By: David Brim August 28, 2010
Are you a business owner who is wondering how you can get the most value out of social media?
So many business owners I speak to sign up for twitter and facebook with no real strategy. They simply sign up because they have heard the buzz about these networks, or because someone said that they should.
I’ve had the opportunity to work with brands large and small helping them to effectively take advantage of social media. If you give me 5 minutes and read this post I will share with you a solid social media strategy that I’ve used time and time again to help my client’s businesses grow.
Keep in mind there are many different social media strategies. I’m simply sharing with you one that I’ve found to be effective.
That strategy is…. leveraging online influencers.
I define an online influencer as someone who has a great amount of respect, visibility and influence in their respective niche. This influencer could be a power user on twitter, a popular group administrator ( meetup, linkedin or facebook), premium blogger, top youtube vlogger, or simply someone with a lot of friends on a social network.
So how do you take advantage of this strategy and truly leverage online influencers?
Well lets start with the basics…
The cornerstone of any successful online marketing initiative is to first have a crystal clear understanding of those in your target audience. This strategy is no different.
Every niche is unique in size, engagement levels, audience, etc. Therefore there is no cookie cutter method to identify online influencers in your respective niche.
For example: The technology space on average has a greater interest and higher traffic than the scrapbooking/craft space. Therefore the top influencers in the technology space will have significantly more eyeballs, subscribers or followers than those in the scrapbooking/craft niche. Similarly you may notice that parenting blogs have significantly more engagement than extreme sports blogs. Since this is the case, the criteria for determining an influencer in one market cannot be used in a different market because you cannot measure each on the same scale.
To begin implementing this strategy, spend some time establishing bench marks on influencers within the niche you are targeting. Establish how many subscribers and comments a blog has. Also look at how many unique visitors a site has using compete and the average traffic levels using alexa. Finally look at the level of engagement and interaction the influencer has. You want to connect with influencers who have meaningful interactions with their audience.
Here are some tools that I use to find various influencers:
- To find top bloggers: Technorati.com, AllTop.com, various blogger awards, blog networks, blog rolls of other top bloggers.
- To find top users on twitter: TwitterGrader.com, Klout.com, twellow.com, wefollow.com
- To find top groups: Search for groups on linkedin, meetup, facebook
Below I’ve noted the main options available to you once you’ve found your online influencers…
- Observation: Utilize this tactic for market research purposes to keep up with customer, competitor and industry trends and intelligence. Observing your customers and competitors and seeing what topics people are interested, or what problems they are having can give your brand valuable insight into content ideas for your marketing materials or website. You will also be able to see where the industry as a whole is going and be able to position your brand accordingly.
- Participation: Participate in the conversation to increase your brand’s visibility and helps you build a relationship with the influencer. You don’t want to go into the social setting and promote your product, however it’s wise to join in the conversation and share valuable insight to position you/and/or your brand as an expert in the field. If people see that what you are sharing is valuable they will often be inspired to learn more about you, or your company. This is applicable for twitter, blogs and virtually any other social media channel.
- Contribution: Become a guest writer for a popular blog or administrator for a group or forum. This is a great option being that the blog or group already has an established audience that you can reach. With this being the case it can be challenging to achieve this-there may be many others working to do the same thing. The key with this option is that you really have to know what you’re talking about. You have to be an expert in the field…If you are feel free to take a shot-email the blog or group owner and see what happens. If you’re fortunate enough to achieve this- Reveal your expertise through quality content and interactions and you’ll often see great results. There is also SEO benefits if you work your company link into or at the end of the article.
- Sponsored Conversations: Find influencers that are the most relevant to you and reach out to them to review your product or promote a product you offer. Make sure to disclose and follow all FTC guidelines.
Keep in mind-many times these influencers will not make the plug for free. If this is the case you have to judge how much the plug is worth to you. It all depends on the quality and size of the group or audience. Once you’ve decided the value you can choose to compensate them by sending them a complementary product, gift card or paying them accordingly. You can also offer them commission if their audience or group members purchase a product- this is a very favorable solution since no money is paid out until a sale occurs. This is called affiliate marketing. This requires some effort and programming to set up, but how it works is that each influencer would have their own unique tracking link. When they share it with their audience and a sale happens they would be compensated. The good thing about this tactic is that no money is paid until a sale happens- which means no up front investment for exposure to the influencers audience.
Sponsored conversations can be utilized through influencers in virtually all online channels:
- Relevant Group creators (Meetup, LinkedIn, Facebook)
- Influential twitter users
- Highly Visible Bloggers
- Advertising: Advertising is another option available to reach an influencer’s audience. Ads are often purchased on a CPM (Cost per thousand impressions of your ad) or CPC (Cost per click). If utilizing facebook you can target by demographic, or add specific keywords related to your business when setting up your ad to reach those people interested in those topics. You can also advertise using google’s content advertising network. You can select the types of websites you’d like to advertise and pay on a CPC basis. If you choose to utilize this tactic make sure that you measure and track everything- Number of clicks, click thru rate, CPC, which messaging and images are working best, cost per sale, etc. Constantly work to refine and improve your conversion rates. Advertising can get expensive and it is essential to keep your eye constantly on ROI.
Here are some additional action items available to you for several types of popular online influencers.
How to Leverage Twitter Power Users: Follow these twitter users and engage them in conversation to build relationships with those in your industry and become more aware of industry events and news.
Another valuable way to use these twitter influencers is to follow their followers. The people who follow these influencers are most likely interested in your industry (since these are the influencers in your industry). By following their followers you have a chance to gain visibility and connect with these people, which in turn may turn into champions, customers or facilitators of word-of-mouth marketing.
Generating Value from Online Groups : Join a number of groups that are most applicable and participate in the conversation. Don’t sell, but simply participate in whatever conversation is occurring and by sharing insightful comments they will see what you do and if interested reach out to you. Another strong way to utilize online groups is to reach out to the group owner or admin and have them send out a message to those in their group about your product or service (part of sponsored conversation tactic).
Taking Advantage of Popular Blogs: Build relationships with these bloggers by being a frequent commenter. Each time you comment on these blogs you also generate a back link to your website which has SEO benefits. Also, if you leave an insightful comment on a popular blog others will take notice and this will help increase your own credibility. See what conversations are occurring ( what problems or interests) they are discussing and create content in the form of blog posts or videos to address it (linking back to the original source). Reading industry blogs also keeps you on the cutting edge of advances and news within the industry.
One final tip….
One thing to remember is that typically if you are able to reach a member of your audience chances are they are connected to others within your target audience. The beauty about the web is that any one can be a publisher and share their experiences and thoughts with their social circle. Though the online influencers we discussed previously are the top influencers within a space that doesn’t mean that you should ignore other influencers. There is a term in marketing called the long tail. What the long tail essentially means is that there are several major influencers in each market, but if you are able to reach many smaller infleuncers this may equal out or surpass the value of any particular one infleuncers.
Assess your time availability and implement these tactics accordingly. Social media is a lot like working out and you need to set aside time to flex your expertise and social muscles. The more influencers you reach and leverage the better, but keep good form (quality) and if you have any questions seek out a good social media trainer. You don’t want to pull a muscle like these guys-Social Media gone wrong or these ones for that matter…Social media catastrophes.
An Experienced social media consultant can also help you to become an online influencer. This is a great goal, but takes time, hard work and guidance.
What do you think about leveraging online influencers?
Have you utilized any of these strategies…If so what results have you had?