There is growing recognition of the integral role “micro-influencers” (MI) can play in marketing tech brands and products.
It’s a guerilla-marketing approach that properly organized and executed could generate incredible results for the growth of your business by increasing sales/revenues and generating big buzz.
Further, one experiment with an MI campaign could lay the foundation for a larger influencer-based marketing campaign once your tech startup has more resources.
Don’t be shy about cultivating relationships with social media personalities in the tech scene; this is a win-win approach, depending on your brand-building goals and the people involved. This blog post explains how to get started.
Why Micro-Influencers, and Not Influencers?
For the purposes of this post, what I mean by a micro-influencer is a social media personality who does not yet have a significant following, but can count at least 5,000 followers on one or more social media platforms, whether on LinkedIn, Medium, Twitter, and Facebook, or is someone whose posts on Reddit get upvoted or who has a popular blog. Before diving into the steps involved in building marketer-MI relationships, let’s consider what’s in it for both sides.
Why Cultivate Relationships with MIs
Why bring MIs onboard rather than sponsoring the biggest names in tech with huge audiences? What are the advantages of MIs over major tech influencers?
- Cost: MIs are more affordable than mega-influencers. Entrepreneur and co-founder of Defiant Digital Sidney Pierucci says they are “6.7X more cost-efficient per engagement.”
- Accessibility: MIs are more easily accessible and available.
- Impact: MIs have a bigger impact, as their followers feel closer and relate more to them than to big influencers.
- Control: When you reach out to an MI, you choose who is relevant to your brand, while a mega-influencer is not necessarily the best fit for your needs.
- Outreach: Most importantly, lots of MIs, each with only a few thousand engaging followers recommending your brand, could actually create more buzz than one mega-influencer with a hundred thousand followers.
According to Lilach Bullock, crowned the Social Influencer of Europe by Oracle, micro-influencers “have a much more compact, targeted audience,” because they are “thought leaders in their respective niches.” Think of the difference between someone who blogs about general cybersecurity best practices versus an expert who produces content on a very specialized field of cybersec such as reverse engineering of malware.
Why Would MIs Be Interested
This is another good question. Micro-influencers who have yet to develop a huge following (or an outsize ego) are actively seeking relationships, sponsors, and partnerships. MIs want to be approached because they are eager to expand their influence—all influencers start off as micro-influencers, even if they don’t know it!
On the contrary, those who are already major influencers and social media celebs often cannot be bothered with developing new relationships with organizations that don’t pay big bucks for their time and efforts.
Get Started: Growing Your Micro-Influencer Community
Now we come to the meat in this sandwich: how to identify MIs, reach out to them, and offer to work with them. These are your steps to successful partnerships.
1. Identify Tech Micro-Influencers
This checklist will help you in the first step of finding the right MIs to leverage your brand:
- Search for appropriate influencers: Use marketing tools such as Buzzsumo or Impactana. You can discover MIs based on the field they are operating in, their bios and engagement level, and—if relevant—the geographical location of your target audience. Ensure they have appropriate knowledge of and experience with platforms like Twitter, Linkedin, and Reddit.
- Search for authenticity in the MI’s writing: Think of the impact you want to have on your readers. You want them to relate to what is written, to trust the MIs. Only then will they engage with the content. If you are not the target audience (ie. you’re a content specialist, not a tech evangelist), forward some writing samples onto the DevOps team and ask for opinions on whether or not the content is legit and of value.
- Investigate shares: Are they appreciated for their views and their comments? What kinds of discussions and comments do they generate, and how do they respond? Tally up the results of the last week or two of their social and see if they ongoingly have engagement and interaction with their posts.
- Fact-check what they’ve authored: Yes, they should express themselves well in writing, so they can contribute articulate and effective blog posts. But more important is that they are knowledgeable, have hands-on experience with what they’re blogging about, not to mention thorough and diligent in their research and straightforward when expressing their opinions.
- Consider how their writing affects you: Are they passionate? Opinionated? When someone successfully manages to convey their enthusiasm or convinces you to change your mind, it’s a good sign they are good at what they do. Are you entertained? In the tech community, humor is a plus, for sure.
Expert tech research & content you can trust.
2. Plug These Micro-Influencers into Your Tech Content Machine
Once you’ve identified several MIs, see if you can leverage some of their existing content that aligns with the image you want to project. If you follow them for a bit, read, comment on, and share their existing work, they will appreciate you and be more interested in engaging with you once you reach out
Reach out via DM on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. with an introductory message, making sure to get to the point, and show the influencer you know his interest areas and expertise level. If the influencer is interested in you and your product, then arrange a phone call or meeting to get to know each other better. Good to be curious, ask the influencer what their goals are for their personal brand. See if his goals and your goals are aligned. The whole point of this stage is an authentic and transparent exchange of information to see if it’s a good match.
You may want to ask the MI to sign an NDA before you get into the details. That’s fine if he’s expressed enough interest in continuing the conversation, and pretty customary. Make sure you have a signed contract before collaboration begins. (We’ll be publishing a post in the near future on what a good tech influencer marketing campaign brief and plan looks like. Having a plan in place before getting started is critical to make sure expectations are aligned. So is having a clear system in place for tracking and reporting progress.)
If there is nothing useful in the MIs’ current body of work, ask them to provide feedback about a subject dear to your heart or to review your brand or product demo. This will be a litmus test of their suitability. Of course, if the MI does not like your product, the two of you must gracefully withdraw, and these terms can be laid out in the contract.
Start small, by requesting only one post with no further commitment from either side. See how you like working together to create the story. Discuss with the MI where the entry will be posted to get the maximum exposure for your potential customers.
Examine how they respond to criticism. Are they prepared to reconsider and revise? Does the submission require extensive work to bring it to an appropriate level? Is it suitable for the intended audience?
Be alert to feedback from your readership. What is the reception from your customers? Does the post get shared and liked? What types of comments are generated?
Remember to be ready to listen, negotiate, compensate the MI for their time and influence, and formalize it all with a written agreement.
3. Position the Opportunity as Mutually Beneficial
Consider why a micro-influencer would want to plug your brand. How does your product relate to the MI’s needs? What will it give the MI? Work on mutuality so there is some type of give and take. What you want is clear: an advocate to champion your brand or product. But what can you offer the MI?
Knowing what motivates technology influencers can help you proactively discuss what the MI has to gain from the relationship.
- Suggest remuneration via increased exposure of their name, in return for any knowledge you can share with them, or even for financial reward (see Step 5).
- Encourage other MIs in your network to share your posts. They might be sufficiently impressed to share and retweet what they see, further increasing the blog post’s exposure and providing encouraging feedback to the writer.
- Cross-match your MIs to interview one another to go one step further. “People love to share things they’ve been involved in, even if they weren’t involved in it directly. If you can incorporate these influencers into your article, they’ll be more likely to share your article with their own followers,” says Noah Kagan, Chief Sumo at Sumo.com and AppSumo.com.
4. Don’t Be Stubborn. Be Collaborative
Do not force your MIs to say something specific. MIs must have complete freedom to write their own opinions. However, you may be able to shape the subject so that it touches your product, even tangentially.
Offer assistance in the form of professional editing services to MIs who have the knowledge but little writing flair.
Turn MIs into brand ambassadors by treating them to full walkthroughs of the product features and coordinating insider interviews.
Ensure the MI will produce long-form content, which tends to get more social shares than short-form. The longer the article—considering it is quality content, of course—the more it is shared.
Find a balance between the quantity of content and its commercial nature. At the end of the day, you need to make sure that the content you promote is interesting and appealing, without bombarding the audience with excessive content.
Disclose any agenda to the readers. “Be a trusted advisor, which means being transparent and upfront about any possible biases that you may have. It means telling the whole truth: Nothing you say or write should be any less true if you were working for a competitor,” says Timo Elliot, SAP’s global innovation evangelist.
5. Continue to Cultivate the Relationship
Make the effort to remain in touch. A good relationship will help you realize your aim of getting exposure for your brand at a consistent and predictable pace.
Evaluate the campaign together. Show that you value the MI’s feedback and opinions.
You want your MIs to understand that they are expected to be responsible and responsive. Financial remuneration also gives you the authority to redirect or tweak the message when necessary. (For the sake of integrity, just ensure to disclose any sponsored relationship to the readers.)
Specialists in the field can be your ambassadors in generating well-deserved hype for your brand. Encouraging ongoing contributions from MIs is no small job and demands continuous cultivation. We’ll be publishing more on the topic of influencer marketing in the weeks and months to come, so stay tuned.