Category : Best Practices

Influencer Outreach Best Practices: Preparing the Pitch

preparing the pitch | Influencer outreach best practices

photo credit: Waldo Jaquith via photopin cc

Taking time to prepare a great brief or “pitch” to send to influencers for your outreach campaign is well worth the effort.   Sprinting ahead and inviting influencers to participate in a poorly presented campaign with minimal or sometimes even no compensation is like trying to build a house on an unstable foundation.  The end result will unfortunately not meet your expectations and your experience will be negatively biased.

We know that high quality influencers get pitched many times a week.  Most of the invitations they receive are ignored because they can tell from the quality of the pitch and the mode of compensation that participation is simply a waste of their time.  The good influencers are just like most of us – strapped for time and not interested in “spam-like” requests to blog about a product because they’re given “unique content” to blog about.

In this next post on our influencer outreach best practices series, we’ll cover how to prepare the pitch.

Assigning Roles in the Pitch Process

Assign the role of sending the pitch out to someone who is social.  Not someone who knows about social or knows how to do social.  Rather you want the person responsible for this to be social – someone who loves to be immersed in the social blogosphere and naturally shares and converses on-line – all the time.  This is not a minor point.

We’ve seen very senior and very socially savvy and smart marketers be responsible for pulling together campaigns and they can fail.  Primarily because this isn’t their natural way of thinking and acting and therefore it isn’t given enough time and effort.  Outreach campaigns, to be great, should be driven by someone who loves to be social.

Preparing a Brief

The brief is an important part of pitching an influencer, as this is what will give them all of the required information to form a decision of whether or not they will work with you.  Build your pitch from the strategic plan of the campaign, and write in a comprehensive and easy to understand brief.  Influencers will respond to briefs that have a catchy headline, provide clear and achievable objectives, and outline the key information and how the campaign will be measured.  And of course, it’s very important to address compensation.  When you are deciding how to compensate, you should consider:

Pitching your Brief

Once you’ve created your brief, you will want to pitch the influencers that reach your target audience.  Don’t make the mistake of pitching influencers based only on their popularity, profile, reputation, proximity, availability, or total audience.   We have seen marketers pay large sums of money to influencers whose audience is inactive, fake, over-reported, reaches the wrong demographic or lives in the wrong market or even country.

Base your influencer selection on authenticated real audience data that is vetted for fakers, level of engagement, quality of writing and content, experience working with brands, and their credibility in their category of expertise.

Once you’ve selected and researched your roster of influencers, add a personal message to each influencer that you invite to participate in your campaign.  You are entering into the discipline of Influencer Relationship Management (IRM), which is similar to CRM.  In order to get the best results, make sure you’ve got all of the relevant data on the influencer in order to send a great introduction with your brief.

Conclusion

Good influencers are in high-demand and they can help you achieve your online objectives.  In fact, for many marketers, influencer outreach provides them with the best ROI as compared to all their other media and marketing channels.   In order to set the wheels in motion and headed in the right direction, start with a great pitch.  Your response rates will be 80% or higher, you will earn higher share of voice with the influencer, and at the end of the day you will have a successful campaign.

If you’re interested in finding out more about what we do, request a 30-day free trial!

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Top 5 Questions Marketers Have About Influencer Outreach

top 5 questions marketers have about influencer outreachWe’ve learned a lot about influencer outreach since our inception in Fall 2012. We’ve talked directly to marketing and PR professionals to develop our beta release, and we’ve had many questions from prospects since then. Our Account Executive, Daniel Fanaberia (@danielfanaberia) gets great insights from all of you about influencer outreach, and it seems like there are certain questions that keep popping up in discussions. Here are the top 5 questions marketers have about influencer outreach, taken right from the trenches:

1. How much should I pay influencers?

This question pops up in every single discussion we have with marketing and PR professionals. Paid influencer outreach has been around for a while, but since not everyone does paid outreach, there aren’t really any standards on what compensation should be.

You should always pay influencers for their time. It doesn’t matter what you offer them in free products, there is a time component that goes into reviewing, forming an opinion, writing a draft, proofing, editing, making sure everything is in an authentic voice, and then publishing. If you’re not paying for the influencer’s time, they won’t put the effort into it.

From what we learned by talking to PR professionals, bloggers, freelancers, and influencers, a basic sponsored post goes for anywhere between $150-$250. Add in some social shares, giveaways, responding to comments, promoting the post, driving conversions, etc., and you are looking at a major time investment on the influencer’s part. We’ve seen basic sponsored posts + social promotion campaigns go from $250-$500 per influencer, on average.

But again, this is based on time. If you’re asking for Youtube videos, or asking them to go on a 3-day trip with all sorts of schedules, you can expect to pay more. The more time it will take on the influencer’s end, the higher the rates. Also, some influencers with larger reach will charge more.

2. What if they write negative content about my brand?

What?!? Influencers would actually do that? Yes, they will, and it’s not a bad thing.

An influencer has a reputation to protect. If they come across anything they didn’t like about your product or experience, they’ll report it. If they don’t, and they only praise the positive side of the review, they’ll lose trust. If one of their readers tries the product based on the review, and it’s not what the influencer described, it won’t go over well!

Negativity in a review sets realistic expectations. Danny Brown has a great example on his review of InNetwork. He praises the features he likes about our platform, but also mentioned what we were missing. Reporting the negative can actually be more beneficial, because the readers take the review seriously. If everything is positive, they might take it with a grain of salt. Add negativity, and the review becomes real.

3. How can I know the influencer will get back once I reached out?

If you do your research, you treat the influencer as a person, you treat them as an INDIVIDUAL (don’t mass spam influencers, they each have their own style), you should at least hear back from them. If an influencer doesn’t get back to you, it could be due to one of the following reasons:

  • You didn’t personalize the email  – saying “Hey,” or “Dear webmaster,” or “Dear admin” is the worst thing you can do. If you’re not addressing the influencer as a person, don’t expect a response back.
  • Reference their work – show that you’ve actually been on their site. Show that you know who they are. Reference what you LOVE about them, and how great THEY are. Send an individual email, not a cookie-cutter type spam-mail.
  • Make sure they’re relevant to your brand – a lot of times, marketers reach out to influencers because they have huge audiences, but the influencer’s topics are completely irrelevant to the brand. Influencers won’t respond if your product is not relevant to their readers.
  • Make it clear what you want from them – name the brand you’re working with, name the product, say exactly what you’re looking to accomplish with this relationship.
  • Reference compensation – influencers get emails all the time about product reviews. I get at least 20 a week on my own blog, and I don’t answer back to most of them. Why? Because they don’t mention any type of compensation. If you’re not paying cash, you can automatically expect 50% of people won’t respond. If you’re making a low-ball offer, don’t expect a response either.

What’s important to remember when reaching out is to make your whole pitch about THEM. The influencer is King/Queen, not you. If your pitch is about yourself, and not the influencer, don’t expect much will happen.

4. How do we monitor influencers once they start the campaign?

That’s a good question! You should set a follow-up schedule. Don’t just ask them to do something for you, and then go cold. Once in a while, email them, tweet at them, etc.,  and ask how things are going, what’s new, and if they can send you updates on the campaign.

Also, you can set-up feeds in Hootsuite to monitor their twitter presence. Like their Facebook page, follow them on Pinterest, G+, etc., and subscribe to their newsletter/RSS feeds. This will allow you to keep track of the influencer and your brand.

5. How can we tell if there’s a conflict of interest or if they’re working with competing brands?

The top influencers work with a lot of companies. They have dedicated themselves to their online properties, and brands want to work with them. Chances are, they’ve been approached by a competitor before.

You can usually tell who the influencer worked with by going to their blog, and looking through their giveaway, sponsored posts, and reviews sections. If there are any mentions of brands on the influencer’s blog, it’s usually from a campaign. Make sure you look through their online properties and see if they’re working with your competitors.

If you’re not sure, you could always ask. Influencers that take this seriously and care about their reputations will be honest.

Conclusion

So there you go! These are the top 5 questions marketers currently have about influencer outreach. What are your questions about influencer outreach? Leave them in the comments below!

If you’re interested in learning more about influencer outreach, you can subscribe to our newsletter. If you’re interested in testing out our software, request a 30-day free trial!

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Influencer Outreach Best Practices: Preparing a Strategic Plan

Influencer Outreach CampaignsInfluencer outreach campaigns are often run as part of a broader marketing plan, integrated with a variety of other media and public relations tactics in order to extend reach. For the purposes of this article the focus is on influencer outreach best practices for preparing a strategic plan.

Know Your Audience

Always start with your customers and the audience that you want to reach.  In addition to basic demographic data, spend time to understand their psychographics.  What motivates them, what interests do they have, what type of reaction can you expect, who will they listen to, how are they influenced, what are their media habits, how do they make purchase decisions?

These questions are not always obvious or easy to answer.  Be careful not to work in a vacuum and assume you know what makes your customers tick.  In order to generate real insights, you can do any of the following:

  • Monitor and listen to social media
  • Engage with your audience online – ask them questions
  • Speak to them – either call them or talk to them face to face
  • Observe them
  • Monitor the tone that your three major competitors use in their marketing communications
  • Run research or focus groups

As you prepare your strategy, remember to always reflect back on your customer.  To quote Peter Drucker, “The purpose of business is to create a customer.”  Never forget this, get close to your customer and you will always be grounded in building strategy around what matters.

Analyze your Market

Take a look at your competitors and what they’re doing in social media.  Limit it to three.  You may want to do a simple SWOT analysis on each of them.  Another approach is the “Blue Ocean Strategy” that essentially takes you through a process to find an uncontested market space and create new demands through “Value Innovation”.  Find a way to differentiate and at the same time, provide more value and you will be rewarded with an unprecedented loyal and growing base of customers.

Other market factors that should be reviewed include the surrounding political environment, economic status, cultural trends, hot geographic segments, and trends in media and communications.  You don’t have to go extremely deep into all of these categories; it will depend on your brand and the marketplace that you compete in.

Define Your Goals / Be Realistic

Now that you have a clear picture of your audience, take time to define measurable goals.  Be single minded (don’t set more than three), the more focused the better. Otherwise, you will end up with a watered down campaign.  In the case of outreach your options for setting goals includes:

  • Emotional impact / sentiment
  • Receptivity of influencer content
  • Impressions / CPM
  • Level of Engagement (Likes / Re-tweets)
  • ROI of campaign based on goals (conversions)

We strongly recommend establishing reasonable goals and committing to influencer outreach for the long-term.  Plan on running campaigns for 12 to 18 months or longer before you judge results and draw conclusions.  Learn from the mistakes you make and adjust ongoing.

Reaching your online tribe of consumers requires an investment of time.  Your audience is committed to online and once you start outreach they expect you to be committed as well.  For success, it’s key that your audience see’s your commitment and similarly, they’ll see through any attempt to take more than you give.

Develop your Idea and Prepare the Influencer Brief

If you get anything from this article remember this – be creative and innovative, think outside of the box, tug on emotions, invoke humor, show passion (it’s contagious), give without the expectation of receiving.

strategy brief

In the brief, you will outline the campaign, its objectives, and the story you want the influencers to tell.  This is your opportunity to grab the influencers’ attention and inspire them to commit to accepting the brief and working with you.  During this phase you must come to a consensus around influencer compensation.

Develop Your Action Plan

Okay – so now comes the fun part after you’ve done all of your research and defined your goals, it’s time to build your action plan and activities.  This includes the “who, what, where, when and how”.   Specify who is doing what and by when; make sure you build in regular status reviews.

Assign a project leader.  Make sure you have the right person managing the brief implementation. Find someone who is “into social”, into the idea and into the brand.  I’ve seen campaigns fail because the marketer is not engaged enough, because they are distracted or don’t see outreach as a priority.

Marketers have the opportunity to generate a very efficient ROI, just look at brands that are conducting outreach all the time like Maple Leaf Foods and Dell.  These brands continue to use outreach because they see the return.

Monitor, Measure and Adjust

The final phase is to prepare a post-campaign analysis.  This gives you a view on how your campaign performed relative to the defined objectives.  It should also give you the details on each Influencer; which ones performed the best and why. Information should be laid out in a language that the entire team understands.  Be sure to provide definitions to avoid any confusion.

reporting strategy

Meet with your team to review the report – both its content and layout.  First get feedback on the report format to make sure you’ve got all the information you need.  Secondly, review the campaign performance.  Where did things go right and where did they go wrong?  What should we do differently next time?  What influencers should we invest in and cultivate a long-term relationship with?  Was our compensation appropriate?

The learning from each campaign is used to refine and adjust your next campaign. Influencer outreach is growing and as you, the marketer, get better at running outreach campaigns you will be able to ride the next wave of marketing profitably.

How do you prepare your influence marketing strategy? Have you ever done blogger outreach campaigns? What are your influencer outreach best practices? Please leave a comment below!

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Agencies: How To Pitch Influencer Outreach To Clients

WHO (1)

 

pitching your clients

Photo credit by kthypryn

Influencer outreach has added another option for agencies to consider and make a recommendation on to their clients. This, on top of an already complex and fast-changing media landscape, has agencies wondering: “just how do I convince my client that influencer outreach should be added to the marketing mix?”

Here are the best reasons to give to clients:

Influencer Outreach Works

Influencers have been around since the beginning of time. Whether it’s a column in a newspaper, a comment by a celebrity or expert, a conversation at a cocktail party or reading a blog – it’s all influence. The content that the influencer writes has an impact on the actions you take – specifically as it relates to your product or service. Influence is persuasive yet subtle.

Most people don’t give it a second thought but when you probe deeply into the psyche of why I drive a Lexus or why I eat organic celery, it’s because I’ve listened and felt the sentiment based on what people have said.

Influencer’s are a Channel – To your Audience!

If I’m paying the broadcaster of the Blue Jays game to read a sponsorship message at a series of games over 26 weeks, why am I doing this? Or if I send media releases to 25 newspapers, Internet sites and publications, it boils down to the same thing – we want to reach our target audience. Ditto for influencer outreach, with the exception that we’re moving closer to the one-to-one marketing paradigm.

With influencer outreach you can get much closer to your customer by receiving endorsements from the people or “influencers” that are trusted. People ask me for opinions all the time and you know, I love to give them passionately when my audience is sincere. Influencers can move you, they can motivate.

Build a Long-Term Strategy

Invest the time and energy into outreach as you would to any comparable channel and it will pay back – in a measureable way. Clients who have been running outreach campaigns over the long-term are, well, running campaigns for the long term. Why? Because they know they pay back. But they also know they take time and an investment of resources.

I would suggest when talking to any of your client’s about outreach that it’s an investment that takes 6 to 18 months to fully develop and see pay-back on. Clients will learn, they will build relationships with the influencers that matter, and they will start to see that the efficiencies reported through CPM’s or conversions are better than any other channel. You’ve just got to invest and give it a chance.

Outreach Campaigns are Tactful and Moral

Interestingly, there are many “purists” who suggest that paying influencers is wrong. That once influencers are “compensated,” their influence has less meaning and less impact. This is NOT the case. Outreach campaigns are as legitimate as any other form of marketing. Professional bloggers, like those on InNetwork, know how to tactfully and frankly advise their readers that they are being paid. And guess what, it’s just as easy as that. A reader takes the information in, understands the relationship, and reads about the topic they are interested in.

The perception of remaining objective while commenting on, endorsing or even promoting your brand is why influencers have a growing and faithful audience. The best influencers, the ones you want to work with, will say no to the briefs that don’t fit with their values and will accept those that they know they can.

To receive more tips about influencer outreach, subscribe to our newsletter! If you’re interested in trying out our tool, make sure to request a demo (it’s free)!

What are your tips on successfully pitching your clients about influencer outreach? Please share in the comments below!

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Influencer Outreach Best Practices: Sponsored Posts and SEO

sponsored posts and SEO

photo credit: MoneyBlogNewz via photopin cc

With influencer and blogger outreach becoming more and more popular each day, it’s important that we review some guidelines to make sure both brands and influencers are doing outreach properly. Something to take into consideration are sponsored posts and SEO.

There has been a lot of talk lately about companies being penalized for advertorials. Back in February, Interflora received some major PageRank penalties from Google for not obeying their webmaster guidelines. Not only that, but the news websites that posted the advertorials on behalf of the company received penalties as well, making their PageRank go down to zero.If you have a PageRank of zero, your website doesn’t show up on Google’s search engine. This is a big deal!

Advertorials and sponsored posts are not considered natural linking. Natural linking is when a blogger (or publication) links to a brand’s site because they like the brand. Unnatural linking is any type of exchange (either paid, or products) in return for a post and a link. This might be considered as link scheming by Google. Link schemes can take a major toll on your brand’s PageRank, and page rank of any publication involved.

Just like you would let your readers know about a sponsored post by disclosing that you’re working with brands, you need to let search engines know of sponsored links. So how should you do this? Matt Cutts explains what you should do about advertorials:

How To Let Google Know About Sponsored Posts

A couple friends of mine, Brent Carnduff (@BrentCarnduff) and Brien Shanahan (@BrienShanahan) explained that “You should make all links from the post and your site “no follow” links. You should also have a disclaimer somewhere on the post that it is a sponsored post. Google is cracking down on any linking practices that seem unnatural or could be viewed as “buying” links.”

Nofollow is a value that can be assigned to the rel="" attribute of an HTML <a> element to instruct some search engines that a hyperlink should not influence the link target’s ranking in the search engine’s index.

You can rel=”nofollow” any sponsored links pretty easily by adding this to the HTML hyperlink tag:

E.g. <a href="http://innetwork.net" rel="nofollow">Sponsored by InNetwork</a>

This will tell Google that they should not count this link attribution when they are looking at ranking for the InNetwork website. If you do not do this, it gives an unfair advantage to the brand’s website, as Google will count this in their ranking factor.

In Conclusion

So let’s recap. If you’re an influencer writing a sponsored post, or you’re a marketer wanting to buy an advertorial, you need to make sure that two things happen:

  1. The publication discloses to the audience that the post is an “Advertorial” or “Sponsored.”
  2. Let search engines know it’s a sponsored post by adding rel="nofollow" to the HTML tags on links.

It’s the marketer’s job to make sure that they tell the influencer to do this (not all influencers might know about this). To protect both the brand’s website and the influencer’s website, make sure you take these extra step for sponsored posts and SEO when you do blogger outreach.

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