influencers and ensure they’re the right fit for your company. The key is to foster relationships with people who have a positive impact on your brand and industry. If and when the time comes, you can end the relationship and try something new.

 

If you’re new to influencer marketing, these tips should give you a good idea of how you can get started. First, decide whether influencer marketing is right for your business needs. If it is, develop a strategy and set up the right goals for your campaign. Think through what kind of influencers you want to collaborate with and connect with them in a meaningful way. Throughout the campaign, think about the future. Your goal is to establish long-term relationships with the influencers that benefit both them and you.

If done right, influencer marketing can immensely help in building your brand awareness, delivering your message to your target audience, and winning their hearts.

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