Earned Media, Influencer Outreach, Relationship Building, Shared Media
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For small businesses and new brands, being endorsed by respected industry experts can be the golden ticket to increasing brand awareness, building consumer trust and boosting online traffic.

While building great relationships with thought leaders in your industry is beneficial, it’s also hard to know who might be the best person to reach out to, the ideal way to approach them and how to keep them interested in your brand once you have their ear.

Here are some ways to refine your influencer marketing strategy by thinking critically about finding your target influencers and keeping them invested in spreading the word about your product or service:

Think Outside of the Box

When searching for the perfect brand influencer, the two most important questions to ask are:

  1. Do they have the respect of other industry leaders?
  2. Do they have access to one or more of your target audiences?

FollowerWonk, BuzzSumo, and Klout are all popular tools for finding who is producing the most popular content about your industry and what they are saying. Look not only for people who are commenting on your industry but also for those who are talking specifically about your brand and its competitors.

Don’t limit yourself to industry-specific voices, either.

For example, if your business specializes in local moving services, you could do something similar to this post where a company called iMove reached out to two well-known historic home experts for an article about the challenges they faced when moving into an older home.

While the historic homes influencers don’t have any direct ties to the moving industry, they do have access to one of iMove’s target markets: those moving into historic homes. By forming a relationship with these influencers, the company not only accessed a hard-to-reach subset of their clientele but also produced useful, share-worthy content for their blog.

iMove Historic HousesStart Small

Once you’ve identified the key influencers for your brand, decide how to grab their attention and what you will do with their support once you earn it. Will you ask them to participate in a collaborative project you are launching, provide commentary for a blog post, give you feedback on a relevant infographic you are preparing to publish or simply share a content piece that you think their audience would love?

Be careful to craft up-front, easy-to-digest pitch emails when reaching out. Leave no questions lingering in your influencers mind: tell them what you need from them and how they’ll benefit from participating. Start with an easy ask and, as you gain trust and your relationship improves, you can start to ask for (and give) more.

One of the easiest, most effective ways to engage an influencer for the first time is by asking them to participate in something that interests them personally. For instance, Obrella, a company that sells auto insurance policies, wanted to engage their target audience by getting the attention of a group of highly-respected luxury car experts. Instead of approaching this group of influencers from the insurance perspective, Obrella asked them to contribute stories about their best car ride ever.

Obrella Favorite RideSharing is Caring

After you have established initial contact with your influencer, it’s important to make sure you stay on their radar as a collaborator and establish yourself as someone who isn’t just looking out for their own best interests. Send them content ideas for their blog that have no ties to your brand or connect them with a hard-to-reach expert in their industry. Share their content on your social media outlets when it’s relevant to your audience, and comment thoughtfully on your favorite posts or updates. Ask for nothing in return and, more importantly, expect nothing in return. It may take you months to establish good rapport with an influencer, but if they are a true thought leader, it is absolutely worth the investment of time.

If you are trying to get the attention of a big-name influencer, it is sometimes better to be introduced by a mutual friend. Instead of reaching out directly, target several smaller influencers in their network; they tend to be less jaded and more likely to respond favorably to a content partnership. Once you have established a healthy relationship with these lower-level influencers, ask them to introduce you to your target influencer. This establishes a baseline of trust and allows you to build your influencer network more organically.

There is no doubt that influencer marketing gets noticeable results. The downside is that influencers are being pitched daily for endorsements, and it can be hard to catch their attention. By expanding your targeted influencers to include those trending in your niche markets, and by making your approach personable and relevant to their audience, your brand can earn a shot at some of the buzz.

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