VerticalResponse marketing team members, Ellery and Colleen, recently attended the BlogWorld Expo in Los Angeles. This is the first in a series of posts on their learnings from the conference.

A recurring theme at this year’s BlogWorld Expo was the importance of identifying and engaging online influencers to talk about your brand and, hopefully, help to build buzz around it. Influencers come in many forms, but bloggers and other active social networkers with large followings in particular, have the potential to put your company in front of a whole new audience. While services like Klout and PeerIndex exist to help make locating influencers easier, most BWE participants stressed that these ratings can only be part of the bigger picture when identifying influencers, and that no single metric will tell the whole story when it comes to finding the right ones for your publicity campaigns.

Once you’ve found a group of influencers to reach out to though, how do you contact and engage them in such a way that they’ll want to talk about your brand or product? Is sending free samples or offering endorsement deals enough in a very crowded market? These are exactly the questions that Arik Hanson and Greg Swan addressed in their BlogWorld session, Blogs, Bribes, and Blasphemy: Engaging Influencers in a Changing World. The takeaway: simply broadcasting your message through a megaphone and hoping it gets picked up just isn’t enough in today’s marketing environment. You need to cultivate and engage influencers in meaningful and impactful ways.

So where do you start? In their excellent session, Arik and Greg outlined ten steps to a successful influencer engagement strategy:

  1. Personalize/individualize
  2. Be brief, very brief
  3. Don’t solely focus on the “A-listers”
  4. Don’t forget about offline activities
  5. Make your ask compelling
  6. Lead with them, not you
  7. Collaborate, don’t preach
  8. Always have a follow-up ask
  9. Disclose paid relationships
  10. Measure, evaluate, adjust

You can see the entire slide deck and commentary over on Arik’s blog, which has more details and clarifications on each point. Influencer outreach programs are a necessity in today’s marketing world, but like anything else there are right ways and wrong ways to approach it. Putting some time into thinking about how best to engage influencers is a worthy investment towards a successful outreach strategy.

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