Brandon AndersenBrandon Andersen

A Twitter user with a triple-digit following can now impact the biggest brands, as 92% of consumers prefer referrals above all other sources. A world where anyone has a hand in your brand’s fate may seem scary, but it’s no different than when customers shared experiences around the water cooler — except now those conversations can spread across the globe in minutes.

Technology has moved influencer outreach beyond the Rolodex wheel of business cards. Modern solutions have evolved to meet PR professionals’ influencer marketing needs, which extend beyond outreach to include listening, targeted engagement and amplification.

O'Dwyer's Nov. '15 Technology PR MagazineThis article is featured in O'Dwyer's Nov. '15 Technology PR Magazine

Here are two influencer marketing challenges communicators currently face and how an integrated technology solution can help overcome these issues.

A volume problem

The competition for attention among millions of creators and a near-insatiable thirst for information from audiences have led to higher quality content than ever.

In 2013, for example, the Internet added 5 exabytes of content each day, equal to the amount of information created from the first cave drawing to 2003. Even with a dedicated team, it would be impossible to comb through millions of posts and articles to identify your brand’s top influencers.

The ability to stand out among all this content has placed greater emphasis on influencer outreach. Collaborating with those who have built trusted relationships with your audience will help disseminate your message, but that’s hardly a secret.

A 2015 study showed that 59% of communicators planned to increase their influencer marketing budget over the next 12 months, an unsurprising statistic considering the study reported a return of $6.50 for every dollar invested in influencer marketing.

That ROI could grow even higher as communicators adopt better technologies and fine-tune their influencer outreach to provide the right messages to the right people at the right times. Brands, hoping to grab a piece of the pie, reach out, but too many do so with a spray-and-pray approach that produces more irritation than coverage.

Successful influencer collaborations start as relationships forged over common interests, often on social media. Generally, that common interest is providing a specific audience with value in the form of entertainment or information.

Modern-day media databases scour social media to provide real-time insights into the topics particular influencers are covering at any given moment. But remember it’s a social channel, not a business one.

It’s imperative to build relationships and an integrated platform facilitates that. Promote influencers’ work, add to the conversations they spark and give them data and story lines that will help them better serve their audience — even if they don’t involve your brand.

Once you have joined their circle of trust, pitch a story related to your brand, but make sure it jives with the influencer’s current interests. When a pitch turns into publicity, amplify the coverage using social media and other distribution channels.

The rise of the non-journalist influencer

As a whole, reporters didn’t show enthusiasm for social media in its early years, though many now rely on it. According to Cision’s most recent Social Journalism Study, a slim majority — 51% — of journalists surveyed in 2014 said they couldn’t do their job without social media, up from 28% two years prior.

What inspired this change? Though the saturation of social media has played a role, the success of everyday bloggers and social media personalities in reaching, engaging with and inspiring audiences certainly helped drive their migration.

It was the “peer journalists” who first transformed news from a broadcast medium to a two-way conversation. These interactions have created followings who ache for content from those they trust.

According to BusinessWired, Millennials spend 18 hours a day with media. Of that, they spend nearly an equal amount with user-generated content — 30% — and traditional media — 33%. PR professionals can no longer just train their focus on traditional media or even the biggest digital outlets, like Mashable, BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post.

Mom bloggers, for example, hold significant influence, and brands have taken notice. Using free content management systems, some mom bloggers have secured six-figure incomes, agents and sponsorship deals, according to Mark Schaefer in “LiSTEN: 5 Audiences Brands Can’t Afford to Ignore,” a collaboration with four other top marketing minds.

As traditional media outlets shrink, the power of bloggers and social media personalities grows, requiring PR professionals to pivot even more. The industry’s latest technology can help.

Cision Social Edition, for example, provides social media listening technology that helps brands pinpoint who is publishing content that impacts your brand, positively or negatively.

Jay Baer, one of the collaborators on the LiSTEN e-book, says you have to “hug your haters” because haters are influencers who provide insights about your brand that are worth their weight in gold. Social listening that uncovers haters can help you identify flaws in your offerings, services or overall outreach. Fixing these can turn them into advocates, or at least prevent others from falling out of love with your brand.

Social media listening truly is PR’s “Moneyball” tactic. Though nearly nine in 10 communicators relying on social media listening have found it effective, less than four in 10 have adopted the tactic.

With so few practicing social media listening, you have an opportunity to get ahead of competitors by adopting this technology and ensuring the wellbeing of your brand.

The new reality is that no matter your tenacity or team size, an integrated technology solution has become an essential part to influencer outreach, and just about every other aspect of public relations.

Just as the notion of using a Rolodex to contact a newspaper journalist has faded into the past, so too must manual searches and disparate tools. As influencer outreach grows in importance and scope, so must the technology we rely on.

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Brandon Andersen is Director of Marketing at Cision.