Influencer marketing can greatly help your brand if the following describes your situation. Let’s say you have a product or service that you just know the world has to see and experience. You just know that user adoption will catch on like wildfire…if only more people (or the right audience) can be introduced to your product or service. If this is what you’ve ever thought or longed for, then you’re not alone by any means.

This is most likely your scenario if you’re at a startup or a small or medium-sized business, and you’re searching for ways to grow and expand.

What if there was a way to put your brand in front of a large audience that’s never heard of you before? What if this also was relatively low-cost and could be accomplished by digital means?

There is such a way. It’s called influencer marketing. Long story short, it’s a marketing strategy designed to get influencers with big followings on the web to plug, talk about or otherwise mention your product or service in a positive way. Studies show that, statistically, it can produce brilliant results: According to Pardot’s The State of Influencer Marketing, an astounding 94% of marketers reported that it was effective.

Here’s how you can make this strategy work for you.

What Is Influencer Marketing?

This marketing strategy plays on the hardwired, psychological concept known as social proof. In essence, it’s when people adopt the actions, beliefs or behaviors of others to try to reflect proper behavior in any given situation.

Never heard of social proof before? Here’s something that may persuade you (after it stuns you!) Several decades ago, there was this infamous “elevator experiment” that wonderfully demonstrated this concept. The experiment was designed around the following:

  • Get people into an elevator
  • Have most of the people turn around to face the back of the elevator (they’re in on it), in an apparently blatant violation of social norms
  • Don’t tell one person in the elevator about this experiment, and observe whether he will also turn and face the back or stand and face forward, looking at the elevator doors

Surprisingly, in each situation, the new person entering the elevator—after seeing everyone facing the back of the elevator when he got on—also turned and looked at the back of the elevator!

Here’s the experiment in all its fun glory.

What this, of course, shows us marketers is that human beings are extremely susceptible to being influenced by those around them. In fact, they’re even more susceptible to being influenced when those doing the influencing are seen as authority figures like cops, doctors, professors, etc. There’s even been a classic marketing-meets-psychology book that was written about this effect that authority figures exert on us. It’s called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert B. Cialdini. In it, he shows that said authority figures are more capable of persuading people to follow along.

How does this tie into influencer marketing specifically? As the name implies, those from whom you hope to get a plug or mention of your brand are influencers or authority figures in their industries, fields or spaces. Influencer marketing is based around identifying these influencers who wield sway (as in, they can get their followers to listen to them) over potential customers (read: your target audience). Your marketing strategy is then based upon getting noticed by these influencers, contacting them, and then hopefully establishing a mutually beneficial relationship that results in a positive plug for your brand.

Identifying Your Influencers

You’ll want to look for those who talk about your industry with authority and knowhow, talk about the concept of outreach with authority, and command a significant follower count and engagement level on social media. There are many tools on the web that empower you to handily identify the influencers who are the best match for your brand. Here they are:

  • BuzzSumo – This tool comes with an Influencer tab that lets you rely on specific keywords to identify the Twitter accounts of those influencers who share content related to your industry or specialty.
  • Klear – This tool allows you to locate potential influencers who have already engaged with your brand and your social networks.
  • TweetDeck – This tool lets you determine the quality of your influencers, and whether people on social really listen to them or not. It features keyword and hashtag searches that let you identify who’s most influential for specific query terms.

Once you’ve found whom you might believe are excellent candidates for influencers for your brand, then your next step is to reach out to them in the hopes that you’ll succeed in building a mutually beneficial relationship with them.

Catching Influencers’ Attention

Okay, now you’ve identified your influencers, so how do you get them to notice you? That’s the whole point of influencer marketing, after all.

There are numerous ways, all of which you can pursue simultaneously for the greatest possible effect.

If you’ve spotted a relevant influencer on social media, be sure to start interacting with them on the platform.

Step 1

For example, if they tweet, leave a thoughtful and pertinent comment, where you don’t promote your brand at all. Keep doing this consistently to get on the radar of said influencer. The same thing goes for Facebook or Instagram. In the beginning, you only want to consistently leave comments that contribute to their followers’ discussions and so create value for their feeds.

Step 2

Another approach is subscribing to their own blogs or newsletters to show them that you value their content, information, advice and points of view. Reply to their emails when they send you an introductory or welcome email.

Step 3

It’s also time to share your influencers’ content on your own channels. Be sure to tag them in the tweet, Facebook update, Instagram post or LinkedIn post, so they see that you find value in their content.

Step 4

Finally, you can try the direct approach of simply linking out to their content on your own blog or social updates. There’s nothing like a direct endorsement of an influencer to catch their attention.

There are also influencers who blatantly accept money in exchange for plugging a specific product or service. It’s not to say that these relationships are any less valid than one where you have an organic and more “real” relationship with an influencer, but if you can establish a good, working relationship with an influencer without paying him or her money, you should definitely try that approach first. See this well-thought out Inc. article on the pros and cons of paying influencers.

Getting in Touch With Influencers for a Specific Reason

If you’ve decided to simply go ahead and pay the influencer for promoting your brand (assuming you have the budget), then congrats because you just got your plug in front of all their followers!

However, if you’ve gone the organic route and pursued the aforementioned influencer marketing steps, you’ve just laid the groundwork for a relationship at no monetary cost. Now, you can press for direct contact and a potential quid pro quo because your potential influencer is familiar with you.

Don’t overthink how to get in touch with them since you did all the preliminary steps already. Email and social (a tweet or direct message directly asking the influencer for something in return) generally suffice. It’s crucial that your first direct contact with the influencer also contains your request for a plug or other type of involvement from them. Remember that, at this point, you’ve likely already had numerous points of interaction with them, so a request won’t seem pushy in the slightest. Examples of requests are:

  • Asking an influencer to provide you with a direct quote for content you’re writing or creating, such as an infographic, case study, or blog post (this is an example of a mutually beneficial request, as it demonstrates value they can get by being exposed to your own audience)
  • Asking the influencer to write a guest post on their blog (gratis, of course)
  • Asking the influencer to directly use, evaluate or otherwise explore your product or service for the express purpose of getting them to then mention it in their content as a promotion

Here’s a collection of free influencer-outreach templates from Entrepreneur that you can use for any of the above.

The best result you can hope for is getting a direct plug on their social feed, website or content they’ve produced. However, if you get a direct quote from them or the chance to be published on their blog, that’s highly useful, too. From there, you can leverage the relationship further and try to eventually push for a direct promotion.

Making Influencers Work With You

Influencer marketing isn’t an exact science, though you will drastically up your chances by following the steps we’ve outlined in this walkthrough. The only time influencer marketing is an exact science is when you pay an influencer for a direct plug of your brand.

That carries pros and cons. For one, you may not have the budget, or you may feel like their promotion isn’t “authentic” enough. On the other hand, it is a legitimate marketing service for which you’re paying, but, then again, some influencers may only really want to plug brands about which they feel truly passionate—and no dollar amount will change that.

In the end, only you know what’s the right path to pursue for your brand. Just remember that getting a mention from an influencer the organic route takes time and patience; you have to really strive to nurture the relationship, just like any relationship in your life that’s worth it.

Marc Schenker
Copywriter, Rise

I’m a copywriter and marketer for small, medium and large businesses in the tech, Internet and marketing industries. Whenever CEOs, business owners, and marketing departments need high-converting copy that sells and top-notch marketing advice, they contact me.

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