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Social sharing, the act of driving brand awareness (and by extension sales) through real people sharing your content or promoting your product, is fantastic and definitely part of the continuing future of digital and social media marketing, but not all sharers are created equal. Someone with fifty followers on Twitter may love and adore your product, and for that you should absolutely be pleased and grateful, but their tweeted support is going to get a whole lot of traction no matter how earnest. Getting influencers, people with a recognized standing of expertise and credibility on a certain subject matter or industry or within a certain community, into your corner can go many times further than getting the backing of just individual customers. But who exactly are these influencers, how do you find them, and how do you earn their support? We’ve got a few tips.

Types of influencers

  • Individual professionals and thought leaders (consultants, executives of other firms, etc.)
  • Industry groups or think tanks
  • Popular amateur or semi-professional bloggers and social media users

Where most of your influencers are going to come from is going to depend largely on whether you’re primarily interested in B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer) markets. If your primary market is other businesses, there may be some more delicate finessing required to get influencer backing, as other companies are often reluctant to promote another brand and often executives or high level company representatives are limited in the type of products they can openly promote, given that their opinions are almost inevitably conflated with the opinion or backing of the organization as a whole. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth asking, especially because reciprocal agreements can sometimes be reached between your companies. Industry groups, think tanks, consultants, and other people otherwise not associated with a specific business but known and respected in the industry are also another, likely easier, option for reaching potential business customers. In either case, remember that the credibility of the organizations these influencers are associated with is of key importance, because you are essentially leveraging that credibility for your own brand. If you have any misgivings about an individual or an organization, best to simply move on and not risk being caught up in anyone else’s image issues or PR problems, or simply their lack of trustworthiness.

If you’re going after consumer markets, do not be afraid of amateurs. Popular bloggers, video makers, or social media users can have huge audiences and a massive amount of influence on those followers, not to mention that more and more of these social media personalities are becoming able to make their blogging and videoing and tweeting and other social media pursuits their primary job. Just because a popular name is technically an amateur now doesn’t mean they will be for long, because a book deal or a TV series could be right around the corner (just ask any number of foodies, vloggers, and internet fashionistas who are now able to do it for a living). As with before, make sure someone is the right fit to match up with your brand and that their credibility and authority aren’t likely to come into question.

In all cases, social listening tools will be key. They can help you find out who the influencers are on social media for a given topic or community and monitor the conversation around them before hitching your wagon to anyone, or more accurately, before asking if they might like to take your wagon for a test drive.

Getting their backing

So now that you’ve identified who the influencers who could most help your efforts are, how do you get them on board? It’s not middle school, walking slowly past them in the lunch line and hoping they make eye contact isn’t going to do it. But these tips will.

Don’t be afraid to approach them – These influencers didn’t get to be influencers by not being busy and involved in a lot of things that take their time and attention, so they’re not going to see or know everything that comes across their social media feed or have the time to try every new product that may seem interesting, so if you think someone is a good fit for who you want to reach, don’t shy away from just flat out asking them if they’ve tried your product. Either they haven’t tried it and might be interested to, in which case you have your opening, or they have and they didn’t like it for one reason or another, in which case you can at least potentially get some good information about what you may want to look at changing in your next iteration.

Yes, you may have to offer free products or services – Especially when it comes to semi-professional or amateur bloggers or YouTube vloggers or similar, just suggesting your product is probably not enough. Offer to give them a sample and ask them if they’d be willing to write an honest review in exchange. If your product is intriguing, and you’re on the right path in terms of which influencers are going to be relevant, the odds are good that they’ll be willing to. The key word here though is honest. You’re taking the risk that they may not like something about your product, and you quite simply just have to deal with that. If you’re not confident that an influencer will like your product, either you’re going after the wrong influencer or more time needs to be spent getting the product where it needs to be.

Have faith in your product, and go after the tough sells – If you identify certain influencers who are especially critical, and you have absolute faith in your product (which as said above, you should), don’t be afraid to go after their support. A positive review, even an imperfect one, from someone known to not be easy to win over is one of the most valuable pieces of backing you can get, even more so than the glowing review from someone known to be more positive and easy to please. It also gives you some great information on how to improve your product in the next version if you pay attention to the things of which a difficult to please influencer was critical.

With influencers, remember the same advice I got about talking to the boys I had crushes on in school. Know what you want, and then go for it. You may not win them all, but the influencers you can get on your side can be hugely valuable assets. When was the last time you tried a product because of the review of an influencer in your industry or community? Share with us in the comments, and thanks again for reading!