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When it comes to consumer spending, online content and social conversations have a huge impact on how and what people choose to buy.
As brand managers, we create content in order to persuade and engage with customers. But modern consumers are skeptical and savvy. The moment something hints of “ad,” they lose interest and move on.
Whether you sell fitness and health products, tour packages or home services – a single positive recommendation from a trusted source can trump even your most beautifully written copy or most engaging video demonstration.
And while brand-crafted content is useful and can help build trust with customers, the most influential content comes from like-minded people that your customers know and trust.
Smart companies know that in this new social paradigm, bloggers and others with loyal followers on social media are the new influencers.
Who Are These New Influencers?
These new, socially savvy individuals often know more about social media and engaging with digital content than brands and agencies. What makes these new influencers even more powerful is the niche-based content they produce, which is often in a very specialized area. There are millions of bloggers publishing content in popular areas like parenting, food, fitness, fashion and entertainment. These influencers can be segmented further to reach specific consumers like parents of teens, pet lovers, marathon runners, tech fanatics and organic cooks.
What this means to your brand and company is that there is an existing, powerful arsenal of influence that you can tap into directly. My company, TapInfluence, was built on this very shift in trust because we recognized the immense value in connecting companies with the real influencers – the bloggers and social engagers who have the ears and eyes of the audiences we all want to reach.
This concept of partnering with bloggers and other active social media users is called “influencer marketing”. It is based on the premise of finding influencers in your niche to create and distribute relevant content and share it in an authentic and transparent way.
Working with influencers in this way is an opportunity for you to reach people whose interests and demographics represent a highly qualified consumer.
Finding The Right Influencers
Despite its apparent advantages, influencer marketing is a wasted investment if you are not working with the right ones. And while it’s tempting to use single-metric definitions like unique visitors or Twitter followers as a measure of influence, you are short-changing your results if you don’t look deeper.
The answer to the question “how influential is someone online?” is “it depends.” Here are five things to look for when identifying online influencers for your brand.
Before you look at unique visitors and other static metrics, it’s important to look at how aligned a blogger’s content is with your messaging. Read through that blogger’s archived posts to get a sense for what kind of consumer they are.
Just because a blogger posts recipes, doesn’t necessarily mean they are a match for an organic brand; and a tech-savvy sports fan doesn’t make them a guaranteed match for your gaming app.
Are you looking for budget-travelers, fashionistas, permissive moms, or coffee drinkers? Is profanity or provocativeness part of your brand personality? These are important things to look for in the content and audience of an influencer and are far more important than traffic.
Engagement is an indicator of how interactive a blogger’s audience is with the content. Do those readers respond, comment, and share? What percentage of readers are returning vs. new?
How much readers engage with a publisher and how often they return are indications of how meaningful those relationships are.
While not the most important metric, reach is certainly a valid consideration. However, marketers should resist the urge to only look at unique visitors as a measure of reach. Traffic and followers are only meaningful to the extent that the influencer is reaching your brand’s target audience.
For instance, if you are a hotel chain or car seat provider, a travel blogger with a small reach is more influential than a food blogger with 100,000 unique monthly visitors.
It is also important to consider what other social platforms your customers visit. If you are a food or fashion brand, someone with a large following on Pinterest might be more valuable than someone on Facebook with a large fan base.
For many verticals, there is a direct correlation between how often a blogger posts and their traffic and rate of return visitors. As with marketing any website, it often takes multiple exposures to get a visitor to click and check out your site and you want to make sure they come back.
When a publisher is consistently posting high quality content on a regular basis, readers are more likely to return, bookmark, and share. Bloggers who don’t post as frequently tend to have a higher rate of turnover, fewer return visitors, and less loyalty.
This may sound counter-intuitive but bloggers who have a smaller ratio of sponsored content tend to be more trusted and appear more authentic. Personal stories that include genuine use or mention of a product, service, or brand are more trusted than straight product reviews.
Compelling, engaging stories also tend to be shared and commented on more than deals and product reviews. While it’s tempting to ask publishers to write a nice long review of your product (which readers don’t really pay much attention to), a health brand could engage influencers to write a post about things on their bucket list and how that list is motivation to stay healthy and live a long, active life. That type of content is highly engaging for readers, authentic for the blogger, and connects that health brand (who sponsored the content) to a very sincere health-related conversation among a large audience.
Whatever your niche, you can engage with bloggers to create the quality, authentic content their audience expects while associating your brand with that content.
And remember that influencers are more than just bloggers – they include those with loyal audiences on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and other social networks.
At TapInfluence we connect brands with bloggers and provide the automation software to help companies manage these relationships, but only you can foster the authenticity and transparency that will truly create a beneficial partnership.
Have you ever considered expanding your marketing to include other bloggers and social media influencers? Can you think of opportunities that may exist for your product or service? Let us know in the comments! (And if you’d like to know more about how TapInfluence can help, drop us a line here.)