As an affiliate marketer, you’re in the weeds far more often than the talking heads, so undoubtedly you’re sick and tired of seeing the same ideas wrapped around new terms in order to sell a course or ebook (unless of course, you’re the one selling that course or ebook). Influencer marketing is at risk for being viewed in the same light. Just as SEO -> inbound marketing -> growth hacking -> content marketing, isn’t influencer marketing just social media outreach + sales? Yes, yes it is.

By my definition, influencer marketing is just having someone else tell your story for you. What makes this insane trend a bit different is in the early days of social, we didn’t yet have the ability to granularly tie social activity to sales to appropriately track ROI. Now we do, and so now the channel can be treated more like a grown-up marketing channel similar to paid search, native, or display.

What trend? This one:

Google Trends Influencer Marketing Graph

That’s a Google Trends graph on ‘influencer marketing.’ Granted, since you might know me as Cygnus the Black Hat SEO, it is possible that the first thought that crosses your mind is “maybe Cygnus is just manipulating the query volume.”  Not a bad thought really, but I don’t even have to. Sit on a few marketing Twitter streams for a day and you’ll see that as a proportion of word count, the term is exploding in usage. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on what influencers are and how to use them. I’m not into the fluffy feel good Dr. Phil definitions, so I prefer to focus on where the money is: my influencers are real people with audiences somewhat relevant to the products and services I need to sell; they are peers to my buyers, which allows me to use buyer personas to determine.

Without making this long article even longer than it already will end up being, I won’t go too deep into a few areas (namely goal setting and buyer persona setup), so here are some quick references.

  1. How to establish the appropriate goals (as an affiliate I’m hoping this is a CPA of some sort)
  2. Why you should be using influencers and how to use existing data for buyer personas
  3. Consumer behavior factor filtering to get more exact buyer personas

If I can assume that you’ve read up on how to determine your ideal buyer persona to match the goals that matter most to you, we can now get crazy by finding some peers that match one of your buyer personas. I wouldn’t be shilling if I didn’t say “just use Intellifluence”, so yeah, just use Intellifluence. Do you like that big UnGagged splash page? 75% off if you use the code. A little BlackHatWorld and UnGagged love goes a long ways.

Otherwise, let’s do this the hard way and head over to Buzzsumo. I don’t know what niche you’re in, so I’m going to pick something random…like fashion.

Buzzsumo Influencers

Buzzsumo is claiming 3120 pages worth of influencers relevant to ‘fashion’; take this with a grain of salt as they are essentially just scraping bio profiles without performing any higher level analysis. Still though, that is a significant number of people to work with.

Now what?

If you’re trying to get someone in the fashion industry to send traffic to your affiliate site, you need to start filtering down. One quick and dirty way would be to view links shared – do you have a handy competitor list? You better. Have a subscription to Ahrefs, Majestic, or Moz? Good.

If you are exporting this all into Excel or MySQL, you can quickly loop through to determine who is sharing links and which of those people is sharing links on lower quality domains – I don’t mean to be dismissive in saying lower quality; what sharing of lower quality domains indicates is the potential influencer is more willing to explore “new” brands and sites…which you can position yourself as.

Stalk Your List

The next logical step is to perform some outreach on the influencer so you can pitch them. The AdSense spammer approach would be to just direct message them all on Twitter since you have the handles and ask them to share an article.

*Yawn* Boring.

You’re a sophisticated affiliate though. If you read some of the earlier links, you’ll see I’m fan of indirectly influencing people in order to result in a chained decision tree that results in an action. This is no different. You have a targeted list of people you really want to start pimping your site. So how?

  1. Take the list and feed through Full Contact to get LinkedIn accounts.
  2. Systematically view each of these influencers profile every week or so; as time progresses a certain number of these influencers will add you to their professional network…game on.
  3. The game is on because by reaching out to you, they’ve given an implied permission to respond; in that response, thank them for adding you and begin your pitch – don’t be a dumb animal and just link spam. Be nuanced. Explain that you read them on Twitter, enjoyed a piece they recently shared, and say that you’ve writing similar pieces. Leave it at that.
  4. With luck, most of those LinkedIn adders will ask you for a link; provide it and ask for feedback, stating that you’re just now in the process of trying to grow and looking for ambassadors. Many people will willingly help out an industry “peer”, which you’ve now established yourself as – some will even pitch you on what they could do, and what they’d be willing to accept for it. You’re done at this point.
  5. Each time you have a piece live, be sure to share the crap out of it on as many appropriate networks as possible – even better, when you’re sharing it, hashtag jack your other targets, so they see that their peers are sharing something relevant.
  6. For a second pass you can now go back to Twitter. Since you’re injecting into the hashtag feeds and getting indirect looks, start to engage and get bolder with the remainder of your target list. Retweet their stuff, even if it is for a competitor, comment…act like a real brand manager.
  7. After a sufficient amount of engagement, make your move. Now you can DM the individual which you’ve already stalked on LinkedIn and have provided positive engagement for; explain that you think they’d be perfect as a brand ambassador for you and gauge their interest.

I don’t think this sort of slog is rocket science; it is just hard work and is something you can always be doing, but as affiliates, we like to work in multiple dimensions and get as much result for as little effort as possible. Plus, we spend money to make money.

Looks Like…

If you’re a heavy Twitter user you’ve been exposed to a variety of ads; I enjoy looking into who targets more (or doesn’t add me as a negative) and what they are attempting to accomplish. A few ideas for you then, since at this part of the campaign you’ve now been getting the reviews you want from peer influencers to your buyer personas.

  1. ExxonMobil promoting NFL tweets to a national audience w/ pre-roll ad – granted, this is a difficult tactic to mimic in its entirety on an affiliate marketers’ budget. You don’t have to though; you just need to understand what is occurring. Big oil understands that no one cares about their tweets, but they do know that the majority of Americans care about football, so they pay to amplify NFL tweets as a means to treat their exposure in the same way they might purchase television commercials. In your case though, you have a list of reviewers that have shared something positive; you can simply pay to promote their tweet. You can do this to just their audience, or something more interesting…
  2. Lookalike audiences are so great; many of you probably use them on Facebook, but don’t exclude Twitter. If you have a list of buyer email addresses, it is nominal to load them as a target list and try for a lookalike. Too small? What about when you were building out buyer personas and grabbed a few thousand possible names/emails via LinkedIn – these possible peers of your buyers could make for great buyers and engagers with that reviewer content. Want to get dirtier? Let’s assume you have a killer fashion review from a known name – go buy an email list such as ‘known buyers of high-end fashion’ and load it up as a retargeting list and go nuts.

As you can probably tell by now, there are a variety of ways that you can weave influencer marketing into your overall marketing plans both as a sales channel and as a content marketing concept. Anything that can handle multiple pieces of your plans is valuable and not overlooked. Want to learn more? I’ll be speaking multiple times at UnGagged this November; look for my session on compulsion marketing to see how you can pair influencer marketing with other concepts and use psychological triggers to make your product irresistible.

This post was sponsored by Intellifluence.