In a land far, far away, clients used to perceive influencer engagement as a nice added bonus.
As time goes by and influencers (either in the form of celebrity or niche bloggers) become a larger part of the conversation, engagement to said personalities has become a must-have for all PR strategies. The landscape has undoubtedly changed and it is our job as PR professionals to be able to engage and activate with influencers on behalf of our clients. That being said, it didn’t take long for said celebrities and bloggers to realize that there is a lot of money to be made from brands. This puts us in a pickle when clients expect this type of engagement to derive from your personal relationships as a PR professional.
Will Kim Kardashian post to her 50 million + followers about a brand just because they gifted her? Not likely. It’s important to manage expectations and communicate with your client what the current landscape is like. As hard as it may be, one has to peel back the curtain for brand managers and explain why somebody with millions of followers is unlikely to post without incentive.
You also don’t want your brand to seem inorganic or so desperate that they need to pay for traction. PR professionals (and increasingly, consumers) can spy these “paid for” posts from a mile away. No need to spot a “#spon” or “#ad” tag to figure out that slimming-tea post wasn’t organic.
Don’t throw your hands up just yet, there is a solution, but it will require some legwork on your end. Here are five ways to identify up and coming influencers:
1. Become an expert in the field. You need to be constantly apprised of the landscape your client is trying to gain notoriety in. Read everything you can get your hands on and start engaging the new players. Is your client in the food business? Monitor sites like Eater.com and start following the chefs attached to every new and notable opening they report on. Engage them via social media. Strike up conversations. Genuine interaction will lead to genuine posts. You want to have their ear before they reach celebrity chef status.
2. Instagram takeovers. Follow all of the media giants (Huffington Post, Yahoo, Refinery29, etc.) and likeminded brands in your client’s sector. Who is taking over their Instagram? Online personalities agree to these takeovers because they rationalize that the account they are taking over has a larger following (aka they are looking to up their own following). Pay attention to these people, follow them yourself and again, engage, engage, engage!
3. Don’t be afraid to use tools. The internet of things has made it incredibly easy for us to monitor niche interests. Figure out what these tools are in the specific field you are pursuing and use them. A great starting point is http://anewstip.com/. This handy tool works for all fields and can monitor keywords used in social media.
4. Figure out what they use, then use it to your advantage. Different industries have different tools that social influencers have in order to monetize their posts. You have a fashion client? Every blogger in this niche field uses http://liketoknow.it/. Follow them (@liketoknow.it) as they profile a good number of up and comers who won’t yet command fees to post.
5. Don’t ignore the supporting role. When it comes to celebrities, it’s hard to penetrate super established personalities. Don’t target a Justin Bieber or Jennifer Lawrence. Pay attention to their co-stars. What supporting actor in the new Hunger Games franchise is solidly booked with movie roles for the next two years (for this part, IMDBPro.com will come your best friend)? Who is opening for the Justin Bieber tour? These personalities are more likely to engage after a simple gifting. Don’t forget to give Disney and Nickelodeon love as well. Pay attention to what young talent has shows and big social media followings. These kids (who are easy to engage now) will become the Ariana Grande’s, Bella Thorne’s and Miley Cyrus’ of the future.
You need to recognize the new players and target them when they are at the cusp of becoming the next big thing. With some work, you will be able to easily identify that sweet spot between the number of followers and anticipated media interest for said personalities.