Susan van BarneveldSusan van Barneveld

One of the most important goals of marketing is building brand credibility. Why? Building credibility increases the chances that consumers will have a positive perception of your brand. Consumers will almost always choose a brand they think highly of over those that they don’t when deciding where to spend their hard earned cash.

Let’s take cars for example. If you or a relative has had problems with a specific vehicle from a certain car manufacturer, chances are you will never buy a car from them again no matter how great any of their other cars may be. This brings me to my next point. What do we all know about perceptions? Once formed, they are very difficult to change, so it is important to work hard to acquire and retain a good one. This is where digital influencers and influencer marketing can help.

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

What is a digital influencer?

Digital influencers can take a few different forms:

Social. Social influencers are individuals with a large social following, whether it’s on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, or a combination of channels. In the technology space, Robert Anthony aka NewYorkBob, is the number-one influencer on Pinterest with 1.2 million followers. Robert is a traditional journalist as well, writing for the New York Daily News, but his large social following classifies him as a social influencer.

Video. Video bloggers, or vloggers, are a large group of digital influencers that are a great resource for promoting your products and brand. Some “unboxing” and review channels in the technology space have close to 3 million subscribers, such as tech vlogger Marquess Brownlee.

Lifestyle Blog. Influential bloggers typically have a large amount of traffic to their blog site, as well as followers on a variety of social channels. It’s hard to imagine today’s blogosphere without the presence of mom bloggers. As of January 2015, there are 4.7 million mom bloggers living in the United States, and 33% of them have 5,000 or more followers online.

No matter which form a digital influencer takes, there are a few attributes they typically share: These are people that have large followers on their particular channel(s), are looked up to and trusted by others, are involved in their particular community and tend to be trendsetters. Working with digital influencers through content marketing allows you to tap into these existing communities and leverage the reach they have with your potential customers.

Why work with digital influencers?

Today’s consumers are engaging with brands online more than they ever did before. Take moms for example: According to a study by SurveyMonkey, 60% of moms access Facebook multiple times a day, and 59% of them follow at least one brand. Today’s moms are more web-savvy, and 58% of them research products online before making a purchase most or all of the time.

While traditional paid media ads used to be viewed as the most trusted form of advertising, that is no longer the case. According to Nielsen, 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations, in contrast to only 33% who trust ads. People trust the opinions of other real people, whether that is friends, family or digital influencers, and trust is key in order to build brand credibility. Needless to say, it’s highly recommended — if not necessary — for your brand to cultivate relationships with digital influencers.

So, how can digital influencers actually add credibility to your brand? They provide the most trusted form of advertising, word-of-mouth, at a much larger scale than previously possible. If they like you and your brand, they can endorse you. In doing so, the trust that their followers have in them will pass onto you as well, adding instant credibility to your brand. Digital influencers are able to help your brand stand out in a crowded space where people are bombarded with ads.

Digital influencers also have the power to write “real” unbiased reviews for your products. These types of brand mentions hold a lot more weight coming from trustworthy end consumers, rather than salespeople on commission. If that is not possible, they can always mention your brand in a social post, video or blog post, which again comes across as more of a natural endorsement.

How do I work with digital influencers?

So how do you find digital influencers and get them to promote your brand or review your product? The basic steps to influencer marketing are:

Research. The first step to working with digital influencers of any kind is to identify the correct personalities for your brand/product. There are a number of companies you can subscribe to that track social, video and blog influencers such as GroupHigh. However you can always start with web searching on your own. Be sure to have a spreadsheet to keep track of the results. Once you have a list of influencers, rank them in priority order by looking at data metrics such as number of followers/subscribers, website traffic, comments, etc. Also, double check that the content of their social channels or blog match what your target audience is interested in.

Secure Influencers. Once you have your list of targeted influencers, draft up a personalized email to each. Keep it short and sweet and be up front about what you are looking for and the requirements. Be aware that some influencers will charge for a mention, review or unboxing of products. This could range from $250 to thousands of dollars. Know your budget beforehand and pitch appropriately — if you have no budget, try targeting smaller influencers who will most likely work with you in exchange for product only.

Be a Resource. After securing the number of targeted influencers for your campaign, make yourself a resource to them. Provide them with the necessary web links they may need or are required to post; offer hi-res product or lifestyle photos; check in a week later to see if they have any questions. The easier you make the process for them, the more likely they are to work with you again in the future.

Interact & Share Socially. After an influencer posts on their social channel, YouTube, or blog, be sure to interact with the post and share it! This is an important step in creating and maintaining a positive relationship with each influencer. Easy ways to do this include commenting on the post with a thank you, as well as sharing it on your brand’s social media pages. Tag the influencer’s pages (where applicable) and encourage your followers to check them out.

* * *

Susan van Barneveld is CEO of Copernio in Garden Grove, CA.