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Your brand influencers may not be everything that you think they are...


Recently Dan Sullivan, CEO at Crowdly, revealed an important truth about the state of influencer marketing. What he found is that 95% of all engagement created around Twitter contests and other incentivized influencer marketing efforts are from a very small, but also very active group of prize hunters.

He hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that these "influencers" show "no clear affinity for the brand, seemingly willing to parrot a huge volume of anything that could win them a prize, and their actions are not affecting real consumers."

While those results are pretty depressing, though not surprising, Dan also pointed out that there is a right way to do influencer marketing.

How can you build an influencer marketing program that is useful to your brand and accomplishes real business objectives? 


Don't Outsource Your Influencers

The worst thing you can do for your influencer marketing program is to bring in outside serial "influencers" who specialize in tweeting about brands. This doesn't mean you can't ever rely on influencers who aren't already connected to your brand, but it does mean that you have to be smart about vetting them and have high standards for who you will ask to be an influencer for your brand.

You can see why this in important in Dan's article, where he breaks down what these accounts are actually doing and why no real consumer would ever follow them.

So, how should you find your influencers then?


Find Influencers in Your Online Community

Identify active, helpful people in your existing online communities. Recruit them into your influencer marketing program, and tell them what they can do to help you accomplish your mission. 


Find People with Relevant Influence

If you want to leverage influencers who aren't connected to your brand in a meaningful way already, you need to identify real influencers who are influential in a way that is relevant to your brand.

For example, if your brand sells widgets, and you want people with a lot of Twitter followers to tweet about your widgets during your upcoming product launch campaign, you should ignore people who have many followers but are mostly tweeting about cats, cars, movies, etc. 

The only people you should be reaching out to are people who built their following by tweeting about widgets. Not only does this mean that your content matches their current content mix, but it also means that your message is being shared by someone who people look up to as being an expert (or at least being an insightful source of useful information) on widgets.

Relevant influence is the difference between making a real impact on the right people with your message, and just having a lot of fluffy metrics to share about how many ultimately irrelevant people liked and re tweeted your content in order to win a prize.


What Should You Look Out For When Vetting Influencers?

  • Relevant influence - We covered this above, but the very first thing you'll want to establish when considering someone as an influencer for your brand is whether their expertise and audience are directly related to your brand and your marketing goals. You need someone who can influence your target audience and is seen as helpful, not spammy or as a tweeter for hire.
  • Credibility - Once you've established that a potential influencer is relevant, you need to make sure they're credible. Remember that when you bring an influencer into the fold, you're tying your reputation to theirs. If your influencer has a history of doing shady stuff, like buying up their own books to make best seller lists or endorsing products that don't work, then those black marks could rub off on you too. Nobody cares about the opinions of people they don't trust. You need influencers that people trust.
  • Conflicts of interest - Occasionally tweeting news stories or even a positive opinion about a competitor isn't a deal-breaker, but you will want to make sure they don't have any type of formal relationship with your competition. Look out for someone who is tweeting positively about your competitors often - even if there's no relationship there is a risk in them turning on you in the future in favor of another brand.
  • Haters aren't influencers - It should go without saying that you also want influencers who currently have a neutral or positive opinion of your brand. Don't seek out people who hate you to speak on behalf of your brand, that will also end badly. Obviously.
  • Consider their opinions - Another thing you'll want to look out for is the opinions they put forward online in regards to politics, religion, and other hot-button issues. Even though these opinions are separate from your brand and in 99% of cases this probably won't be a problem, if an influencer becomes closely tied to your brand then your brand could become wrapped up in their personal opinions. Be sure to consider whether having an outspoken advocate for "X" cause as an influencer fits or is in the best interest of your brand.
  • Influencers should fit within your business goals - This could mean ensuring that your influencers fit within a wide variety of additional qualifiers specific to your end goal. For example, if you're running a campaign only in certain countries, you'll probably want influencers who are either in those countries or have a strong followership within those target countries. Be sure to give plenty of thought to whether or not a potential influencer can reach the specific audience you have in mind and do so in a useful and positive way that supports your brand. 


When you're building an influencer marketing program you're aiming for impact on key influencers and quality of interactions over quantity of interactions. It's more about reaching the right people and influencing them, rather than reaching anyone you can just to meet an arbitrary fluff metric.

To meet your real goals, you have to cultivate true influencers who are relevant to your brand, faking it isn't going to yield the business results that you ultimately need to achieve. 

Post by Zachary Chastain
Aug 19, 2015