Neal Schaffer

Social Media Influencer Engagement: A Quick Guide To Best Practices

Video Transcription

Hi everybody, this is Neal Schaffer and I want to personally welcome you to the Outreach Marketing Summit. Because this is a summit on outreach marketing, I thought it would be the most appropriate to share with you my reflections both as working on behalf of clients as well as brands reaching out to me as an influencer to talk about what I think are best practices in social media engagement.

The hashtag for this event you should already know. It’s right there in the bottom of the screen, #outreachmarketing. My handle is @NealSchaffer. Anything you want to share with your network or if you have any questions, please make sure you use that hashtag. If it’s a question for me, please obviously use my user name.

Let’s get started. As with everything in social media, I like to talk about the why before we talk about the how. This presentation whether you’re a beginner in influencer outreach or you’ve already done it for a number of years or even a few months on a number of campaigns, I’m hoping that this gives you an opportunity to do a reset on what you’ve been doing.

Once we get deeper into the why, I think it’s going to help us become more effective at the how. Social media influencers are important because of the time we spend online… This data is from 2012. I wish more recent data existed. I can’t find it. Probably a quarter of our time we spend online is in social media. When I speak around the world I ask people, do you spend more time online than watching T.V.?

Regardless of age these days or even country, the answer is the majority of us are spending more time online than watching T.V. Of the time we spend online, the most is in social media. The average might be 25%, but obviously for some demographics, it’s much higher. With that in mind, it’s not just about social media, the time we spend online. We have online searches. We’re reading content. We have e-mail. In the world of marketing, for online searches, you do SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

For discovering content, you have a content-marketing strategy. You have an e-mail marketing strategy because e-mails are still important. For social media, often as part of a social media marketing strategy, you have a social media presence where you create brands, profiles, and sites, and you post from them. You’re only able to reach a certain amount of people. In order to broaden your reach, you have a number of things at your disposal.

You have paid social obviously to advertise. You have employee advocacy, which we’re talking about a lot these days. As part of these other things that you can be doing, you also have influencer outreach. This obviously is something that can help augment your social media marketing strategy. I don’t think it’s going to be everything that you do. If you do it the right way, it can considerably accelerate your social media marketing efforts.

For some of the 25% of the time we spend online in social media, for a lot of these users, social media is their gateway to information. When they want to look for news, they go to Twitter. When they want to look for something to buy, they go to Pinterest. It has the same effect on them as T.V. and traditional media had on earlier generations like me. I’m a gen-Xer. Sorry for aging myself.

It really does yield the same influence with certain people. It’s not traditional media yielding this influence. It’s certain users inside social networks that are utilizing or yielding the influence. These are the influencers that we should try to reach out to that are relevant to our brand or product. We also have to remember that in social networks, we are the ones that are often producing or sharing the media. We are the media.

It’s not like traditional media where only a few T.V. stations or a few radio stations were producing the content. Often we are producing the content that we are also sharing. In this aspect, the influencers are not only people that are active in social media, but often they are the ones that are creating and producing the content. This is another reason why… and I’ll get into it later…

I prefer to work with content creators when it comes to influencer outreach. In the situation where we are the media, you can see how these influencers in some ways become as influential in some circles as traditional media has in the past. Before we go into any of this, I also want to remind people that social media was made for people, not for businesses.

As a business, you’re always going to be at a disadvantage, especially when you engage with influencers. You need to learn to deal with people at a human level. Those of us that have experience in sales or customer services are probably experienced at doing this. If you don’t have that experience, it may be a challenge because marketers are used to… especially in traditional marketing, it’s sort of we control the brand and we tell them what we want them to hear.

We know that social media has changed it. When you get into unique engagement with unique users, you need to remember that you’re always at a disadvantage and pay the highest respect and be as personable and human as you can when you start to engage with people. This is my own human engagement with you. That is me right there front and center in a T-shirt, wearing jeans. It’s hard to see, but I’m actually wearing flip flops. This is an example.

This is something called Connect O.C. that me and a number of friends in Orange County, California…who actually met through social media…ended up doing a non-profit fundraiser promoting is solely through social media. That generated a few thousand dollars in fundraising and we ended up getting several hundred people to our event. This was all done through social media and the people we met through social media.

This is the type of power and the type of influence that people can have in social media that hopefully you can use for the benefit of your brand. Now if you’ve read Maximize Your Social or heard about my experience, I am what you would call a social media strategy consultant. I always start with a strategy first. It’s all about PDCA, plan, do, check, action. The strategy is the plan.

We need to think strategically about our influencer marketing. These are some of the questions that you need to ask yourself, beginning with the objectives. What are we trying to achieve? If we know what we’re trying to achieve, we can not only track the ROI (return on investment) of what we’re doing and how to improve upon that in the future, but we also know what we would like these influencers that we reach out to, to do for us. This is critical.

You’re not going to say, will you re-tweet for us. When you reach out to them, you’re able to manage expectations and able to steer the conversation in a way where what activities and actions they do in social media is going to help you reach your business objectives. Now the target. What should the influencer, the ideal person look like? What should their profile look like? I’ve worked with a brand that wanted to reach out to mommy bloggers.

There are a hundred different types of mommy bloggers. It’s not just one distinct type that covers everybody. The more you know about that person that you want to reach out to on behalf of becoming a brand ambassador, influencer for your company, obviously the better it’s going to be to help you reach those business objectives. What is the context? What should these people be talking about?

You want to make sure that whatever they’re going to say about your company or brand fits in naturally with what they’re already talking about because they may be influential in one area but if you want them to talk about something else, they’re going to yield nearly the influential power that others that are purely speaking about that subject will yield. Reach. Who should be following them?

What type of community should they have? Who should be in that community? Who are the people that engage with them? Are they targets? At the end of the day, influencers will yield action. Influencers will influence people to take action. The people that are already engaging with them in social media are probably going to be a similar type of person that is going to act upon their influence or advice.

Who are these people? Are they appropriate to your brand? It’s also important because when we talk about reach, anybody can spend a little money and buy thousands of followers. It comes down to does it have any meaning? Influencers must influence action. Let’s start crunching some data. We hear about big data. I often use the term big social data. It’s not at the same amount of data that you need to process here.

We do need to crunch some numbers so that we are trying to engage with the right people that make sense to help us reach our business objective. It starts with creating a short list, so that we understand who the right target is. How do we go about searching for people? If we’re trying to find social media influencers, doesn’t it make sense that we search for them in social media and make sure that they appear in social media?

That’s my first advice. Search for them on Facebook and even if they don’t show up in Facebook graph search, because it’s not the same as a Twitter or LinkedIn search, when you find out about them, look at them on Facebook. What sort of reach do they have? Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google Plus. See where they’re active on these platforms. What sort of influence and reach do they have? Who are they engaging with and what have you?

Obviously talking about the power of those that create content because if they work with you and create content on behalf of you, it is going to give your brand, your influencer outreach, long-term benefits because now your content, your brand is going to be indexed by the search engines. It also makes it easier for the influencers as well as others to share content because it sits in a digital archive, which is on a web site on a blog.

That’s why I prefer, if there’s two equal influencers out there, I prefer those that are the ones that are creating unique content. It’s not a necessity for some brands, but this is just my own personal preference and what I believe is the best practice based on my experience. Whose name appears elsewhere?

There a number of blogs where there are multiple contributors like Maximize Social Business, my own blog, or Social Media Examiner, Social Media Today, what have you. Are they showing up there? Are there people interviewing them? When you do a Google search, where do they show up? Where do they show up outside of their own web sites? Who’s talking about them? What sort of influence does it seem like they yield on what type of people?

It really starts with searching and creating a short list. Once we have a short list, then it’s time to really look at what data matters. It’s not just a single Klout score that’s going to matter here, although social influence is one thing that we should consider among many, many other factors, social reach, number of followers, but more importantly the engagement, the numbers of reactive engagement.

How many people are actually responding and re-tweeting and at mentioning them and talking about them in social media? How many are engaging with them? It’s a critical thing that we need to understand because we want a lot of people to engage with your content when they start sharing it with their network. Blog authority, if they’re a content creator.

How popular are their blogs? We have some free tools that can help us determine that. What is the domain or page authority? This is sort of from an SEO perspective. On a scale of one to 100, how much influence does their digital archive, or blog, or web site have? The frequency of engagement. How often are they blogging? How often are they posting to social media? How often are they actually engaging with others in social media? This is critical.

If they’re only blogging once every six months, they may not have a lot of people that are waiting for their next blog post. On the other hand, if they blog 20 times a day, a blog post about your brand is probably going to be irrelevant in the scope of things. It may be lost. The same goes with their posting on social media platforms and their engagement with others because you want someone who’s going to be actively engaging when people ask about your brand, when they’re talking about it.

You want them to engage back with them. If they’re just talking and not listening, I don’t think that’s going to be the right person that you want to engage with as part of your influencer outreach program. I talked about a lot of this data. There are a number of tools that can help you crunch this data and help to make it efficient for you to manage this data and your short list and your history of engagement with influencers.

I am not being paid in any way by Group High to take part in this conference. I’m not a Group High employee. I’ve never worked for them. I’ve never even used their tool in all honestly. I do know that if I was looking for such a tool, this tool is a timesaver. I do think for those of you that are interested in saving time or finding a more efficient tool that you definitely look into group high. I’ll stop there.

You have your short list. You’ve crunched your data. Who should you start engaging with? I say engage with the engagers. Those that come at the top of your list are probably those that every other brand has tried to engage with. They may not be engaging back with everybody. You may be a small fly in terms of their entire spectrum of things. If you’re just trying to get in, especially if you’re a new brand, engage with those that engage back with you. Engage with those that are engaging with others.

I think these people are going to give you the best bang for your buck in influencer marketing, even if they may not have the same influence as the top five people on your list. If you reach out to someone in the top five and they don’t give you 100% of their effort, it’s not going to be that influential of an effort anyway. Engage the engagers. Send social signals. It kills me when brands reach out to me and they send me a direct message.

They’ve never re-tweeted one of my tweets. They never at mentioned me. I don’t see them even follow me. Maybe they follow me just to send me a direct message, or they reached out to me via my contact form without previously engaging with me in social, yet they want me to engage on behalf of them in social. It drives me crazy and it drives a lot of influencers crazy.

The sad part about it is you have a tremendous opportunity just to follow and re-tweet and include influencers as part of your content-creation strategy and your engagement strategy. Send social signals. Build a relationship with them. Then when you reach out to them it’s going to help you become more effective.

When you reach out to them, I just want to say, just because they followed you back, it doesn’t give you permission to immediately, or should you immediately try to get them to buy into whatever campaign you want to do. It takes time to develop relationships with others in social media just like it does in real life. Take your time. Build a rapport. Build an engagement through social signals, and wait for the right timing and opportunity.

Guess what? The reason why others are building trust with influencers…and obviously people buy from people they know, like, and trust, and they’re influenced from people they know, like, and trust. Guess what? It takes time to build trust. It’s consistency of effort. It takes time to get liked and to be known. This slide actually has a different meaning when I normally present, but it takes time, and I think that’s the main message here.

It’s no different from your relationship with them as with how they influence others and how they’ve generated relationships with others both inside and outside social media. The other thing to consider is that influencers are normal people just like you and me but they’re abnormally busy. You need to understand that. They may not get back to you right away.

You need to be concise and to the point as to what sort of relationship you want. Always be cognizant of that and I think it’s going to help you a lot more in your engagement. Just like if there’s a customer service problem on Twitter, how the customer service reps will want to take the conversation from social to e-mail and to phone, you should be doing the same thing.

Once you decide you want to create rapport and generate direct engagement about your campaign, start with social media. Try to move on to e-mail. Ideally move to phone or even video chat, like Skype or Google Plus Hangouts. It’s going to give you the best way to develop a deeper relationship. It’s going to help you increase the chance that they’re going to want to work with you and increase the effectiveness and impact of whatever campaign you do together because it’s going to be more human.

You’re going to be able to create a deeper relationship that way. The etiquette of contact is not rocket science. It’s about human relationships, about being clear and concise. These are abnormally busy people. What do you want to discuss? Why should it interest them? What would you like them to do? It’s very simple. We take part in an industry.

We have a unique chocolate chip cookie recipe and they’re organic and they use premier ingredients, and we know that you promote a lot of dessert recipes online and you have a large following. It would just be an honor if somehow we could work together. If you could just try our cookies. It should interest you because we know that you already have a Pinterest board about chocolate chip cookies.

You’ve already done some research here, so you know that it’s a natural fit. You say all we want you to do is, we’re just going to send you a box for you to give away to your fans. First try them and only give them away if you think it has value. Start from there but be clear as to what you want them to do. More importantly, what’s in it for them? What’s in it for me?

What are they going to get out of it? Guess what? Not everybody is in it for the freebies. Influencers, really influential people have access to a lot of freebies. That doesn’t interest them. It’s exclusivity, exclusive access. Sometimes it’s previews of new products, internal interviews, internal tours, cross promotion between you and them. Maybe it’s just the fact that you give them credibility if you’re a major brand, just for the fact that you’re working together with them.

It’s about providing value. There’s a lot of different ways to do that. Here are just some examples. Think outside of the box. That’s going to help you develop I think the deepest relationship. Really it’s about opening up your brand to them. The more you expose your brand to them, the deeper relationship, and I think the more natural affinity, not only are they going to have for your brand, but also in their influencers marketing efforts or campaign, whatever you want them to do.

This is an example of how All Nippon Airways opened me as a brand ambassador some time ago. I apologize for the low resolution of the images. Bringing me into their maintenance facility at Tokyo Airport, letting me stand in front of engines, see how they maintain planes, let me ask their engineers is a 787 really safe to fly or not, inviting me to a VIP event only for the media…we are the media…announcing this new Inspiration of Japan service, or on the right with my fellow influencers from Geek Beat T.V. with Cali Lewis and Yukari Peerless of actually letting us attend cabin-attendant training at their cabin-attendant training facility in Tokyo.

That is as far open as you can expose your brand as possible. Guess what? I went ahead and had a meeting with their marketing team and they wanted LinkedIn advice. They wanted to know more about Google Plus. I’m more than happy to provide it to them. I’ve already built a relationship with them. I naturally wanted to help them. This is the relationship you want.

In fact, let’s take it one step further. You want them to become a brand ambassador to the point where they would actually write on their LinkedIn profile, as Yukari Peerless has done, that they represent you and they are proud to represent you. Make someone want to become part of your outreach through this sort of a formalized program, like what All Nippon Airways did with their brand ambassador program.

Remember influencer marketing should not be a one-night stand. It is a long-term relationship. It’s always about adding value in a long-term. It’s going to help that influencer promote you on a more regular basis. It’s going to be more natural. You are naturally going to part of whatever they talk about. I don’t know how frequently that’ll happen, but you can see how influencer marketing campaigns when done right, should have long-lasting impact.

Don’t just think short term for anything social media. Think about the long term and always look for ways to add value and maximize your relationships. That was a really quick 20 minutes. I hope you enjoyed the presentation. I tend to speak fast because I have a lot of content to share, as you can see. Feel free to reach out to me on any of these channels. Send me an e-mail. If you have any questions, unfortunately I can’t.

I really want to answer them right now over this video but the technological issues in the platform do not allow me to do that in real time. You’re going to have to tweet at me. Use the #outreachmarketing. Make sure you use my handle @NealShaffer. Wherever you are in the world, I wish you the best of luck at maximizing your relationships with influencers and really just in general maximizing your social. Bye-bye everybody.