How To Build An Influencer Marketing Strategy

The following is a guest post from Future Buzz community member Amanda Maksymiw. If you’d like to contribute thinking here, please read the guidelines.

So you want to build online buzz but aren’t sure where to get started?

While there is no silver bullet or one ticket shot to success, an influencer marketing strategy is one way to help propel your brand into the spotlight online.

Of course, this approach to marketing is nothing new.

Companies have been marketing to key industry influencers to spread awareness for more than 200 years. But there has been a shift since the early days. The Internet and an influx of social sites have created the opportunity for virtually anyone to become an influencer. Now, a company’s set of influencers may include not just reporters, but also industry bloggers, analysts, individuals using social media, consultants, and other online thought leaders.

By developing relationships with the key influencers within your industry, they will be more likely to share your content and reference to you as a thought leader in the space. Over time you will begin to realize an increase in organic buzz about your company.

This post will outline a simple, yet effective strategy that marketers can start implementing quickly in order to increase the online profile of their companies or brands.

Before you get started, there are a few components of your overall marketing strategy that you will need to have defined. These include an understanding of your target segment, persona, products and services, company history, messaging, and industry overview.

Know Where You are Starting

To get started you’ll first want to take a baseline of online activity so that you can accurately measure the impact of your influencer marketing activities. To start you will want to have an grasp of your online reach. Establish a measurement methodology up front that aligns with your objectives.

Critical metrics could include community size, number of organic mentions, engagement on social media, or unique visitors, but of course the mix depends on what specifically you want to accomplish. These numbers can be used to create goals around the influencer program. You should pull these numbers again three, six, and twelve months into your influencer program to start gauging success.

Identify your Influencers

Once you have a good understanding of where you stand, you should now begin research to identify your influencers. You can build your target influencer list by conducting secondary research online with a relatively low cost using free tools. To start, think about a set of keywords that you can use to search on Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social sites. Also use the same keywords to set up Google Alerts to identify search results as they happen.

If you are willing to shell out some budget on your influencer program, try exploring some of the paid tools that can help with identifying influencers faster. If you have a more time to spend on identifying influencers, consider conducting some primary research and interview your customers, prospects, and sales or customer service teams in order to learn about influencers straight from your targets. In order to keep your program manageable, identify only 10-20 influencers. Keep track of your target list of influencers by using Twitter lists, excel workbooks, or even your CRM system – ultimate find a method that works best for you and your company.

Stop, Look, and Listen

Now that you have some insight as to who your influencers are, take a step back and listen.  This is a critical step to building out your program. Before you dive in and start engaging with your influencers, you must have a solid understanding on who they are and what they are interested in. Connect with them on the relevant social networks, subscribe to their newsletters or blogs, and absorb everything you can: the main point is to be quiet here and learn.

Engage

By now, you should have a solid grasp on your company’s influencers and now you are ready to begin your outreach. Start by commenting on their blogs and communicating with them over social channels they prefer. Talk about what is going on in the industry, a customer success story, or trends you are seeing rather than immediately pitching how great your company is. This is of course just a tactical example of the type of engagement you might implement: create an appropriate mix for your target audience.

Influencing your Influencers

The ultimate goal of any influencer program is to market with your influencers. Like any relationship this will take time to build. When it seems genuine, start marketing to your influencers by bringing your company’s messaging into the mix, and be honest and express that you are interested in extending your company’s online reach. Next think about marketing through your influencers by really understanding their point of your on your brand. Invite them to participate in your content marketing efforts by granting them the opportunity to contribute and be an extension of your community. Over time continue to engage with your influencers and maintain a regular contact rhythm.

Realizing the Results

As I have mentioned, the benefits of influencer marketing will not happen overnight. Building solid relationships takes time and effort. If you execute correctly and you’ve chosen the right individuals, you’ll start to discover passionate influencers are happy to speak on behalf of your efforts and share your company’s story in their blogs, social networks, and speaking engagements. If that isn’t generating buzz, I don’t know what is.

Amanda Maksymiw works for OpenView Venture Partners, an expansion stage venture capital fund based in Boston, with a focus on high-growth software, internet, and technology-enabled companies and a sponsor of the Content Marketing Institute. Amanda is a part of the OpenView Labs team in which she supports the portfolio on implementing content marketing strategies. She can be contacted through her blog and @amandamaks on Twitter.

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