When you think about influencing people and drawing them to you, it’s easy to get a picture in your head about some kind of Svengali character that hypnotizes and fools people through mind control. But influencer marketing is really more about creating visibility and affinity for you through the most human of methods — relationships.
Big brands have used Influencer Marketing for years to build demand for their products. They typically identify a highly-visible and respected person (or just someone who’s really well-liked) and integrate that person into the marketing of the product. They use the influencer to build awareness and trust around the brand.
Social Selling Maven Koka Sexton wrote:
Being able to tap into the social networks of an influential person or thought leader in an industry and have them share your message usually exceeds expectations from normal marketing campaigns.
Sometimes they would give them the product and show them talking about it and using it, like the Proactiv commercials did with Katy Perry, or Activia with Jamie Lee Curtis. This method uses the celebrity or expert to enhance the brand’s reputation with their own credibility and/or likability. It also can humanize the brand, and disarm the inherent skepticism that all we have for hard-sell marketing.
Influencer marketing can be powerful for you, because it taps into behaviors and relationships that your customers already have with influencers in the communities that you work and live in. You’re basically putting forward a 3rd party that your customers already know and respect as a credible authority on the brand you’ve built around yourself. Then the influencer helps you extend your ‘reach’ by tapping into their network.
The core idea of credibility for your influencer is super-important, however, and it’s important to know who to pick, as you don’t just want to reach anyone, you want to make sure that your influencer will be effective for your specific audience. So part of the trick will be not just looking around to see who the most popular person is (which would make it more like celebrity marketing, or just kinda like high school), but instead looking deeper to see who has the right relationships with your target audiences or communities. Anyway, you’ll want to find someone you like, too, since your relationship with them needs to be genuine.
So What Does This Have to do with Personal Branding?
We’ve written about this before, but it’s really important to know what your personal brand is, and the reasons why you’re undertaking this work in the first place. As Jeff Bezos once said: “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room” so it’s clear that you’ll want to be clear about who YOU are before you set out to use influencers to help you build your brand further.
And this personal brand is probably already shaping your success. Maybe it was unintentional at first, but your boss, your team, your clients, and even folks that you don’t work with all probably have an idea about what constitutes the ‘essential you.’ It’s just a consequence of the increased use of social media and the habit of ‘googling’ anyone you’re about to meet — people form their first opinions about you, based upon what they can find online. One Quicksprout study showed that 40% of B2B buyers say LinkedIn is important for researching purchases, and the job search and recruiter network ExecuNet famously found that 77 percent of recruiters were screening candidates using online searches, and 35 percent of them found something online that made them eliminate at least one candidate. (And that’s an old stat from 2006; it’s probably higher now. FYI: If you’re a data geek like I am, you’ll love this compendium of 106 Social Media Marketing Statistics.)
So these two ideas come together (Influencer Marketing and Personal Branding) when you form solid personal relationships with influencers in the areas that you want to conquer. And those people help you build your brand’s value in that topic area. After all, Ogilvy/Google/TNS teamed up just last year to prove that 74% of people look to other people’s opinions and experiences for informing their purchasing decisions. So why not get some help reaching the people that matter to your success?
So How Does This Thing Work?
Focusing on your personal brand instead of a product pivots this kind of marketing away from the classic celebrity endorsement idea, because you’re not going to have an influencer hold up a picture of you and say “I’ve worked with Michael and he’s Freaking Great!” That’s clearly not going to fly for anybody. It makes the influencer look like a shill, and you could end up looking pathetic.
So the influence will need to be planned to be more organic and authentic for the both of you, like having an influencer endorse you for a skill on LinkedIn, or recommend you to other people as a credible source, or invite you into their discussions on blog forums.Or maybe they could write a guest post article on your website, or a hundred other ideas.
And, just as you might imagine, success is dependent upon influencers properly and positively raising awareness around you and your personal brand in the right group of people. So, it’s best to work from a clear plan that allows for some improvisation, but puts guardrails around what outcomes you’re focused on.
1. Start with clarity. Make sure that you’ve got a clear niche carved out for what topic or industry or authority area you’re aiming for. The more you can zero-in on a specific focus, the easier it will be to take all the next steps. This is no place to be a master of all trades. Don’t pick a topic that has the most fans in it – it’s often better to pick a topic that has the most passionate fans!
2. Know the terrain. Investigate the landscape for where your customers are (or your boss is, or client, or whomever you’re trying to influence). If the people you care about are all hanging out on Pinterest, then you’ll want to get to know that space pretty well. If they instead frequent a blog or a social community site, then spend some time there to understand how things work and who’s involved.
3. Find your expert. Is there already an effective and respected influencer in the field? Who seems to have the zeitgeist, or offer a sound response to most queries. Or who is just well-connected or saying smart things? Do they meet the requirements for being a good influencer for you?
4. Reach out and be humble, but clear. This is where the real improvisation comes in. You’ll want to make contact with the influencer in a way that shows that you’re looking for help, and why you’ve decided to contact them, specifically. It’s best to be honest here, and don’t hide the fact that you want to better yourself in the process. But try to make the contact about them and their needs too — you don’t want to come across as a jerk who’s only out for yourself. Think about what you have in common, and how to talk about those shared interests that can get you both engaged and excited to continue the relationship. And don’t forget to ask a lot of questions! They got where they are due to their knowledge and expertise, and you can learn a lot from them, if you’re willing to listen.
5. Be ridiculously helpful, and pay it forward. Don’t stop your external focus once you’ve forged a good relationship. Keep participating and connecting with your influencer and their community. Ultimately, you want them to be an asset who’s in your corner, so that means that ‘it’s not all about you.’ You’ll want to keep their respect and appreciation by contributing to the community’s content, and helping other people along can be a great way to reinforce the position that the influencer is building for you.
Influencer Marketing isn’t just for big companies. If you know who you need to influence, and in what areas, then it can be a critical tool in your personal marketing toolbox. Just stay genuine (and leave the hypnosis to Svengali).
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MetaMorph Corporation is dedicated to creating the future of unique, personal branding. Find out more.