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While using Internet ad services can result in a lot of impressions, they don’t always generate sales and there are just as many tools to block ads as there are ads. So how do you connect with people who may actually appreciate your brand? Well, someone else already has. Say hello to your friendly neighbourhood social influencer.

What are they?

This species of Internet content creator is someone who’s active on social networks and has gained either a large, or committed, following. They’re the people who post stuff on Instagram and actually get responses, the mythical unicorn that you swipe past every morning.

They have a connection with their followers, because it’s a peer to peer relationship as opposed to these Megatron-corporations pretending to be something they’re not… people respond because they’re people.

Why do people work with them?

Working with influencers is a great way to hone in on your niche audience. Let’s say you’re in the fitness game, selling heavy objects. What do the stats say? Well, as small as the sample size is, 80% of those surveyed thought that their blogger outreach strategy was worth the time they put into it. That’s a pretty clear sign that if you haven’t already dabbled in working with influencers, it’s probably about time you do!

If they’ve got a decent blog, all the better. You might not know the benefits of backlinking, but there’s a whole host of stuff you can gain from working with an influencer who’s utilising multiple content channels.

Not all social influencers will work for mutual benefit. Sometimes they’ll expect a fee for their services. Try to come to terms that are mutually beneficial. Be respectful. If you can’t reach a deal with them, they may very well know someone who can provide what you’re after. They’ll be happy to make a recommendation and gain brownie points with their pal for making the connection too.

How do I find them?

Kyle Goguen is founder and CEO of Pawstruck. They’ve worked with YouTube channels like Noreen’s Kitchen and bloggers like Keep The Tail Waggin to market their natural healthy dog foods. When looking for influencers, Goguen suggests “Google searching keywords you’re interested in and taking note of the highest ranking blogs. Check them out and make sure they’re a good fit for your brand.” Bicep Barry’s 5,000 followers will surely have a keen interest in fitness, making him the perfect partner for your upcoming range of organic whey protein bars.

This goes for YouTube too, and the same with hashtags on Twitter and Instagram. Get a good overview of the climate before you jump into working with anyone. Just because they have a large following doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be the best fit for you either. Try following people before you contact them, seeing how regularly they post as well as their tone of voice. Does it fit your brand? Will the relationship be genuine? These are just a few of the questions you should be asking; these collaborations should never be disingenuous or forced.

For YouTube, Goguen uses a service called FameBit .FameBit takes a lot of the guessing out of the process. It connects influencers with brands and vice versa. Influencers can reach out with proposals, and brands can check their demographic data to ensure they are reaching the right audience. Here’s an informative case study on the ins and outs of the service written by Jonathan Spektor whose wife, Elisa, owns and operates Love and Pieces, an online jewellery store.

The Generation Game

To generate leads for Love and Pieces, Spektor told us that “Working with influencers is crucial to getting our name out and getting soft endorsements of our site. It’s crucial to our success.” The extended network of specifically interested consumers that influencers offer is a great way to sort the wheat from the chaff in the crazy world of marketing.

Photographer, storyteller and influencer Branden Harvey, who told us “if an email looks like a cut and paste template an intern sent, then I dismiss it right away,” echo Spektor’s sentiments. “If they say ‘I like your approach to storytelling, your love for travel and the way you engage with your audience, here is why you will be a good fit’, then I know we can work together.” Seriously consider the format of your approach before you contact anyone. An email with the subject “$$$ for your silly follower’s trust” probably isn’t going to pique the interest of anyone worth working with. Look at the content they’ve already created and form a considered approach that will fit with their style.

Considered, not clingy

Harvey explained to us that brands should not be too restrictive, or push an influencer to produce underhanded content. The outcome won’t resonate well with the audience, as you’d probably expect. Harvey explains here how he denied Mercedez-Benz’s original pitch, and instead made the campaign his own by suggesting an alternative where he travelled and photographed a smart car through the picturesque state of Oregon. Smart move.

Harvey suggests that brands should seek out influencers who have a 2% follower to engagement ratio, or higher. For instance, someone who has 100,000 followers and gets over 2,000 combined likes and comments on an average Instagram post. Harvey works under contracts negotiated ahead of time. But if you want to go down a more informal route, that’s always fine. Even leaving a message on their social channel can be appropriate, it all depends on what kind of relationship you want to establish.

Mutual movements

CJ Johnson is both a social influencer and a brand consultant. Johnson works with Buddy Truk, the Uber of moving trucks, to help them utilise social media. “For Buddy Truk, we reached out to influencers in LA. They could be a comedian or a lifestyle blogger; we then give them an outline of what we want to do campaign wise, what our brand is and how they can be a service. We spotlight each of them, take a photo, give them a shout out, and they do the same. This way they have content to share and so do we.”

In sum, there are a ton of reasons for you to work with influencers – whilst there’s all of the monetary gain, there are also great opportunities to create interesting content that’ll please both your fans and theirs.

Here’s a handy summary of the basics:

1. Search out related terms to your business on Google, Twitter and Facebook and make a list of your results.

2. Use tools like FameBit and Peoplemap to discover the ‘worth’ rates of different influencers.

3. Follow leads of interest, ensure they are good representatives for your brand and that their audience is the right fit.

4. Evaluate influencers on the quality of engagement, not just on the number of followers.

5. Contact them in a genuine and personal way.

6. Negotiate an arrangement that gives them the space they need to create engaging content their audience will respond to.

7. Use codes, contests, landing pages and URL trackers to measure the return on investment of each campaign.

Written by Nick Toscano

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