Influencer marketing is booming. Almost 40 percent of marketers have a dedicates budget for influencer marketing. And 67 percent of companies look to increase their influencer marketing budgets within 12 months. It seems like everyone these days is trying to engage influencers. That’s why it’s important to develop relationships early on and make compelling arguments for why an influencer should work with your brand. In this “how to engage influencers” guide, you’ll find five ways to make the first steps towards developing an effective working relationship that benefits everybody.

The Benefits of Engaging Influencers

Working with influencers gives you the opportunity to target their existing audiences and extend your brand reach. It also leverages the influencers’ unique skills and presentation styles to create exciting, engaging content that improves your search rankings and has the potential to increase viewer retention. This is a proven strategy. Influencer marketing delivers a return on investment 11 times higher than that of traditional forms of digital marketing. Additionally, buying the services of an influencer doesn’t have to be expensive, with 96 percent of influencers charging less than $1,000 for a branded blog post and less than $500 for a branded Facebook post.

The benefits of influencer marketing are undeniable, but developing your own influencer marketing campaign isn’t as easy as you might think. Influencers of all sizes, in all areas of business, are in high demand. 44 percent of influencer accept less than a quarter of the proposals they receive from marketers. If you want to engage influencers, you need to put in the groundwork. You need to approach the right influencers at the right time and in the right way, with a strong proposal that has clear benefits for both parties. It helps to develop a relationship with the influencers well in advance, so they already know your brand and have a good idea of how you may work together.

How to Engage Influencers

Once you decide you need to begin an influencer marketing campaign, the real work begins. You need to start making in-roads to building relationships. There are several ways to go about making the right connections.

Research first.

The first step in developing your influencer marketing strategy is to determine what kind of influencers you need, based on your marketing goals. Then you need to start doing your research to find influencers that help you achieve those goals. Considerations for choosing the right influencers include:

  • Reach: Their audience size.
  • Engagement: How interactive their audience is.
  • Demographic: The types of people who follow them.
  • Relevance: Whether they specialize in your industry.
  • Voice: If they produce content in line with your brand image.

Lets say you want to extend your reach. Make it a priority to engage influencers with large audiences. If you want to develop a rapport with fans, micro-influencers who focus on interactions with the audience may be more appropriate. In addition to helping you identify the influencers that are the most suitable for your campaigns, you’re also building knowledge. Therefore when it’s time to engage with the influencers, you know what they do. You’re able to express how much you enjoy their work and why you want to work with them. Think of it like a job interview. When you go for an interview, you research the company first, as it makes you appear keen and switched on, because you want the position. When courting influencers, you want them to feel like you really care about what they do, and that means you need to know what they do.

Find common ground.

As an extension of researching influencers, look for personal connections that work to your advantage. You may find you graduated from the same college, lived in the same town, or even worked at the same company for a while. Dropping that sort of information into your elevator pitch helps your proposal to stand out when it’s time to make contact.

Follow them on social media.

Following people on social media is one of the most obvious ways to get your brand on their radars. But don’t stop there. The aim is to develop a relationship organically. Make sure you like their posts and comment on material that’s relevant to you. Ensure you’re comments have value. Don’t just say, “Wow, great content!” Explain why you found something helpful. Go so far as to mention how you have used that information as part of your business strategy. Influencers love to know how their work is helping people. Once they start to feel like you genuinely care about their content, you’re in a much stronger position to talk about paid opportunities.

Establish mutual benefits.

You want to engage influencers to leverage a wider audience and a trusted voice to improve sales. So what are you offering in return? 45 percent of influencers receive at least four business proposals each week. It’s important to make sure you stand out by offering something special. If an influencer identifies a reciprocal benefit of working with your brand, that influencer is more likely to sign on the dotted line. Don’t shy away from sending out some free gifts, either. Samples of your latest product range helps to elevate your pitch above the competition.

Don’t be a nuisance.

Time is money, and influencers are busy. Be direct, make your proposal, and accept the response. If an influencer doesn’t have any availability to work with you, move on and find another one that does. If you persist in contacting people who don’t want to work with you (for whatever reason), you’re wasting your time and theirs. Worst of all, you’re making a bad reputation for yourself. You may harm your chances of partnering with influencers who might otherwise have been on board with your proposal.

Final Thought: There’s No Time Like the Present

When you engage influencers, how to do it isn’t the only matter to consider. You also need to think about when to do it. Researching, building a rapport, and negotiating contracts takes time, so it pays to do it as soon as possible. Even if you don’t intend to develop your own influencer campaign immediately, start identifying possible partners and following influencers on social media now. If you lay the groundwork in advance, you’re in a position to move quickly when you need to.

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