Unless you've been living under a rock the last several years, you know that influencer marketing continues to be one of the hottest growth areas in marketing. Not only are startups and consumer brands thriving on collaborating with influencers on Instagram and YouTube, B2B companies and even nonprofits are slowly opening up to the potential that working with influencers has for their business as they broaden their influencer marketing definition.

The background for the recent growth in influencer marketing is simple: Social network algorithms will always favor people over businesses as a way to monetize their user base. Combined with the fact that people resonate most with other people, and you can begin to imagine that it is in every social network’s best interest to encourage engaging and authentic contact to show up in their news feeds for people to keep its users coming back to their social network on a daily basis. Social media was always made for people and not businesses, but it has been the recent increasing skewing of the algorithms towards people that have woken businesses up to this fact.

I often get asked what are the best social media tools for influencer marketing, and while there are a lot of tools that you can use, I like to take a step back and encourage people to utilize the social networks themselves to find influencers as if they were users looking to be influenced by someone.

This means that the best tool at the beginning of your influencer marketing journey is simply to leverage the native social networks as they are. Once you're ready to take the next step forward, a smart investment would be in leveraging a social listening tool.

While influencer marketing tools are no doubt specialized in helping you find and engage with influencers for your brand or niche, social listening tools will allow you to determine all of the factors that are important to your brand in measuring what you consider to be an influence in your own industry. Basically speaking, social listening tools allow you to accelerate native searches in platforms in a better organized and scalable approach that allows you to more effectively utilize the data that you find, making it immediately more actionable.

So, how would you use a social listening tool for your influencer marketing efforts?

Step one: influence identification

Just as you would do searches in native social network sites to find influencers, you can now program social listening tools to automatically find influencers based on keywords or hashtags.

Influencer tab in Awario

You also want to remember to track not only your companies and brands names but also those of your competitors. Simply speaking, if someone is important in a community, you would expect at some point they would be speaking the language of their community through either a keyword or hashtag, and when they say something that intersects with your company's products and services there is a potential to build a relationship with them that might help your brand.

Step two: choosing influencers to work with

A social listening tool will allow you to filter through the users that you find in the influencer identification step one part so that you can see, based on an online analysis, who might yield more influence than someone else. This includes filtering by community size, social media post reach, mentions of them by others in the community, and engagement with their content. 

Step three: learning more about each influencer

Once you have created your short list of influencers that you want to work with in step one, it's now time to prepare for the outreach and the actual connecting with influencers. What you don't want to do is to make the rookie influencer marketing mistake of sending a blanket cut and paste email to everyone that you identified in step two. Influencer marketing is all about developing relationships and collaborating with real people, so just like you probably wouldn't ask 100 different people out for a date using the same line, you'll want to personalize your approach to all the influencers that you want to reach out to.

Image taken from https://writingelves.com/2013/09/04/coffee-names/

Social listening tools help in this respect by giving you a complete profile of each social media user across all of their profiles. For instance, what have they posted recently that resonates with your brand that might be a conversation starter?

On the other hand, perhaps once you look at their most recent posts, you realize that maybe this influencer might not be as relevant to your brand as you thought they might have been. In other words, maybe once in every 1,000 posts they mention the keyword that was important to your business, but the other 999 were centered on industries our conversations that were completely irrelevant to your business.

In such a way, step three is as much about preparing for influencer outreach as it is a further way to vet your list down even further.

I find that most brands fail in influencer marketing because they either often misidentify the influencers to work with or fail in truly personalizing their outreach and collaboration with each influencer, treating them as programmable ad units instead of as human beings.

Social listening tools cannot help you become a better collaborator, but they can arm you with sufficient social data to allow you to better find a more appropriate influencer and prepare you to reach out to them for a successful collaboration.