A Marketer’s Guide to Influencer Outreach

Luke Gorski on Social Media Marketing

influencer marketingBy now, your buyers are accustomed to seeing their favorite influencers promoting a product or service. To make your influencer marketing efforts stand out, form deeper relationships with influencers.

The focus of today’s lesson is on effective influencer marketing. To be effective, you must provide value to both the influencer and her followers. Transacting your advertising dollars for a sponsored post to gain exposure will have limited success.

After reading this lesson, you will:

  • Understand influencer marketing

  • Create an influencer outreach strategy

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is the practice of providing an incentive (money or free product) to an influencer, who in turn creates awareness around your product or service by incorporating it into their content creation efforts.

What is an influencer?

An influencer earns her title by consistently providing value to a group of people following her. This value might come in the form of entertainment, educational, motivational, or inspirational content. Regularly sharing this type of content at no cost to her audience allows the influencer to create a fan base that pays attention to their content.

Although mainly associated with Instagram, influencers exist on every social platform. This gives your business the creative freedom to showcase your brand in audio, visual, or written form.

Influencers convey trust to their followers

As much as your buyer wants to trust your ads and content, they know they can’t: they come second to your bottom line. But if a friend or somebody they admire suggests a product or service, they are more likely to listen. There is no ulterior motive. This trust is what influencers, at least the good ones, offer their audiences.

Influencers & micro-influencers

Both influencers and micro-influencers can offer your business exposure. So how do these titles differ?

A micro-influencer has a smaller following and typically operates in more niche space. She may not have a blue verification badge on her Instagram or Facebook page, may not have a Business profile with Instagram account insights, and may be more likely to trade for free product instead of money.

An established influencer typically has a much larger audience, a verified account, and an account manager or agent that manages her business inquiries and marketing requests. Examples of established influencers across different platforms include:

Kendall Jenner Instagram

Kendall Jenner (91 MM Instagram followers)

Gary Vaynerchuk Facebook

Gary Vaynerchuk (3MM Facebook followers)

Casey Neistat Youtube

Casey Neistat (9.5MM YouTube subscribers)

Casey Francis Snapchat

Dillon Francis (SnapChat)

Ariel Martin Musically

Ariel Martin (23 MM Musical.ly followers)

Joe Rogan Experience Podcast

Joe Rogan (10 MM Podcast downloads)

Influencer Outreach Strategy

Use the steps outlined below to help your team organize an effective influencer marketing campaign. An example we will use throughout this section is SquareSpace’s influencer marketing campaign.

Remember: building deep relationships with influencers will offer you more opportunity than transacting and paying for a one-off sponsored post. Here is how your marketing team can start to build deep relationships with key influencers:

1. Create a list of target influencers

Your influencer outreach strategy begins with identifying key influencers around your business. If you’re in a niche business, an influencer might only have 1,000 followers simply because there aren’t as many people aware or interested in the space. They are still a valuable influencer.

Select social media channels to target

To build your list of target influencers, you will need to select the social media platform that best supports your product. If your product or service translates well to visual media, consider Instagram and Facebook. If your product is easily described and you can create a compelling offer for new buyers, partnering with relevant podcasts can increase brand awareness.

Identify influencers

Once you have identified which channels you will include in your campaign, you must find which influencers to target. If you are targeting micro-influencers, make sure to have a vetting process in place to ensure the accounts are real. Here are some tips:

  • If available, ask to see a screenshot of their Audience Insights

  • Check that whoever is liking their posts look like real accounts

  • Compare their video views to their follower count

Identify relevant hashtags

Next, search hashtags relevant to your space to identify popular accounts. If you don’t yet have a list of key hashtags to use on Instagram, click here to read why creating a hashtags list is one of the first things you should create. Identify the top Instagram accounts for each hashtag on your list. From there, see who these accounts are following to expand your network.

You can also use influencer marketing platforms such as Mediakix or IZEA to help identify influencers in your industry.

Example: SquareSpace chose to highlight two unique elements of their brand in their influencer marketing: their catchy name and their visually-centric design.

Their catchy name translated well to podcasting, and their visually-centric designs translated into creative content for YouTube influencers. SquareSpace has run successful influencer marketing campaigns by partnering with top podcasts like The Joe Rogan Experience, WTF with Marc Maron, and How I Built This. Their YouTube partnerships have included popular influencers like The Game Theorists (10 MM subscribers) and Good Mythical Morning (13 MM subscribers).

2. Build deep relationships with key influencers

Once you’ve identified your target influencers, engage with them across their social channels. Like their channels and social pages, engage with their content, and help them achieve their own mission by contributing comments and likes. This is not something your marketing team will do only before a campaign, but at all times. This is not a tactic; this is networking and building business relationships.

If your marketing team genuinely cares about building deep relationships with key influencers, it will come across with how your brand interacts with their content.

3. Create your valuable offer or product discount

As you engage with target influencers, you will begin to understand what kind of content each one shares and what value they bring to their followers (educational, motivational, entertaining, or inspirational content).

You will need to create an offer that aligns with target your influencer value proposition. Remember that well-established influencers will typically charge high fees for brand sponsorships. Micro influencers will often times exchange exposure for free products.

Example: SquareSpace partnered with Good Mythical Morning for their #TheInternetIsAWeirdPlace campaign. SquareSpace created the landing page where fans of the campaign could submit weird and wacky websites. SquareSpace was mentioned in the campaign announcement video, and the landing page included a call to action to build a website using SquareSpace.

Instead of just sponsoring a YouTube episode, SquareSpace helped Good Mythical Morning achieve their goals in exchange for exposure to the SquareSpace product.

4. Use effective influencer outreach strategies

Once you know what kind of offer to make to each influencer on your list, you will need to inquire about scheduling and fees for sponsored posts. By this point, your regular engagement with their content should make your message stand out amongst the hundreds, if not thousands, of message influencers receive from fans and brands.

Your outreach strategy will depend on the influencer and their channel. If you are interested in advertising on a podcast, you will likely need to use an advertising partner like Midroll, which already works with top podcasts.

If you are working with Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube influencers, you will likely find a business inquiry email in the About section of their account. Well-established Instagram influencers will typically have an agent you will need to correspond with.

In any case, your message should be short and to the point. Most importantly, it should communicate the desire to create a partnership and not a transaction. Consider including the following elements:

  • Acknowledge the influencer on her success: “Love what you’ve done with CHANNEL NAME!”

  • Tell her you would like her to creatively use your product within her content: “We would like to partner with you on an upcoming campaign. Would you be interested in using PRODUCT NAME in upcoming video or photo content?”

  • Inquire about pricing: “To begin, what are your fees for a sponsored post?”

End your message with a question that requires a response. This will increase your chances of hearing from the influencer on the first try. However, be prepared to reach out to them more than once.

5. Coordinating influencer marketing campaigns

Influencer marketing works best when your potential buyers see your product mentioned by more than one influencer all at once. This builds credibility and sparks curiosity.

By coordinating all of your influencer marketing campaigns to run over the course of one week, for example, you create a wave-like effect across social channels used by your buyers: all of a sudden, key influencers they follow are talking about your new product.

Creating this wave-like effect can be done in one of two ways: by organizing many influencers to feature your product in one or two posts, or by partnering with few key influencers over an extended number of posts. This is what SquareSpace has done with their podcast partnerships. They sponsor shows for a month at a time. During that month, their potential buyers are flooded with SquareSpace content and ads.

6. Tracking influencer marketing campaigns

Sales are the most important KPI for your influencer marketing campaigns. Although you may want to increase brand awareness with an influencer marketing campaign, that awareness should translate into increased sales.

Track the effectiveness of your influencer campaigns by assigning unique discount codes to each influencer. Depending on how many influencers you are working with, you can also create separate landing pages for each influencer. Using Google Analytics, you can track traffic, clicks, and conversions on each landing page.

You still need content marketing

Even if you follow these steps and begin to build deeper relationships with influencers, your campaign will underperform if your brand doesn’t have a well-organized content strategy.

Influencers you contact will want to see who they are recommending to their followers. If you have an empty or non-existent Instagram page, or are missing a YouTube channel, you will be risking doing what most other brands do today: transacting money for exposure. This strategy worked in the past but as influencer marketing continues to mature and become more important, these transactions will become less effective as buyers begin to spot and ignore ad placements in their Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and podcast feeds.


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