The marketing firm We Are Social reports that there are now more than two billion social media accounts in the world, and users spend an average of 2 ½ hours a day tweeting, posting, liking, and sharing information on them.
Though social media is an inexpensive way to market your business, the volume of activity on the channel makes it increasingly difficult to cut through the chatter.
Instead of sponsored posts and similar forms of paid advertising, brands large and small are realizing the value social media influencers can offer when it comes to connecting with target audiences.
Here’s a look at how to identify potential social media influencers for your audience.
Identify who is really part of your audience. Tools like Klout, Kred and BuzzSumo use algorithms based on the number of followers, comments, shares, and connections a person has on social media, to estimate their “influence.” Check in with these tools to assist your influencer search, but remember that social media followers can be bought. The amount of credibility an influencer has with your target audience is the real key to an influencer relationship that delivers results.
Research hashtags. Though social media hashtags have existed for less than a decade, they’ve become one of the most ways to make sense of social media chatter. Brands use them to stimulate multi-media marketing campaigns. Influencers use them to host live social media chats. Smaller groups with a common interest, professional or otherwise, also use them organize ongoing posts related to a specific topic.
Conduct your own hashtag research to get a sense of what your target audience talks about consistently on social media, and to identify who is an influential part of those conversations. Brainstorm broad categories that relate to your business. If you own a candle company, for example, hashtags like #interiordesign or #homedecorating may be obvious “evergreen” categories worth exploring to find influencers—while those related to special events (like #weddings) could be equally relevant at certain times of the year.
Once you research a hashtag’s activity, check out the social media profiles of the people who interact with it. How many followers do they have, who do they follow—and what is their purpose for using social media? This can help you identify the “small but mighty” influencers—like bloggers, writers, activists, and other trendsetters–who are already connected to the people you most want to reach.
Develop an interaction strategy. To start connecting with the people you identify as potential influencers, show your support. Follow their content, help them promote what they share, and engage with them on social media when it’s appropriate.
Once you’re ready to form a deeper potential connection, calculate what their support of your business is likely worth, given their relationship with the people you want to reach, and the time and effort associated with whatever you’d like them to do to promote your brand.
Landon Ledford, CEO of InstaHype, a service that connects small brands with influencers says that in his experience, the majority of smaller bloggers prefer working directly with businesses instead of networks or agencies. Influencers with 10,000+ followers, on the other hand, commonly use agencies to negotiate payment. “For smaller brands, reach out directly. My personal recommendation is to find their email or contact form on their blog.”
As for making a fair compensation offer, Ledford says to consider value beyond “vanity metrics” like the number of Facebook likes or Instagram hearts their posts could generate. “Instead, review the influencers’ audience and engagement with each of their posts. When people seem to take action based on their posts, small businesses get real financial value from these partnerships. Consider the potential exposure and clicks it could drive to your site to get an idea of how to compensate an influencer,” says Ledford. (For example, if you assume your relationship with an influencer will drive 100 new people to your site and you know 10% of them will buy, you can make an educated decision on what to pay the influencer).