In a recent post about finding your brand’s voice for social media, we explored the importance of finding the right voice and the tone for your brand communication across different channels. Creating a remarkable brand voice is inevitably an iterative process and it may take a long time to refine it on one social channel and no time on another. Your brand may be hitting the mark with audiences on one channel right away or remain unnoticed for a few tries.

When your brand is struggling to let its personality shine on social, an influencer can be an ally. In a fragmented environment like social media, ‘borrowing’ the voice of an impactful individual who is already ‘at home’ on a particular platform can magnify awareness and alter the perception of your brand – on that channel and possibly beyond. Influencer marketing is authentic word of mouth marketing, scaled up.

The main channels where influencer marketing is seeing success currently are YouTube, Instagram, Vine and increasingly Pinterest and Snapchat too. It makes sense to analyse your performance across relevant social media channels for your brand, and then decide where you’d like to improve.

What makes a person an influencer is their influence over potential customers. An influencer does not necessarily come with a large following, although it can be an indicator of their popularity. What matters more is the kind of relationship between the influencer and their following, as well as their level of expertise on a subject matter. That said, influencers are not necessarily celebrities, but very often they are everyday people who have embraced the power of social media to let their talent shine.

Influencers are not necessarily celebrities, but everyday people who have embraced the power of social media. - Highlight to share -

Being a real person, the influencer will not be able to mimic your brand’s 360 identity or reach the whole demographic range relevant to your brand. However, she or he can reach a core demographic that is particularly relevant to your strategy at the time, as well as expand the reach of your brand beyond your usual demographic into their network. More precisely, an influencer can help execute a more targeted campaign.

So far, we can sum up the following steps:

1. Identify the channel where your brand needs to improve its performance.

2. Specify the target group your brand wants to reach on that channel.

3. Set goals and build a strategy. Do you have a campaign coming up that the influencer can help amplify? Are you planning a product launch and would like to send the product to a few influencers?

4. Ask your team what you want the influencer to help with: engagement and reach of brand content, product visibility, follower growth, brand awareness and credibility etc. That will determine the actions for the influencer.

5. Find the right influencer for your brand. That sounds easier than it is amidst the crowded SM landscape. This is a useful formula to assist in the search for the right type of influence by Forbes contributor Kyle Wong:

Influence = Audience Reach (# of followers) x Brand Affinity (expertise and credibility) x Strength of Relationship with Followers

The influencer’s expertise and audience will determine their spin on your messaging, so you want to have as much insight as possible on both. There are tools out there to help you find a matching influencer. Some tools are free, for example the Twitter-focused Followerwonk and the Hashtag tracker for Twitter and Instagram called Keyhole. Paid tools include Little Bird and Buzzumo for Twitter, or popular across channels are Kred and, probably the most popular among influencers, Klout.

If you don’t want to search and analyse influencers in-house, there are several agencies that you can pair up with. On the specialised side, Gary Vaynerchuk’s Grape Story works with some of the best creative influencers on Vine. Similarly, the Mobile Media Lab is the first agency formed to connect brands with influencers specifically on Instagram. Instabrand, Viral Nation and Tap Influence are agencies that help find influencers across SM Channels.

Before you spend money, however, it pays off to look closely at your brand’s current followers. You may notice that you already have influencers in your network. That doesn’t necessarily mean they will want to become pro-active advocates of your brand, but it surely is easier to convert existing fans into authentic brand advocates. Keep track of your main and secondary influencer followers and try to connect. Note, do not try to send them product without a prior agreement, or you may not get any exposure from it.

One big impact example of this kind of ‘natural’ connection was the collaboration between Skittles and Marshawn Lynch. The NFL player was already a huge Skittles fan before the collab and was naturally happy to support the brand. Sports fans being a strong consumer group for Skittles, this was a great match for both, the brand and the athlete; he was able to show off his playful personality.

A picture tells a thousand words

Being that social media is mainly driven by great visuals, it makes sense that the most popular influencer types are photographers.

In the travel sector, photography has always played a big role, and so it comes as no surprise that all industry players are embracing the trend. Travel + Leisure celebrated World Photo Day by asking six influential travel photographers to share images from their current travels on the publication’s Instagram channel showcasing stunning first-person experiences.

Similarly car brands are doing a great job using influencer photographers to tell compelling stories on social media, possibly because their product is inherently very personal and tied to people’s life experiences. Cadillac was able to tap into that personal driving experience during New York’s International Auto Show last year. The company asked several popular photographers on Instagram to document driving the ELR Extended Range Luxury Coupe through the City. The images were instantly turned into prints for a cool exhibition that took place while the car show was in motion and the car crowd in town. Cadillac had beautiful content available for their own channels and aligned the brand with a strong industrial, adventurous, classy aesthetic of Manhattan.

The right influencer does not have to be from your own industry at all. - Highlight to share -

The right influencer does not have to be from your own industry at all. Rather it can be someone who can tell your brand story because they relate to it and their voice speaks the same language as your brand. Thus, finding the right influencer is determined by how well your own brand voice is refined and where you want it to be heard.

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How to find a matching influencer to sell your brand for you