Use Events to Connect with Influencers

Social media has shifted the balance of power between customers and brands. A study by Nielsen found 90 percent of consumers trust peer recommendation—while only 33 percent trust ads. One result of peer recommendations and social media playing such a major role in purchasing decisions is that influencer marketing is gaining popularity. And what better way to engage with influencers you’d normally only interact with online than through face-to-face events?

Ann Handley
, chief content officer of MarketingProfs, defines influencer marketing as, “The process of connecting with ‘influencers’ – people who have large followings in certain niches and can affect opinion—to increase the visibility of your own products or services.” Influencers can be loyal customers, brand advocates, or even your own employees.

A large following alone doesn’t make someone the right influencer for a specific company. They should be chosen based on their ability to make your specific target audience take actions that benefit your business.

Put Influencer Marketing to Work for You

First, you’ll need to identify potential influencers to connect with. “Find individuals whose message aligns with your own, and ideally those who have recognition within your audience,” says Ashley Zeckman, director of agency marketing at TopRank.

Before an event, use tools such as those on the following list to identify a small group of ten to twenty possible influencers. Chances are you already know some industry influencers—and they may even be in your or your colleagues’ LinkedIn network.

  • Search BuzzSumo, Followerwonk, or Google.
  • Monitor popular industry keywords and hashtags to see who is leading or participating in conversations.
  • Review speakers and panel members from the event program.
  • Poll customers to identify what they consider their best sources of information (blogs, who they follow on Twitter, etc.).
  • Ask company executives if they have relationships with any potential influencers.

Set the Stage to Connect with Influencers

Once you’re ready to reach out to the influencers you’ve identified, you’re ready to enter what Zeckman calls “the courting phase.”

Before you reach out, figure out something of value your company can offer in order to receive something in return. As Handley notes, “Too many businesses focus on what the influencer can do for them, rather than how they can help the influencer.”

Build the relationship slowly:

  • Follow them on Twitter.
  • Like their Facebook page or Instagram account.
  • Subscribe to their blog.
  • Favorite, retweet and share their content.
  • Mention them in your own posts.
  • Find other ways to actively engage with them.

After you’ve established a connection, invite the influencer to attend your event. You can use the information you learned about the influencer through your research to tailor the invitation to their interests:

  • Entice them with a sneak-peek of what will be happening.
  • Send special swag.
  • Add them to the guest list for your exclusive hospitality party.

Deepen Influencer Relationships:

Once you’ve connected with your influencers, use the in-person opportunity to take your relationships to the next level.

  • Host a special event where they can experience of your brand.
  • Make meaningful introductions to fellow industry experts or KOLs.
  • Gather their feedback or input during a Q&A session.
  • Give them an exclusive interview with one of your company experts.
  • Provide an early preview to a new product release.
  • Interview them for your blog.
  • Capture photo and video to add to an event highlights reel.
  • Use Periscope to live-stream an interview.
  • Retweet, reply, follow and engage with any content they share during the event.

Finally, stay connected once your event is over:

  • Send a hand-written note or small gift as a thank you.
  • Use their social media handles in the post-event content you create.
  • Monitor them on social media and continue to share their links.
  • Send them emails with updates about your next event.
  • Refer them to others when it’s appropriate.

Nurture these relationships and they may turn out to be valuable—or even priceless.

Posted by Kristy Elisano | Request as a Speaker

Caffeine dependent Jersey girl. Inspired by creative risk takers and underdogs. Chief Marketing Officer, Doodle owner and lover of all things chocolate.