By Caroline Henley

December 23rd, 2014

What makes a social media influencer an influencer? Is ‘influencer’ just another buzzword? Or does delving into the world of influencer marketing actually improve your social game? Let’s go ahead and delve.

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This is my first blogpost for Falcon Social, so let me introduce myself. I’m Caroline, the team’s new social media manager. I’m taking a hard look at Falcon’s presence across social to grow my wings as a new Falconeer. Just like you, I have to stay on top of the vast amount of information in this ever-changing industry. Social media influencers help me do this in a few different ways:

  1. Influencers serve as a great, free resource for daily reading;
  2. They’re each a unique gateway into large marketing communities;
  3. They offer potential for partnerships, advocates, and sponsorships.

Build-your-own resource library
An influencer might sound like an elusive fellow, spouting isms and sitting on top of a tall mountain of Twitter followers. I like to think of them more as a variety of free resources, fellow marketers who are also dissecting reach, ads, and engagement. They’re flooding my newsfeeds with trends and data. They’re analyzing the implications of social’s breaking changes. They’re spotlighting creative ad campaigns. They’re sharing their experiences launching startups and winning over clients. And I’m ingesting all of this, using whatever bits and pieces I need to achieve Falcon Social’s overall goals.

Build your own resource library out of the social media influencers who are most relevant to you. Want to master the ins and outs of Facebook Power Editor? Liking Jon Loomer’s Facebook page will keep you fresh. Looking for quality tips from someone who shares everything from content marketing to employee advocacy? Then following Bryan Kramer’s Twitter is a must.

After you’ve ID’ed your favorites, dive deeper into what they offer you and your social strategy. You can break down influencer marketing further into three stages: marketing to influencers, marketing with influencers, and marketing through influencers. Marketing to influencers grabs their attention; marketing with influencers opens up partnerships; and marketing through influencers means you have truly won them over.

Marketing to influencers: getting attention for you and your brand
Influencers, with their large social audiences of eager marketers, can serve as a gateway to broaden your network and collaborate with others in your industry. Find the digital conversations, contribute in some way, and you’ll create new relationships with large networks of like-minded marketers. Use a tool like Falcon’s Listening to find exactly where and when the relevant people are talking.

Some influencers host weekly Twitter chats, allowing marketers to come together and discuss concrete examples of what has been working well for their brands and pages. I find #SMChat pretty lively and useful, Wednesdays at 1pm EST. 

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Let’s say you are reading author Brian Solis’ recent article on LinkedIn, “Crossing the Experience Divide.” Perhaps someone leaves a comment that you yourself had just been thinking, and you chime in to agree. Maybe your company has a case study or infographic that challenges the author’s main point, and you drop it in the comments section to ignite further discussion. It’s another opportunity to connect, share ideas, and include real-world examples to continue the conversation, strengthening your and your brand’s digital footprint in the process. He might write back–and so again, you are getting the influencer and his audience’s attention. 

Marketing with influencers: think like a thought leader
Although an influencer’s messaging and network will vary industry by industry, we’re all here on the same page. Which means most influencers are pretty open to creative social marketing ideas. Think of ways you and a thought leader could benefit from one another’s audience. Then start reaching out with ideas wherever they are making noise: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.

My work as a social media manager is mostly in the B2B space, talking with brand managers and other social media managers who are looking for tools to run their social efforts more efficiently. Recently, I needed to raise awareness for a big event. I reached out to an influencer who was also promoting her own event. We made a deal through DM: will you share mine if I share yours? I was then able to tap into her audience while she could now reach mine.

Marketing through influencers: well, money talks
I’m sure you’ve seen celebrities hashtagging for brands on Instagram. Many of these product placements are straight-up paid endorsements. Just like Lindsay Lohan, some influencers offer customized sponsorship packages for purchase. Consider their targeted and rapt audiences the next time you are planning your budget.

When mapping out your influencer strategy, always bring it back to the most important question: how are your efforts working towards your overall business goals?

Don’t miss your current fans
And of course, don’t forget to take a look at who your current fans are, and how they might advocate for your brand to their own networks. Develop personal relationships. Reach out and ask them to share your big news or your interesting content. Like and favorite and comment on their content too. There are tools to help you find your most engaging and loyal fans, as well as track their relevance and size within their own communities. (Falcon’s tool for this is found in Measure, by running an Influencer report.)

We’ve created a List on Twitter of some of our favorite social media influencers. Take a look and mine it for your own use. (You’re already following @FalconIO, right?) 

How to Sell on Social Media.

Why use social selling, how to get started, and best practices.

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