Chances are you’ve heard the terms “thought leader” and “influencer” tossed around quite a bit in the marketing world. Often people use them loosely, though, meaning you may only have a vague idea of what they truly mean. There are certainly a lot of wannabes out there when it comes to both, so let’s examine these concepts and help you decipher how to utilize the best of them for your marketing strategy.
Defining the Terms
Thought leaders are visionaries who inspire the people in their field by introducing new ideas that have the potential to change the game for everyone. They consistently share these types of ideas, making them go-to authorities that others can turn to for inspiration.
Influencer marketing means enlisting the support of people outside of your company who have a high degree of credibility. They’re individuals who will speak to the merits of your product or service in a public way that gets results because others listen to them.
If someone claims to be a thought leader and has achieved some level of prowess in his field, he must be one. Not so. In the article “3 Reasons You Should Never Call Yourself a Thought Leader,” Sangram Vajre makes a strong case for never uttering those words aloud about yourself. He has an excellent point: Demonstrating thought leadership is far, far better than saying “I’m a thought leader” at every introduction. When looking for a thought leader, steer clear of self-aggrandizing claims in favor of demonstrated results like articles and books that present a fresh perspective.
A true thought leader must be completely unique. The word “unique” is highly overused. Which thought leader can truly claim to be 100 percent unique? Rather, they build on one another’s work, offering a novel take on an existing concept to better something that’s already on the market. A real thought leader knows the value of being unique by being consistent, as the Marketing Insider Group says. A thought leader who will get results for your business stands out from the pack by delivering time after time. That’s the person you can count on to grow with you – the person who shares tidbits of wisdom week after week, month after month, not the one-hit wonder who announces a profound revelation and then disappears.
Enlisting a popular celebrity as an influencer will get you the kind of attention you want. Well, maybe. But if you haven’t chosen someone who has the type of persona your target audience admires and wants to emulate, they probably won’t deliver the desired results. When you find the type of person your followers aspire to be, you’ll know you’ve found the right influencer for you.
You need to target the influencers with the highest number of followers. In reality, mid-level influencers often get the best results. When it comes to numbers of followers, you don’t need or want those in the top tier. Those influencers have little time to develop a personal relationship with you and your brand. The mid-level ones, on the other hand, have time for a phone call, a consultation. They also have room to grow, and that’s why you’re valuable to them, as well. If they believe in your product, they know speaking publicly about it gives them an opportunity to show their expertise and to be on the cutting-edge of new trends and releases.
Find and Gain Buy-In from Thought Leaders
Now it’s time to learn some winning strategies for enlisting the support of thought leaders.
Find the Right People
Look for those who have written in-depth content on your area of interest. “A single detailed, statistics-backed blog post will take you much farther than 10 vague, general ones,” says Entrepreneur. Look for those who focus on your target area rather than covering a vast field of topics.
Share Key Product Attributes
Determine the key points your audience needs to know about your product. What is cutting-edge about it? That’s what you need your thought leader to drive home. Share a convincing analysis with that person, asking for feedback. Spark a conversation after letting the thought leader try your product or service. Interview the thought leader for a post on your blog.
Promote the Thought Leader’s Feedback
Don’t rely on your thought leader to share his or her feedback with the broader world on their own. Some experts may use social media sporadically, not sharing a steady stream of content. Write a white paper that incorporates their opinions – or the opinions of multiple thought leaders – and share it on your social media channels. Create an informative video featuring interviews with thought leaders. Share that in-depth blog post you’ve written. Your thought leaders will be pleased to share well-crafted videos and posts with their followers, and you won’t have to gamble on the possibility that they’ll actually produce them on their own.
Finally, speak to lessons you’ve learned throughout your brand’s history. Establish your own thought leadership by merging it with that of the experts within the content you create.
Leveraging Influencer Marketing
The right influencers can help your thought leadership and marketing campaign really take off. Here are some vital tips for getting started.
Choose the Right Influencers
Choose influencers who match your customers’ buyer personas. Select influencers who represent the type of person your customers aspire to be.
How to find them? Researching hashtags is a great way to start. Select one or two genres to focus on as well as two or three niches within a genre. For example, technology is a genre, and artificial intelligence (AI) is a niche within that genre. Look at what’s trending and who’s getting noticed in your chosen niches.
When choosing whom to enlist to speak for your brand, mid-level influencers are your friends. “These are the influencers who have a decent reach but don’t have such a large audience that they can’t nurture relationships with their audience and harness loyalty,” says Neil Patel. “A loyal audience soaks up recommendations like a dry sponge.” They’re more approachable than the ones with the highest followings – both for you and for their own followers.
Collaborate with Your Influencers
Ask your influencers what type of content works best for their audience in terms of form, tone, and topic. Choose a topic that pertains to the content they typically put out. Then prepare content that they’ll be excited to share – and which will get results. Remember, they got to where they are for a reason.
Got a particular industry expert in mind to help develop your brand and message? With all of these ideas now in your back pocket you’ll be well on your way to successfully incorporating thought leadership and influencer marketing into your campaigns!