When I tell clients to build their influencer network yesterday I’m actually not being sarcastic. I say this because so many brands have advocates and fans already in place—they’ve just not created a beneficial marketing relationships with them.

Think of influencer identification as having two branches.

One branch is the identification of new partners. It involves checking in with buyer personas and outlining which verticals of social influencers will be able to be your marketing middle man and say cool things about your brand.

The other branch holds all of your authentic influencers. The people who already like you. This branch is strong because of the sincerity, authenticity and actual brand relationship already in place. There is not a focus on size or reach because an authentic word of mouth shout out to two hundred people is more effective than a shout out that was “called in” to two thousand people.

So, how do you build, identify and activate the people who already like you? Just follow my patented five step plan and you’ll be on your way to uber influencer network power in no time.

1. Be a social lurker

We all do it. Lurking around social media to see what people we don’t even know are talking about is just part of the job.

To find authentic influencers you need to have a very solid monitoring plan in place. From uncovering bloggers who have written about your product or service to social media shout outs, lurking uncovers a treasure trove of authentic influencers.

When you identify these people, a tactful outreach needs to take place.

Tweeting, emailing, commenting, etc. back and thanking them for their kind words is a great place to start.

From there vet them. Make sure they don’t have controversial content (unless that’s what you’re going for) and check out the aesthetics of their blog or social history.

2. Hang out with current followers

Tapping in to your current social following and making the most of those relationships is an easy to implement strategy that gets overlooked too often.

Whether you email your list of contacts or send out some tweets and Facebook messages, be transparent and tell your fans that you want to foster a stronger relationship.

3. Dig up a little happiness

 

  1. Have a meeting with all of your customer facing staff.
  2. Brainstorm so hard that your head hurts.
  3. Come up with a list of your happiest consumers as these are your most valuable marketing resources.

4. Creative planning

Now that you know where to find your branch of authentic influencers, it’s time to creatively activate them.

Simply contacting without the creative process lined up is just silly, ya know?

Before making contact think of three ways that you could make their lives better—if the focus is on the consumers your relationship is off to a great start.

  • The reward: This is simple. Blogging and social media shout outs aren’t charity. In the beginning of an outreach effort make sure you tell your influencers exactly what it is you are giving and what it is you’re asking to get. 
  • The execution: How and when you want your network to mention your brand. This step of the plan takes in to consideration digital footprint and equipping influencers with the right visual assets and experience to make a great post. 
  • The continuation: How can you turn this in to a project instead of a mere campaign? Tell your network you would like to work with them on an ongoing basis (they’ll appreciate that) and figure out a creative way that your contacts can post and talk about your brand more than once.

    5. Make official contact

 

 

Be clear that you appreciate their “fandom” and that you will be giving them some cool free stuff and shout outs for their ongoing word of mouth recommendations.

Reach out to them individually. Start by telling them how much their advocacy is appreciated and be transparent and explain that you simply want to share their happiness. Either ask them how they’d like to work with you or give them your idea of a plan that benefits you both.

I see a lot of brands offer an exclusive ongoing discount or sending gift cards every quarter etc.

If you’re feeling really fun, give your happy customer network a name. Email them once a month and give them updates, ask for their feedback, etc. Really make them feel like a part of your brand instead of an extension of your brand.

Simply maintaining ongoing communication with your current fans keeps you on their brain and gives them a little nudge to talk about you more often socially. It’s amazing how little effort it takes for a brand to get people who already like them to send out some shout outs.

The only thing to be cautious of is making sure you don’t ask too much without giving. Balanced relationships are what life is all about…

What creative tactics do you implement to identify and activate your current network of brand fans? Please add your input in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!