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What Is Influencer Marketing & How to Promote Your Startup with It

updated on Jul 22, 2016
What Is Influencer Marketing & How to Promote Your Startup with It There are popular people on each social networking site. They have thousands or even millions of followers who like the content they share. Such people are the "influencers" on social media. By connecting with them and getting them to introduce your product or service, you may see a tremendous growth of your website traffic and brand awareness. And that is how influencer marketing comes into being.

If you want to get yourself, or your startup, to be promoted by the influencers in your niche, you have got the right beginners' resource. This tutorial will explain what influencer marketing is, and then show the important steps to reach influencers and build relationships with them.

What Is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is a type of marketing in which the entire focus is put on the key individuals who have the ability to influence the purchase behavior of your potential buyers. Such individuals can be the potential consumers themselves, retailers, or simply the value-added influencers like photographers, journalists and other professionals.

If you are active on social media like Twitter and Facebook, you should have noticed that some people always get numerous likes and re-shares for their posts. To be honest, you can hardly make yourself the same popular as them, but have you imagined that they can be great resources for marketing your service, driving sales, and generating leads?

Let' make an example. If Smashing Magazine shares a post on your website to its 979,000 followers on Twitter and says that your content has special value, your brand is exposed to such a large audience, and it's probable that significant traffic will be driven to your website. More potential customers are also brought in. This is called influencer marketing.

Make Use of Influencer Marketing

According to surveys, over 50% marketers have used influencer marketing, and the usage is still in an ascending trend. Sometimes influencer marketing works even better than paid ads.

Generally speaking, there are two different practices of influencer marketing: paid influencer marketing, and earned influencer marketing. The former requires you to pay (maybe an expensive fee) in order to get your sponsorship or testimonial messaging appearing in the influencers' content. While the latter is about unpaid relationships with the influencers. The influencers share because they simply appreciate the value of your content which helps grow their own social presence.

If you are looking to get a promotion of your content, service or product through the influencers on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn or any other social media, now you can start building your relationships with those influencers.

How to Get Started with Influencer Marketing

The starting point of influencer marketing could be simple because you can begin by getting the people in your own community that have a good presence on social media to talk about your service or brand. Try reaching out to those qualified friends and asking them to post your product contextually.

To get more out of the simple marketing, you can create a copy of your product with images and then ask your friends to share it to their timelines. Also, you can give them a product or sample for free so they can talk something more concrete to their followers. If some of their followers are interested in your brand, those people may be turned into buyers.

Marketing your brand in your friends' communities is sometimes useful, but the limitation is that this cannot get you known by thousands or more people. If you are serious about influencer marketing, you'd better reach the real "influencers" in your niche that have established authority and market to them.

Find the Influencers in Your Niche

If you have already known some influencers in your niche, you can get started quickly by finding the social networking sites on which they are active and have gained a significant number of followers. However, in the case that you are just starting out, you have to find out who the influencers are by using tools like Klout and Kred. These tools help you search for influencers by industry or topic.

For example, Klout shows you a list of experts by topic and provides you with their social scores, expertise, and the social networking sites they are currently available. By sorting those experts, you will be able to locate the influencers that you want to market to.

Find the Influencers

Learn About the Influencers

To build a relationship with the influencers you have found, you have to know everything you can find about them. And to get the information you want, you can follow them on social media and then observe what, when and how they share with their followers. Besides, try to find their blogs or personal websites and read the content.

Knowing where the influencers' passions lie will make it easier to identify the data valuable to their brands, and it helps you promote content that is relevant. Since influencers tend to be kind to those who are creative while knowledgeable, having a clear idea about what to say guarantees that you can start a nice talk which will get you noticed.

Preparing for the connections with influencers requires much time, dedication and patience, but it is certainly useful for building lasting and valuable relationships that will make a big difference to your future marketing achievements.

Draw Attention by Creating Value to the Influencers

Although you have learned much about the influencers that you want to connect with, you should not rush to contact them right now because the preparations have not ended. You still have to find out your product or service that each influencer will want to promote for you. Think carefully about what the influencers should be interested in while you are exactly providing.

After deciding the services and products to promote, do the following things to get attention.
  • Share the content posted by the influencers which is relevant to your service. Adding your own opinions when sharing it would be more appreciated.
  • Mention the influencers or recommend their products in tweets. If your tweets are valuable, they may be re-tweeted by the influencer.
  • Quote the influencers and credit them when writing content relevant to the industry.
Draw Attention from Influencers

Socialize Your Startup

When your influencers notice your re-shares and quotes, they may mention you directly when they post new content, or they could check your profile and website first to make sure you can bring value to their audience, too. Therefore, you'd better combine a social media marketing plan with influencer marketing in order to achieve the best possible results.

To build up your presence on social media, be sure to:
  • Complete your profile carefully with information as detailed as possible. Try to show some professional knowledge if you can.
  • Share the most valuable content on your website to social media so influencers can find your value quickly.
  • Join conversations, share insights, and engage with those having the same interest with you.
  • Go offline to attend conferences and share experiences online.
In fact, these tips not only help you get noticed by the influencers in your niche, but also make you prepared to be an influencer yourself.

Interact with the Influencers and Build a Relationship

After getting some attention from the influencers, you can start interacting with them in the right way. A good relationship should start with natural methods like expressing your appreciation about their good content or asking questions that help improve their content. During the interactions, try to be polite and respect what they have done since they deserve that. Don't try to challenge their authority unless you have really good reasons to convince them.

A big mistake you must avoid is to flood their inboxes with numerous unsolicited emails requesting them to mention your product in a tweet or review your service. Thought leaders usually hate such requests. They prefer to see your value first.

However, this doesn't mean you shouldn't ask for anything from the influencers. When and how to express your intention is very important. The best solution so far is to connect with influencers privately via email. And to do so, you have to tailor the email for each influencer carefully. Here are some suggestions for the email.
  • Use a personal salutation like "Hi Emily" rather than a general one, which brings a better chance for getting a reply.
  • Provide a short description about you and your business.
  • Try to make the benefits (for influencers) clear when introducing your service or product.
  • Provide an offer clearly and express your appreciation for their reply.
Contact Influencers via Email

If you don't get a reply in a week, send an email again repeating your offer. If the answer is no, try to convince the influencer with more benefits, increase your value on social media, or turn to another influencer.

Nurture the Relationships

For effective influencer marketing, building sustainable relationships is quite important, so don't stop what you are doing as soon as an influencer has accepted your offer and mentioned you in a tweet. We sincerely suggest you keep improving the relationships by:
  • Always showing your respect and letting the influencers know that their work is important and valuable to you.
  • Providing value to the influencers while getting benefits from them.
  • Rewarding them with free service, direct compensation (depending on your budget), exclusive interviews, product reviews, and more.
  • Sending emails to them regularly with any valuable content such as suggestions, free offers, or just thanks.
After putting enough time, energy and wisdom in building the relationships with your influencers, you will probably be able to get the desired outcomes with a little-to-no investment of money.


For almost all the content above, we are discussing starting earned influencer marketing by yourself. Of course, if you have sufficient budget but no time to do everything by yourself, you can purchase an influencer marketing service like TapInfluence or Fango.

However, such services are usually costly. For example, TapInfluence charges the cheapest plan at $1999/mo which is not quite affordable for most startups. Besides, since you don't maintain the relationships by yourself, you just lose them when stopping the purchase.

So as a conclusion, we suggest you try building your own lasting relationships with influencers to grow your business and brand awareness as long as you have the basic skills mentioned in this post.