Imagine you are planning an upcoming product launch. You pick up the phone to buzz the most popular blogger in the entire sector without ever having met the lady. You offer her the chance to write about your favorite subject while promising to send her a couple of screenshots and pictures of your new product. Almost magically, overnight, you get rave reviews from across the wide world of social media.
Okay, now you can open your eyes and stop dreaming because this never happens in the real world. Influencer engagement is far from being an automatic transaction, nor is it managed with a simple phone call. It is based upon a well-designed strategy. It takes a long-term dose of patience to allow for the time required to capture opinion leaders’ attention, to get on their radar and to (slowly but surely) build a relationship to start developing content together.
How long does this process take? Typically, somewhere between six months and a full year. Have you allotted that much time to reach your goals?
To a certain degree, influence marketing is like taking a trip, or what I call the influencer journey. You’ve probably already heard this term and will recall a similar term called the buyer’s journey, which may be described as the evolution that a consumer undergoes before carrying out an actual purchase. It can be broken down into 5 basic steps:
The influencer journey is the evolution that an influencer undergoes from a total lack of awareness of a specific brand to the opposite end of the spectrum where they have become that brand’s ambassador. Visually it may be depicted in the following manner:
This early in the process, targeted influencers most likely know nothing at all about the brand and its internal workings. This is the moment in which the brand has to gain visibility from bloggers, social media users, journalists or online experts – whoever they happen to be targeting.
“Social networks are the best approach for reaching them,” said Danielle Look, Content Coordinator for Relevance, in a webinar about “Content Marketing & Influencers”.
Getting key targeted influencers to begin sharing your content, commenting on blog posts and mentioning you in their posts will only be achieved with a series of thoughtful actions that should never be overlooked in the very early stages of your influencer engagement strategy. Here’s a brief checklist:
By closely following these points over a period of time, you will successfully gain visibility with these influencers and move onto the next step, credibility.
Once you have moved into their field of vision, the time has come to take another step forward and help them perceive you as being an active player, a content generator and fully committed to this specific sector.
You have now gained more visibility with your influencers. Whenever they see your logo they immediately associate it with your services or product. They have met a person or two from your team. The time has come to take the next step and to propose some sort of joint collaboration.
This is the phase in which your influencers fall head over heels in love with you thanks to your content, your accessibility and your recognition of their work. This is the point when your influencers, without you exerting any pressure whatsoever, are writing about your products, services or your content, attending the events that you are organizing and freely distributing your content. They are the ones who are proposing ways for the two of you to collaborate on joint projects. At this stage, we no longer refer to them as “influencers,” but rather as “brand ambassadors.”
At this point in the journey, they are part of your company. They play an active role in advisory sessions or panel discussions before a product launch, participate in the communications campaign planning stage and even provide support in event organization and other partnership agreements. Thus, naturally and without even realizing it – solely based on the fact that they are collaborating with a transparent, useful brand – these ambassadors will become a major asset at all levels.
That is the influencer journey in a nutshell. Don’t forget that this may be a two-way street. Keeping your influencers at the right connection level and maintaining their status as a brand ambassador will depend greatly on how well you handle the constant activity flow, on how well you follow your pre-defined strategy, on the transparency of communications with them and the overall quality of your products or services.
Are you ready to start the trip?
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