How to Build a Social Media Influencer Network for Your Business

How to Build a Social Media Influencer Network for Your Business

One of the biggest challenges we marketers face when we first start with influencer marketing is the problem of discovery. After all, there are a lot of people who love to pitch products, but only a few are suitable for a given company. This can be due to a variety of factors, from affinity with a rival brand or being in a different niche, all the way to having fake engagement. If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that influencers used for our campaigns need to be both suitable and transparent. For that reason, I recommend that companies develop their own influencer network. Furthermore, I believe that even if you’re a solopreneur or small business you can benefit from this technique.

Let me show how you relatively easy it is to build your influencer network and some ideas to engage with it for mutual and long-term business value.

What Is a Social Media Influencer Network?

When many of us think of a network like this, their minds immediately go to agencies, platforms and influencer marketplaces where you can meet influencers. However, these websites and companies are generalized resources. In other words, they serve companies of all sizes and in various industries. Most of them aren’t specialists within an industry. Furthermore, with this kind of service you may not be working with influencers who have previously expressed interest in your brand.

When I talk about an influencer network, I am referring to a group of influencers that you’ve already made contact with in the past. You might not have engaged them for a campaign yet, but these are people you can activate when needed. Typically, they already have significant affinity with your brand. Perhaps they’re people you met at an industry conference, or they might have written rave reviews of your product on Amazon. No matter how you met them, the people in your influencer network are an important resource who value their relationship with your company.

Often you are sitting on a potential goldmine of an influencer network that exists inside your customer database, email marketing list, or even social media following.

How to Build Your Own Influencer Network

When building an influencer network, it’s important to keep the most important goal in mind: having people you can count on for a long time. This is in contrast to using agencies and influencer marketing platforms, because those mostly assume a one-shot deal. In fact, platforms will often serve as payment processors, which can sometimes make long term work more difficult. What if an influencer moves on or the company goes under? You can have a real problem on your hands. With that in mind, how can you build an influencer network effectively?

See who you already know

As with influencer discovery for one shot campaigns, people you know can often become valuable members of your influencer network. From customers to those on your list to your followers, it’s time to bring all of these groups that have positive brand affinity together and see what nano influencers or micro influencers you might be able to easily work with.

Alternately, you might reach out to employees or colleagues. Employee advocacy is a powerful tool, both for marketing and recruitment. For instance, employees will sometimes tell a friend who just lost a job or needs health insurance that what your company offers is excellent. This is an extension of the traditional job networking. Or, you might have an employee that is especially enthusiastic about his or her job because of the way in which they contribute to the product. Never overlook the resources in your backyard, especially those on your sales team if you are a B2B company.

Consider those who are recommending you already

This group can vary widely. For instance, sites like Yelp, Google Business, Angie’s List, and Amazon allow people to share their opinions about products and services. While many people post these reviews without a social media presence, some of them have large followings online. Or, they could be considered experts for other reasons. No matter why these people are influential, it may be advantageous for you to leverage this for your influencer network.

Here’s why this is a good idea. Generally speaking, people who post recommendations on this type of site purchased the item with their own money. Then, they went out of their way to talk about why the product or service is awesome. By engaging these people as influencers, you can take advantage of organic brand affinity. Plus, unless they’re used to monetizing their influence already, there isn’t the jaded “what’s in it for me?” attitude so common among some influencers. Instead, asking recommenders to partner with your brand harnesses the older legacy of people leaning on spontaneous reviews to weigh purchases.

Harness social media resources

Just because you’re looking close by for influencers doesn’t mean you should stop branching out. Instead, social media is a great place to find people for your influencer network. That’s because forming a network like this requires the use of influencer discovery techniques. To that end, you should always look for influencers with hashtags and other influencer marketing tools.

What’s the difference? You’re looking for the kind of influencer who prefers long term relationships with brands, rather than the one time collaboration or Instagram post. This means that when adding to your influencer network you’ll filter out the influencers who have demonstrated a short attention span. When you’ve found great candidates, you should contact them and see if they’d like to join your network.

Openly solicit influencers to sign up

Some well-established brands have a systematic way of letting influencers self-identify. In this case, the influencer comes to you and asks if you have any opportunities. There are a few examples of this practice. For instance, Amazon has an affiliate program that you can sign up for openly. This is a good way for them to identify affiliates with minimal effort. However, there’s an equally direct way to solicit for an influencer network. Best Buy has a dedicated influencer program, and there’s a link on their site that lets you sign up. On that page, they give you both a web form and a description of their expectations. Talk about the doctrine of no surprises!

How to Add Value to Your Social Media Influencer Network

Now that you’ve seen how to add to your influencer network, let’s take a look at how you can maximize its potential. As I’ve said before, influencer marketing is an art because of the importance of relationships. However, there are some proven techniques to help you along the way.

Give them freebies

A great way to show influencers that you appreciate their contributions is to give them freebies. While freebies can be part of their compensation, it’s also a great way to cultivate the relationship. Also, keep in mind that freebies don’t always have to be products and services, especially if you’re not using them as payment. For instance, you might send them some swag like a baseball cap with the company logo. Or a cute shopping bag that they can use as an eco-friendly advertisement around town. Besides showing an influencer that you appreciate them, a freebie encourages them to think about you even when they aren’t creating. This can cultivate loyalty over time.

Engage in reciprocity

In some situations, influencers have a company of their own in addition to being an influencer. For instance, I am an influencer, but I’m also a speaker, an author, and a consultant. Someone in the manufacturing space might be an influencer in addition to running their own factory. Depending on the compatibility between your business and theirs, you might consider doing reciprocal campaigns.

Let’s look at this as a concrete example. As a speaker, I do a lot of traveling. Most people who frequently travel for business have strong opinions on subjects such as airline customer service or lounge comfort. Or, they might find that a particular rental car company does a better job of having the right car for the right price. So, the travel company might help me out by sponsoring one of my podcast episodes. In return, I might talk about the awesome experience I had staying at their hotel last week. Another way for me to pay them back would be to highlight the newest city they’re extending service to. In this way, we’re supporting each other.

Check in with your influencer…randomly

Just as you would with some other business relationships, it’s important to check in with people on your influencer network. You don’t want them to think that the only reason you care about them is the potential for influencer accolades. At least, not if you want a long-term relationship. Instead, check in with them even when you don’t want or need something. That could mean wishing them happy birthday, congratulating their work anniversary on LinkedIn, or just liking something clever they said on social media.

Look at it this way: Your influencer network is made of people, and people prefer to be cordial. Your influencers aren’t just another customer who you hope buys your stuff. Rather, they’re an important part of your extended marketing team. As with employees, if influencers decide to stop working with you, it’s necessary to find another one. However, it can be even worse if you offend them. All it takes is one negative comment on social media, and you will have undone a lot of marketing progress.

Give them exclusive access

Are you getting ready to launch a new product, or announce an improvement to an existing one? If so, think about letting your influencer network try it out first. There are a couple ways to do this. For one, you can ask them for an opinion about the product before it hits the shelves. This works well, because it means you have a second set of eyes and an independent opinion. Maybe they’ll see a problem that you missed, and now you have a chance to fix it. Alternatively, the influencer might be able to give insight on the best aspects of your product for marketing purposes. In return, you might do something similar for their business.

How to Manage and Activate Your Social Media Influencer Network

Once you’ve built up relationships with your network of influencers, it’s time to start working with them on marketing projects. If you have cultivated your relationships properly, then activating them for your brand will seem like a logical next step. After all, promoting one another is a natural outgrowth of healthy relationships. It just looks different in business as opposed to personal friendships. Here are some ideas.

Product collaborations

This one’s really common in the beauty, fashion, and housewares industries. With a product collaboration, you and the influencer help develop a specially branded product line. You’ll often see these in stores as “John Smith X brand name” or “brand name by John Smith.” Typically, the brand provides their basic product specifications and the influencer will make special colors or designs. Alternatively, the brand can be the manufacturer of a design from scratch and take credit for that role.

Have them put in a good word

Another way to activate your influencer network is by having them speak about your product. This can be something like a conference presentation or a piece of social media content. Either way, they are recommending your product while also sharing their expertise. In this way, the audience gets value from consuming the content. Sometimes that’s in the form of know-how, and in other cases experiences with a product. Either way, everyone wins.

Be a guest on their blog or podcast

Especially in the professional services and B2B sectors, being a guest on an influencer’s forum is one of the best ways to activate your relationship with them. Here, the strategy is for their sphere of influence to see what you, and your company, are all about. In return, the audience gets great insights that can help them along the way. This is a technique that I employ on my blog and podcast all the time. As an added plus, the guest content is one more thing I don’t have to generate from scratch. Keep in mind, you can also take turns being a guest on each other’s forum.

As you can see, influencer networks are a valuable way to help your brand grow. At the same time, maintaining the network lets you build relationships with people that can last for many years.

Hero photo by Nicholas Green on Unsplash

Influencer Network FAQs

What are influencer networks?

Influencer networks refer to people or influencers you have previously made contact with and have a significant connection with your brand. Though you might not have had any campaign with them yet, you can run to them when needed. Influencer networks are important because they are your resources and have established a good relationship with your brand or company.

Who are the top 10 influencers?

These are the top 10 social media influencers based on their accumulated number of followers across their social media platforms. Topping the list is the most relevant football player today, Cristiano Ronaldo, who has a total of 484.3 million followers. Followed by Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian West, Beyonce, Felix Kjellberg aka PewDewPie, and Kylie Jenner.

How much do you pay an influencer?

There is no standard or fixed amount to pay an influencer if you want to do a campaign with him/her. Influencer’s rate/pay is determined by different factors such as his/her number of followers, type of content he/she needs to create, length of the campaign, which platform to post on, and others. So if you want to determine how much you should pay an influencer, you can use influencer calculators and negotiate with him/her.

How many followers do you need to be an influencer?

You can be considered an influencer if you have at least 10,000 followers. They are often referred to as nano-influencers, which are the smallest type of influencer according to follower count. If you want to be a social media influencer, know the niche/industry you want to focus on, and from there, determine which type of audience you should target. Moreover, create a content strategy and be consistent in creating quality content.

Can Instagram pay you?

Yes, Instagram can pay you and there are several ways to make money on the platform. The first way is by growing your Instagram followers and be an Instagram influencer. Be active and constantly engage with your followers so you will have a good reach. In relation to this, you can also do affiliate marketing. If you have a business. you can drive traffic from your IG account to your website or even promote it there.

If you're looking to do more with influencer marketing, why don't you build your own social media influencer network? Learn how here!
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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.
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