influencers

Let’s start with a simple question. Are you more likely to buy a product if it’s recommended to you by a friend or seen from a random ad? In the 20th century, traditional ads were the driving force of how businesses grew. And that thought continues to this day. But can ads ever become a gift that keeps on giving? Are influencers the secret to marketing?

It’s rare for ads to generate revenue after a campaign ends. But it’s not uncommon for influencer marketing campaigns to generate traffic and sales, beyond what you pay for. According to research found by The Shelf, 88% of influencers tell their friends about brands that sponsor them. This means you will often see growth outside of an influencer marketing campaign.

And if you think about it, that makes sense. If Under Armour called you up, saying they would like to sponsor you, wouldn’t you share that with all your friends? And if Under Armour did their homework, they can get a lot of free promotion by working with you too. The Shelf also found that 72% of influencers share posts about their sponsors, outside of any contract.

It’s no surprise why influencer marketing done right can generate $6.50 for every $1 spent! So, how do you identify influencers worth connecting with your brand? In this article, we are going to share who are the key influencers you want to connect with, and how to find influential bloggers and social media stars.

And as a special bonus, we’ll also share how to find local influencers to promote your franchise or retail store.

Can You Truly Find Influencers for Free (and Is It Worth the Hidden Costs)?

If you are willing to do the heavy lifting, you can find and connect with a lot of influencers for free. Crazy, right? That said, everything comes at a cost.

Because what doesn’t cost you money, will cost you time. And time is money, especially if you pay a marketer to do the work for you. (Let’s not even talk about the potential damage if you outsourced this to an intern).

Finding the right influencers isn’t going to be easy. And it will take time. That time may be better spent hiring someone else to do it for you. But sometimes you need to know how to do the work by hand when influencer tools and platforms don’t provide everything you need. We have found this particularly true when finding local influencers.

If you want to find influencers to win more customers, you will need to:

  • Find the right influencers in your niche.
  • Estimate the influencer’s audience reach, relevance, and reaction to your message.
  • Check the influencer types, so you know what value she wants from you.
  • Send an effective cold email to get her to respond.
  • Build a connection to get the influencer interested and on board.
  • Decide whether you should work with influential bloggers, podcasters, or social media superstars.
  • Follow FTC compliance guidelines, so you don’t get sued like Lord and Taylor.
  • Bake at 375. (Oops, that’s for another recipe).

Again, you can do this all free, but it will take time. So if you are ready, then roll up your sleeves, and get ready to do some work.

Who Are the Key Influencers You Want to Connect With Your Brand?

Every business is different. Just like you and the next person are different. As a result, the influencers you want to work with are different than the influencers another business should work with. Even if you are in the exact same niche. For example, let’s say you and another influencer are both in the paleo niche.

If you don’t like meat, you wouldn’t want to reach out to bacon-loving bloggers. But for a bacon-lovin’ guy, it wouldn’t be worth their time to connect with a vegan Youtube star. That’s why you need to take the time to identify the right influencers for your brand.

When deciding who are the key influencers to target, there are three things you should look for:

  • Reach – Will the influencer’s audience reach enough prospective buyers?
  • Relevance – Will the influencer’s readers LOVE your product? We’d rather reach 1,000 true fans, than 10,000 complacent buyers. Because reach without relevance is a recipe for ruin.
  • Reaction – Will the influencer’s audience react to your message in a way that will increase sales and maximize your return on investment?

Determining what each of these metrics should be will depend on your industry, and the platform the influencer is using (YouTube, a blog, podcast, Instagram, etc). So let’s learn how to find influential bloggers and social media stars for your brand to work with.

How to Identify Influential Bloggers in Your Niche

Bloggers are fast becoming the Oprah Winfreys and Dr. Ozs of your niche. Love them or hate them, bloggers have a lot of influence on your audience. Many also have engaged social media accounts too. And with the close relationships, she has built with those on her email list, she is a force to be reckoned with. So, how do you find influential bloggers?

Step 1: Think about who is in your audience.

Start by thinking about the type of bloggers most likely interested in your topic. For example, let’s say you are Chick-Fil-A and trying to get the word out to sell more chicken. A great starting place would be food bloggers. Branching out from there would be mommy bloggers and health-and-fitness bloggers.

It can also help to get more specific with larger niches. Not only will this help you find more bloggers to work with, but you will have a higher chance to find niches with those who are excited about your product.

For example, if you start with food bloggers, you can connect with paleo bloggers, slow cooking bloggers, or gluten-free bloggers. Of the three groups, we would guess paleo bloggers are the most likely to eat more chicken, so let’s start there.

Step 2: Create a list of influencers.

Start by creating a spreadsheet. When gathering names, don’t worry about quality. Your goal here is to find the most influencers on your list. In the next step, you will sort out which influencers you should work with and why. To start, Google “Top [niche] bloggers” or “best [niche] bloggers to follow”. So for paleo, you would Google search “top paleo bloggers” or “best paleo bloggers to follow”.

Then, click on the various blog posts about the top influencers in your niche to follow. Record the influencers’ names, websites, and any other relevant contact information. We’d recommend you start with a list of at least 100 bloggers. That way, you can get a feel for the top bloggers in your niche, without spending too much time before influencer marketing is right for you.

Pro Tip: If you can’t find a large enough list of influencers, use other search engines like DuckDuckGo, Bing, Yandex, and Ask.com. Or you can use tools like Buzzsumo, ANewsTip, and Onalytica to find bloggers in your niche.

Step 3: Qualify your list.

Okay, you’ve got a list of bloggers. How do you make sure that they are worth connecting with? Like asking for someone’s salary, it’s rude to email a blogger asking about her list size and response rates. And traffic numbers aren’t easy to uncover either (and no, Alexa is not a good solution). So what should you do?

One of the best signs someone has an engaged list is looking at the average number of comments per blog post. Bryan Harris of Video Fruit found that people who comment on blog posts are almost 5x more likely to buy than those on his email list. And, the average value of a customer who commented was nearly 5x too. So go through your list of bloggers and find out each of their average comments of the last 5 articles (or hire a VA to do it for you).

Now that you have a list of influential bloggers, you can begin reaching out to them. If you prefer, here’s how you can find influential social media stars to work with.

3 Simple Tips to Identifying Influencers on Social Media

Finding social media influencers can be like the steps you used to find influential bloggers. In fact, we would recommend using that process, if you have not already done so. Yet there are some tricks that are specific to finding social media influencers.

Here are three tips for finding the best influencers to work with:

Tip 1: Do a hashtag and site search.

Most of the popular social media sites use hashtags to make it easier to find relevant content. You can also use hashtags to find relevant influencers. Another way to quickly find new influencers in your niche is to do a social media site search for your term. To do a site search, simply type this into Google – “site:Pinterest.com paleo”.

And for even more results, you can repeat this search incognito and on other search engines too.

Tip 2: Find a baseline engagement for your niche.

Food bloggers tend to have engaged fans on Pinterest, but not on Twitter. Fitness influencers have engaged fans on Facebook, but not on LinkedIn. There are exceptions. But it’s easier to find the platforms your audience loves to use than to try and get lucky finding the random black sheep.

There are tools to help you estimate these numbers. But you will never know the exact number until you engage with the influencers. Keep in mind too that influencers with higher reach often have a lot lower engagement scores. As a result, paying 10x the price to get in front of 10x the fans may not have the same impact on your sales.

Once you get an idea of the engagement for your niche, you can decide whether it’s worth continuing to scale on that social media site or trying a new site. Not sure what sites influencers in your niche like to use?

Use Buzzsumo to look up popular articles in your niche. Once you find a few popular articles, look at what social networks the article has been shared on the most. Chances are, that’s where the most engaged influencers will be too.

Tip 3: Keep your eye out for new influencers.

Influencers follow other influencers in their niche. Sometimes, he does this because he wants to spot new trends before other influencers get on the bandwagon. You may spot a wild influencer in the comments section. Other times, he may share a post in his social feed. And if you are really lucky, he may even do an all-out promotion campaign for you.

To keep track, you can use social media monitoring tools like Mention, Brand24, Social Mention, Buzzsumo, and Hootsuite. Once you add the social media influencers to your spreadsheet, make sure to go back and qualify them so that you will get a higher return on investment.

Bonus Tip: Recycle influencer content and increase conversions.
There’s one thing we like about social media influencers over bloggers.

After you have launched your campaign, you have a ton of great content to use. You can use Yotpo to source influencer content on product and checkout pages. Additionally, you can reuse her social content for your own social feeds. You can also use her content for social media ads.

As a quick aside, don’t assume that influential bloggers are also influential on social media (and vice versa). In fact, it’s common for influencers to be influential on one platform, and not influential on another platform.

Tactics to Find Local Influencers

influencers example
Image Source: Mateus Campos Felipe

You have the basics for finding influencers online. But what if you want to promote your retail store? How do you find local influencers to work with? Working with influencers online is all the rage. Because it works. And with a little creativity, you can use that same power to drive more customers to your store. Keep in mind that local influencers often have a lower reach, especially if they focus on building a tribe in their city.

But local influencers can bring new opportunities to your business that internet influencers cannot. Especially because people can meet these local celebrities, face-to-face. So here are five tactics to find local influencers to work with.

Tactic #1: Use Yelp to find local reviewers.

Yelp is our favorite tool to find local influencers. Why? With a few keystrokes, you can find a wealth of information about these influencers, whom Yelp calls “Elite”. And this tactic works in small towns as well as big cities too.

So what’s so special about the Yelp Elite? First, there’s a great chance they will review your business. After all, that’s how they became the Elite. If you filter out those who give mainly negative reviews, there’s a high chance it will be a glowing review too. And, as a member of the Elite, their review is less likely to be hidden by Yelp’s recommendation filter.

Second, to join the Yelp Elite, these influencers need to be active members of the Yelp community. Yelp is hard to check common influencer marketing metrics. But at the same time, Yelp has approved these individuals to be local influencers by giving them this badge.

Third, you can get a lot of insight into the lives of these influencers. So, how do you go about finding Yelp Elite in your town?

  • First, copy and paste this search into Google:
    site:yelp.com/user_details “elite 2017” “Spokane, WA”
    You will want to change “Spokane, WA” with your city and state, or city and country.
  • If you are looking for local bloggers, you can do this search instead:
    site:yelp.com/user_details “elite 2017” “Spokane” “my blog or website”

Tactic #2: Use Anewstip to identify local journalists.

Looking for local journalists? Look no further than Anewstip. Anewstip’s advanced search allows you to find and scour the Twitter-verse to find local journalists you may want to connect with. Not only can you specify words or hashtags they have used, but you can also pinpoint the location they are tweeting from. If you use keywords to refine your search, depending on the size of your city, you may need to broaden the topic you search for.

Tactic #3: Use TripAdvisor for finding travel and tourism influencers.

If you are in the travel and tourism industry, TripAdvisor is your go-to tool for finding local influencers. Like Yelp, TripAdvisor has a rating system to discover top reviewers.

  • To find these local influencers, copy and paste this search into Google:
    site:tripadvisor.com/members/ “level 6 contributor” “Spokane, Washington”
  • Again, changing the city and state to your city and state (or city and country).
  • If you don’t find enough influencers, you can change the search from “level 6” to “level 5” contributors.

Tactic #4: Use Buzzsumo to identify more bloggers and journalists.

Buzzsumo’s Twitter Influencer tab is another way to help you find local influencers. Not only can you refine the influencers by location, but you can also filter out the type of influencer you want to work with. This filter is especially helpful to align your business goals with your influencer marketing campaign.

Tactic #5: Get down-and-dirty and do it yourself

Tactics and tools are great. But sometimes, you need to get out of the building and do it yourself. Start by asking those you know. Ask people on social media. Talk to people you know at church, at the gym, or bar. Who are the people they respect in the community? Who do they go to learn more about before buying your product?

Ask your customers how they found you, whether in-person, on the phone, or in a survey. We believe talking with customers is the most underrated part of good marketing. In your survey, you can include “Influencer” as an option. But we would recommend using either the term “celebrity,” “news station,” or “blogger” since people may be confused with the title of “influencer.”

Finally, you can attend local events and conferences and talk to people face-to-face. The more people you ask, the more you will begin to see patterns emerge. Remember this – Just because someone is influential to one person, does not mean they are influential to someone else. Your goal is to find who your customers believe are influential and branch out from there.

Final Thoughts

Finding relevant influencers with a high reach, and who can create the right reaction with your audience is not an easy task. If you find it difficult knowing how many influencers to find, start by creating a list of 100 influencers in your niche. Then, qualify your list, and start reaching out to the influencers in batches.

It’s important to not reach out to every influencer you can the first time. Instead, by reaching out to influencers by breaking them up into groups, you can tweak and optimize your campaign to achieve the highest results. This will help you find the right influencers and win your audience to become loyal customers.

Sofia Nikolaishvili
Latest posts by Sofia Nikolaishvili (see all)

Sofia Nikolaishvili

After earning a professional degree in linguistics and literature I decided to try out blogging to explore my passion for writing and gain first hand experience. I write about everything I'm interested...

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