A colleague and I got to talking about the crucial steps that must be taken to ensure social media (and to some extent, SEO) success. As we talked, we both realized that while many marketers have figured out one of these crucial steps – content strategy – far fewer recognize and put work into an equally crucial facet.
I call this facet influencer strategy.
In a nutshell, influencer strategy is all about planning ahead and figuring who the key influencers in a given vertical are and then putting together plan of action on how to establish contact, then establish rapport, then establish a working relationship with said influencers. Incidentally, for those that might be a curious, I define an influencer as an online entity (could be a blogger with a large readership, a Twitter user with a large follower count, or even a brand with a strong online community hub of some sort) that caters to your consumer base, has a wide reach, and is capable of getting a lot of people to view and/or engage with your content.
In some respects, this is much tougher than outlining a content strategy. Why? Because content strategy has been around for a long time and so the methodology is fairly well-defined. Moreover, it’s success or failure isn’t dependent on relationships with third parties. What I mean by that second point is that if you create solid content that caters to your consumer base and is based on analysis of existing site traffic and behavior you have a good chance of being able to produce measurable ROI, whereas with influencer strategy, even a well-researched and planned approach could still easily fail if you are unable to curry favor with the influencers in your given niche.
I’m not saying that content strategy is easy, because I have a lot of respect for people that build smart content strategies for a living. What I am saying, however, is that it’s counterpart – influencer strategy – provides a perceptibly difficult challenge for the enterprising online marketer. And it’s a necessary challenge because cultivating relationships with influencers is one of the only sure-fire ways to ensure that your content (e.g. the product of your content strategy) is shared via social channels with enough frequency and ferocity to make a measurable impact on your marketing success metrics.
Don’t believe me? Take a closer look at some of your favorite brands or bloggers in the online marketing space (the fine folks at SEOMoz for example). What you’ll find is that they’ve cultivated so many relationships with so many influencers in the online marketing space (bloggers, Twitter power users, etc.) that virtually every piece of content they create is assured a massive amount of sharing. Not to say that they don’t put out good content (they definitely put effort into their content strategy). It’s just that their network of influencers that are primed and ready to share and advocate on their behalf give them an almost unfair advantage.
An advantage that leads to a steady stream of quality traffic as well as their fair share of inbound links and mentions.
Amassing this type of social leverage takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, which again, makes for quite the marketing challenge. But rest assured that the reward is the type of marketing equity that returns dividends more or less forever.