Why Influencer Marketing Works & 5 Tips on Doing It Right

5 minute read

Upland Admin

Last month, Guy Kawasaki tweeted a blog post I wrote for The Content Marketeer, and immediately that day became our single biggest traffic day in the entire year.

Then, two weeks ago, Buffer included a post that Jesse Noyes wrote about the best marketing cheat sheets in their recommendations—and that post became our biggest traffic day to date.

Specifically, the Guy Kawasaki tweet drove a 62% increase in traffic over our second biggest traffic day of 2014, and then Buffer’s endorsement of Jesse’s post gained another 2% increase on top of that.

I’m not saying this to flaunt that the Kapost blog is becoming more popular (though I do think it is)…

I’m saying this to shed light on a little something called the power of influencers.

Influencer marketing derives from the concept that certain people hold more sway than large audiences on particular issues. It’s a marketing strategy that focuses on reaching key individuals who then reach a target market, because those individuals are believed to have more clout in the eyes of potential buyers.

A lot of research and data supports this strategy. In a recent Kapost survey, B2B marketers reported trusting thought leaders 10X as much as they trust websites or corporate blogs (41% vs 4%) and 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations.

As a result the notion of “influencer marketing” has developed into its own sub-category of digital marketing at large, with an estimated $240 million spent on the tactic each year.

Why Marketers Focus on Influencers

Influencers can make a huge impact with small effort, and marketers recognize that truth.

As our record-breaking traffic numbers show, one shout-out from an influencer has the unique power to launch a company (or their content) into the spotlight.

For smaller companies, these endorsements can make or break businesses, and it feels like a seismic earthquake with rippling effects for the company mentioned.

For instance, I used to own a touchscreen glove company. I remember when an endorsement from TechCrunch launched our e-commerce sales from 3-5 pairs per day to 20,000 pairs sold per day.

It’s no big deal to the influencer, as long as the content or information remains relevant to the audience. Guy Kawasaki will go on tweeting daily factoids and links for his followers—just like he does every day. (In fact, he has so many tweets, that I couldn’t unbury the single tweet he posted calling out my post. Ah well.) Because that is a part of his job.

And the folks at Buffer will continue to suggest great blogs, news articles, and reference sites every day. Because that’s their job.

But the effect it has on marketers and businesses can be monumental.

Tapping into influencer networks is as important to the modern marketer as celebrity TV spots were to the 1980’s marketer.

So…How Do You Actually Reach Influencers?

To get the best tips in how to get involved with influencers, I decided to ask some well-connected community managers for their advice. Here are their suggestions.

Jelena Woehr, Director of Community at GOOD

“Cool kids don’t beg. What would ruin the cool factor of your favorite rock star faster than anything you could possibly imagine? Three or four repeat emails asking you to just give her new single a chance, with an increasingly visible subtext of desperation. Cool factor = BLOWN. And that goes for influencer marketing, too. If you feel like constant emails and Upworthy-esque emotional manipulation are the only way to get a foot in the door with your influencer, rework the pitch before you destroy your chance at getting a spot around the cool brands’ table. Stop, drop, and fix your value proposition. Even an unsolicited product sample, while low-ROI, is better than begging for time.”

Jelena Woehr, Director of Community at GOOD

Andrew J. Coate, Senior Community & Content Manager at Kapost

“Care about the people you’re trying to connect with as people before prospects. Example: I’ve interacted way more with one particular influencer about rock photography and another about our shared affinity for craft brews than about content marketing and asking them to do stuff. It allows the eventual asks to come up more naturally in normal conversation.” 

Andrew J. Coate, Senior Community & Content Manager at Kapost

Brit Thompson, Customer Community Manager at Kapost

“Slow play it. As I believe Gary Vaynerchuk once said, marketers act like 19-year-old dudes – always try to close on the first date. You’ll build stronger, longer-lasting relationships with influencers if you don’t rush it.” 

Brit Thompson, Customer Community Manager at Kapost

Mike Fraietta, Senior Social Business Strategist at Social Edge Consulting

“You have to have genuine connections with influencers based on common interests, whether those interests be business or personal. You can’t find a list of influencers, reach out and check them off as boxes and expect them to engage with your company or product. Like any relationship, it takes time and real interaction for someone become comfortable and trusting of you or your brand.” 

Mike Fraietta, Senior Social Business Strategist at Social Edge Consulting

Matt Wesson, Content Marketing Manager at Salesforce.com

“I think it’s not necessarily a straight ‘ask.’ You also need to sell them on the benefit of your audience and your network. You need to give them an incentive (i.e. added exposure, authority, reach) and mix that with why you want them/why you think they’d be great (the ‘ask’).”

Matt Wesson, Content Marketing Manager at Salesforce.com

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