influencer marketingGuest Post by Jessica Davis

Influencer marketing is more than just a buzzword. According to a 2015 report by Augure, marketers are increasingly achieving positive results with influencer marketing campaigns. Marketers who participated in the survey said that influencer engagement was effective in building brand awareness, generating leads and nurturing loyalty.

The benefits of an effectively executed influencer engagement program can be many, as can be the challenges.

Particularly in the case of small businesses, getting an influencer to notice you and talk about your product or service can be discouragingly difficult. But don’t give up just yet. Like most other things in the digital marketing space, garnering the support of influencers in your niche takes time, and sustained effort.

Here are 5 ways to take audience engagement on social media to the next level with influencer marketing:

1. Don’t buy influence, build it.

Influencers typically feel a strong sense of responsibility towards the community that they’re a part of. So it’s important that you don’t treat influencer engagement like a buy-out. Identify the people who wield an influence over your audiences’ buying decisions. Make sure that they are relevant to your brand and relateable to your audience. Follow these people on social media, and get familiar with their work.

Share their posts, leave a few comments on their blogs – really start engaging with them, before you can ask them to contribute a guest post, or tweet about your product.

2. Create personalized pitches.

While it’s tempting to template-ize your outreach efforts for everything from tweets to emails, such an approach could prove fatal to your influencer marketing strategy.

Most influencers receive several requests everyday and can easily tell the difference between a canned message and one that’s been created for them.

When you pitch to an influencer, make sure to tell them exactly what you’re seeking, and why you think they might be able to help. Once you’ve pitched to an influencer, wait a few days for them to get back to you. Don’t spam them with multiple reminders everyday.

3. Keep the conversation going.

After you’ve managed to establish a connect with an influencer, continue to keep them engaged in conversations on social media. For instance, say you come across an article that might interest them, go ahead and share it with them. They will most likely appreciate your resourcefulness. You could even chalk a slot into your social media calendar when you will share such content. Using content discovery and scheduling tools like Feedly, or DrumUp could help simplify the process.

Schedule such content to be posted regularly, like once every week, queue it up in advance to make sure it’s shared without fail.

4. Create opportunities for collaboration.

When working with influencers, it’s just as important for you to understand their goals and objectives, as it is for them to understand yours. Being familiar with what they’re seeking will allow you to align your campaigns so that both of you stand to gain from the arrangement. Look at collaboration opportunities beyond the digital space. If you’re holding a conference, invite them to speak; if you’re conducting an event, invite them to participate.

And when necessary, be transparent and disclose as much as possible – this will help you earn their trust, as well as that of their followers.

5. Return the favor every time you can.

To re-emphasize, understand that influencers are generally on a journey of building their own brand, just like you’re trying to build yours. Be encouraging of their efforts and support them in whatever way you can.

Try to understand what motivates them and see if you can help fill a gap.

The report by Augure, cited in the beginning of this post, also revealed that 55% of influencers are seeking to increase their reach or grow their audience. One way to help them achieve this is by sharing their content with your followers, or linking out to their content on your blogs.

Interestingly, only 24% of influencers said earning money was a motivation – which means offering monetary compensation might not always do the trick. The most effective way to build a stable relationship with an influencer is to get them to believe in your brand just as much as you do. And there are no shortcuts to doing so.

Influencer outreach isn’t a task – it’s a commitment, and when you approach it with that attitude, you’ll see that all your efforts will pay off.

In what ways do you approach influencer outreach? Please share in the comments below.

Jessica DavisJessica Davis has a keen interest in social media and content marketing, and writes extensively about it. She represents Godot Media, a leading content marketing firm that also offers blog writing services.