Find, link to your industry's online influencers

One way to give your small business a

One way to give your small business a gift is to find an online influencer -- someone who leads a crowd on a certain subject. "Their unofficial endorsement is more valuable than any banner ad or radio ad or TV spot," an expert says. (Credit: iStock)

Jamie Herzlich

Newsday columnist Jamie Herzlich Jamie Herzlich

Herzlich writes the Small Business column in Newsday.

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An endorsement from an "online influencer" can have a significant impact on a brand.

Consider Mommy bloggers and their influence when it comes to baby products.

Every industry has a set of online influencers. The key is finding them and being able to connect with them in a meaningful way, say experts.

"People trust people," explains Basil Puglisi, principal of PMG Interactive, a digital marketing consultancy in Center Moriches. "They don't trust advertisements."

So when you have an online influencer -- someone who leads a crowd on a certain subject -- "their unofficial endorsement is more valuable than any banner ad or radio ad or TV spot," says Puglisi, who serves on the international board of directors of the Social Media Club, a global educational organization.

Keep in mind an influencer doesn't have to be an industry powerhouse, experts say.

"These are people that haven't necessarily built an enormous audience but a very loyal and reliable audience," says Derek Skaletsky, chief opportunity officer for Traackr Inc., a San Francisco-based influencer marketing and relationship management platform.

Locating key people. To find influencers, you can use a service like Traackr, which can help identify influencers in key topics or conversations. Traackr starts at about $899 a month, Skaletsky says. While this may be steep for smaller firms, Skaletsky says they are "developing a solution to meet the needs of small businesses."

You can also use tools such as Kred, Klout and PeerIndex -- all social platforms for influence tracking, says Puglisi.

He's using Kred's free leader board feature to reach out to influencers to publicize a Social, Mobile, Analytics & Content Summit he's hosting at the New York Business Expo Oct. 17 at the Javits Center in Manhattan. Puglisi is offering the influencers perks such as comp tickets in return for sharing the event with their audiences.

Before reaching out to an influencer, get to know what they like. Start following them on social media, suggests Arthur Germain, principal at Communication Strategy Group, an East Northport-based brand marketing agency. Subscribe to their blog or newsletter, he says; ask a question or make a comment on their blog or even send them an email.

When Germain started his business in 2005, he emailed social media guru Chris Brogan asking if he had any recommendations for people Germain should follow on Twitter. Brogan responded instantly, he says.

Germain says he's used LinkedIn Today to find influencers. The tool is free; based on your profile, it shows you posts and news from thought leaders that may be of interest to you, he explains.

Tools like these can be helpful, but remember that not all influencers will want to connect with you and some that do may want something in exchange, such as money or products in return for blogging/talking about your company.

Going your own way. That's why Michael Brito, senior vice president of social business strategy for Edelman Digital in San Francisco, suggests a different approach.

Consider creating your own community of influencer "advocates," he says, from customers who already have a strong affinity to your brand.

Using a tool like Simply Measured, identify the highest engagers among your social networks, says Brito, author of the upcoming "Your Brand, The Next Media Company" (Pearson; $24.99).

Reach out to these people individually; maybe create a private Facebook group for them, he says. Tell them you want to build a more intimate relationship and eventually ask if they'd be open to sharing your content within their networks.


FAST FACT

To connect with influencers:

  • Embed their tweets in your posts.
  • Showcase the best of their content.
  • Poll a group of influencers and share the results.
  • Interview your influencers to give them a place to shine.

Source: Traackr: The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing and Influencer Strategy