Lee Odden

If You Want Your Content Marketing to be Great, Ask Influencers to Participate

participation marketing with influencers

Participation Marketing is at the Intersection of Content and Influencer Marketing

With ubiquitous internet connectivity and billions of people empowered to create and publish online, digital marketing competition is greater than ever. Companies are increasingly challenged to create quality content that can stand out to attract and engage new customers.

How can businesses grow their reach and improve content quality in such a market?

Through participation marketing with industry influencers.

Over the past year, the expression “influencer marketing” has exploded in popularity and many marketing communications professionals are continuing to see influencers in the light of “celebrity endorsements”.

There’s more to influencer marketing than advocacy.

But there’s more to influencer marketing than advocacy and all influencers are not created equal. With participation marketing, companies can take a view of working with influencers of different types to produce a variety of benefits – all through content.

What kind of benefits? The investment in co-creation of content between brands and influencers enables quality content at scale. With brands and influencers working together, co-created content can reinforce mutual authority for all involved. In such a cooperative scenario, influencers can gain exposure, brands can reach new audiences, and customers are “info-tained” and inspired to engage. Everybody wins.

At TopRank Marketing, we’ve worked with over 200 influencers in the past 5 years to create numerous content assets ranging from our famous conference eBooks to videos to blog posts to infographics. These assets have driven over 800,000 views and well over 1,000 leads. Content co-created with influencers also continues to serve attract and engage objectives as long as they are live online.

Establishing a successful influencer content program requires a framework for identifying, engaging, and managing relationships. Here’s a 5 step approach to do just that.

influencer content goals

1. Set Goals for Marketing and Influencers

In order for co-created content to be successful for marketing, specific audiences and goals should be identified.

Think about: What do you hope to achieve with an influencer content program? How will influencers benefit? More importantly, how will your customers benefit?

Think about the distinct audience that you’re after with the content being co-created and set goals specific to what your idea of success looks like. Quantify those goals as well, whether it’s to increase the reach and engagement of your brand to the influencer’s community or to inspire more leads and sales by a certain percent.

Also, set goals for the influencers. For short term projects, focus on participation quality. With longer term programs, focus on participation, marketing outcomes and the relationship.

influencer content focus

2. Pick Your Theme and Focus Topic

You can start by asking, “What does your brand want to be known for?”

Themes facilitate planning content and also serve to focus the sourcing of the right influencers. Themes that are meaningful to all parties involved: brand, influencer and target audience will be far more successful.

In addition to branding goals, themes in co-created content programs are often driven by key customer questions that can be answered by brand marketing. Looking at distinct customer segments and the buying experience at each stage should reveal the themes and triggers that your content program will focus on. What is the solution? How will it work for me? What do I do next?

Consider what questions your customers are asking at awareness, consideration and purchase stages. Then think about the themes that will drive asking and answering those questions through influencer content.

identify recruit influencers

3. Find, Qualify and Recruit Influencers

Beyond the famous “brandividual” influencers in your industry, consider niche experts that have an active and passionate following. Also consider subject matter experts within your own company.

To start, talk to executives, marketing, PR and sales to identify a seed list of influencers. Then use an influencer discovery tool like Traackr or BuzzSumo to filter them out and add new influencers your team didn’t know about. Results are better when influencers matches are found on more than one tool.

When reaching out to influencers, be sure to accentuate the positive and the mutual value. Focus first on what’s in it for the influencer. If possible, find out what their goals are and see how working together can move them towards reaching those goals whether it’s overall exposure and being associated publicly with your brand or early and unique access to information.

Influencer participation pitches should be credible, succinct and offer a clear description of what is being asked.

Once a topical list of influencers is identified, they can be engaged in a variety of ways including:

  • Share their status updates on social networks
  • Comment on their blog posts or industry articles
  • Follow on social networks
  • Write about them
  • Interview them

Influencer participation pitches should be credible, succinct and offer a clear description of what is being asked. Pitches should also be very easy to act on. In other words, make it really easy to participate. For example, writing takes time, so offer to do a phone interview instead.

Other tactics that work include: humor, high degree of personalization, incentives and association with other influencers already on board.

CoCreate Influencer Content

4. Content Co-Creation is Participation Marketing

Influencer content co-creation might best begin with small, easy projects that advance the relationship to more robust and substantial time commitments.

Any content type you can create in a content marketing program can be co-created with influencers.

After content is collected from influencers, assemble, edit and package in a promotable format. Then share a preview to inspire their continued participation to promote. Be sure to set expectations by sharing your timeline for production, publishing and promotion.

Any content type you can create in a content marketing program can be co-created with influencers, from eBooks to videos to articles to social microcontent.

Measure Influencer Content

5. Promote and Measure

Provide influencers with tools such as sharing images, pre-written tweets, embed codes and short URLs. Making it easy to participate and promote can substantially increase the success of your influencer content program.

Offer influencers feedback on what’s working and what is not. Since they’ve invested in the creation of the content, it’s in their interest to see the promotion succeed.

You’ve Got This!

By partnering with influencers, marketers can tap into a wealth of knowledge and a breadth of exposure for brand messages. These are not self-promotional messages though, they are the things that the brands’ customers care about.

The mutual investment in creating useful and engaging content can pay dividends for all involved. This is especially true for the resource-strapped marketer looking to scale content quantity, while not sacrificing quality. The icing on the cake are the relationships built that can fuel content collaboration, partnerships and even new business in the future.

A version of this post originally appeared at Brand Quarterly

For a recent example of an co-created influencer content project, check out the series of eBooks below featuring speakers from the 2015 Content Marketing World conference.

The Big Picture of Content Marketing Strategy 

Making Content Marketing the Star of Your Marketing

Measuring Your Content Marketing Box Office Success

Photos Shutterstock: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.