Big brands are successfully investing in influencer marketing in What is influencer marketing? Influencers are people connected in your industry who already have an audience on social media channels. The medium of delivery may be video or livestream, blogging, or social channels like Twitter and Facebook, or any combination. Influencer marketing can be as simple as building a relationship with a Twitter user where they engage with your brand and repost your content because they find it valuable, or a formal contract where the influencer provides sponsored content for a fee or in exchange for goods or services. The Oprah Effect – meet the queen of all influencer marketing Social proof is a far more powerful incentive than advertising. People who use your products and are willing to endorse them (and you) to their friends and followers are persuasive. According to a recent McKinsey & Company report, social recommendations influenced an average of 26% of buying decisions across all product categories. Celebrity spokespeople were the influencer marketers of the past, and getting a celebrity endorsement is an advertising boon like no other. “The Oprah Effect” is a perfect example of influencer marketing. Oprah has won the admiration and trust of millions of people, and when she endorses a product, sales skyrocket. In a November interview, Weight Watcher CEO James Chambers talked to investors about Oprah’s influence. “Oprah will bring new magic to this great company,” he said. “She will inspire consumers and improve our ability to create strong brand experiences for their individual journeys. I have every confidence that this will accelerate our company transformation and will have a significant positive impact on millions and millions of lives over the coming years.” Humana reports that immediately after Oprah announced her involvement with Weight Watchers, enrollment in their sponsored Weight Watcher program jumped 40%. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNU-pvyhQd4[/youtube] The key to value in Oprah’s endorsement is the trust relationship she has built with her fans. Social media has handed the same power on a smaller scale to ordinary people who spend their time building relationships online. While you may not have the opportunity to partner with Oprah, you can reach the people in your industry who have built an audience based on personality and trust. Choosing the right influencers When identifying influencers, it’s important to make sure their audience fits your target market. An influencer’s viewership does not have to be huge to be effective, but it does have to be industry-specific and engaged. Before you look for influencers, invest time in getting to know your customers. Demographics such as age, gender, buying habits, interests, education level, and social media accounts will help you identify the audience you need to engage and where to find them. Detailed buyer personas are great tools to help you narrow down your ideal audience. How to connect with influencers eMarketer reports 75% of marketers say identifying influencers is the biggest challenge in influencer marketing strategy. If you have an active social media presence, you may already be connected to your best influencers. Develop relationships with followers who respond to your comments, share your content, and link to your website from their blogs. If little of that is happening, consider an online service to help you connect with influencers in your industry who are interested in sponsorship. You can also do the research yourself by tracking reach metrics, searching social media channels and by doing competitor research. According to the eMarketer report, important metrics for identifying effective influencers include social profiles, verified traffic data, and demographics. Search engine rankings were considered, but less important. Understanding ethical concerns Since influencer relationships are based on trust, expect influencers to insist on disclosure. If you’re paying influencers (even in trade or goods), there are also legal considerations. It’s wise to be cautious. In their guidelines, influencer platform NeoReach advises: Disclose your connection to client Maintain clear and prominent disclosure Give your honest and truthful opinion Only make factual statements that are truthful and can be verified Following these rules will help you avoid legal issues with the FTC and keep you off the Google hit list. They offer good advice for all parties involved: publishing platforms, influencers, and sponsors. How to approach influencers Start with a connection. Start building relationships long before you need them, and make your relationship reciprocal. When you help social media stars expand their influence by sharing their posts and responding to their comments, you also build your exposure and influence with their community…setting the stage for future campaigns. Top influencers are inundated with offers, solicitations, and inquiries from marketers. Most of the pitches are poorly targeted or offer laughable compensation. When you ask influencers to review your product, you’re really asking them to create content featuring your products. It will help to understand how difficult it is to produce a constant stream of high-quality, original content. Address their problems by offering solutions to problems they have mentioned or questions their audience have asked, and you have a better chance of getting their attention. Offer them real value in return for their endorsement. Influencers are individuals, and what appeals to one might not interest another. It’s fairly easy to tell what will motivate them by reading their blogs or watching their videos. Some will partner with brands to offer giveaways to their audience or happily accept products to review. Very popular social media personalities may offer sponsorship opportunities up front. A small percentage of influencers will refuse any kind of compensation or brand involvement. Do your homework, and you’ll know how to approach your ideal influencers. 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