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April 26, 2015 / Stephanie Vermillion

The secret to influencer relations success

What’s persuasive, engaging, digitally savvy and highly followed, with the ability to further your business goals and help you reach new audiences?

The secret to influencer relations success“Why, an influencer!” you may say. But let’s get more granular; it’s not just any influencer.

It’s the right influencer.

In Douglas Karr’s podcast about influencer relations with Social Media Examiner, he says many companies fail because they don’t understand how to define “influence.”

  • Is it number of followers? It could be, but only if those followers are engaged.
  • Is it number of site visits? Well, maybe, if those visitors stay on the site and actually read the content.

What it comes down to is finding the right, niche influencer, and understanding how that influencer’s audience interacts with her content.

If the audience is engaged, and reads, comments and buys based on her recommendations, you have yourself a winner. But, if her posts rarely stimulate action among the audience, it’s time to move on.

That’s why, in my mind, the secret to influencer relations success is … wait for it …


Plain, old-fashioned research.

If your client pays for an influencer relations program, it’s your responsibility to vet each influencer. Without research, you’re taking a shot in the dark, which means the uber-awkward “Why did this campaign fail?” question falls on you.

So, let’s leave all things uber-awkward to Napoleon Dynamite, and start our influencer research.

Understand the influencer’s beat.

Like reporters, most influencers cover a specific beat. And, if you can find the influencer that covers your client’s beat and aligns with your client’s viewpoints, you’re off to a good start.

OK, OK. I hear you grumbling “DUH” out there. But sadly, marketers miss this step. A lot.

Just ask Gini Dietrich, who spent a big chunk of her spring sifting through spammy Tax Day pitches for her award-winning PR blog Spin Sucks.

As a regular Spin Sucks reader, I would be turned off by something completely unrelated like Tax Day. In fact, if I’m looking for social media tips and, instead, find “filing taxes 101,” it could actually lower my trust in Spin Sucks all together.

Gini knows what her readers want, and that’s why we keep coming back.

And, the influencer you want to work with knows what her readers want, too.

Read her content and uncover how she responds to and engages with commenters. This will reveal her viewpoints and unique stance within this niche, letting you:

  • Determine if she’s a good fit, and
  • Personalize your pitch to show why your client is a good fit if you do choose to reach out.

Study audience engagement.

Take a look at the influencer’s social media accounts, studying:

  • How does the influencer’s audience interact with her content?
  • Are they retweeting, sharing and commenting positively?
  • Have they mentioned trying the product or service in comments?

Then head over to her website, analyzing:

  • Do readers stay on the site instead of bouncing?
  • Do readers spend a decent amount of time on her site?
  • Do her posts and reviews have a high share rate?

Alexa Screen Shot of StephanieVermillion.comNote: The Alexa Chrome extension is a must-have for this website research. It shows this data, plus more, for any website. (Example of Alexa analyzing my site on the right.)

If you find the influencer’s readers are engaged, and take the time to read, share, comment and, ultimately, buy based on her opinions, then you have yourself a good candidate. If not, move on.

Look at current campaigns. 

To predict how this influencer will work with your client, look at how she’s currently interacting with brands. Sure, she may have 50,000 followers, but as I’ve said before, this isn’t enough. The relationship needs to be beneficial to your client.

So, while you’re looking through her social media and blog posts, ask yourself:

  • Are her brand messages authentic, or does it look like she’s copying and pasting what companies provide her? The more authentic, the better.
  • Is she properly disclosing a financial relationship, either for receiving free product or getting paid via partnership? If not, you may have an FTC issue in the future.
  • How does her audience respond to her sponsor posts? If they’re not receptive, and call her out for being too commercial, you may have a problem resonating.

You want an influencer who incorporates your brand into her strategy. If she’s just one-off posting a press release every now and again calling it a “partnership,” your chances for success are slim.

To take it one step further, Karr suggests requesting a chat with one of the influencer’s current sponsors so you can learn how she’s helping them reach business goals.

As you well know, I love my PR tools. But unfortunately, to find the best influencers, you need to do the research yourself. So, if you’re ready to launch an influencer relations campaign that wows, go grab a coffee and do your research now!

This post originally appeared on Stephanie Vermillion’s blog, PR State of Mind.


Leave a Comment
  1. Krysia Hepatica (@krysiahepatica) / Apr 27 2015 9:15 am

    Great article! Any specific advise on how to research Influencers besides running an Advanced Twitter Search using relevant hashtags, and checking their Klout score?

    • Stephanie Vermillion / Apr 27 2015 9:30 am

      Hi Krysia! So I use a mix of Cision (paid through our agency) and the free version of BuzzSumo’s Influencer Tool ( And, sometimes I’ll just do a plain old Google search for bloggers covering a topic if I’m looking for influencers in the blogging space. Does that help? Thanks for reading!


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