Everyone and their dog (quite literally) is an influencer now. Social media has evolved to the point that anyone with a few thousand followers can claim the influencer handle, and start endorsing products or being a brand ambassador. There is a pretty wide gap however, between what defines most modern influencers, what a thought leader is, and what would be most successful for your influencer marketing strategy.
Both a thought leader and an influencer understand the notion that they influence people’s decision making, and that your content has outcomes and consequences, people listen to you. One of the main differences that arises though, is that a thought leader generally isn’t going to talk about or recommend a product/service that they don’t believe in themselves. They’re not looking to shout out some random product for a quick buck. Content is generally much more niche, and authentic.
Influencer marketing has fundamentally changed, even in this social media era. You can no longer guarantee sales by just getting someone with 2M followers to tag your brand in their post. A social influencer like that might get a lot of engagement, but consumers now are far more likely to take action off the advice of an expert, especially in the professional services field.
Nowadays it’s important to pick someone out for your influencer marketing strategy who aligns with your marketing objectives. If you want quality leads, conversions and sales, maybe a well respected guru in their field would work better. If you want pure awareness, you might look for someone who has a bigger platform, but isn’t as much of a niche expert. Crucially, someone who aligns with your objectives, your brand, and has a connection to your target audience. How do you find them?
What Might You Look For
Establishing a thought leader, or influencer who is the right fit for your business is a very tricky job. You need to look primarily at what your strategy goals are, be it awareness, leads, engagement, sales etc. Once you know what your goals are, you can establish some baseline criteria and analyse what someone might bring to your business! Here’s a list of what you can look for.
1) Why do people follow this person?
This is where you consider why they have an audience. Is this person well respected, well educated, are they controversial, do they share opinions, news, thoughts, ideas? What about them makes people follow them?
2) What is the value of their content to their audience?
Evaluate what the value and purpose of their content is. Does it educate their audience, is it informative, is it bringing light to issues and concerns, are they sharing events, or giving opinions on news? What does their content bring to the table?
3) What expertise does this person have in their field?
Consider why this person has an audience that listens and engages. How do they have an audience, are they an expert in their field, do they have a degree or qualifications, did or do they work in said field?
4) Who is their audience?
One of the most important factors is looking at who this person’s audience is. If they don’t align with what your target audience is, then it’d be worth looking elsewhere. Is the content they make relevant to what your target audience would want to see?
5) How do they communicate?
Take note of how easy their content is to understand. Is their audience full of experts, or is it more the everyday Joe? You want to find someone who is a compelling storyteller, and has a strong understanding of how to communicate with their specific audience. Not everyone is an expert, so if they’re making content for the average audience, a basic rule of thumb is make it such that your parents can understand what’s being said.
6) Are they relatable?
Look at how much engagement this person has with their audience. Do they post and reply to comments, make content from audience suggestions. Do they entertain people’s feedback, criticisms and compliments? Can the audience relate to the person in question, and does it feel like there is a connection with their audience?
7) Who are they posting for?
Why are they posting what they’re posting? Are they doing it to get money from someone, gain exposure, are they doing it because they believe people need or should know about said topic. Is it something that they personally believe in. Knowing why someone makes the content they do and who they’re making it for.
8) Scratch beneath the surface!
Outside of their content what is this person like. Do your business goals, objectives and values align with this person? Are they someone that you want to be associated with? Your partnership needs to be authentic, so if the two of you don’t see eye-to-eye on your combined goals, then the relationship might not be for you.
9) Reviews and referrals
This one might not be dependent on the person, but have they worked with someone else in the past. How did that campaign go, was it successful in achieving goals. You can always ask for a portfolio of past work.
10) Look at the metrics
Follower count, reach, audience engagement, and activity among others are all metrics which you might want to consider. Whilst metrics can be deceptive, pairing the numbers with your qualitative findings investigating what, why, where, who etc will be very useful! Oh, and when you’re checking metrics make sure that everything is legitimate and organic, there are a crazy amount of bots on social media, and you can buy followers! Don’t fall for vanity metrics.
Much of the success investing in an influencer marketing or thought leader strategy lies in the research phase! Once you’ve taken a deep dive into potential candidates, it should be much clearer what everyone’s pros and cons are. Being thorough in your due diligence phase means that your results, content, and relationship will thrive.
As a final option, If you’re looking to test the water, it could be a good idea to implement a trial run. You can devise a piece of content, be it a blog, podcast, interview, video etc. Coordinate between the two of you and see how the journey is from start to finish and what results you get! If the campaign is a success, you’ve got a green light to a new audience, creating great new content together!
If you would like to find out more about your influencer marketing and thought leader strategy, please contact us here for some more information, or a free consultation!