Influencer marketing is a must-do strategy for many of our clients. Speaking from experience, it’s a super-effective way to promote content, gain backlinks and drive brand awareness with new audiences.
While our more established clients have the budget to pay for influencer partnerships, our fintech and finserv startups usually require a scrappier, lower-cost approach. Fortunately, organic (i.e. unpaid) influencer strategy is actually one of the easier ways to get everyone in the company involved in marketing—including uber-busy founders and C-level employees.
Whether you’re a financial marketer or a startup founder/CEO yourself, you may be wondering where to start. Here’s the approach we use with our clients to get founders in on the influencer action.
If you’re already familiar with the term, you can skip to the next section. But a lot of startup founders have understandably been focused on other things, so a brief explanation may be in order.
To quote the experts at TapInfluence, “Influencer marketing is a type of marketing that focuses on using key leaders to drive your brand’s message to the larger market. Rather than marketing directly to a large group of consumers, you instead inspire / hire / pay influencers to get out the word for you.”
Basically, influencer marketing is the practice of getting people/entities who already talk to your target audience (bloggers, journalists, authors, companies) to promote your products, services and content to those people. An oft-cited example is a Kim Kardashian-eque celebrity sharing an Instagram photo of her favorite alcoholic beverage/hair-growth vitamins/denim brand. When Kim tells her audience to buy something, they do it in droves.
However, as a financial startup, your influencer marketing will work a bit differently (sorry, Kardashian fans). For one thing, you probably don’t have the budget to pay a huge celebrity to hawk your wares. Second, as a financial company, a set-up like this is usually a brand mismatch. For the most part, you’ll want to skip the ingénues and focus on influencers who have some kind of expertise—and captive audience—in your space.
Okay, so you’ve bought into the influencer marketing thing, and you’re ready to learn how founders can help. Here are a few level-setting tips that everyone needs to know up-front.
Spend some time up front compiling a list of potential influencers to target. For founders, it usually helps to start with people you already follow on a regular basis. Are there blogs, publications or writers you read each morning on your commute? Do you subscribe to any email newsletters or listen to podcasts? Are there people in your space (not direct competitors) who you admire?
As a reminder, influencers can be:
Your list can start small and grow over time as you uncover new opportunities. Also, don’t feel confined to just the financial industry—the most important thing is that your influencers are people and companies you genuinely want to connect with.
You only have a limited time to spend, so you need to know where to focus your efforts.
How to evaluate an influencer
How many social media followers/subscribers do they have?
Do they cover topics related to your product/services?
Are they philosophically aligned with your brand?
Have they highlighted, mentioned and/or linked to your competitors and/or other brands in your space?
Take an hour to follow your chosen influencers on Twitter. Just Twitter. Why? Because you don’t have time to follow them across multiple platforms, and Twitter is usually a catch-all for most of their content. Plus, it’s easier to mention and message influencers on Twitter than other social mediums.
After you’ve followed your chosen influencers, you’re ready to “listen,” which basically just means reading the stuff they tweet about. You can use a tool like Hootsuite to create a newsfeed of your influencers’ tweets, or simply use your Twitter feed if you don’t want to learn a whole new tool. Twitter also allows you to create private and public lists, which makes it easier to separate your influencers from the other folks you follow.
Now for the fun part! This can take a little practice and will probably feel awkward at first, but you’ll be a pro in no time.
Engaging simply means responding to what influencers are saying. For example, if someone tweets about a blog post they wrote, you can:
You can probably see how all of these things serve to a) get you and your company on the radar of that influencer and b) give the influencer something of value, paving the way for them to give you something of value, too.
You can also engage high-priority influencer directly. For example:
Just kidding. It’s best to master one platform—in this case mostly Twitter and maybe some LinkedIn—before you worry about the others. You’re busy running a company—let your marketing team ‘be everywhere’ for you.
As for tracking success, your biggest goal right now is to get into a regular cadence of listening and engaging with influencers, even if it just means retweeting the articles you like once a week. You’ll be surprised how many Twitter followers you’ll gain organically with minimal-but-regular effort. Over time, as you connect with influencers on a personal level, your company will reap the benefits in terms of mentions and links.