Gone are the days when journalists were the only editorial contacts on a brand’s media list. Today, media lists encompass not only editors, reporters, anchors and on-air personalities, but bloggers and online influencers who have cultivated loyal online followings around a specific genre of content. (For more information on the role of bloggers on a media list, click here.)
While engaging online influencers is a goal of many companies and causes, it can be challenging to hook one’s desired influencers and convince them to engage with your brand. Influencer engagement requires a careful balance of strategy and creativity, and, in most instances, one does not take the same approach as they would when pitching a reporter.
Here are a few of the common missteps that prevent businesses and non-profits from engaging their target influencers and cultivating them as loyal brand ambassadors:
1) Focusing too narrowly on numbers
While reaching influencers with large and loyal audiences is desirable, a focus on audience size shouldn’t overshadow the importance of finding an influencer (and their audience) whose attributes and values are well-aligned with your brand. For example, while a nationally recognized blogger who has amassed a social audience that ranks in the millions may seem like the holy grail of influencers to engage with, a blogger or influencer with a strong local/regional following that falls directly within your target audience may yield a stronger return.
2) Not understanding the blogger’s or influencer’s relationship with other brands
While bloggers and influencers generate their fair share of organic content, some brands have established influencer relations programs that compensate these individuals (either monetarily or in gratis products) for their social shares and positive “word-of-mouse.” Sometimes these relationships are exclusive and in other instances, a blogger or influencer may only promote specific brands under “paid” arrangements. Looking at the blogger’s or influencer’s social media feeds (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and hunting for the hashtags #ad or #sponsored are good ways to help identify if they have any paid partnerships in place.
3) Failing to identify the benefit to the blogger or influencer
Why should a blogger or influencer promote your product and align themselves with your brand? What’s in it for them? What’s in it for their readers and followers? Clearly defining the benefit to the blogger or influencer is a critical part of laying the foundation for success. Remember, it isn’t about you – it’s about what you can do for them.
4) Overlooking the importance of relationship-building
Just as you wouldn’t walk into a cocktail party, meet someone for the first time and launch into a hard sales pitch, you shouldn’t contact bloggers and influencers without first doing your homework. Read the blogs you are targeting, follow the bloggers and influencers themselves on social media, make note of the types of content they share and products they feature, as well as whether or not it indicates that free product or other compensation was given in exchange for their review/product feature. While you want to be authentic with what you like or share on your brand’s social channels, if you truly believe you have found the right bloggers and influencers with which to engage, it is time to start building relationships.
Connecting with the right bloggers and influencers can help brands to grow their online followings and cultivate more loyal brand ambassadors. Whether you have a fitness apparel line that you seek to have renowned trainers wear in their own workouts, or an educational product that you aspire to get in the hands of mommy bloggers, it is critical to do your research, hone your ask and focus on getting your brand in front of the audiences who have the greatest potential to become customers and word-of-mouth ambassadors.