“Dear Jim, we’re happy to inform you that you’ve been selected to represent our product…”.
I hate getting these kind of pitch emails.
First off, my name is not Jim. It’s Sam. “Happy to inform you…” means I stop reading instantly and delete the email without reading further as this must be another email from that Nigerian prince who has millions he needs to give away.
I’ve seen all kinds of these hopeless requests in my inbox, in my Twitter private messages, and voice mail.
If you don’t make an effort to know me, my work or my audience, why would I give you the time of day?
Despite the title of this blog, I don’t want you to pitch me, I want you to engage me.
Thus, here are 10 tips for engaging the right influencers (and a bonus tip!) that I utilize in the campaigns we develop for clients.
1. First, be sure you have the right influencer
No list of recommendations or strategies for engaging brand influencers should start without this first, critical, step. For this article, we’re speaking of “social influencers” or those who can sway the behavior of your existing or potential customers.
A recommendation I offer clients often is: If a person calls him/herself an “influencer,” chances are he/she is the right person for the job. That point could turn into a study of its own on what – and who – really influences potential customers to take the action you want them to take.
In short, determine if you’re attempting to sway (and measure) just brand awareness among a wide, general audience or if you want to change actual purchase behavior. Selecting the right influencers should be heavily influenced (pun intended) on that decision. Still not sure? Get in touch.
2. Know their work
When you’ve identified key influencers you wish to target, get to know their craft, their audience, the tone of voice they use, and the content they produce.
It’s not enough to know he or she has 100,000 Instagram followers; that audience may or may not be real, may or may not be your target customer, and the influencer’s sway over that audience may or may not extend to decisions about your product or service.
Tools that list influencers by the number of followers they have or the number of times they Tweet in a day can be a helpful start to the process, but it’s by no means the best strategy from which to select influencers.
3. Now, really get to know them
This point is so important it requires a second bullet point on this list.
Assuming you’ve selected the right influencer for the right reason, really get to know their work.
Read their writings, follow their comments on others’ blogs and what – if any – responses are received.
Do some research on their blog or website, does it have a high Alexa rank?
How do they behave in other social media posts and channels? Are their actions or tone of voice consistent with that of your brand? Is there any potential PR risk that could affect you down the line? How focused are they? How much response to they get from their readers?
4. Personalize your pitch
Now, knowing what you know, put it to work.
Don’t start your pitch letter with “Dear blogger” or “Dear influencer.” And please – PLEASE – don’t start by talking about you, how great you are or how important this opportunity is for them.
Start by building a relationship with the recipient of your letter.
Share your thoughts on the content they produce, reference a particular conversation or post that resonated with you and how that led to your decision to reach out.
The right influencer – the one who will genuinely help you sway purchase decisions – has integrity. Integrity is respect, and respect is earned; this will translate into action when the influencer recommends your brand or shares your product information.
5. Make the offer interactive
Instead of only asking influencers to review your product, give them a real-life experience with it and other brand advocates.
For example, when Omaha Steaks reaches out to food bloggers, they send them a sampling of their steaks to grill up and try.
Often specific instructions and challenges are included as part of the share.
When working with Snyder’s of Hanover, I collaborated on a challenge for customers (the brand’s real influencers) to create innovative dinner recipes using Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels. In another challenge, we asked customers to create roller coaster models using Snyder’s products.
The more interactive the ask, the more enticing it is for the influencer and his or her audience.
6. Make it free
There’s a growing industry of “influencers” online today. Most seek to build up their social following so they can monetize it.
There’s a lot of talk about the fees Instagram and other social celebrities demand for product mentions in their posts. With each passing month yet more is written about how few can demonstrate a true ROI on that investment.
Instead, focus on people whose social content is designed to inform, educate, and entertain audiences truly. Those who seek to offer real value – and have been doing so for a while – instead of get-rich-quick, “15-mins of fame” schemes.
Those with real influence among their audience are known to offer genuine, transparent commentary. The introduction of “paid endorsement” significantly diminishes the power of recommendations.
Focus on people whose social content is designed to inform, educate, and entertain audiences truly. Those who seek to offer real value – and have been doing so for a while – instead of get-rich-quick, “15-mins of fame” schemes.
7. Keep it simple
The offer should be “dead simple.”
Be very clear about what you want the outcome to be and the work you expect from your selected influencer.
Do not beat around the bush or obscure the true intention of your outreach.
Make it simple for them to try your product or service. Offer instructions, photos or sample content that they can repurpose. Do whatever possible to eliminate the program being a burden on the time of the influencer.
8. Use a theme
Influencers and bloggers often respond better to asks that are part of an overarching theme.
These include an invitation to join a road trip where a vacation journal is the intended outcome.
Or series of visits to a favourite Halloween haunts that will produce a series of articles about the best places to take your kids to get them in the spirit of the holiday.
One-off product trials can work, but many bloggers will appreciate the idea that your ask will help them produce a series of content that will add value to their properties and, by extension, their audience.
9. Create a community
Groups are more fun and often are welcome diversions for bloggers and social influencers.
Instead of reaching out to a group of influencers individually, create an “advisory board” or a “peer review group” that features them sharing their experiences on a purpose-built website or in a manner that allows them to engage each other.
For example, think about challenges such as a “phone switch,” where iOS and Android phone users switch devices for a week and share their experiences in a panel discussion.
Such group activities will make the work more enticing for them and more enjoyable for your (and their) audience.
10. Invest in a long-term relationship
If you truly wish to gain long-term business benefit and an ROI from your investment in influencer marketing, play the long game.
Do not strategize a quick, one-off game plan.
Consider how you can work with the influencer(s) as part of a long-term strategy. Choose influencers whose experience, content, and audience are more aligned with your brand (as opposed to simply having a large following) or it may be the creation of a campaign that tasks the influencer with multiple activities across a longer period.
Your business will receive more valuable rewards from the campaign if influencers invest themselves long-term.
BONUS tip: Don’t push
If you don’t receive a response to your email request, don’t keep sending e-mails.
This week I’ve received two follow-ups from one brand seeking my assistance with promotion of their brand. The first started with: “Sam, we noticed you did not respond to our last email…”. Two days later, after no response from me, I received another that started with “Sam, we’re sure you’re interested in this opportunity, did you get our last few e-mails…”.
If the influencer you have selected does not respond to your request, don’t push.
Spread out your contact intervals (ideally not using an automation tool such as the one this brand is using) or consider reaching out through different channels.
Make a phone call, send a Tweet, write about that person or his/her business in an article, comment on their blog posts; find other channels and means that will build a relationship with your target.
In the years that I’ve been developing influence marketing strategies, I’ve made many of the mistakes referenced in this article.
I’ve also learned from those mistakes (and those of others) and my lessons learned can be summed up with: Know your strategy before selecting influencers, know your influencers really (really, really well), build a relationship with them before asking for their support (and then work on a long-term relationship), always be open and honest, and finally – most importantly – focus on them and their audience, not you.
This is not rocket science, it’s base human-to-human connections. When done right, influence marketing will translate to bottom-line ROI from influencer outreach.