Dear Doctor Digital, I heard you talk about influencers on the Facebook Ads Live Stream, what do you mean by influencers and how might businesses use them?
Social media influencers are kind of similar to native advertising. Just for a recap, you’ll remember that native advertising are ads that appear in your news feed in Facebook or Instagram or Linkedin that look exactly like all the stories you and your friends post. This creates a sense of them not being so much ads that are selling to you, but rather as a friendly suggestion from a company that really knows what you need right now. Social media influencers are celebrities, or sectoral authorities who overtly or covertly promote something for a brand to add their influence and reach. They aren’t advertising the product, place or service as much as they are saying ‘hey I like this, you should too.’
Consumers trust recommendations from a third party more often than a brand itself. When you align with an influencer, not only do they bring their audience, but they also bring their audience’s network as well. Because of the loyalty of their audience, an influencer has the ability to drive traffic to your site, increase your social media exposure, and sell your product through their recommendation or story about their experience.
Influencers can be celebrities or public figures, but in the strange landcape of social media they don’t have to be. Tourism Tasmania has very successfully and strategically used Instagram influencers who are known for their travel photography and blogging to promote some of our amazing natural attributes. You wouldn’t recognize these folk in the street, but they have enormous followings of people who trust them in showing where the next big experience is.
How then do you get your own influencer? Firstly, you need to know your audience, and who they like and trust. You also need to know what it is you are trying to do. Do you want a product or service endorsement? To build your own social media numbers? Or perhaps you are looking to boost your brand values. An influencer that will be effective for your brand will need to be someone in your sector who loves what you do. So do your research, look for people who are active on social media and blogging with a strong following of the type of customers who fits your profile. Once you have identified people that are going to be able to give your brand some leverage, reach out via email or phone or tweet, post or pigeon and tell them why you want to work with them (i.e. why you think they are so great) and what it is you want them to do with you. This will be more impactful if you have already had some interactions with their brand, and clearly know what they are about.
You could ask them to try your product/service and write about it on their blog, or give you a shout out on social media. Depending on what they do they may become an affiliate or reseller for you. Compensation can be arranged in a number of ways, which will be different for each situation. If you are an accommodation or travel business, you may offer to put them up free to try your venue out. If say you were a boutique spirit brand you might ask an influencer who was a mixologist to create a cocktail for you and provide them with the booze. If you grew hazelnuts, you might send them to a food blogger and ask them to name your brand when they use your product. The key thing here is that influencers usually aren’t after purely a financial incentive, as this tends to undermine their influence as they are then just being bought off. Their influence is as a result of their evangelistic endorsement of ‘whatever it is’ from a place of personal authority. People need to know that is authentic, otherwise it may as well be traditional advertising.
Your influencer doesn’t have to have billions of followers, just the right amount to get you to the next level. It is a relationship, and one that will hopefully develop for you and your brand until one day you too will be being approached by someone to generously share your reach and audience with their emerging product.