Marketing your products or services can be incredibly difficult when your target audience isn’t already listening to what you have to say. In those cases, influencers have an amazing ability to amplify your message and boost your brand. The only problem? They’re (rightfully) quite picky about what they share.
In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand from SEO Moz shares his tips for winning them over with an algorithm of sorts, to help you rank higher on the list of their priorities.
Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today I’m going to talk a little bit about influencer marketing in particular. I know I’ve heard skepticism from many marketers, especially sort of hardcore SEO folks who are going, “Well, influencer marketing through things like Twitter or Facebook or Google+ or outreach, these kinds of things, is this really necessary? Why am I doing it? My customers are not necessarily on these platforms. They are not necessarily influencers. What’s the point?”
I’ll try and walk you through that.
So first off, your target customers do exist somewhere, and they might be very hard to access. They could be not on any social networks, and even if they are on social networks, they might not follow you on those places. They’re not subscribed to your blog or to the places where you guest post articles or the places that are mentioning you right now. But, and this is a big one, they do have ways of getting information. They have ways that they’re learning about whatever professional or personal interests they have, and that usually leads into some form of influencer.
Now, even before the Internet existed there were journalists and writers and thought leaders, and those have continued in the web era and certainly have evolved dramatically and become a much bigger field in the era of social media. But these influencers, these people who write for big publications, own their own properties, have a big following, they’re almost certainly directly or indirectly influencing this group of customers that you’re trying to reach. You need only figure out who they are and how to reach them.
The interesting thing about influencers is they need new, unique content to share all the time. All the time, every day influencers wake up, and they’re thinking to themselves, “Gosh, what is it that I’m going to share today? How am I going to continually grow my brand and add value to my audience and be on the leading edge? Because if I’m not, I’m losing out in relevance to someone who is building that audience.”
These folks definitely, to almost 100% definitely use social media. At the very least, they’re using Twitter, which is sort of an interesting one because Twitter is used, according to the latest Pew Research, by only around 19% or 20% of online Americans. But for the influencers group, it’s 99 out of 100, and the reason being because Twitter is really a platform for influencing, growing influence, gaining that thought leadership and authority.
So even folks who are very old school, sort of old media folks, they have Twitter accounts, and they are using them. They do use other networks, things like Facebook. Certainly Pinterest has some following there, networks like Google+. But Twitter is sort of the primary one, which is interesting because Facebook, of course, is much bigger than Twitter in terms of your general population.
These influencers have two special powers. Number one, they can amplify social reach to your audience. Meaning, if you share something on a Twitter, a Facebook, a LinkedIn, a Google+, a Pinterest, a Reddit, a StumbleUpon, whatever network you might be using, the influencers on those networks have the ability to help amplify that reach. You might reach your audience of a few dozen or a few hundred. They’ll help it reach thousands, many thousands, potentially hundreds of thousands or millions.
Secondarily, they can provide links, mentions, and other kinds of signals that search engines use to rank sites higher. Meaning that even in the rare case where your target audience is not following anyone, is not paying attention to any of these influencers and search is the only channel that they use to discover information, influencers can still help you by helping you achieve these signals that will help your site, your content, your pages rank better in search, which means your target customer will find them.
The trick is this is a very, very picky audience. Nine times out of ten, when they are exposed to content, they’re going to go, “No. Not good enough. I don’t know who this person is. I don’t care about this. I’m not helping it go anywhere.” So you have to get good at earning that amplification, and that starts with answering the question: Why? Why will influencers share your content, your post, your brand? Why? If you can’t answer this question, all of this influencer targeting and marketing is going to become useless, because these people are incredibly picky.
There are a few big keys to this, and I’ve tried to enumerate them. Actually, I’m going to show it to you in an equation form. So essentially, the likelihood of earning an influencer’s amplification is related to things like the personal connection that you have with them. That can be direct, which is often less likely. As a marketer working for especially a small and midsize brand, chances are that your direct connection to large groups of influencers might be small. But indirect connections work too, and this means if you know someone who knows them, if you can get a friendly introduction, much like you would to a potential investor or a business partner, that can open the door.
If your work makes them look good. You see a lot of influencers who share content and material that makes either themselves or their brand or company, if they work for a brand or company, look good. So those types of ego baiting can be successful at times. It’s tough if it’s too overt or too flashy or not credible enough. But it can work.
If the sharing that you’re requesting that they do, the linking, the amplification of whatever kind can bring them large amounts of their own amplification. So if I say, “Hey, Seth Godin, I’d really love it if you shared this on your blog.” I know that when Seth does share something on his blog, it will also go out to many, many people on Twitter and over other social networks. Well, if Seth believes that that’s likely to earn his blog and his Twitter account a much larger audience, then he’s more likely to say yes and to want to engage in that activity.
Third, if your work is their work. If your work is their work. Meaning, rather than simply saying, “Hey, I made this. What do you think of it,” if you say, “Hey, can I get some data, some feedback, some material from you, and I’d like to transform it, modify it, turn it into something even more useful, valuable, interesting,” now you have a real hook because they’ve contributed to that work. Surveys are obviously a great way to do this. Data collection is a great way to do this. There are many other forms too.
Then the last one, if your work provides credibility or additional support, either anecdotally or data-wise, for one of their goals or beliefs. These influencers are trying to accomplish things. They have beliefs that they share. They have goals that they’re trying to accomplish professionally, usually, or personally, and if you have information that can help them, you can win.
So this is represented in the algorithm I’ve got here. Very, very simplistic algorithm. The likelihood is related to the relevance of your work to their audience, the value to their own personal brand, the opportunity they have to earn that extra amplification, the benefit to their goals or beliefs, plus some measure of the quality of the outreach you’re actually doing times the personal relationship connection.
The better personal relationship connection you’ve got, the more mediocre it’s okay for your outreach be. You can have a very simplistic message if it’s coming directly to them and you’re already friends in real life. It’s easy, right? Somebody emails me and says, “Hey, Rand, can you share this,” and it’s my investor, Brad Feld, I’m going to be like, “Yes, I will do that for you.” Of course I will. But if somebody cold emails me and I’ve never heard of them before, well it’s very unlikely. So there’s a relationship between these two that’s special.
If you take this and you find these people and you’re able to earn this additional amplification, your content of all kinds can do much more to reach your target customers.
All right, everyone, hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. We’ll see you again next week. Take care.