Partnering with influencers doesn’t have to be expensive. Follow this 6-point plan to effectively find and connect with influencers at no cost.
Influencer campaigns have proven effective for over 80 percent of marketers who have tried them, which is why influencer marketing has become widely adopted in recent years.
According to AdWeek, marketers receive an average of $6.85 in earned media value for every $1 spent on influencer marketing. The value in working with influencers is certainly there, but it can be a costly and time-consuming venture to invest in.
Without a clear plan of action it’s easy to spend too much, waste valuable time, and create disingenuous relationships with influencers.
Most leading brands pay influencers to partner with them on a variety of promotions on social media, at events, and elsewhere, but this isn’t the only way to work with them.
Use the six-point plan to learn how to connect with influencers in your niche, but without paying directly for their participation.
From the beginning, understand what you’re looking to achieve with a particular campaign that involves influencers. Here are the most common types of influencer marketing goals to consider:
- Awareness: reach, impressions, and views
- Consideration: comments, likes, and follows
- Preferences: social shares, traffic generated, and share of voice
- Purchase: conversions, sales, and in-store visits
- Loyalty: referrals, repeat purchases, and user-generated content
With your goals in mind, it’s time to begin researching who you’d like to begin monitoring ahead of a partnership. Begin by visiting the social networks you’d like a campaign to live on and explore what’s being shared and by which influencers on each channel.
Follow the influencers that share content on topics relevant to your company’s offerings and most importantly, influencers that your customers are likely engaged with.
Doing research will help your company understand the range of influencers that cover your niche and give you a better sense of the types of people you’d like to partner with down the line.
Next, use the variety of influencer tools available on the market to find more influencers based on the types of content they are sharing.
Spend at least a few days watching what they share; the topics they cover; what they aren’t sharing; which types of product, services, and experiences they enjoy; and more.
This process allows your team to get to know a handful of influencers and discover what makes them unique.
As you monitor a handful of relevant influencers, one of your goals should be to determine what they’re looking to accomplish.
“Influencers are absolutely looking to gain something from your potential partnership, whether that is to increase traffic to their content, try out a new product, or simply bring relevant information to their followers,” says Shama Hyder, CEO of the Marketing Zen Group and best-selling author.
“By keeping in mind what is important to your influencer, you will better position yourself for a successful influencer marketing campaign.”
One way to determine what an influencer would like from a partnership with a brand is looking at their follower count. Some small to mid-size influencers may value an increase in followers more than an established influencer that already has a massive audience.
Pay close attention to what they’re saying in their posts as they might express their pain points, their goals, and future plans.
Another way to figure out what they are trying to achieve is by looking to see if they’ve partnered with brands in the past.
See if you can identify any past campaigns they participated in by looking for the mention of specific brands, as well as any ad or sponsored post hashtags.
The goal here is to see how past campaigns performed and identify what types of campaigns the influencer enjoys doing like giveaways, contests, or video series.
Don’t copy what other companies have done with a particular influencer, but take what worked and apply these findings to your own campaigns.
“It is important to remember that influencer marketing campaigns can be flexible depending on the types of influencers that you use, the length of the project, and their motivation for participating,” says Hyder.
After identifying and monitoring influencers that are relevant to your offerings and the audience you’re trying to reach, it’s time to build a rapport with them.
Reach out to a particular influencer and briefly explain why you’re connecting with them and what your organization has in common with them.
To start the relationship, send them an assortment of your products as a means of beginning your relationship on a positive note. If you’re a service-based business or don’t want to send products, consider sending them a care package or a handwritten note.
Let them know what you’re sending ahead of time to ensure they’re interested in the first place. This gesture helps to familiarize them with your company’s offerings and now you have their address to send them more brand products when released (with their permission of course).
An added bonus of sending them this initial gift is that they might try your products, enjoy them, and share their experience with your products on social media.
From here, continue to communicate with the influencer over social media by interacting with the content they share on a consistent basis.
Duplicate this same process with approximately 10 to 15 other influencers by sending them each their own personalized welcome gift.
Scaling your outreach helps ensure the time you’re spending on influencers drives results and doesn’t become more expensive than paying for your partnerships.
Don’t try to send care packages to 100 different influencers because that scale will make it very difficult to communicate authentically with each influencer.
When any of these influencers share content regarding the products you send them, promote their social posts across your social channels to drive more visibility.
Featuring them with your audience can help them gain additional exposure, illustrate your gratitude, and signal to other influencers in your niche that your brand is open to partnering with them.
Beyond the initial gift you’ve sent them and commenting on what they’re sharing on social media, monitor their overall activity online for the long term.
Pay attention to any special events in their lives like reaching a new milestone, holidays, birthdays, getting married, or having a baby.
Once you’ve identified important events for a particular influencer, send them relevant and personalized care packages, bundles of products, or notes to celebrate and commemorate.
Create a calendar of the events important to the influencers you’re working with to stay organized and ensure you’re able to keep all the details of your exchanges personal.
Executing this plan will allow your organization to create and maintain long-term relationships with multiple influencers in your niche.
The biggest investment you’ll make with this approach is your time, lots of thoughtfulness, and the products, gifts, or notes you’ll be consistently sending out.
For additional exposure, your company can always still choose to pay for the participation of influencers alongside this organic approach in the future, especially since you’ll already have a group of partners who know and trust your brand.
What was your most successful influencer marketing campaign to date? How does your organization incentivize influencers to partner? Share your thoughts with us over on Twitter @DigitalCurrent.