Are you influential?

That’s a big question with a simple answer: of course you are. Every day you influence family, friends and work colleagues. That last one is especially important because IDC research found that B2B decision makers rely on peers and colleagues more than product reviews, vendor content, salespeople or any other source when it comes to making purchase decisions.

So it comes as no surprise that there’s mounting interest in influencer marketing. Maybe it’s time for you to get in on the act, too?

Who Influences Your Buyers?

You know who your prospects are. The trick is to figure out who’s influential with those buyers (and their peers and colleagues). The list most likely includes thought-leaders, market analysts, journalists, bloggers and industry executives. And chances are these individuals turn to social media every day to pump up their influence. That means tapping into social media can be a great way to discover the influencers you — and more importantly your buyers — care about.

A number of influencer marketing solutions have emerged, such as LittleBird, Augure, Traackr and BuzzSumo, which use social media to uncover who has the attention of your audience. Generally speaking, these platforms show who engages with your content, brand and/or industry, who also holds social influence (reach, relevance, authority, etc.). Most importantly, these tools can make it relatively easy to build your very own list of influencers to target.

Another tack would be to leverage one of the many influencer lists that show up in popular online publications. But remember, it’s about who sways your buyers in particular. For example, my firm has done social research on the people that CIOs mention the most on Twitter. Below is what our August data shows. This is a good list to consider if you sell to IT executives.

leadtail CIO mention research

Build Awareness and Engage Influencers

The real work begins once you’ve got the right influencer list. Said another way, just because you’ve identified influencers, doesn’t mean they are aware of your company… let alone ready to do your bidding. You still need to go through the process of getting their attention, aligning their interests with yours and engaging them so they help out. You know, building relationships!

How do you go about that? Good question.

During a webinar I participated in last year with my friends at DNN software, we asked influencers (via Twitter) for their own advice on “engaging influencers.” Here’s what they said:

  • @ValaAfshar: “study the good work of influencers and promote their work on social media. Example: share links, comment on blogs, etc”
  • @MargaretMolloy: “select influencers that are genuinely interested in your product / solution and content”
  • @BrennerMichael: “you have to make it all about them. You need to give them exposure, recognition or an opportunity to share an opinion on a key trend”

Make it about them (not you), and start with influencers that may have a natural affinity for your company’s offerings. What else should you do?

Follow these steps to become successful at influencer marketing:

  • Monitor influencers on social media: Follow them on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. to get a sense of the content they like to share, the hashtags they use and how they engage. Many will follow you back. Bonus tip: set up a Twitter list of influencers and share the content in this feed on a regular basis
  • Read their blog posts, bylines, books, etc: Get to know influencers by discovering the themes, topics, people and products they’re especially passionate about
  • Customize your social approach: Forget one size fits all. Map out the intersection of influencer interests and your company’s offerings, content and story. Use this information to guide how you’ll get on each influencer’s radar
  • Promote their content, make them look good and thank them: Always be on the lookout for opportunities to promote and acknowledge influencers. For example, ask an influencer’s opinion on a relevant topic and showcase their response in a blog post, presentation, etc.
  • Engage with their content: Comment and ask questions on their blog posts, bylines and other social content. This is a great way to start a dialogue with influencers
  • Use your network to get introductions: People in your network probably know one or more of your target influencers … so get introduced. Then focus early conversations on exploring what interests them and how you can help out.
  • Target a few influencers at a time: The process of building awareness, connecting and engaging takes time. Especially if you’re looking for influencers to become more than just occasional sharers of your brand content. So focus your efforts on a few influencers at a time … say, two or three per month

But isn't there some way to speed up the process of engaging influencers to take actions on your behalf?

Sure there is, pay them. Many influencers are looking for clients, advertisers, and paid speaking and writing opportunities. If you’ve got the marketing budget, consider enlisting their services to move the dial with your target buyers. Another approach is to give them free use of your services, software, data, etc. They can then discover for themselves why they should advocate for your company.

In any case, remember influencer marketing is all about building relationships. And those relationships may become your most influential over time.