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Research by LEWIS PR shows that 53% of marketers that actively use social media in their campaigns have approached online influencers over the last 12 months. But, 55% of them indicated they have little to no understanding of which of these online influencers are relevant to them. Clearly, there is groundwork to be done if marketers are to be successful in engaging with an online influencer. Before you begin the process, you have to clearly define the goals of why you’re looking to work together. An influencer is not a puppet or mouthpiece to echo high praise for your company. Influencers are important because they are reputable voices that can help spread your brand’s messaging and can connect your brand to new, relevant audiences by tapping into their targeted networks. So, how do you work with online influencers? Look for influencers internally first – Ask for recommendations from internal staff as they may already have company evangelists on the team. Look through any internal forums or online communities. Then, look externally – Identify influencers who have wide direct reach. Look for people who maintain high-traffic blogs, have large Twitter followings or manage popular LinkedIn groups. You can also work with a person who has a smaller online presence but still has an established reputation within a community because of their high level of expert knowledge. You can find these people through sites like Tweepz, Technorati, LinkedIn, Twitter Lists, Google blogs, and forums. Be original – Create an editorial strategy so you consistently have original content to promote and work with the influencers to brainstorm topics for their content such as long form content including blogs, videos, how-tos, tips and tricks, webinars and Q&As; and short content such as tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn discussions.

Create credibility by being authentic – Working with influencers helps build credibility in a specific community. This means the influencer needs to remain honest. Clearly communicate to the influencer that if they are ever approached by a community member and asked if they have a relationship with your company, they have to say yes. Make the offer of something good in return – You can look to ‘compensate’ the chosen influencer by offering information such as early access to a product or materials; access to people in the form of one-to-ones with executives, keynote speakers, meetups or product managers; social opportunities including happy hours, mixers or networking events; and recognition: feature them in your community and elevate their status on social media. Maintain a strong two-way relationship – If your influencer is writing content for you, find other ways you could promote them. This might include retweeting their content or mentioning their handle in tweets, tagging them in photos or wall posts on Facebook, or connecting them to other teams in your company that might be of interest to them. A successful influencer program will help amplify your message to a targeted audience. Spend some time at the beginning to craft a thoughtful outreach strategy and use the points above as a launching point. Once you establish initial contact and have developed a rapport with an influencer, stay on course and work on turning this into a mutually beneficial long-term working relationship.

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