I believe that you can measure the long-term success of a company on how many authentic conversations they have with people on an ongoing basis.
Yes it is 2018 and yes a bunch of stuff is automated at this point. BUT, starting a company is a lot like starting a social movement. You need a large group of people to change their minds and decide that your company is worth investing their time and money in. Social movements happen on in-person. There’s a reason that campaigning still happens largely door-to-door in and in people’s homes. There’s simply no substitute for true interactions when it comes to getting people on your side.
In the world of marketing, influencer marketing is the equivalent of grassroots social movement strategy. With influencer marketing you connect with influencers who then connect with other people who then connect with other people, creating a word-of-mouth network so much larger than what you could do on your own with your own team.
Influencer marketing is a huge part of the reason interact has grown our paying customer base by 500% in the last 14 months, and we’ve built an influencer network from 0 to 1,300 influencer partners in that time.
Our network started from nothing, and we didn’t have any existing connections before we began, so we were truly going from a cold start. In this post I want to outline exactly how we built our network, how it functions, and how you can apply the same principles to your business.
Part 1: Deciding what you want out of your influencer program
Before you begin an influencer program there has to be a point to it. You can’t just go into the setup thinking that if you just connect with the right people all the magic will happen. You’ve got to have a plan.
For interact, the plan was to bargain with influencers to have them publish blog posts similar to the one pictured below. We discovered early on that the most effective type of user acquisition for us was to educate people on how quizzes work as a marketing tool. Blog posts like How to Make a Personality Quiz drive a huge portion of signups, but they are limited because there are only so many people searching for that type of answer on Google.
Thus the proposed solution was to have influencers write similar posts about how to use quizzes for marketing and publish them on their blogs so we can reach their audiences as well.
Part 2: Finding Influencers
With a goal in mind it was time to set up and find influencers we could partner with. There are a ton of influencer research tools, and we started with those. Buzzsumo is easily the best, everything else yielded little to no results. However, these tools are pretty limited after a while. They tend to find you the large to mid-size influencers very quickly but mostly miss the smaller influencers.
We quickly discovered the smaller influencers were actually better, and this has been corroborated by people who have done a ton of influencer marketing. The reason being that the giant influencers get pitched a lot, so they’ll probably ignore you in the first place. But if you do get through then they are also going to demand a pretty big payment for your pitch (which is almost never worth it).
That’s where the small-to-medium influencers come in. They can’t be too small, and you should have criteria for minimum size influencers. For us it works out to about 500 total social media followers, across all platforms, which is relatively small, but if those people are actually engaged and following the influencer for real then they’ll drive sales for you.
With all that said, what we ended up doing was using Google to find the right influencers. We have a list of terms we cycle through and then criteria that people must follow in order to qualify as an influencer for us. It looks something like this.
Term: “Copywriting Coach”
Search: Within the last month (so the results are relevant)
-At least 500 followers
-Using email signup forms on site
-Write about marketing (so they’re more likely to do a post on quizzes)
Google has a lot to give, and there are 2 million new blog posts written every day so there are always new blogs coming up that we can connect with, so Google is in itself an evergreen source of new influencers we can reach out to.
Part 3: Pitching Influencers
Once you’ve identified an influencer you have to connect with them. This is the most important part of the program because if your influencer marketing works you’ll end up sending 10’s of thousands of these outreach emails so you want to get the messaging right.
With any sort of influencer outreach I’ve found the word “partnership” to be the key word in the subject line. The word partnership makes it clear that you aren’t selling anything, which is the most important aspect of a good influencer relationship. You want to be clear that you’re not going to turn the tables and try to sell your product to these people.
In the body of the email there are a few elements.
1. Quick introduction: Who am I?
2. What am I representing?
3. Why am I sending this email?
4. What’s the ask?
Overall you want to keep the outreach email super short. I get these emails all the time now myself and if someone writes me a novel I’m not reading it. Also, if you write a book every time you reach out to someone that will be super inefficient and you’ll waste all your time writing emails when you should be talking to people.
Part 4: Talking with Influencers
Once someone accepts your call and you get on the phone you want to introduce your brand and present what you are asking for. I put a generic call script below that covers the gist of what we talk about on calls, but the conversations pretty much always go off script. Here are the basic elements of an influencer marketing call.
1. How can we help you?
I start every call by asking “What Kind of Exposure Do You Currently Have to Quizzes?” so that I can deduce where the person is at in the process of using a quiz as a marketing tool and provide helpful advice to them in their current situation.
2. More detail on how we can partner
I re-iterate how our partnership works and what we’re offering in terms of being a partner and in our case also an affiliate.
3. The ask
At the end of the call I talk about how a lot of our partners do blog posts on their sites because blog posts about quizzes are an effective way to create a good blog post and also promote interact.
Part 5: Getting your Influencers to Sell Your Products
Once you’ve got someone agreed to do a blog post and you’ve connected with them and set up your end of the bargain (if you’re giving away something to them as part of the deal), it’s time to follow through and ensure that everything goes smoothly.
The most effective way to ensure follow-through is to schedule calendar days that you are both on (you and the influencer) so everyone knows what days to expect the follow-through to happen (for us, writing the blog post).
In conclusion: Hopefully this helps clarify how to set up an influencer network that actually drives product sales. Whenever a strategy gets super popular (like influencer marketing is now), there is a lot of hype around it that doesn’t really make sense or give practical information. The process outlined above works in virtually any industry, from physical products to software. I highly recommend trying it, because if you really want to start a movement around what you’re doing there’s nothing like influencer marketing to get it done!