Social Media Influencers: How to Find, Evaluate and Work with Social Media Influencers

If you are building out an influencer program, or already have one in place, and you are working (or intend to) work with social media influencers, you need to read this guide.

There’s a very good reason why Google trends shows massive growth in search traffic for influencer marketing.


And later on we’ll show you why.

A couple of years ago I was training a group of marketing professionals about influencer marketing.

Their main question was how to evaluate influencers.

But… the problem was that they were working with influencers for many years.

Look:

How can you work with influencers if you can’t evaluate how much they are worth and what value they will bring to your organization?

The other problem was that they didn’t really find influencers.

The influencers found them!

You can be very successful working with social media influencers but it requires a good bit of work upfront.

Contents of this Guide


C H A P T E R – 1

Introduction to working with social media influencers

What is a social media influencer?

A social media influencer is someone who has access to a relevant audience that you want to get access to and can persuade that audience to take action based on their authenticity and influence.

When they talk their audience listens.

There is trust involved.

An influencer that you want to work with should:

  • Have an audience that is relevant to the audience you want to target
  • Be able to demonstrate a high level of engagement
  • Show their work with previous brands together with results
  • Show their influence amongst other influencers
  • Demonstrate that they deliver valuable content
  • Show they can be trusted

We categorize influencers into 5 categories.

You’re probably wondering what they are so let’s get straight to it:

Celebrity influencers –  These people are difficult to approach directly. They are so well known that they typically have gatekeepers that protect them.They charge mega bucks for product endorsements or other type of influencer campaigns because one tweet from a celebrity can make a big difference for a product or a brand.

Power influencers –  These are influential people that probably speak at events, write books, have blogs, podcast, etc. They have a lot of influence over a large audience but they don’t have the celebrity status which makes them more approachable. Building relationships with power influencers could also be a great way to get access to celebrity influencers as they’re likely connected with some of the bigger names in their industry.

Micro influencers –  These are the influencers that have the expertise and influence in a particular niche. Micro influencers may not be as influential as power influencers but they could provide more value because they attract a very specific and often very active audience.

Media influencers – Some people are influential because of the media they write for. You’ll find that power influencers sometimes publish articles on media sites, but media influencers are more likely to be journalists who write for one or multiple magazines. They are influential because they have access to the audience of the magazine they write for.

Connectors – You know the people who seem to know everyone. They don’t necessarily have a big audience but they are very well connected. They are natural born influencers and they can reach out to other influencers and the influencers will do stuff for them.

What type of programs can you sign influencers up for?

Brand Ambassador

This is a long-term relationship where the influencer works with you on an ongoing basis to promote your brand and your product or service.

In this type of influencer marketing program, the brand ambassador shares images, posts, videos and articles about your product (typically in the context of use), mentions your brand at events, provides testimonials for your website, and more.

Event activation

There’s two ways to approach this. The first one is very common with consumer brands – they organize/host an event and invite influencers to attend and network with other influencers and sometimes members of the media. Brands typically tie influencer events to a product launch or some important company milestone.

By organizing an event exclusively for industry influencers with large, relevant followings you’ll give them the opportunity to create and post content that can reach a pretty big audience. And there’s always a chance that you interest one or more of the influencers in a long term partnership with your brand.

Here’s another way to do event activation:

You can leverage influencers to promote a conference or an event. You’d work with influencers to invite their audience to the event. When big names in your industry talk about an event this usually creates a lot of hype online and can really boost ticket sales.

Campaign

Imagine if you were launching a product and you wanted a group of influencers involved in the launch campaign. They can help build awareness, generate interest and drive sales.

Your campaign could be as simple as sending them free stuff and hoping they’ll like it enough to share something about it with their audience (this approach can certainly backfire!).

Or you can involve influencers directly in the campaign in which case they would build hype around your product launch, create and share unique content about your product, and drive their audience to action.

One off campaigns

You can hire an influencer for one specific task, like creating one blog post or one video related to your product. Although most brands prefer long-term partnerships with influencers, one offs have their advantages as well.

For example, they allow you to test several influencer partnerships which helps you to quickly figure out which collaborations work.

Setting goals

Your goals for an influencer marketing program will vary depending on a) type of campaign you’re running, and b) your broader marketing goals. Here are some of the things you’ll want to achieve with influencer programs:

Campaign Type Goals
Brand Ambassador Drive traffic and generate sales
Brand mentions an exposure to a wider audience
Valuable links from high authority sites
Mentions on podcasts, conferences, etc.
Increase brand awareness
Event activation Event awareness – exposure to an audience
Influencers attending as a result of promotion (influencers bring other influencers)
Long term influencer partnerships. Brand awareness
Campaign Generate sales as a result build up, generate brand awareness.
One off Depends on the specific campaign – the goal could be traffic, sales, links, or other.

A recent research found that a majority of marketers leverage influencer marketing to increase brand awareness and reach new audiences:


Source: Statista

Once you have clearly defined your goals you’ll also have to find a way to measure success.

In a later section of this guide, we’ll talk about measurement to help ensure you achieve your influencer marketing goals.

What can social media influencers deliver?

An often referenced report is the one that states that every $1 spent on influencer marketing yields $7.65 in return.

Thats sounds amazing.

But is it true?

At the end of the day, you are trying to affect the behavior of your current and/or new audiences through influencers.

So, we can look at what influencers can deliver based on a funnel adapted for influencers.

Funnel Stage Measurement
Awareness Impressions – positive mentions of your product/service
Engagement – likes, shares, comments
Increase in website traffic
Increase in the number of online conversations about the brand
Increase in the number of fans/followers
Consideration Improved brand reputation (e.g. improved sentiment)
More product enquiries, trials
Visits to specific landing pages
Decision Higher proposal rates from interested prospects
Action Higher conversion rates than cold channels
Advocacy Referrals from existing customers

Now let’s take a closer look at the influencer program results you should measure for each of the funnel stages.

Awareness

At the awareness stage, you want to measure every metric that can tell you how many people potentially saw your brand’s message and how many of those people took an interest in your brand by following you, engaging with content (comment, like, share, click) or mentioning your brand.

This may sound complicated to track and measure, but trust me, It’s easier than you think!

All of these metrics are pretty easy to measure either through native social media analytics on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., or via third party tools that track social metrics.

To assess your campaign reach and engagement and its impact on brand awareness, you’ll want to look at the following:

  • The amount of traffic an influencer is driving to your site
  • How many times your target audience sees your brand’s message (post impressions on social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter)
  • The number of clicks i.e. how interested your target audience is in the campaign and your brand
  • The number of likes, which may be a vanity metric but also impacts the ranking of your content on social media sites
  • The number of shares which will tell you if your audience considers your influencer campaign content valuable enough to share with their network
  • Social media audience growth
  • Brand mentions as a result of influencer campaign may even be the most valuable metric for the awareness stage of the funnel because it shows if people are discussing your content and amplifying your brand message.

Warning: When Twitter reports ‘impressions,’ those are not actual impressions. They report the potential impressions. If I share a tweet to my 75k followers the potential impressions it will have is 75k, but the actual impressions could be 2k.

This makes Twitter look good, as well as anyone running campaigns for clients. So, keep this in mind next time you hear about millions of impressions on Twitter.

Consideration

At this stage of the funnel, you should see if the influencer campaign is moving people one step closer to buying your product.

But…how can you tell if they’re considering your product at all?

Well, first check if your brand reputation has improved. One way to figure this out is by looking at your social media audience sentiment towards your brand by performing sentiment analysis.

Sentiment analysis helps you understand the opinions of your audience by identifying mentions of your brand on social media and then categorizing them as positive, negative, or neutral.

This may seem complex at first, and it would be if there weren’t any sentiment analysis tools available to do this job for you.

For example, a social media monitoring tool like Brand24 will measure and report on the sentiment of your brand’s or your product’s social mentions.

If you see a trend of increase in positive mentions during your influencer campaign, this is a good indicator that it’s helping improve your brand reputation.

Next, have a look at product enquiries – are you getting more of those as a direct result of your influencer campaign? This info is easy to get of your site if you have an enquiry form or by talking to your sales team.

And finally, are you seeing more visits to product landing pages?

You can find this out easily if you previously created unique URLs for influencer campaigns that lead to product pages. We’ll talk more about link tagging in the section about the Action part of the funnel.

Decision

This is the point where things get serious…

You’ll want to know if your influencer marketing campaign is generating leads that you can nurture and eventually turn into paying customers.

If your influencer campaign is running on multiple social media sites, the first thing you’ll want to do is check which site is bringing in more leads. Is it Twitter or Instagram? This way you can focus more campaign effort on the social networks that drive more leads.

You can check this in Google Analytics → Acquisition → Overview → Social.

There you’ll be able to see a list of social channels that are generating the most potential leads from your influencer marketing campaign.

Action

Successful influencer marketing campaigns generate sales and you should be able to track and measure the sales that result from your collaboration with influencers.

You’ll need to track each campaign with the help of promo codes or UTM links depending on the type of influencer campaign you’re running.

Here’s how ridiculously easy it is…

You’ll create a campaign tracking link by adding UTM parameters to the link with Google Campaign URL Builder. This literally takes two minutes and will enable you to track the results (sales in this case) of your influencer campaign in Google Analytics.  

Check out my detailed post on Tracking Social Media Campaigns with Google URL Builder.

Promo codes are also an easy way to track the impact of influencers on sales because you can create specific codes that you can later track even beyond first purchase that a customer makes with the code.

Advocacy

Brand advocates are your most valuable customers who are so satisfied with your product that they are advocating its use to their network whenever they get the chance.

Many successful product companies run advocacy programs to inspire their best customers to share their experience on their social accounts as well as in testimonials, blog posts, case studies, etc.

According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from brand advocates.

So, how do you check if the influencer campaign is impacting brand advocacy?

One way to go about this is looking at the number of new testimonials from customers i.e. the testimonials you received during or right after the influencer campaign. The same stands for positive product reviews on social media or product review sites.

The more testimonials and good reviews you get, the more advocates your brand has!

And lastly, you can run a customer referral campaign in parallel with your influencer campaign. The way this works is that you create referral links and incentivize customers to share them.

An incentive, for example, could be a discount for your product subscription or a free upgrade, whatever makes sense to your specific case. You will then track the referral links to learn who shared the links and what were the results.


C H A P T E R – 2

How to Find Social Media Influencers

Now that you understand more about the different types of influencer marketing programs and the results you should see across the sales funnel, it is time to find the right influencers for your brand.

I know that you may not know where to start looking…but don’t worry!

I’ll walk you through the whole process.

There are many methods you can use to find influencers and some of them are free and some are paid.

The paid methods speed up the process (and usually involve using an influencer identification tool) but there are still some effective free methods you can try out.

So let’s dive in…

1. Follow the trail

If you already know some industry influencers, spend some time understanding why they are relevant to your brand.

Once you know your ‘whys’ you can start identifying other similar influencers.

A very useful tool for this on Twitter is Twitonomy.

You can use this tool to enter an influencer’s Twitter handle and see the people they’re interacting with the most.

These are likely to be other influencers.

2.  Set up monitoring

Using a tool such as Brand24 you can set up monitoring across the web and social channels to track mentions of particular words.

These could be your main keywords (words that best describe your product or service) or even branded keywords from your competitors.

You can then see who is talking about these topics and Brand24 will show you an estimated influence score for these people.

This is an easy way to find influencers who are already discussing your topic or your competitors online. They should be talking about you, too!

3.  Use an influencer identification tool

An influencer identification tool is a quick way of finding the most relevant influencers.

You can search for influencers with a tool like GroupHigh to find bloggers in your niche. This tool has a huge database of blogs that you can search through to find the bloggers that would be the best fit for your campaign.

Like with any other search engine, you’ll get the most relevant results by searching the right keywords.  

For example:

If you search for finance writer, you will get a list of people who write about finance-related topics together with the number of followers they have on major social media platforms.

The tool also has many filters available so you can narrow down your list of influencers by location, social accounts available, MozRank, tactics they use (sponsored posts, guest post), and more.

Traackr is also another useful tool for finding influencers. It has a great search functionality for identifying influencers and a very useful relationship funnel which helps track your engagement with the influencers.


4. Perform a good ol’ Google search

When you search online for the keywords that are very relevant to your business, which websites appear all the time at the top of the search results?

These are probably influential websites.

You need to find out who’s behind those websites and then you can start evaluating their influence and if they are a competitor or someone you could collaborate with on an influencer campaign.

5. Do a research on social media

When you spend time on social media, key influencers in your industry will naturally stand out and their content will show up in your feed.

But, there are also some shortcuts to help you quickly build up your list.

For example, Twitter Lists can be a great source of influencers.

You can visit the Twitter profile of a major influencer in your industry, click on “Lists” and you’ll see the lists they follow, as well as the Twitter lists they’ve been added to by others.

The latter will most likely be a ready-made list of industry influencers. It really is that simple!

Want to learn more? Read this article about tools that will help you find relevant influencers on Twitter.

On Facebook, you can look at some of the popular/active groups relevant to your product or service and find out who is running them. There’s a good chance that these people are experts in this domain and have influence over an engaged audience interested in your topic.

6. Track Industry events

Who are all the speakers and sponsors at the major events in your industry? What are the names that consistently appear? They are the influencers in your industry!

Make a list of those people and take action in the online world (consume their content, comment on their work, share their articles on social, mention them in your tweets, etc.) before meeting them at an event.  


C H A P T E R – 3

How to Evaluate Influencers

As you build up your list of influencers, some of those people will be a great choice for your brand and others not so much.   

To figure out who among the influencers on your list you should reach out to, you need to evaluate them first.

You want to see how influential they are.

We have created a simple framework that you can follow to evaluate influencers.

To identify the most valuable influencers for your brand you need to look at the following:

  • Website authority
  • Relevance & Interest
  • Social Authority
  • Quality of content
  • Track record

When you’re evaluating influencers, I recommend that for each one you assign a score on the 1-100 scale for every assessment category we listed above, and then add all the scores up at the end.

From a weighting point of view, the topics are broad enough so that each category gets the same weighting as part of the overall formula.  

The ‘relevance and interest’ category should be treated differently from the other categories. If someone has a really high authority (web and social) and a great track record of working with brands, but their content has zero relevance and the influencer obviously has no interest in what you’re promoting, then it doesn’t really matter what the other scores are.

They are not going to be a good choice for you and you should just rule these people out immediately.  

Website authority

There are a lot of social media influencers that are very influential on social but don’t get a lot of traffic on their website.

In an ideal scenario, they’d have influence on both the web and social media.

If they are not as influential on social media channels they may have influence through their website which will improve their score.

There are 2 main options for measuring authority of the website.

  • Getting access to their analytics
  • Using an SEO tool to review them

Getting access to their analytics

If the influencer gives you read only access to their analytics and they have set up everything you’d expect a professional to have in place, you’ll be able to see the following:

  1. Traffic generated to recent content that is relevant to your business –  It’s great if they get 100’s of thousands of visitors but this could be from old, irrelevant content they wrote years ago.

    You want to see the amount of traffic their recent, relevant posts are getting. This will give you an idea of the kind of traffic you can expect to get from the content they create in collaboration with your brand.

  2. Goals achieved –  When you create content you’ll have a specific goal in mind. For example, to generate email subscribers, clicks on ads, product purchases, etc. You’ll want to see that the blog posts you’re evaluating on their site have achieved similar goals.
  3. Engagement metrics –  Do people hang out on the influencer’s site or disappear as soon as they arrive? How many pages are they browsing through and what actions are they taking? This will tell you how engaged the influencer’s readers are.
  4. Email list –  An email list is a great way of getting access to an audience. What is the size of the list and the profile of subscribers? What are the stats for email campaigns they’re running in terms of open rate, click-through rate, etc.?  

Using an SEO tool

Even if you have access to the influencer’s analytics it’s still useful to do a review with an SEO tool. And if you don’t have access to the analytics you have no other choice but to rely on a third party tool.

In case that you don’t have the time or skills to perform an in-depth evaluation with an SEO tool, you can easily see the estimated overall authority of an influencer’s website with many of the available tools.

Let see exactly how this works:

The authority of a website is calculated based on a number of different ranking factors and one of the main ones is the number of inbound links a website has. If the website has a lot of links from external, high-authority websites in a similar niche, the authority number goes up.

When the authority score of a website is high, it means it’s typically easier to rank for content.

For example:

If I use Ahrefs (great tool) to assess the authority of a website, this is what I’ll get:


The Ahrefs Rank is a ranking system which is based on the analysis of all the websites that Ahrefs have indexed (millions of websites).

Number 1 is the highest ranked website.

The UR is related to the strength/authority of the home page and it’s ranked on a 1-100 scale.

The DR is the domain rank which is an indicator of the authority of the website, also on a 1-100 scale. The domain rank is calculated based on the number of backlinks to the website and it’s link profile.

SEMRush is another great SEO tool and they provide a similar website authority ranking system. Knowing the authority of a website is a good high-level indicator of the strength of any domain and, since it’s ranked out of 100, it fits perfectly with our framework.

Other SEO analysis

If you want to do some further SEO analysis of the influencer’s website you may look at things like:

  • Who is linking to the website – you want to see who they associate themselves with
  • What is the average number of shares for recent relevant articles
  • How many links from other authority sites those articles earned, etc.

Relevance & Interest

An influencer has 10 million followers and 1 million monthly visitors to their website.

You’re excited.

But….

The content they’re creating and the audience they attract is totally irrelevant to your campaign goals.

They also show no interest in the topics you are involved in.

Unfortunately, their influence score is zero and it’s time to take them out of the diamond of influence.

If they published content around your product or your brand they’d probably still drive some engagement and interest, but this is just the wrong person to deal with.

Time to move on.

But, if that’s not the case, you need to do some some more research and decide on a score to give to this person.

You should look at the following:

  • Is there an obvious interest in the topics you want to promote?
  • How often do they talk about these topics?
  • What are the engagement levels like for these type of topics?
  • Do they have an authentic voice that your target audience can relate to?

Social Authority

Some people have a lot of influence on social media and an authoritative website, too.

Others have high authority on social media but a neglected web presence.

And there are some people who have a strong web presence but a poor social presence.

The influence rating system takes this into account.

From a social authority point of view, you need to assess their level of influence across each of the social accounts.  

Here are the main factors you need to take into account:

  • Number of followers –  I know you’ll hear that the number of followers doesn’t matter but it can matter. On its own, it’s not an interesting factor, but in combination with other factors it’s very important.
  • Audience –  So they have 10,000 followers but their audience is not the audience you want to attract. This automatically makes them a less interesting choice for your brand.
  • Engagement – Are people engaging and what are they saying? There could be high engagement but it could all be negative. This is the atmosphere you definitely don’t want around your brand. You’re looking for a high level of positive engagement!

Quality of content

You want to associate your brand with an influencer who produces super high quality content.

You can evaluate the quality of content by:

  1. Reading plenty of the influencer’s content to get a feel for the quality
  2. Look at how many people are sharing the content and what they’re saying about it
  3. Look at the link profile of recent content. If the content is high quality people will link to it.
  4. Look at the comments people leave on the influencer’s post across social channels.

Track Record

This is a really important but often skipped over factor.

What has this influencer done with clients in the past?

Is there any proof of how valuable/useful their collaboration was?

A good influencer will not only have testimonials from companies they have worked with, but they will also have be able to provide a report on the campaign.

Look:

The reason why many influencers don’t track the results they generate for brands is because they either don’t know how to (which is not good) or the results were not that good!

You want to work with people who have a proven track record of success working with brands.

This will give you a piece of mind that the influencer you’re working with will help create a positive perception of your brand among their social media audience.


C H A P T E R – 4

How to Reach Out and Engage with Influencers

Most people who know all the tricks of the trade for identifying influencers (you’re one of them now!) usually end up with a pretty long list.

So, I recommend that you narrow your list down to the most relevant influencers for the program you want to run and reach out to those people.  

If you want to dip your toe in the influencer marketing first, you can start by reaching out to influencers and see if you can work with them on a smaller project on a no paid basis. For example, you can create a piece of content and ask for a quote from influencers.

However, if you’re running a bigger project, influencers will charge a fee and ideally you’ll want to try before you buy!

Run a smaller part of a big project on a no fee basis and then, based on the results, you can extend the relationship and agree on a fee for a full project.

When you’re sending an initial outreach email to influencers make it clear that:

  • You’ve done your research – Learning about the influencer and then crafting a personalized message will set you apart from a large majority of people who send the same, generic emails to everyone.
  • You mention it’s a paid partnership – If you’re running a bigger influencer program, i.e. you’re looking for a brand ambassador, make that clear in your email. You need to answer what’s in it for them.
  • You’re open to discuss – As a representative of your brand, you need to let them know you’re open to exploring different collaboration opportunities so they feel appreciated from the get go.

If the influencer agrees to work with you, the next step is creating an agreement. Here are some of things the agreement should include:

  1. Payment agreed
  2. Goals/targets set out
  3. Description of the agreed work to be done
  4. Rules to be followed (e.g. mention affiliation, compliance with FTC)
  5. Description of campaigns
  6. Length of contract
  7. Confidentiality and exclusivity

After the agreement has been signed by both your company and the influencer, you start executing the campaigns.  


C H A P T E R – 5

How to Measure the Results

Earlier on we talked about different stages of the ‘Influencer Sales Funnel’ and the KIPs you need to measure for each of the funnel stages.

Let’s summarize this one more time:

Stage Measurement
Awareness Increased visits to website.
Increased conversations about the brand
Increased fans/followers
Consideration Improved brand reputation
Generated enquiries, trials
Decisions Higher proposal rates from interested prospects
Action Higher conversion rates than cold channels
Advocacy Generated referrals from existing customers

Now, let’s look at some practical tips for measuring success.

1. Unique promo codes

Provide a unique promo code to the influencer so that you can track all visits/sales from this code. The code offers a discount or some added value for buying your product or service.

For example:

An influencer is a guest on a podcast and mentions they have a special discount code for a product.  

The listener uses that promo code and, because it is unique to the influencer, you can easily attribute that sale to a specific influencer campaign.

2.  Provide unique links

You can also provide trackable links.

For example, if you’re offering affiliate revenue for product sales to the influencer, you can sign up to a program on a site such as Getambassador and they will provide you with unique links.  

You can then track all the traffic, clicks and revenue generated.

If you don’t want to go through that expense, you can provide UTM’ trackable links.

Instead of just sending them a link to promote a page on your site, you send them a link with some additional information that defines where the link comes from e.g. Campaign and Name of the influencer.

This will enable you to track website visits that came as a result of your influencer campaign under the campaign section within Google Analytics.

3.  Set up goals

When you get traffic you can set up goals in Google Analytics to track the results of that traffic.

For example:

If you use unique trackable links to separate the traffic data into campaigns within Google Analytics and you set up goals, you can then see the conversion from this traffic.

Setting up Goals may require advanced knowledge of Google Analytics…

But worry not!

You’ll know how to do it after reading my post on Setting up Goals in GA.

4.  Monitor mentions, engagement and follower growth

Regardless of the amount of traffic an influencer drives to your site, there’s a different kind of value you get when they share content about your brand or your product.

This value is measured in mentions of your product on social channels, the level of engagement that’s happening around influencer-generated content, and the growth of your follower base.

These are the three main KPIs to measure if you want to understand how influencer campaign impacted a) brand awareness and b) brand perception among your target audiences.

Valuable KPIs that are Difficult to Measure

Agorapulse have an influencer ambassador program in which a group of people that love their product support the product’s growth in different ways.

And sometimes, these efforts are hard to track and measure.  

Here are some examples:

  • Someone posts a question in a private group asking for recommendations for a social media management tool. An influencer mentions Agorapulse and that person and many other group members see the recommendation from the influencer which carries a lot of weight.
  • An influencer is attending an event and attendees ask them what tools they use for managing social media.
  • A bunch of influencers in the social media space are all recommending the same tool so this adds extra weight and sticks in to people’s minds when they are evaluating different tools.
Want to build a successful influencer program?  Need help finding, evaluating and working with social media influencers?  
Click here to find out how we can help.

S U M M A R Y

Identifying the right social media influencers for your brand is the foundation of a successful partnership and a successful influencer program.  

After reading this guide you have all the knowledge you need to confidently take that first step.

And not only that!

You’ll know how to measure the value that the influencer program created for your business.

Now it’s your turn to capitalize on the benefits of working with social media influencers.

Trust me. You’ll be glad you did.

The post Social Media Influencers: How to Find, Evaluate and Work with Social Media Influencers appeared first on RazorSocial.

Social Media Influencers: How to Find, Evaluate and Work with Social Media Influencers