How to Cultivate a Team of Social Influencers

Only a decade ago, a small population had a smartphone; select university students knew about Facebook; and Instagram and Snapchat were futuristic phenomena. Fast-forward to 2016. The entire world of marketing and public relations—including how you market your event, association or hotel/venue—has changed. Reputations can be built (or broken) in an instant, thanks to sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. Bloggers and individuals who are hyperactive on social media sites now have a bigger reach than some major print publications, and new online outlets are popping up by the minute. Social influencers, or individuals with extremely large followings on social media channels, are becoming an integral part of a successful event communications plan or brand marketing strategy. Here are a few ways we at Heron Agency assist our clients with determining the best way to discover and work with social influencers.

Find relevant influencers for your brand.

First, think about your favorite news source, go to the website and look up journalists you like to read online. Generally, they will include social media handles in their bios so you can find them with ease. Visit their social media pages and see whom they interact with online; sometimes their connections will have large follower bases as well. Second, see what hashtags they are using. Click on those hashtags to discover other writers engaging in conversations online about the same topics. 

Define the best method for working together.

Are you looking for advance promotion of your event from an influencer who will blog, tweet and Instagram about it to help maximize your message to potential attendees? Lay out ahead of time what kind of coverage you are looking for, and then make sure your event message, theme or topic aligns with the influencers you reach out to.

Ensure they are legitimate and will provide the coverage you are anticipating. Research the social influencers you target. Learn what they cover and make sure their followers are actually engaging with their content. When reaching out (either via the email address listed in their bio or via the messenger option on the social media channel you are using), be upfront about what you are asking the influencer to provide.

Also detail what you’ll provide in exchange for your offer (tickets to your event, perks, payment, etc.). There should be a written agreement in place so there are no gray areas or confusion on either end. Working via email and social media messaging does not allow for tone of voice to come through, so a lot can be lost in translation if you are not absolutely clear.

To pay or not to pay?

This depends on your budget. Many influencers have made this their career; with the time and effort they have put into cultivating their brand and building a loyal follower base, they may ask for some form of payment in exchange. If a specific influencer with a large number of followers pairs perfectly with your brand, find out what options they have for paid exposure. If it fits within your marketing budget, try them out. Keep in mind that traditional PR and advertising have changed, and allocating dollars from a budget to include influencers can be a smart choice. Social influencers can range from $50 to $50,000—so be upfront at the beginning about your budget when discussing working together.

Track ROI.

If you choose to involve social influencers in your next advertising plan, try out a sponsored post with a trackable link, code or hashtag. The day the post goes up, look at your website analytics and social media follower counts. Are your new followers also followers of the influencer you partnered with? If you see a spike, you can probably attribute that to the influencer. These are good ways to see if this contact truly made an impact on your numbers and exposure. 

Maximize the messaging.

If you are going to make influencers a part of your event, have your own team ready on-site to help maximize their impact and reach. Make sure you like, share, retweet and more. This adds value to your investment.

Social media, especially social influencer relations, is still uncharted territory for many meeting professionals. If you are interested in an influencer component to your event but not sure where to start, many agencies can help associations develop and strategize plans. Check out agencies online and see how they connect their brand with social influencers. That’s usually a great place to start.

Lianne Wiker Hedditch is a vice president at Heron Agency, a Chicago-based firm of creative communication strategists and business storytellers. Connect with them on Twitter, @heronagency.