Think of Oprah Winfrey. If Oprah mentions your book, you’ve got a bestseller. Millions of people trust Oprah. They’ll buy the book on her recommendation.
A social media influencer can send traffic to your site, give you exposure, help sell your product or service.
You think about your target audience— the customers you’re trying to reach. Who do they follow? Who do they listen to?
Those are the influencers you’re after. You find them by doing online research using search engines and other tools.
Alex York gives this example: Say you’re looking for an influencer on grilling and barbecuing. You’d search for: food critics; those with popular outdoor grilling Instagram accounts; grilling bloggers; barbecue pit builders; ribs contest judges. People who work in that particular niche, people with a loyal following.
After identifying an appropriate influencer, do you immediately ask their help in publicizing your brand? No. That would be the equivalent of a hard sell, and you’d be written off as an opportunist– and rightly so.
Instead, you start cultivating a relationship with them by interacting with their content. If they have a blog, leave comments on their posts. Ask questions.
At this point, you need to think about your overall social sharing strategy. You’re trying to do two things: 1) cultivate an influencer by sharing their posts, and 2) demonstrate your expertise and attract followers by sharing your own posts.
- 4 pieces of content from your targeted influencer that are relevant to your audience
- 1 piece of your own content that helps your audience and demonstrates your expertise
- 1 piece of sales-related content for your product or service; e.g., a coupon, press release, limited-time offer, etc.
Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute notes that the numbers don’t
have to be exact. It’s the idea: most of the time you’re sharing content that isn’t yours. You’re drawing attention to the influencer you’re trying to cultivate. You’re sharing that person’s thought leadership, and asking nothing in return. You’re making an investment: you’re hoping that someday when you need a favor (a plug for your own content, product, service), the influencer will say: sure, I’d be glad to help you out.
Because selling is problematic. The aforementioned Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing this way:
Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.
There’s a conflict there. Your goal, of course, is to make a sale. You want people to buy your product or service. But you’re trying to market yourself as a expert and go-to person without looking like a cheesy salesman telling people to “Buy now! Call today!”
Any sales pitch, no matter how low-key, runs the risk of appearing too “salesy,” too aggressive.
Is there an alternative?
Instead of posting stand-alone pitches or promotions, you can end all your posts with a call to action (CTA).
A call to action asks your reader to do something. In the words of Julie Neidlinger: “to do something tangible instead of merely feeling warm fuzzies about your brand.”
Some CTA’s don’t require the reader to buy anything; others do. Examples of no-buy CTA’s: follow me on Twitter, subscribe to my newsletter (which requires the reader to give you his email address), download a free guide, etc. Calls for a purchase might include: buy my eBook, sign up for my course, visit my online store, etc.
Because it’s coming at the end of a post in which you were helpful and shared valuable information. The psychology is right: you just gave your readers something, and they’re going to be open to doing something for you in return. If your CTA complements the content you just shared, it’s going to seem very natural and unobtrusive.
I much prefer CTA’s to separate sales pitches. That’s just my opinion, my personal feeling. Using CTA’s allows you skip posting pitches, and stick to content. That means you can use one of my alternate 4-1-1 strategies (below) to cultivate an influencer.
In the first, you mix in a post from a second expert or influencer. In the second, you’re retaining 2 of 6 shares for your own content, and mixing it up a little: sometimes sharing educational content, sometimes sharing something funny or entertaining that’s appropriate for your audience.
Reminder: you want to be engaging your target influencer (visiting their blog, leaving comments) at the same time you’re sharing their content on social media.
Have you ever tried connecting with an influencer? Any thoughts about it? Please leave a comment.
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You might also enjoy my infographic about content marketing. It explains what it is, how it evolved, and what characterizes good content.
About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, branding, social media, and content marketing. I create images that get content seen and shared.
Questions? Send me an email.