Whether you’re in technology, finance, marketing, fashion, or any other industry out there, building meaningful connections with your target audience via influencer marketing is at the heart of your long-term strategy.
That’s because audiences want personalized experiences with anyone and everyone in their lives — from their favorite baristas to the businesses and business leaders in their networks. And establishing yourself and your company as an industry influencer can help you build those critical, lasting connections with your audience.
As Jeff Bullas once said, “Influence marketing is an art and science. The art is the crafting and creation of content that adds value to people’s lives, personally or for their business. The science is the tactics and tools of building tribes and followers on the big social networks.”
So how do you combine the arts and sciences to achieve this status of influence? Here are four key strategies that major brands, our clients, and our own internal team at Influence & Co. have found successful:
As companies evolve their content marketing strategies, guest contributing to external publications is going to become an integral and necessary part of the puzzle (if it hasn’t already). That’s because contributing content to targeted niche publications that members of your audience are already reading and engaging with gives you the perfect opportunity to spark their interest, educate them, and make a good impression.
What’s critical to remember with this strategy is that your content must be original, authentic, and valuable, and it should offer your readers some insight into who you are as a leader without being self-promotional — because that’s a really bad idea.
For example, both our president and CEO consistently write and publish engaging, high-quality content in external publications that help them reach specific segments of the audience our company is trying to reach — from household names like Forbes, Inc., and Entrepreneur to more niche sites like HubSpot or Content Marketing Institute.
We’ve seen immense success with this strategy. It functions as the top of our inbound marketing funnel, and it works well for us for brand awareness and lead generation; in fact, it’s one of our best sources of referral traffic.
Spend some time with your team to determine the top 10 to 15 publications your audience reads and engages with, and add those publications to your content strategy with a clear process and goals. It’s worth it.
As you work to become an influencer in your space, being active and engaging your audience on social should be a given. But you’d be surprised by how many CEOs and other C-suite members still don’t use social media.
While it’s understandable that C-suite executives don’t have the bandwidth to spend time tweeting every hour, having at least an active presence online is 100 percent necessary for building influence. As you start building a following and creating content worth sharing,there’s a pretty good chance your audience is going to search for a way to connect with you.
Have you ever tried to share an article you read only to find that the author of that amazing article had only ever sent 40 tweets — and the last one was six months ago? Maybe I’m being dramatic, but when that happens, it almost feels like the author doesn’t care what I thought about it or whether I liked it; he’s not going to engage with me either way. And that feeling doesn’t leave a great impression of the author, his brand, or the company he works for.
Further, more than 80 percent of people agree that CEO engagement on social media helps a company communicate its values and shape its reputation. So whether a few members of your team assist your C-suite’s social media efforts or your leaders themselves take 30 minutes each day to share and engage, keeping an active presence will go a long way.
One key strategy in positioning yourself as an industry influencer is partnering with other influencers in your space. Sounds a bit redundant, right? But it’s the oldest trick in the book. Why? Because influencer marketing allows you to tap into a new network of individuals and join forces with likeminded people your industry respects and engages with.
A great example of this is Wonderful Pistachios. We’ve all seen its “Get Crackin’” ads with celebrities like Stephen Colbert, “Gangnam Style” PSY, and the squirrel from “Ice Age.” That’s because Wonderful Pistachios is looking to tap into various audiences and the connection those audiences have with each one of these influencers. This was a brilliantly strategic (and entertaining) move by the company to partner with a number of credible icons and show them cracking pistachios in ways that resonated with their different audiences. The power and reach of influencer partnerships truly are endless.
Being present and engaging with your audience through creative formats and mediums like podcasts and webinars can build deeper engagement and a closer, more human connection with your audience.
Our team, for example, has seen immense success with the webinars we host with partners on a consistent basis. Our most recent webinar with LinkedIn was a huge hit because it gave our CEO, John Hall, the opportunity to share how and why LinkedIn is so valuable to content marketers — advice we share with our clients often.
And while we’ve written about LinkedIn numerous times, syncing with the company itself and diving into the details in a relaxed and personable way allowed us to reach more people, and it further educated and encouraged our audience to take advantage of this powerful tactic.
Podcasts are another excellent way to build industry influence because they allow you to showcase your personality and add to the conversation. If you don’t know where to start, take note of what your favorite podcasts and hosts have in common, and see whether it makes sense for you, your brand, and your audience to mimic certain styles. (For inspiration, check out our president’s favorite podcasts to inspire content marketers.)
All in all, establishing influence in your industry is about being present, showcasing your expertise through various channels and mediums, and connecting — truly connecting — with your audience. In a time when nearly every brand is incorporating content in its marketing strategy, thinking creatively and partnering with other people who share your values will help you bridge the gap and become a catalyst for people to want to learn more about you and what your company is all about.
Taylor Oster is a marketer and designer with a passion for using helpful, educational, high-quality content to achieve tangible business results. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.