How to Influence the Influencers

How to Influence the InfluencersWhat social media offers a brand is the opportunity to create a buzz. Word of mouth is one of the most valuable forms of marketing – and social media enables it to spread like wildfire. A campaign that goes viral – such as the Old Spice Guy – can reach millions of people. What’s more, these people will hear about it from their friends, colleagues, or their favourite journalist / blogger / celebrity – giving it even more credibility.

As a marketer, it’s impossible to engage everyone. But by reaching this final group of ‘influencers’, you are able the leverage their reach, and consequently turbo-charge your own efforts by a factor of hundreds. Put simply: If Joe Public tweets out a link to your amazing new product, it might reach a few hundred followers. If Lady Gaga tweets about it, it could reach all 27.5 million of her followers.

So – how do you influence these influencers? Alas, there is no hard and fast answer. And there are rarely any quick wins either. But here’s some food for thought.

Make it worth sharing

First off, your content has to be great. Old Spice Guy became an online (and then offline) sensation because he was hilarious. The campaign was witty, ironic and a brilliant spoof of male grooming clichés. The fact it advertised Old Spice was very much secondary to the creative and its continual reinventions – people weren’t sending their mates an ad about a bodywash. They were sending a comedy snippet.

Competitions and discounts are another form of content that can garner huge numbers of shares – and the attention of the big players. Virgin Blue’s $9 plane ticket Twitter giveaway (to celebrate 9 years in business) is great example. It was shared by millions, and brought a huge amount of publicity for the brand, even after the 1,000 $9 tickets had gone. Likewise, some of the best money-off vouchers (such as the original 40% off Threshers that did the email rounds back in 2006) can fly round Facebook and Twitter with promotion from highly followed sources, such as MoneySavingExpert.

Establish a relationship

Even with great content (or offers, or causes, etc) you won’t necessarily catch the eye of a Twitter / Facebook / Blogging big gun. And it’s highly unlikely that contacting a journalist or celebrity out of the blue with a piece of content you want them to share is going to work.

Although social media can be a very anonymous platform, it is still predicated on friendships and relationships. If you have a ‘famous’ blogger in your industry that you want target, you have to first establish a relationship with them. Retweet their posts, leave comments or give them feedback on their blogs, offer them exclusive access to your latest product launches. The best way to catch their eye is to infiltrate their online world and engage with them – so that they recognise your name and respect you if and when you do come to approach them directly.

Add value

This last point about being respected is a critical one. Influencers can spot someone simply wanting to push their own PR agenda a mile off. Ensure key players in your online market trust you by proving you can add value to the conversation. If you’re sharing content or making recommendations, don’t be partial. Only push your brand when it truly is relevant and does deserve to be talked about. Offer balanced opinions and share information about other related brands or services as well, so people don’t think you’re just plugging stuff, and stop listening.

It’s also important to be unique. Perhaps you have some new research or stats that you’ve compiled. Offering this sort of information out will solidify your credentials as a trustworthy and valuable source – and potentially catch the eye of an influencer. It also ensures you have a history of quality content on your social channels, should that influencer then want to find out more about you.

Keep up momentum

Finally, don’t forget that there are no shortcuts and probably no quick wins. Influencing influencers is a long-term investment that must be underpinned by building relationships and establishing yourself as someone with quality content, relevant opinions and worth engaging with.

And by the time you’ve got all that sorted, your probably half way to becoming an influencer yourself…