Last month we kicked off the first installment of TrendKite’s Triple Threat Webinar Series: Key Influencers: Identifying & Tracking Impactful Contacts. During that webcast, we threw a polling question to the audience to find out what poses the biggest obstacle to identifying and tracking influencers. We discovered that 51% of our audience said that lacking context to find influencers was the biggest struggle.
Was this a surprise? Somewhat. Given the massive investment we’re seeing marketing executives make in their technology stack, especially analytical tools, I figured ‘context’ would be pretty much covered. Nevertheless, this new insight provided a great lead-in to the discussion about identifying & tracking impactful contacts.
My partner in crime for this webcast was David Perdue, Senior Vice President, or Product and Development at TrendKite. (Note to self: There’s nothing like confusing an audience with two ‘David’s’ on a webcast.) Our goal for the webinar was to provide some good nuggets of insight to the audience from the mind of the technology expert who’s got analytics and ROI top of mind when he’s building tools for the modern PR Pro. This proved to be a bit of a different angle as most PR and Marketing professionals on the line were not used to tuning into webcasts that featured speakers with similar titles. But with CMOs increasing digital spend up to 75% of their marketing budgets over the next five years, we thought it was important to allow the technology expert share his insight.
We organized the discussion into a few parts and set things up as an open discussion with David covering topics like:
- Identifying Influencers for Your Brand
- Engaging Influencers
- Finding Influencers
- Tracking & Measuring Influencers
- Goals for Influencer Marketing
The Challenge of Traditional Advertising
As a PR or marketing Professional, unless you’re hiding under a rock, you know that traditional advertising is changing and becoming less and less effective. Ad blockers are common, and people simply don’t trust information coming directly from brands as much as they do information from third parties. This makes all types of earned media more valuable and important than ever before. As PR professionals, we know this. Our industry has always known that earned media is more valuable and now we have the technology to show it.
David sees and works with the technology that is changing traditional advertising now with the impediments of advertising. It’s getting harder to have your ads seen and to get it in front of the right audience. And because you can’t rely on traditional advertising to get your message out anymore, you now need to get into the stories your target audience is reading and sharing.
Reach and Engagement
One of the best ways to do that is influencer marketing. When we bring up the subject of influencers, lots of folks throw out names like Bono or Jay-Z. Celebrities like these can be powerful influencers, but if you sell medical equipment or software, they probably aren’t the right fit. You must consider who would logically be interested in telling their audience about your brand.
REACH: Reach in influence is very similar to the reach of a publication. The question here is if the influencer mentioned your brand, how many people would be likely to see it?
ENGAGEMENT: Reach is important, but the next thing to consider is whether or not the influencer’s audience takes action when presented with information. Does the audience engage with the influencer’s content? Do they share it?
Stating the obvious, technology is changing the way we find journalists and influencers. You’re already using analytics for tracking and benchmarking, for strategizing the impact of key messages and finding the bottom-line impact. Now, inject this into your outreach strategy, and you have more targeted personalized conversations.
You should not base your influencer strategy on name recognition and the publications they write for alone. It should be based on the impact of the stories that they write.
The new way to identify and target influencers is backed by analytics and big data, rather than legacy approaches equivalent to a White Pages for journalists. You need access to technology and data that will allow you to conduct outreached based on what journalists and influencers are actually writing about, rather than based on static filters and categories. From that, you should be able to understand which journalists and influencers have the most impact on the story you’re telling. Consider data like article impact, SEO impact, social amplification, and other criteria. This new alternative will give you the tools to radically increase your chances by reaching out in a personalized, relevant way.
So, when identifying an influencer for your brand remember:
- Review the impact of recent articles and understand the social reach.
- Find out the SEO impact of the publication. (Moz is a good resource for that.)
- Review the author's recent articles; are they still writing about your core topic?
Engaging Your Influencers
You’ve found them, now what are the best practices for engaging them? Keeping it simple there are three things to do: provide value, reciprocate and track.
PROVIDE VALUE: Influencers grow their reach and keep their audience interested by sharing relevant, useful content and insights. So that’s exactly what you need to give them. It’s OK to weave in your brand messages and identity, but make sure the content is educational or entertaining.
RECIPROCATE: Influencer marketing is about engagement, and it’s a two-way street. Be sure to promote the influencer’s content and channels. Comment on their posts and join the conversation.
TRACK: If you are engaged with many influencers, keeping track of what is going on with all of them can be a chore. Media monitoring software is a must. It should have alerts and the ability to differentiate important mentions from noise. The more you know about the influencer, the better you can engage them. You’ll want to track which stories they've written that have driven the most engagement. You can even provide them with information that they didn’t even know themselves.
Goals for Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is much more challenging than simply buying an ad. That may be part of the reason that it works so well. People know that when an influencer makes a recommendation or passes along information, it has been earned in some way. With thoughtful planning and the right tools, you can benefit from the shared interests of your influencers, audience, and brand.
How will you know that it’s working?
Increased website traffic: Undoubtedly someone on your team is already tracking website traffic, but it’s less likely that you are correctly attributing PR. The means tracking new unique visitors, returning visitors, mobile visitors, referrals from social, and goal conversions that are directly related to, or influenced by PR.
Shares: An important reason to engage influencers with an engaged network is to extend your reach, to a network outside of the one you are hitting daily/weekly/monthly.
Improved search results: PR is a potent tool for earning the backlinks, mentions, and engagement that signal your site's relevance to the search algorithms.
Nobody Puts PR in the Corner
You’ll hear this phrase a lot from me but I think it’s so true. In this fast moving digital age we live in and with the tools afforded to us, it’s imperative that we take advantage. We should all realize the need to accurately measure the effectiveness of our PR campaigns. For the better part of the last decade, marketing professionals have been inundated with solutions that span automation, customer relationship management, account-based marketing, and analytics.
PR analytics tools are sort of a “final frontier” for brands. It should go without saying, the impact of insights and analytics to successful PR campaigns can shape the way your organization is perceived in the marketplace.
In looking at a few reports recently, data analysts are suggesting the digital universe will be 40 times bigger by 2020. This is largely due to the vast increase of dark data, meaning all the unstructured data from the internet, social media, voice, and information from connected devices. As a direct result of this data explosion (and the lack of tools and skills to make sense of it), many executives feel overwhelmed and completely unprepared for the challenges their businesses are about to face.
That’s why it’s imperative that PR pros have the right analytics tools at their disposal to make a qualitative impact on the brand’s performance. We’re ready for that challenge and those to come.