Thoughts On The Influencer Audience

Catering to those with an interest in a specific niche is important, but this alone is not a guaranteed recipe for success.  The other necessary ingredient is to cater to the influencer audience within that niche.  It’s simple, effective and not a novel strategy.  Although this concept seems rather basic to marketing, most either try to do this and fail or don’t consider it altogether.

Reaching influencers has been such a core element to so many of my successful campaigns over the years, I want to share both why this is important and how to be successful in doing so.

Why catering to the influencer audience is vital

Simply put:  when influencers take an interest in you, it matters.  Those with influence within any vertical or network or even those with horizontal influence are those who will have real power to help your ideas, content or products spread.  Buzz is a vital element of digital PR, and those with influence are a gateway to buzz.

As numbers of those participating in social media grow, those who matter will have their influence reinforced.  And as digital communications becomes so common they become invisible, the value of that influence will only go up.

Media continues to undergo change at an accelerated rate, and this shows no signs of slowing.  Make relationships with influencers now and when communications shift you’ll ride the waves of change instead of constantly paddling to catch up.

The best part is relationships transcend trends.  So if you are a content producer, marketers, artist or business and have strong relationships with the influencer audience who are first to adapt new tools or techniques, your work will permeate emerging networks even before you participate.  This will provide a layer of security for your own continued influence in the world.

Reaching influencers

Influencers are pitched constantly.  Everyone wants a piece of them and the trust, traffic and authority they can lend.

The solution isn’t complicated, in fact I stated it above:  you need to make relationships with them.  Influencers will and do share content and ideas from those they don’t have relationships with, but if you want to repeatedly reach their networks you’ll need to develop a relationship.  And relationships aren’t built through push:  it’s just so unartful.  The fact that everyone is trying to push content and ideas on this group also means they’re extremely weary of push communications.  Most pitches fail miserably (although some do understand digital PR).

Reach them organically:  join the platforms they use and participate alongside them

If you want to reach bloggers as one example, you should be blogging too.  If you’re not using the platforms that you’d like to gain influence from specifically you’re not one of them, and they’ll always see you as an outsider.  That’s not to say you can’t create ideas that rally a group together behind your content, but it isn’t sustainable and doesn’t allow you to build permission in the same way as a continued dialogue would.

You don’t need to reach all of them

An interesting element about catering to the influencer audience is this:  influencers are generally connected with other influencers.  They form natural networks within niches – therefore having deep relationships with a few key individuals may be all it takes to reach objectives if your ideas are sticky enough.  I’d rather have deep relationships with a small, but interested group than fleeting connections with greater numbers.  The real value of your network can be measured in depth, not volume.

You don’t need to reach them directly

A misnomer is that once you join the network, you should immediately reach out to the most influential people.  You could, but they probably won’t have a reason to interact with you.  A better way to reach them is to do so indirectly.  Carve out your own following and in time social proofing will catch up with you and you’ll attract influencers as organic members of your network indirectly.  If you want to reach influencers effectively, you may need to become one yourself.

It is frequently not the most popular person who has real influence

In many cases those with the largest numbers or biggest names aren’t the most valuable to reach.  They frequently draw from those less obvious influencers who have great ideas, but not access to the same level of audiences or the ability to distill their thoughts to more accessible communications.  Also in many niches, the popular personalities produce  so much, their signal to noise ratio isn’t so great.  Rather, the layer of those below the top or even the tertiary influencers may, in reality, have more pull over time as they’re the ones with real influence over the top.

Nurturing relationships with influencers

I’ve seen businesses do this:  engage influencer audiences with something smart, get positive reactions, and end it there.  This is a missed opportunity as the most desirable outcome is for this audience to help you become a referential source your brand.  And the forgotten thing is the influencer audience knows they have influence and wants to use it to help others rise as this helps their own sphere of influence grow.  They didn’t carve out a digital reputation to do nothing with it.

Conclusion

I’ve discussed the ideas of influence, trust and authority previously.  Marketers need to be cognizent that they are driving their efforts to influence first, as it is through influence that trust and authority are forged.  Catering to the influencer audience can be a powerful strategy to bring you into the mix of the conversations that matter on the web daily.  But without influence, trust and authority are difficult to forge.