Social media is a fantastic way for brands to connect with their potential audience. Only on Facebook, you can find roughly two-thirds of U.S. adults (68%). Moreover, with Facebook and other platforms, brands can establish relationships with influencers for even better reach.
Influencer marketing is booming right now, as evidenced, for example, by the fact that 84% of web users trust online opinions and reviews as much as personal recommendations. This gives brands an outstanding opportunity to let their potential customers know of their existence. Once the relationships with the influencers are established, brands can also benefit from using their social media channels to promote their products. And if an influencer runs a personal blog, that leaves even more room for action.
This sounds good in theory, but does it really work? Well, it does. Influencer marketing is ubiquitous and each one of us as consumers has fallen for it at least once. Let me give you an example.
I’m really into horse riding, in particular, dressage, so I follow many equestrians on Instagram. Since they are quite popular, they partner up with brands that produce horse gear. That’s where I learned about many great manufacturers that are not represented on the Russian market but only have online stores. Long story short, I’m in the process of putting an order for custom-made dressage boots from Alberto Fascini (and they are perfect!). Where have I learned about this brand? From this lady’s Instagram as she’s their big advocate.
Building relationships with influencers is the number one strategy for brands intending to expand their online presence. 63% of marketers claim that they’re planning to increase their budgets on influencer marketing over the next 12 months. And brands that want to empower their digital PR should also turn to influencers and make them their advocates.
In this post, I want to share with you how exactly your brand can connect with your niche influencers by using a specific PR outreach strategy and how to integrate it into your PR campaigns.
How to find the right influencers in your niche
It might be obvious for those who have done similar research before, but if you’re new to this, I always recommend to start the hunt with quick keyword research. That is, putting together a list of keywords that are relevant to your niche. This will give you an understanding of what kind of topics your target influencers should write about on their blogs and social media pages.
Kevin Indig, www.kevin-indig.com
People want to know what is the best tool to find influencers out there. The reviews of G2’s influencer software category leaders show that the best tools provide features around ROI tracking, campaign management, and influencer selection. What does that tell us? You learn how to measure success, have someone whose responsibility it is to manage the campaigns, and have an idea of who your best influencers are (not as simple as it sounds).
Next, I recommend sorting your products from best to least selling. For example, you are an agency that provides link building and PR services, and link building is bringing you more value. In this case, focus on building relationships with the influencers who are writing about link building as they are more likely to increase your revenue stream.
Once you know what kind of topics your “target influencers” should be writing about, it’s time to catch them all. Start by searching for posts that feature top experts within your niche. For instance, this post lists top social media influencers and this one gives you a list of top SEO experts.
Another tip is to look for round-up posts: they always have a number of well-known personas to add to your list. My recent post about the best content marketing strategies would be a good example.
Justin Champion, Inbound Strategy Camp
Are there influencers in your industry that keep you informed and up-to-date? If so, then research them and learn about their guest authoring opportunities.
You can do this by doing a search on Google with
+ “blog”. If they’ve written for multiple websites, then Google will find them.
To take it a step further, you could copy the first sentence in their author bio and use that to do another search query on Google. This could help you find more blogs they’ve written for.
Jeilan Devanesan, Venngage
Plenty of us can fall into the trap of chasing big, popular influencers to promote our brands. Or we might just settle for smaller influencers that we can actually win over.
You might think having some influencers is better than none, but that’s never the case. The wrong influencer can misrepresent your brand to your audience and muddle your brand image.
Remember that influencers have to help you accomplish meaningful goals for your business, like establishing a recognizable brand or driving SEO. This infographic highlights more reasons why you should collaborate with influencers.
Keeping your business goals in mind, the best way to choose the right influencers is to identify the ones who (on some level) already share some common features with your brand.
Here’s a simple 3-Point Checklist to help you determine that:
- Your influencers should have a following that overlaps with your following in some way.
- The content they post should look right at home on your own social accounts and webpage. Next, the pictures that they post should look right at home on your account.
- Lastly, they should be respected in their field (that probably goes without saying but do a bit of homework to be sure!)
Don’t be misled by huge followings. And don’t settle either! Choose an influencer that’s right for you and your brand.
Get relevant contacts in your industry with Prowly. Select your topic, industry, position & location and Prowly will personally find the contacts that truly matter to you.
Using Google search operators
Searching for round-up posts and lists of experts doesn’t require too much time if you know how to use Google search operators. Let’s imagine you’re searching for content marketing experts. Here’s a list of search operators that you can use:
- Inurl:“best content marketing experts”
This operator will give a list of the pages that contain the term “best content marketing experts” in their URL.
- Intitle:“best content marketing experts”
With the help of this operator, you’ll get a list of URLs that contain the keyword “best content marketing experts” in their page title.
What’s important to mention is that there’s a big downside to those lists. Very often they feature people who are not very active online or even those who are not really influencers. That means you have to manually check every expert to make sure they can really help your brand be more visible. But who wants to do manual work when everything can be automated?
Here’s a workaround that will save you tons of time and find only the experts with a solid social media presence.
Finding experts with the best social media reach with BuzzSumo
To find experts who are most active on social media, go to the BuzzSumo tool and start a report called “Influencers”. In this report, you can select whether you’d like to sort the experts by the engagement they get on social media or the number of posts they have published.
BuzzSumo’s algorithm allows you to look for influencers with a certain search term in their Twitter bio. For example, here’s a list of influencers with the term “link building” in their bio:
Yay, I’m on this list as well, having a bit less engagement than Joshua Hardwick from Ahrefs.
Robbie Richards, Robbierichards.com
You can also use a tool like SEMrush Traffic Analytics or SimilarWeb to get a behind-the-scenes look at which influencer websites are driving the most traffic to your competition. This can save you a lot of time guessing which sites will provide the most referral traffic potential.
Rather than going into all the steps in this post, Robbie Richards gives a great run through in this traffic analysis guide.
The key is to focus on the Traffic Sources Details report:
Once you have a list of sites driving a lot of referral traffic, click through and see how those sites are talking about the competition. Are they reviewing products/services? Do they have a partnership of some type? Are they mentioning competitors in an article that gets a lot of organic traffic each month?
These insights will dictate how you reach out and try to build a relationship with the influencer/owner of the site. The beauty of this approach is that it provides passive traffic every month.
Always make sure the traffic coming through those referral sources is relevant to your business, meaning the referral traffic will be interested in the products/services you sell.
How to reach out to influencers and get them excited about your brand
Here’s where things can get a bit tricky as cold emails are known to be quite ineffective.
An average open rate of all emails across all industries is about 18%. And the response rate can be even less: a recent study by Brian Dean uncovered that when people do blogger outreach they get a response only in 8,8% of cases.
Chintan Zalani, Writer and Content Marketer at Elite Content Marketer
The best way to get in touch with influencers is to never “cold-pitch” them. Always add value upfront before you reach out. For instance, you can promote the content of influencers (that you genuinely like anyway) in your guest posts. You can also engage with these influencers over social media and find out if you can help in some other way. Once you’re on their radar, then “warm-pitch” them.
However, my preferred way to connect with influencers is seeing if I can find a common connection in my network. It instantly makes strangers trust me as someone they know affirms that I’m a legit professional.
Even though this figure might tune down your enthusiasm, don’t get discouraged just yet. There are a few tricks that won’t let your emails be ignored, and I’m here to teach you. But before we proceed, I want to warn you that relationships with the influencers can’t be built overnight. If you want to achieve substantial results, be prepared to spend the next few months showing them that your brand is interested in collaboration and values their time.
Paul Granger, Website Promoter
Joining industry groups on Facebook or LinkedIn is one of the best strategies for quickly and easily building relationships with industry experts. Once you’re a part of a group, spend some time leaving meaningful comments and communicating with other members. After this, you can easily connect with group members by sending them a quick email and saying that you’re also a part of XYZ group. The chances that they will reply to you are pretty high. Plus, having something in common (like being a member of one group) automatically makes you a trustworthy source. Personally, I’m a big fan of the B2B Bloggers Boost group on Facebook where I met tons of great experts.
So, here’s how you can make influencers fall in love with your brand and start talking about it.
Start by a quick classification
This means finding out how influential they really are and sorting them accordingly. Well-known experts are usually less responsive and probably won’t be interested in promoting your brand right away. You need to spend at least several months giving them enough reasons to collaborate with you. Show them how they can benefit from the collaboration with you.
Lesley J Vos
Don’t hurry up to chase for the so-called macro-influencers with millions of subscribers on social media. Although the number of followers may look persuasive enough to call someone an influencer, savvy marketers pay more attention to the relevance and engagement of the audience. Especially after the New York Times’ disclosure of the follower factory in 2018.
That’s why you always need to maintain the right balance in your influencer portfolio having a mixture of the so-called rising stars and those with established personal brands. Experts with smaller following are usually more responsive as they’re looking for opportunities to empower their personal brand and increase their influence.
Additionally, it’s important to understand that those two groups have different mindsets and require a different approach. It makes sense to involve big influencers for major projects while you can ask a micro-influencer for as much as a retweet.
Nick Dimitriou, Head of Growth at Moosend
Evaluating and diversifying your influencer portfolio is a must-do when it comes to promoting your physical or digital product(s). And it’s an integral part of your growth marketing strategy. The evaluation process depends on your niche but some key aspects you should consider are their engagement rate, follow to follower ratio and previous brands/products they’ve promoted.
Let them know who you are
Once you’ve sorted the influencers in terms of their popularity, it’s time to let them know of your existence. I don’t recommend starting with an email introduction, as the chance that you’ll be ignored is pretty high. Instead, here’s what you could do.
Find their most recent content that was published on their own site and hasn’t exactly gone viral. To find such posts, you can go to BuzzSumo and search via an author’s name. For instance, here’s a list of posts that were written by me in the last few months.
In my experience, people like it more when you share content that was published on their own site. For example, I’m happy to the moon and back when someone shares my most recent email outreach guide and I would definitely reply to an email from a person who did so should they let me know.
Tom Pick, Webbiquity
“Warm” outreach definitely works better than cold. As noted here, especially when planning outreach to “A-list” influencers, “invest some time in the relationship before asking for anything.”
Follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn. Comment on, “like,” and share or retweet their content. On LinkedIn, join one of the same groups the influencer belongs to and interact once or twice, over time (don’t rush it or over-do it, though).
On Twitter, add influencers to relevant lists with aspirational names like “Top Content Marketing Experts,” and promote the lists so influencers know and see the mention. These overtures will be appreciated and go a long way toward getting the influencer to say “yes” to your eventual outreach.
Mile Zivkovic, Chanty
Another tip that works really well is to go the extra mile and link to the influencer’s content. If they’re in the digital marketing space or they know something about content marketing, they will value the link juice and the promotion greatly. This technique is completely free to use and it could get some great results if your website has a solid domain authority.
- Once you’ve found the right content to share, go on Twitter and LinkedIn and share it. I love sharing posts with custom-made images that you could create in tools like Canva. By the way, they have recently added animated images that are super engaging.
- After this, it’s time to connect with the influencer on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to accompany your request with a short message explaining why you want to connect with them. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
- Once they’ve added you on LinkedIn, you can have a quick chat there and let them know that you have shared their content on your channels. Then you can try to do the following trick: ask whether they’d like to share something specific on your brand’s channels. Their most likely answer will be yes because who can say “no” to a content promotion opportunity? At this point, you can suggest switching to emails to ease up the communication.
- I love involving experts in content creation by asking them to drop a quick quote. Also, some time ago I wrote a post for the ConversionXL blog where I shared a list of ideas on how one could involve influencers in their content marketing activities.
Hint: You can ask experts with whom you have close relationships to leave a testimonial about your brand. In fact, expert testimonials dramatically increase the trustworthiness of your brand.
The strategies that I’ve shared include a combination of different types of outreach and that’s what makes them so effective. Curious for more? Here you can find more details about each outreach method and learn one more option—outreach through blog comments.
So, now you might be wondering how exactly all these activities are related to digital PR? Good question! Finally, we’re moving to the very last part of the post where I’ll tell you how to leverage influencers in your next big PR campaign.
Integrating influencers into your PR campaigns
Let’s imagine you’ve just delivered a research report with some outstanding insights. You’re planning to publish it shortly but want to ensure it receives the coverage it deserves. That’s where established relationships with influencers will pay off. Here’s how your content could be performing if influencers were to help you share it and referred to it in their posts.
Small businesses face different challenges from the ones big companies encounter. If your company is not nearly as big as SEMrush—or in reality has only one more employee besides yourself (shout-out to my amazing colleague Anna😉)—you could expect something like this:
Once your content is good to go, you need to craft a quick email where you’ll be asking the influencers to give your new PR piece some love via sharing it on their social media or referring to it in their upcoming posts.
Hint: I’ve found it especially effective to do pre-outreach before publishing the actual piece to secure links and social shares once it goes live. Plus, thanks to pre-outreach you can get expert opinions, add quotes or gain some first-hand feedback from your target audience.
Another good move is to involve influencers to support your PR activity at the launch of a new product. Not that long ago, Ahrefs has successfully implemented the above-mentioned strategies to promote their blogging course.
First, they reached out to the influencers and granted them free access to all the modules of their upcoming course. Then, Ahrefs encouraged them to give feedback and kindly asked to promote the course once it goes live. As a result, when the course was finally released it was immediately widely promoted. All the influencers who were pre-outreached felt involved in something big and eagerly shared the news about the release on their social media.
Influencer marketing is nowadays one of the most effective client acquisition channels. Moreover, it works for brands of all sizes. If you haven’t tried it before, you surely should! All you need to do is follow the best practices and carefully select the influencers to work with. Pay special attention to their relevance to your niche, check how active they are on social media and, if they have a personal website or a blog, pick the ones with the most loyal following and wait for all your efforts to pay off.