Influencer Marketing is this year’s Holy Grail for public relations. The reasons are clear—no matter how successful you are at traditional public relations, a story in the press is striving to present its information in a balanced and unbiased way. In contrast, an influencer’s voice—whether it’s in a blog, a column, a review or simply the opinion of a topic expert who seems to move the market at the speed of a tweet—is worth gold.
Influencers represent marketing leverage. For every influencer you “influence,” their opinion impacts dozens (or hundreds or thousands) of others in a personalized “she should know, she’s an expert” or “she’s another mom like me” kind of way.
These coveted jewels are even more elusive in the respect that while an influencer may blog and may or may not be a formal or informal journalist, most are not a formal part of the press. They are not likely to appear on anyone’s database. And while a plethora of tools has suddenly appeared for identifying and even automating the process of finding and supporting influencers, for small businesses, especially, the best efforts are still the communications that flow from person to person, or even better than this, face to face.
Many of my company’s clients are engaging in influencer marketing efforts this year. But for businesses considering their own efforts, without an agency, here are the steps:
- Find people your audience already trusts and follows. How do you find them? Ask your customers and prospects who they’re watching and listening to. Which bloggers do they follow? When you run a Twitter search or a hashtag search on your topic of interest, who are the voices that show up and inspire reaction and trust? Can you find published lists of top sources on a sector or topic? Cover as many mediums as possible, including broadcast, social media, columnists, presenters and bloggers.
- Don’t be fooled by large followings. Quality of following is more important than mass. An individual with 53,000 followers may be less influential than a person who inspires trust and can invoke a reaction in just several dozen of the right people on Twitter or via their blog or LinkedIn.
- Create a spreadsheet and a plan of action. Find as many strong influencers as you are able and continually update and prioritize the list you create. But focus your greatest energy on those you determine to be the highest ranking 25-30 names on the list. Subscribe and follow these influencers closely. Take the time to like, to share, and to remark on their materials that genuinely resonate with you. Be sure your efforts are authentic, but remember that it is disingenuous to expect an influential person in a sector to take the time to connect with you or your agenda if you haven’t already made an equivalent effort to follow and study their materials, too.
Read more at Forbes.com.