Let’s face it: The internet has changed the way that U.S. consumers find and share information. Now anyone can publicly broadcast insight and advice, so self-proclaimed “experts” are blogging, using social networks, and gaining thousands of followers. As a result, they wield all sorts of digital influence — and can have a huge impact on your bottom line.
“Digital influence is the ability to create an effect, change opinions and behaviors, and drive measurable outcomes online,” Technopedia explains. It’s the result of three conceptual cornerstones: reach, relevance, and resonance.
Digital influencers have spent time and effort building a loyal following. Their audiences trust them and the products and services they use. Because they are in the trenches of what consumers want, digital influencers offer firsthand insight into the wants and needs of the audiences you want to reach. This enables you to respond with an offering that adds value to their experience — if you’re targeting the right influencers.
Working With Digital Influencers
So, who are these influencers, and how can you leverage their influence without coming off as pushy? Let’s take a look at the big four:
1. Social media mavens — They have thousands of followers on all of the popular social networks, where they’re constantly posting updates and curating content. They seek out brands, and tweet at them, “like” their Facebook pages, tag them in their photos, and repin their pins. To connect with social media mavens:
- Interact with them on their favorite platforms. Retweet them, like their posts, and repin their pins.
- Offer them opportunities to participate in social media-related contests and chats (perhaps even ask them to speak at your industry event).
- Provide incentives, such as discount codes, free products, or a complementary month of your service.
2. Bloggers extraordinaires — Their blogs attract at least 100,000 unique visitors per month. They have a media kit, maintain strong branded partnerships, and garner hundreds of shares and comments on every post. They usually put some clear indication on their blog that they want to work with PR companies and brands. To connect with blogger extraordinaires:
- Comment on their blogs and share their posts on social media. This not only gets their attention, but also shows that you actually read their work. Don’t post spammy messages and links; post meaningful, thought-provoking comments to drive discussions.
- Host a blogger contest, conference, or meetup. Bloggers frequently attend meetups and branded conferences. This strengthens relationships among them (as well as your team) and brings top influencers in your niche together to discuss your product.
- Partner with them on a giveaway. Some of the most shared blog posts involve giveaways, which can build brand awareness and put your product or service in front of potential customers.
- Ensure your pitch is well-researched, unique, friendly and extremely relevant to any given blogger’s audience. Check to see whether they do reviews before requesting one. Read their guidelines for submissions, and never pay for a review. In return for the review, offer them free use of your product or service.
3. Forum junkies — These opinionated power users are active in discussion forums and are often tech-savvy, which means they notice minor details. To connect with forum junkies:
- Participate in discussions they’re active in. Get their attention by replying to them, commenting on their posts, and asking them smart questions.
- Invite them to participate in your beta test or product launch. They will be honest and give you a user’s perspective of how you can refine and improve your product or service.
- Popular communities like Reddit, Google Groups, Facebook Groups, and LinkedIn Groups are excellent places to mine active users and create your own community. Niche websites often have discussion boards where you can find more focused members who may be specifically interested in your product, too.
- Consider appointing your top forum influencers as community managers. For example: Ask one to head up or moderate your company blog to help grow your audience.
4. Esteemed journalists — Journalists who blog have specific rules they must follow and are often inundated with pitches for stories and brand coverage. Don’t succumb to the pitfalls. To connect with esteemed journalists:
- Find out how they prefer to be contacted. You can usually find this information on their author profile, personal blog, or social media pages.
- Research stories they’ve covered in the past to avoid pitching them a redundant topic. Introduce your pitch with a relevant anecdote or data that validates your angle.
- Keep your pitch short and sweet. Include who you are, why they should be interested in your brand, and how your product/service brings value to their audience.
Above all, connecting with digital influencers has to be genuine. You want to make your first impression — your email, tweet, or comment — a positive experience for them. Avoid blatant self-promotion and instead demonstrate how your ideas and brand are relevant to what interests them and their audience.