Harnessing the power of online influencers is no longer much of an option. Many businesses on social media are working to find the right people to promote their products and services. Making a viral hit can do more for a business than years of marketing. Online influencers can be incredibly effective for your business, but only if you connect with them correctly.

You have to be careful that your interactions with online influencers are done in the right way. Otherwise, it may actually hurt your business. Here are a few things to remember when it comes to online influencers that will help you harness this powerful marketing tool.

Your Audience and your Influencers are Different

Many people mistakenly assume that having a large number of followers or thousands of readers following their blog means that their online influence is very strong. However, this is simply their audience, not their influencers. Influencers are those who are likely to promote or share your social networking profile or blog with others, effectively building your audience.

This is where many people fail: they assume that having a large audience equates to having a large amount of online influence, and it’s simply not true. You can have a huge audience that you’ve built yourself through marketing campaigns, but you may not have a single influencer among them. In that case, you’re likely to see your number of followers or readers increase very slowly until you launch another marketing campaign.

Spotting Influencers

How, then, can you effectively find your influencers? The first thing to do is to decide who is an effective influencer for your business. Not all influencers are going to be enticed by your products or services. You need to find those that have an interest in our niche. Influencers who have little or no interest in what your business does are not going to want to influence others into following your social media.

Here are a few signs that someone is a good online influencer:

  • They are very active on social media and post daily
  • They have a large number of followers and fans
  • They have complete profiles
  • They have a reputation in your industry as being trustworthy and knowledgeable

For example, for a publisher, a good influencer would be a book reviewer who regularly posts reviews in the genre(s) you publish and has a large audience. For a restaurant, it may be a foodie who posts regularly about his/her favorite foods and places to eat.

Stay Connected

Once you find a good online influencer who you believe will help your business gain a wider audience, you have to stay connected with them. Like any relationship, you have to put in some time and effort in maintaining it. Expecting the influencer to continue to promote your business without any interaction isn’t realistic. One option is to regularly talk with these marketing influencers via a conference call or a web conference. There are many different tools such as UberConference, GoToMeeting and CiscoWebex out there that you can use for this.

You also need to engage your influencers on social media. Reply to the comments they make on your posts, make comments on their posts and join groups that they are members of. Become a voice in your industry’s community. By doing so, you’ll not only get these online influencers talking about your company, but you may also become an online influencer yourself. If you provide helpful, insightful comments and thoughts (not just marketing), people may come to think of you as an expert in the industry. This does take time, though. You have to devote part of your day to social media.

The Dark Side of Influencers

Before you set out to find influencers, keep this in mind: influencers are people, too. This means that while they can be a powerful marketing ally, they can also become a detriment if you upset them. Constantly asking them to repost your work or advertise your blog is going to make them feel used. You’re building relationships with them, not using them for free marketing. If you join groups, do so with the intention of truly contributing to the conversation, not simply to advertise your business.

Effectiveness is Relative

Finally, remember that effectiveness is often relative. If you’re putting in a lot of time and energy into posting on social media and connecting with others, you may find that you don’t have enough time to do other things. This may actually make you less effective at your job, so make certain you balance your time connecting with influencers and your time as a leader in your business. If you find this balance, you’ll be surprised at how online influencers and the online community as a whole welcome you.

How effective have online influencers been for your business? We’d love to know.