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Thursday, April 11, 2013

How to Maintain Your Brand’s Image by Targeting Influencers
Influencers play a huge part in shaping your brand’s image. For us marketers with control issues (ahem), this can be a hard reality to face. We no longer define our brand, someone tweets it for us. Not to mention, damage control is pretty much nonexistent now because negative reviews spread faster through the web than fire through a drought stricken forest. One of the best ways to keep the mentions positive and exert any control over our brand’s image is to align with influencers

Inside of the C2C  (consumer to consumer) model, consumers look to other consumers when choosing a brand and the majority of “marketing” is being spout all over the social web from influential consumers. To make our brand look good, we now target the influencers and not the audience as a whole. It sounds like this practice would be less time consuming than the B2C model where so much effort and creative juices were leaked in to media advertisements, but it’s not.

Getting influencers on your side to make desirable mentions and recommendations of your company is a strategic and lengthy process. I can’t wrap it up neatly in one post but I can give you a place to start while sharing the best practices that I’ve learned along the way.

Who Are the Influencers?

First and foremost we need to grasp and hold on to the fact that influencers vary for each brand and often times, each brand’s campaign. For example, if you represent multiple clients, you wouldn’t use the influencers you used for a fashion campaign that you used for a restaurant campaign. Though they may be in the right city, their audience is there to read about fashion. 
An influencer is a contextual fit before it’s a numerical fit. What I mean by that is an influencer is an influencer for your brand because their content is an exact fit for your brand’s niche. Of course if they are a good fit and have a lot of Twitter followers and blog traffic than this a bonus but followers and other stats shouldn’t be the first priority. 

Influencers almost always have a blog so to make the outreach process a lot easier on ourselves, targeting bloggers is the way to go. 

Define an Influencer for Your Brand
You should design the influencers you would like to target before you even start to locate them. Here is the influencer outline that I use before I start any of my outreach campaigns.

--Genre of my influencer. This should be no more than two. Examples include fashion, food, mommy blogs, etc.

--Niche(s) of my influencer. For example if my genre was food my niches may be vegetarian and vegan or if my genre was marketing my niche may be inbound marketing.

--Post topics. A contextual fit is a tight one, no room for wiggling. So, we need to look for specific post topics to determine if the blogger really is a potential influencer for our brand. Say we have decided to target food bloggers who fall in to a vegan niche and our campaign is to promote soy alternative recipes. We would need to read through the blog to make sure that the blogger doesn’t advocate for soy before we pitch them.

--Tactics. You need to define the tactic you plan to use before reaching out to a blogger and then see if the blogger uses those tactics on their blog. You may be executing a guest blogging campaign but not all bloggers accept guest posts.

Once you have your ideal influencer outlined in more detail than you have ever used to outline your ideal spouse, it’s time to go looking for them!

Where to Find These Influencers
This report  rom Technorati shows us that over 86% of influencers operate a blog. So, the most obvious place to start is to target influential bloggers. Bloggers almost always also have an active social media presence so their opinions and recommendations are hitting many mediums.

Blogger outreach has been a common component of a successful marketing strategy for a few years now so most are familiar with the process. If you’re not, there is still time to catch up and I recommend starting with this all-encompassing 

Because blogger outreach has become the primary way to target influencers, there are a few tools that make the process easier. Doing it manually with Google searches is fine if you only plan to dabble but investing in a tool like 
GroupHigh  is a good idea if you are going to make blogger outreach a continual part of your strategy because of the huge time saving components.

How to Get Influencers on Your Side 

Again, outreach is a strategic process. Many successful marketers engage with their targets before “pitching.” Make yourself a familiar face by commenting on their posts and tweeting at them or tweeting their posts to your own followers. Other marketers still dive right in to the pitch. It just depends what works for you.

The most important part is that when you do send that first email, it should be super personalized. Take the time to find the first name in which to address your email, reference a blog post you like to make it apparent that they two of you are a good contextual fit and offer something in return for a mention instead of asking to create a one sided relationship. Common offers include a unique piece of content that you know their audience would love, a good or service from your brand or monetary in the form of a sponsored post. 

Don’t forget to nurture your relationships with all of your influencers just like you would maintain your real life relationships. Influencer targeting is no one night stand… 

Special thanks to Kristen Matthews for providing this post.  Kristen is the Marketing and Community Manager for GroupHigh. For any writing requests email her at and/or follow her on Twitter @KristenWords and @GroupHigh.


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