Here's how you can identify the right influencers for your business

Photo: Paul Gilham/Getty Images.

Online content, social media conversations and peer recommendations have taken the power of word-of-mouth to a whole new level. This means an emergence of savvy consumers who are blind to billboards and deaf to TVCs because they want to research a brand on their own and hear about it from someone they trust.

Therefore, a robust relationship with the right influencer(s) is vital to your business. Influencer outreach is one of the most effective ways to attract clients, increase your credibility and establish yourself as a thought leader.

Think of this scenario – you’re at a party and there’s a person who comes up to you, brags about themselves and shares “fun facts” about their personality. All this to convince you to be a friend. If you’re like most people, you’re bound to be sceptical. But what if a mutual friend shared those same facts? Mostly likely you’d react a bit differently. You might even consider being their friend. An influencer is essentially the mutual friend connecting your brand with your target audience.

Influencers can range from journalists to bloggers, analysts, colleagues and savvy social media users. They generally have a significant following online. This report from Technorati found that 86 per cent of influencers also operate at least one blog. More importantly, an influencer helps to shape and define the conversations or topics they participate in. They don’t just advocate a particular stance or point of view.

Listen and engage

Although you probably already have an idea of who the movers and shakers are in your industry, you need to find – and follow – these people to see what they’re talking about. The first step towards identifying the right influencer is as easy as connecting with them online. Using a media intelligence platform, you can do a search by topic relevant to your industry, or even competitors engaging with influencers, to identify conversations, see who is making their voice heard, see who they are following and engage with them — all in the same platform. Interact with influencers through content they are sharing (or send them useful and interesting information they haven’t encountered), and participate in conversations they are starting or leading.

You can also identify influencers via the relevant conferences and industry events and check out the list of speakers. There is usually a crossover between speakers at events and those that are featured in industry publications and websites as columnists, writers and bloggers. What names do you encounter frequently in your industry? Which articles or blog posts are constantly being linked back to?

When you connect with an influencer, not only do they bring a loyal audience, but they bring their audience’s network as well. Because of the loyalty of their audience, an influencer has the ability to drive traffic to your website, increase your social media exposure, and endorse your brand/product through their recommendation or story about their experience – whether it’s online, at conferences or events or in the media.

Delve deeper into the metrics

While a potential influencer with hundreds of thousands of social media followers could certainly expose your brand to their followers; if they are not a contextual fit with your company’s values, messages, mission etc., their post or tweet would make little impact in terms of driving brand awareness, leads and customers. If you’re in the hospitality industry, a travel blogger with a niche following is more likely to have a stronger influence with your target audience than a generic blogger for a mass medium.

Influence is not just about a Klout score, or number of followers – is the influencer relevant, do they resonate and do they have reach? Understand if and how well they engage, attract and retain their audience. They are respected because of their opinions and ideas, so look at both the positive and negative posts and articles from both their followers and themselves. You can also view an online influencer’s ranking using a social media platform.

The time you put into identifying online influencers and establishing these relationships will drive long-term third party endorsement, increase your company’s credibility in the industry and drive brand equity online.

David Hickey is the Area Director of media intelligence platform Meltwater for ANZ.

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