Have you historically relied on agencies or software that you can’t afford anymore in order to find influencers? You might be tempted to bench your influencer marketing altogether. That would be a mistake.

Let’s be honest, no one knows what they’re doing right now. Everyone is looking for someone they admire and respect to tell them. Thought leaders have never had so much going for them. Here are five ways you can identify an influencer quickly, cheaply, and independently:


1. Go for the giants

The loss of events isn’t entirely a bad thing. For one, a lot of big speakers just had their schedules blown wide open. Whether the events they were scheduled to present at have been completely canceled or virtualized, no influencer who relies on this platform to boost their personal image will be untouched right now. With this loss of exposure, influencers who you’d normally be unable to coax to your activities could be more open to working beyond the industry classics.

Do some research into the major events. Take the time to discover who has been affected by the pandemic? Identify potential influencers specifically relevant to you. Is the subject they were going to talk about relevant to your audience? Is their core audience relevant to your product or service?

Once you have a few influencers in your sights, it can pay to precede and align your outreach with a period of soft engagement.

Sara Hendriksen, Head of Small Business Marketing, EMEAR, at Cisco tells us: “Once we’ve found an influencer who fits our content strategy and cares about the things we care about, we digitally outreach to them by following them and sharing their content on our channels to engage them.”


2. Keep up with the trends

Social media, particularly LinkedIn and Twitter, do most of the work for you in terms of highlighting relevant influencers.

By just keeping tabs on the topics and articles that are trending, you get an extremely current look into who is hottest in your industry at any given time. The algorithms of these social media platforms are designed to show you content they think would interest you. As a result, they hand you audience-relevant individuals without you even trying.

“These [posts] will often always be written by key influencers within the industry and within the areas that are relevant to your business that you want to be following,” advises Alice de Courcey, Head of Marketing at Cognism.

However, it’s important that you keep your audience top of mind whenever you take to social media. Demographics can vary widely across platforms. Depending on who you’re targeting, you could be wasting your efforts barking up the wrong tree.

“It’s country-specific,” says Sara. “Take Russia for example – they don’t have LinkedIn, they only have Twitter. You have to really look at it on a country level to understand the watering holes and channels that will be more successful per country.”


3. SEO tools to the rescue

If you have access to SEO software, you’ll be able to see the content that’s performing best beyond your social network. This gives you a look into pockets that you wouldn’t have found otherwise and can be a great way to identify emerging influencers in niche markets.

“We do a lot of keyword research on key content topics that we care about”, says Alice. “We use Ahrefs and through that, you can link through to see the articles that have been getting a lot of volume, engagement, backlinks, and high domain rankings. All of these are indicators that they’re probably a good person for us to speak to, connect with, and are what we would call an influencer. Then it’s just a case of outreaching to them.”


4. Turn to your customer base

A hugely underused method of finding an influencer is by turning to your own customer base. You already know they fit your audience, they’re already familiar with your brand and product, and you have their contact information at the ready. It’s one of the most painless ways of finding someone to collaborate with. The trick is identifying which of your customers have the right pull.

“We’ll look at our customer base and see whether we have overlapping audiences in common, whether they have good reach, and whether we feel like they have a lot to say and are a genuine thought leader within a space that’s relevant to us,” says Alice. “Then we’ll partner with them, either formally or informally, and it usually involves co-branded content or reciprocal blogs, content sharing, newsletter mentions, etc. We can build out plans depending on what each unique relationship looks like.”


5. Build up your own internal influencers

Not all of your influencers need to be external. I’m sure you have many influential people within your own organization at the ready. It’s just about giving them the channels to build and exert that influence so they can be of most use to you.

Alice tells us: “Our Chief Revenue Officer, Nazma Qurban, has a big following within the sales community, and the SaaS sales community especially, so we actually utilize her as a key channel for us as well. And then we are on a project to raise the profiles of two of our other sales leaders, with sales being a key audience for us to focus on for our product. So for us, there’s a lot of value in getting them to become and be seen as influencers.”

You hire these people because you’re presumably impressed by their knowledge and abilities, but it’s easy to forget to put them up on a pedestal and let others see their worth. You could be sitting on a gold mine of influencer marketing potential and not even realize it.

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