The last time you tried a new product or service, how did you find out about it? Did someone tell you, did you see it on social media, did you Google it, or did you ask someone for a recommendation?
Nielsen’s Trust in Advertising report, which comes out every other year, says that “recommendations from friends or family” is always the number one trusted source of information, followed by websites, consumer reviews, then editorial articles.
“Whenever we make a decision to spend our money on something that is unproven we are seeking some kind of proof or assurance that it will be a quality and good experience, which is why we rely on what other people say about it,” writes marketing consultant Melissa Todisco in an article on forbes.com.
Todisco argues that media outlets such as newspapers, radio and television, and review sites used to be the only places you could find recommendations, but “now anyone can become a social media influencer and a megaphone for your brand.”
“Influencer marketing” is now one of the most important ways to reach an audience. In the past two years the search term “influencer marketing” has seen a rise of an astounding 400% on Google Trends. Companies are now realizing the power of building relationships with influencers, especially those starting out and new businesses hoping to build their brand.
“The great thing about influencer marketing is that you can kill three birds with one stone,.” writes Todisco in the article “Why Influencer Marketing Is Essential For Any Business Looking to Grow.” “Create great content, earn credibility and gain exposure through their network.”
Todisco identifies five ways you can start engaging influencers today:
- Create a Valuable Experience
Influencers have built their reputation by meeting other people of influence. If you create an experience that allows influencers to network with other influencers, you will have the opportunity to build a personal relationship with them and share some information about your product — and maybe they will talk about it on social media. However, that shouldn’t be the goal. The goal should be to raise awareness for what you do and start to build a relationship with them that might net something in the future.
- Offer Exposure
Influencers have built their following by getting exposure talking about what they love. Ask them if they would be willing to do a 30-minute interview for a blog post or to come to your offices to do a Facebook Live Chat. This approach works best when you have already built up a following on your own social channels to make sure it is worth their time. In an ideal world, they will share the blog post or promote the Facebook Live on their channels and help attract new potential customers for you.
- Ask For Advice
Influencers like sharing their thoughts — on books, blogs, events, etc. Ask them if they would be willing to serve as an advisor to your business with other like-minded influencers. You can host virtual or in-person quarterly meetings to get their perspective on relevant trends in the marketplace and customer needs while getting feedback on the direction your business is headed.
- Hire A Spokesperson or Speaker
Hire a high-profile influencer to serve as a media spokesperson or a speaker at a customer event. This approach allows you to borrow equity from an established expert in the space who isn’t motivated to sell, so it creates a more valuable experience for the audience. When hiring a spokesperson or speaker, it’s best that you identify someone who authentically supports what you do and build a relationship with them before any speaking engagements. You’ll want to share messages about your business with them in advance, but let them put the messages into their own words so they can authentically share their opinion.
- Pay For A Product Review
The fastest and most straight-forward way to engage an influencer is to pay them to create content. This works best for consumer products looking to work with bloggers, Instagrammers, etc. While you may be compensating them to create content, it is important to give them editorial freedom to ensure that the post they create feels authentic to their audience.
“Seth Godin has said, ‘Marketing Is a Contest For People’s Attention,’ Todisco writes. “What are you most likely to pay attention to — the person or organization you know and trust, or person or brand trying to sell you something?”