How to Engage with Your Top 10 Influencers
Once you have identified a short list of 10 potential influencers your first step is to step back and get to know them better. Using a spreadsheet, create a column for Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Linkedin, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube and Flickr.
Identify the URL or username for the influencers on each of these platforms so you can monitor and listen. Over the next few days or weeks, look back through these networks to get a better understanding of the influencer’s topics of interest.
Armed with this knowledge you can engage them in a non-invasive way to get noticed. For example, you might try retweeting and/or commenting on their latest blog post to get their attention.
In most cases, you’ll want to do this from your personal account and not that of the brand unless you have broad market awareness in your local market, and they already follow your brand. Other ways may include responding to various tweets or Google+ posts with your feedback and ideas to further the discussion.
Ask an Influencer
Now that you have garnered their attention, your next step is to get them to take action. You can do this via email, Twitter direct message or by a contact form on their blog. The goal of your campaign and type of business will determine the next step here. If you want them to try out your new restaurant or retail store invite them to a private event and the more exclusive the better.
If you want them to trial your local service, provide the service for free to get their feedback. A car dealership owner, for example, should consider inviting influencers to take an extended test drive for a week. All of these activities depend on your type of business.
If the person knows she has influence then this can get tricky as she may ask for compensation. It’s up to you to offer paid compensation, but most of the time if you have chosen folks that aren’t A-list celebrities they’ll just be glad you recognized their influence and be honored to participate. However, sometimes your product or service won’t be a fit, so don’t be surprised if some choose not to participate at all.
Before you start an influencer campaign, be sure to benchmark your social profiles and Web traffic to see whether influencer outreach has any impact. Your ultimate goal is to get an endorsement from the influencer about your products or services. Rarely will someone speak negatively of your product or service if they are receiving it for free, but all of that depends on how you treat them during the process.
Ultimately, you may not drive additional sales from your influencer marketing efforts, but you could influence the influencer to become a customer. As they say, people buy from people they know.
Mike Merrill, director of marketing for ReachLocal (NASDAQ:RLOC), is a community builder, speaker, author, and online marketing strategist at Bacon Marketing, his own consulting practice.
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