How to build social media influencer engagement

Vinay’s note – With 74% of consumers relying on social media to inform their purchasing decisions, it’s important to know how a brand can have a voice in all the user content and feedback that surrounds their products or services. In this post, Dan Virgillito takes us through how to reach out to and build social media influencer engagement.

Marketers constantly bombard social media users with direct response ads, retargeted ads and other stealth marketing tactics in order to elicit a positive response for their respective businesses.

But a relatable and transparent communication strategy is the reason people listen to you and not someone else – it’s a trait that sets you apart and boosts your social media engagement.

In today’s world, it is no longer about locking yourself up in a cave for weeks listing all of the offerings of your brand. You need to plunk down some dough to get noticed, either yours or someone else’s.

McKinsey’s study found that online word-of-mouth advertising generates twice the sales as paid advertising and results in a 37% higher retention rate. This indicates that companies need to be smart with their marketing spend and invest in a way that generates online trust.

If you’re failing to gain social media traction despite your best efforts, you can consider reaching out to social media influencers.

Social media influencers are regular folks like you and me, but they resonate strongly with consumers because they’ve shown credibility and made themselves transparent. All of them have a combined audience greater than the population of Switzerland.

Clearly, celebrities also have big social media followings, but if you want to partner with them, it comes with a hefty price tag. Whereas with influencers, brands can align themselves with a niche lifestyle segment at a fraction of the cost, if that.

According to some stats and reports:

  • Consumers consider content from a friend or family member (72 percent) and a peer or work colleague (59 percent) as the most trustworthy (source)
  • Customers acquired via social influencer efforts have a 37% higher retention rate (source)
  • Businesses make $6.50 per $1 invested in influencer marketing programs (source)

Social media influencers stand out by producing niche-based content.. Click To Tweet

Since they’re passionate (and picky) about the brands they work with, they can give feedback on how to improve your social media campaign.

MarketingSherpa cited GNC’s approach of using social media influencers to increases sales and drive social media traffic. The director of social media at GNC, Chris James, revealed that the company taps into influencers who are passionate about what they do and talk to people who’ve decided to achieve a fitness goal.

For instance, when GNC wanted to show people that it catered to variety of health-related niche groups, the company sent information and products to niche influencers in yoga, gluten-free and other areas, resulting in a lot of user-generated content and several tweets under the hashtag #LiveWellNow.

GNC niche influencer tweet

Here is a tweet made by a niche influencer. GNC’s target audience may not know that supplements for their pets are also available at GNC stores. The company identified and engaged social media influencers to spread the word about their product variety.

Engaging influencers is the key to getting insight into the experiences your audience is looking for and how social media is shaping their expectations. But before jumping on the influencer bandwagon, you need to identify individuals who are credible and worthy of representing your brand.

Searching out influencer(s) for your brand

It’s impossible to reap the many benefits of social media influencer engagement without finding the right influencers. At this point, you should consider the factors that give social media power to these influencers, rather than metrics like number of Twitter followers or LinkedIn connections.

Ideally, you should take these 4 factors into account when identifying influencers:

  • Reach: What is the organic reach of your social media influencer when it comes to your target audience? For instance, someone on Facebook has 100,000 fans and 30 percent reach, and someone on Twitter has 100 followers and his/her message reaches 80 percent of those followers. Clearly, the individual with the small following has more influence.
  • Relevance: It is important to consider how relevant the potential influencer’s style of content is with your brand’s outlook. Taking a look at their existing social media efforts will give you an idea of their approach and what kind of audience they appeal to. So if you’re considering someone with a great reach but his/her style is irrelevant to your brand, look for someone else.
  • Resonance: The engagement with an influencer’s content by people who are valuable to your brand. It also depicts the content’s ability to go viral. When the content resonates with the target audience demographic, it gets more shares, retweets, etc., resulting in visibility with people outside of the immediate following of an influencer.
  • Audience engagement: Substantial shares and comments of a social media post indicate that the audience enjoyed reading the post – and that the content has touched a nerve. Engagement indicates interest, so people who spark substantial engagement (even if they have a few hundred followers) hold more influence over people who have loads of followers but little to no engagement.

But measuring these factors for each potential influencer is an ever-growing task, which is why you should use an online tool to save time. Here’s a list of tools for finding influential people on social media in a cost-effective manner:

1. Klout

This is a social media analytics tool that ranks people according to their social influence through the “Klout Score”, which has a numeric value between 1 and 100. A higher Klout score indicates greater influence.

Using Klout to find social media influencers

You can search for influencers in any niche after signing up. For example, the image above shows the list of people who’ve influence over WordPress enthusiasts. There are 400 factors that determine a Klout score, including retweets, comments, connections, followers, etc.

2. Kred

Kred also assigns a score to measure influence, but takes it further by considering outreach as an important metric. Users can see their Scoring Guide via the URL: It’s different from Klout in the aspect that it displays real-time scores, rather than daily scores.

Influencer search tool

Kred also assigns communities to influencers based on the hashtags they use and their Twitter bios. A Kred score is given to each community and to influencers who’ve shown leadership in a particular community recognized as “Kred leaders.”

3. LinkedIn

The previous 2 tools are focused heavily on Facebook and Twitter. For finding influencers on LinkedIn, you need to use the platform directly. On LinkedIn, you can identify subject matter experts in 2 ways.

First, you can search a keyword to discover who has published the most content around that keyword. This requires you to use the search function at the top and search for “posts.”

The top authors you’ll see at the left hand corner are the individuals who’ve contributed content around the searched subject. You should then look whether or not the audience is engaging with the potential influencer’s content.

Finding influencers via LinkedIn

Second, you can look at trending posts and searching for the “influencer” headline at the top right of an individual’s profile.

Using LinkedIn for Influencer search

The latter is a sure shot indication that the person is an influencer.

4. Curalate

This is a multi-platform tool for identifying influencers on visual platforms like Pinterest (but also caters to Twitter and Facebook). You can use it to gain information about brand advocates and influencers, monitor competition, analyze trending content, track ROI, and a lot more.

Identifying influencers on visual platforms

Use Pinterest analytics to follow key influencers that relate to your target niche to discover the trends in their pins. This information could be used to devise a strategy to engage with influencers in the future.

You can do the same for Instagram with this tool.

5. BuzzSumo

This is a neat tool that gives you an overview of publishers and content relevant to your niche. You can search for influencers by search terms or subjects. It gives you an insight about what content is shared by influencers, how often and who interacts with them.

Using Buzzsumo to search influencers

Comparison of influencers and results from their Twitter data is displayed in the dashboard. All results can be refined, filtered and exported as an XLS or CSV file for detailed analysis.

Apart from these tools, you can rely on hashtags to find influencers on each social media platform. Typing in various hashtags will show you content from individuals, and you can list and filter individuals with high engagement. Although this way takes more effort, it’s a cost-effective way to identify influencers.

Building engagement with social media influencers

Social media influencers often receive multiple invites and requests every week to engage with a brand. To stand out as a brand and get their attention, you can take the following measures:

1. Ask questions

Social media networks are ripe for conversations, so you can reach out and ask questions to influencers. Make sure the question you ask is targeted towards the influencer’s area of expertise and is something thought-provoking.

Asking questions to engage social media influencers

After they’ve answered, keep an open dialogue by occasionally reaching out to them and reminding them that you appreciate their input and enjoy their content or work. A social mention once in awhile should do the trick.

2. Be open to co-creation

Soon, a healthy back and forth will take place between you and your target influencers in the form of comments left on each other’s feeds. This is when you can forward your idea of working together on a product/service campaign.

By partnering with influencers relevant to your space, you can co-create great campaigns. In co-creation, you will have to trust the creative vision of your influencer (the results may dazzle you) to define your content strategy.

For instance, L’Oréal partnered with YouTube makeup guru Michelle Phan. Together with a community of beauty lovers, Phan co-created EM Cosmetics, a makeup line for the brand.

Co-creation with YouTube influencer

L’Oréal gave her the heads up, and Phan managed to co-create a new makeup line by engaging fans.

So giving influencers some control over the campaign is a good idea. Co-creation will drive authentic content, which is valued by social media audiences.

3. Drop their content to your audience

By sharing an influencer’s post with your audience, you demonstrate how much you value their insight. Click To Tweet

You can tag an influencer’s name or link to their social media account to expose them to a new audience. Doing so will help you gain goodwill.

For instance, Justin Coetzee, a mobile entrepreneur, tweeted an insight from Rand Fishkin of the Moz, and also mentioned him in the tweet to give Rand an indication that Justin acknowledges his expertise.

Cross promotion in influencer marketing

You’ll not want to shoehorn every reference into your social media content, but when the opportunity arises, add in an insight and mention the influencer smoothly. Then the inclusion can be used as a catalyst for a private email conversation or future collaboration.

4. Shape their image

Staying organized with your engagement efforts by shaping an influencer’s image is a smart way to give them a little ego boost. You can do this by creating a list of people you acknowledge and sharing it with your audience.

For instance, if you’re an authority on WordPress, you can create a list called “Top 10 WordPress experts of 2015.” The best part about lists on social media is that you can mention every individual, so they’ll get an automatic notification about the inclusion.

While building a list, start with your potential targets, then mention that person’s contribution to your niche, before mentioning the next tier of influencers. So on and so forth until you’ve built an impressive list – something that will catch the eye of your Big Fish.

5. Offer an incentive

When looking to engage influencers at scale to share your content on their digital properties, you need to give them some incentives. The value of the incentive can be determined by the amount of effort required in promoting your campaign.

The incentive doesn’t have to be monetary. You can feature their interview on your social channels, connect them to influential figures in your industry, or give them a sample of your product to try and review.

Estee Lauder, for instance, gives out free products to Instagram influencers; the influencers then review these products and post about them.

Estee Lauder's Instagram Influencer Marketing

While making the relationship work both ways, keep your mind open to non-monetary forms of compensation.

6. Invite them to your office

By personalizing your interaction with influencers, you’ll get 1 step closer to connecting with individuals who can take your brand forward. 1 way to do this is invite them to your office or any offline event.

While the current trend is to have a conversation via email or social media, inviting them to pay you a visit is a great way to strengthen the relationship. What better way to make them feel special and validate your interest in collaboration than face-to-face?

Final thoughts

When you’ve engaged influencers with the above mentioned strategies, make sure to monitor their performance in all the branded campaigns you involve them in. Expect yourself to do the lion’s share of work to keep both influencers and audiences happy. Done right, you’ll create a symbiotic relationship that yields value – and hefty results – for all involved parties.

What are your thoughts? Do you have additional suggestions for building influencer engagement? Feel free to leave comments.


Dan Virgillito is a storytelling specialist, blogger and writer who helps digital startups get more engagement and business through online content.

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