When you encourage others to drive action and attract an audience you weren’t familiar with before, it goes beyond driving awareness.
Influencer marketing is a term that is seen from the highest mountain to the smallest cove during this year. A lot of it is something that falls into a buzzword where the whole drive is to tell you that you just need to get out there and amplify your reach via someone else, but not cover those steps to make it happen.
This article is going to share with you what the influencers want you to do.
What is going to make an influencer (or someone who is regarded as credible within the space that you are part of) take note and agree to give their time to a stranger with a fraction of the audience that they have?
Lets start with a definition in the easiest way that I can explain without resorting to Wikipedia.
Influencer marketing is the ability for someone else to endorse a point of view that you believe in with the objective to drive something measurable (that is more substantial than awareness to what you do). You are tapping into someone else with a proven record, experienced and trusted by others (plus invariably a wider reach).
What is annoying is the ease at which others can tell you ‘the top nine obstacles with influencer marketing’ or, ‘five ways to make influencer marketing your biggest priority for 2017,’ without getting down to the nitty gritty of how to get what is probably a stranger to acknowledge you in the first place.
Many of us do not have the grandeur of a presence that makes us instantly recognisable when your name reaches someone else’s space for them to get excited about and button bash +Follow.
Lets just nip it in the bud, influence is about earning it, not cutting corners by paying for it. We know that the paid for route is taken by celebs such as Naomi Campbell, she just made it a bit more transparent this month.
Let me reveal what I have found when asking people why they were prepared to participate in my Talking Content Marketing project and how you can take this on board.
It is about getting the basics right.
It is about being relevant to someone else.
It is everything about getting the initial ask right.
Why Did Influencers Agree
I asked a number of participants, “Why did you agree to be interviewed?”
Talking Content Marketing is approaching 100 interviews. I started this in 2013 and has enabled me to reach out to others who now know me better, it brought one of the participants to write the foreword for The Content Revolution book, it has helped build relationships and to be a part of an ecosystem that I probably would not be part of (I am part of September’s Content Marketing World), would this have happened if I didn’t form bonds with the US or just sat in my own bubble thinking I knew how others should behave.
The route to a successful influencer marketing programme comes down to the way that you ask.
Don’t go, I’m not over yet.
How I Do It
If you are not familiar, participants are asked six questions related to their particular area of expertise that is related to content marketing, content curation, internal buy-in, audience growth and an owned media approach.
A goal for this project, nearly three years ago was three fold: ask questions that I had about how marketing is evolving to those who are championing a different approach; help build my own understanding, knowledge and interpretation; align myself with those who already have an audience who are welcoming to their ideas.
The steps that I follow are via:
- find a way to make an initial approach via Twitter or via an email address from someone else’s website (and steer clear from those that have an enquiries @ or info@)
- find a way to then bring that conversation to a space that is mine ie. my email
- the initial introduction highlights the reason that is centred on someone else (reaching out to those who are standing for a different approach to marketing), the value for others (learn more about a content marketing/owned media approach) and make it as easy as possible for them
- once someone has said ‘that sounds interesting’ then more detail is provided, namely, when the questions will be sent, a brief scope for the questions and a deadline
- within 48 hours, six questions are sent. There is no defined word count for the type of response, it is completely up to the participant. Participants are encouraged to send any links to related word and a photo
- 24 hours before the deadline, a quick email is sent just to double check all ok if the person hasn’t sent a response or if they would like a little more time (making gentle nudges is vital, there is far more important work than your own)
- when the response is sent, the article is posted within 24 hours, in many cases one hour after the answers
The Reason Influencers Say ‘No’
That’s my approach and why it works, but what doesn’t work when approaching people who are ‘recognised’ within an industry.
“1. There is a sense of entitlement from someone asking, “You’ll get tons of exposure if you just share my tweet or are interviewed for my blog – because I’m super awesome.”
- People clearly don’t put ANY effort into researching a person before the ask. “You, like me, are mostly concerned about inbound marketing – so would you like to write a blog for me?”
- It’s clearly a bulk ask. “Dear Robert, do you consider yourself to be an influencer. If so, would you like to blog for me.”
So, if that’s the reasons not to approach, how should a person structure when approaching an ‘influencer.’ Robert continued, “My advice for those that ARE reaching out – is just pretend YOU are the person you are reaching out to. And then assume that you have to sift through 10 or 15 requests every day – in addition to the many other emails from clients, existing projects and other things that are demanding time from your day. Which ones would YOU respond to?”
Someone Else’s Shoes
When you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, this is where the added bonus of connectivity and clarity takes precedence. In the words of Jonathan Crossfield, “It’s always better when you can see a like minded person at the other end.”
“Plus it’s the opportunity to explore my ideas in front of (hopefully) a new audience. A couple of interesting and original questions or themes are good too. If I think I am going to be bored, why would I offer up my free time?”
Mark Schaefer continues this sentiment of a shared kinship, he states, “I always want to build new relationships. Connecting to somebody on social media is a weak relational link. Having an actual conversation strengthens that link. When you finally meet that person, you never know where it will lead.”
Ian Rhodes sums up the importance of doing something that is intended to help others, “When you see somebody is creating something of value, it’s a good feeling to play your part in it.”
Whilst I believed that the response was going to be centred on the ability to see a group of other influencers, this was important but not integral to getting an influencer marketing programme up and running.
Trevor Young added that ‘having the right people onboard is more about powerful social proof.” This idea of validity was also made from Jessica Gioglio, “A strong website and online brand is key. It’s also critical that you do your homework and understand what types of topics an influencer speaks on.”
What originally began as a presumption that people agreed to be seen because other like-minded influencers were present, whilst valid, is not the key reason.
This is what presents the opportunity for you if you are just about to start your own journey. Whilst having the ability to showcase your ability to think and the cause that you stand for is recognized, what is going to be the key attribute is the ability to ask.
In the words of Anne Janzer, “Without asking nothing happens. It must be courteous and professional.”
Here are 12 pointers to take away when considering introducing an influencer marketing programme:
- influencer marketing works when it forms part of a long term goal and not a short sighted popularity contest
- the ability to build relationships are key (these can then be expanded from interviews to articles such as what you are reading now)
- a goal has to be to build your credibility in the marketplace
- an influencer marketing programme works alongside your ongoing content activity
- inviting others to contribute increases the variety (and depth) of content a limited team could create on their own
- build a subscribed audience who recognize what you do is different from what your competition is doing ie. more articles about their products, centred on themselves
- become obsessed about the cause that you stand for, the role you play for others and find those who can support
- what starts as an initial approach can lead to Slideshares, quotes for other articles, contributions for books (the last section in The Content Revolution is dedicated to a series of questions asked from Talking Content Marketing) and influences sharing other work you produce
- you have the ability to bring influencers to your side and with that the potential for their audience
- you have to do your homework for who you want to approach, it’s ok if they say ‘no’ you move on (Seth Godin was a notable person who has said no, but there is an abundance of knowledge in the Talking Content section)
- time framing is key. Other people have deadlines and priorities, your request is far down the pecking order. You have to create a structure and make sure it is easy for someone else to follow (and enjoy participating)
- where you can demonstrate proof, show it. The belief system, the articles to draw people to during the approach stage, they all help.
- Make someone else see the value in what you are asking. If it is to educate others and showcase an approach or how the world is changing within your marketplace, there has to be a wider priority than to be seen on your website and the marginal number of daily visitors
Things That Weren’t There Before
In the words of Amanda Palmer in The Art Of Asking, “When artists work well, they connect people to themselves and they stitch people to one another, through this shared experience of discovering a connection that wasn’t visible before.”
I love this idea that you have the ability to create something that wasn’t there before and the ability to connect and bring people to the spaces that are yours, so they all reside in the same place.
Whether this is a series of articles or a particular theme of content, it works when there is a long game in sight. Mine just happens to be the way businesses are evolving their approach and becomes a snap shot of where we are each year and what someone was thinking.
Lets Round Up
If I stopped after five interviews because they weren’t driving traffic and response times meandered into weeks, it becomes a complete waste of time. You have to be driven by your own curiosity otherwise it becomes a tired business process.
What can you create that doesn’t have to be centred on a popularity contest of the most followers, but nurture a relationship that can help build a loyal audience by the value that is created? It all comes down to finding out who to approach and the way you ask.