The Internet has democratized communication, but with so many people in the conversation, most voices get drowned out, including brands’.
“You need to find that one thing that will make your brand stand out, and that’s what real time does,” says Stacey Miller, Cision’s senior manager of communications.
“By engaging with your audience in real time, your brand will own the conversation, leaving competitors struggling to keep up.”
So when an event occurs, a topic trends or news breaks, how can you reach, engage and mobilize your audience?
The key is developing a real-time influencer program so you have someone who your audience trusts advocating for your brand.
What Is Real-Time Influence?
Real-time opportunities are ones that your brand doesn’t expect or plan for and can include special events, incidents, trending topics, industry news and more. When these opportunities arise, you need to react right away, gain authority over the event and make it relevant for your audience. The best way to do this is through a third-party advocate.
“Partnering with an influencer gives your brand credibility and encourages your audience to listen by putting you in front of a relevant audience at a relevant time, something you might not be able to do on your own,” says Miller.
Even though real-time events occur in the moment, that doesn’t mean your strategy should, too. Develop a plan that affords the flexibility to be creative but outlines how to position your brand. So how do you get there? Here are six steps:
- Identify Your Targets
Before you can benefit from a contact’s influence, you need to identify who will make the best brand allies. Miller recommends aiming for those flying under the radar.
“If you can find the up-and-comers who are just starting to gain traction, it will be easier to cultivate a relationship with them because fewer brands are vying for their attention,” she says.
When hunting for the right partner for your brand, look beyond follower count. A large audience is not always indicative of influence. Instead, determine the best fits for your brand by balancing total following and the engagement levels of the influencer’s audience.
Use your media database to research and gain an in-depth look at the influencers in your industry. Find their contact information, the topics they’re interested in and even their pitching preferences. The best media databases will help you see what people are talking about on social in real time, which helps you better tailor your pitches and understand who is the best fit in that moment.
- Create Your List
Keep a working roster of influencers you can continually return to, focusing your efforts on the contacts who are most important to your brand. Pitching coach Michael Smart, for example, recommends dedicating 80 percent of your efforts to the top 20 percent of your media list.
Now is the time to do your research and learn everything you can about your contacts. Monitor them on social, and keep an eye on their activity, share of voice and the topics they’re currently covering.
Segment your list based on location, audience demographics, topic and more. That way, during a real-time opportunity, you won’t waste time searching for a local influencer with a millennial audience, for example.
Make sure your influencer database is continually updated to include the most accurate, up-to-date information. Influencers often change focus or occupation, and you need to make sure they are still a relevant contact. In real time, there’s no time to go back and check.
- Build Rapport
Influencer marketing isn’t a one-off tactic. You need to consistently nurture and stay in contact with your influencers.
Keep in touch by adding thoughtful insights to their posts, sharing their work, providing data and story opportunities and showing that you take an interest in what they are doing. The ability to stay on their radar so that your brand remains top of mind is crucial, making an all-in-one social media management platform to both monitor influencers’ activity and engage with them a necessity.
Once an event hits, whether it’s a crisis, pop culture event or a unique trend, when you turn to your list of contacts, your brand advocates will be more likely to collaborate with you.
With social monitoring tools, brands can also watch conversations unfold in real time, quickly identify trending topics as they happen and enter the conversation with the people who have the most impact on their target audience.
- Make an Ask
First, you must identify your angle within the real-time event, breaking news or trending topic. Oreo’s famous Super Bowl tweet and Kit Kat’s twist on #Bendgate are perfect examples of successfully leveraging a real-time event.
Next, pinpoint an end goal for each ask. Do you want to establish a different perspective on a trending topic like Salvation Army did with #TheDress? Depending on your angle, you could ask influencers to correct misinformation, grow awareness or simply inspire action.
Of course, you also need to think about which influencer would fit the bill. Target one who already aligns with your brand’s angle on the topic at hand and is the most knowledgeable, relevant and inspirational choice for your target audience.
“When it’s time to make the ask, stress the urgency, necessity and opportunity to lead the conversation,” Miller says. “Brands without a detailed game plan will quickly find themselves missing an opportunity or running an ineffectual real-time marketing campaign.”
- Harness Influencers’ Actions
Though trending topics often fade away as quickly as they entered the spotlight, that doesn’t mean your brand should stop talking once your influencer gets on board. Your influencers are speaking up on social and so are their followers.
While engagement may be unfolding on one specific platform, don’t limit your reach by relying on one audience to spread the word. For example, if a topic is trending on Twitter, you could add a Periscope live stream to bring an extra real-time element to the discussion. )
Use your social listening tools to analyze what’s being said about your brand and influencer, which of their followers are joining the conversation and how you can target other influencers who have similar opinions. You’ll also want to look at the difference in the conversations happening on each platform. Followers on Facebook or Instagram might be posting and replying to long, detailed comments, while those on Twitter might be conversing in GIFs.
Be prepared to create shareable, mobile-friendly multimedia to keep the conversation going. You can either personalize messaging for your influencers and track their impact with UTM codes, or leave it up to them. Either way, ensure the communication you and your influencers disseminate is consistent and focused on your end goal.
With the right resources and enough time, your brand could even take the conversation off social. For example, when Jamba Juice found it was trending on social thanks to singer Adele and TV host Ellen DeGeneres, it immediately joined the conversation. Within hours of the prank, the brand developed a pun-filled website for SwishyChug, the imaginary English juice counterpart referenced by Adele on air. Not only that, it added a coupon to the landing page, which automatically directs visitors back to Jamba Juice.
- Follow Up
Maintaining influencer relations is an overlooked but necessary step to success. If you don’t maintain the relationship, future outreach will feel like a cold call.
So don’t throw in the towel once you’ve gotten an influencer on board with your goals and have seen her impact. There’s not only a chance the topic may cycle around again, but also the possibility of collaborating to your mutual benefit.
Don’t miss out on gaining your audience’s trust, garnering credibility within your industry or increasing share of voice by not taking time to thank your influencers for their work.