Gone are the days when journalists were the only editorial contacts on your media list.

Today, media lists encompass not only editors, reporters, anchors and on-air personalities, but bloggers, podcasters and online influencers who have cultivated loyal online followings around a specific niche.

Although engaging online influencers is a goal of many companies and causes, it can be challenging to persuade key influencers to engage with your brand. Influencer engagement requires a balance of strategy and creativity, and one generally does not take the same approach with them as when pitching a reporter.

Here are common missteps that prevent businesses and nonprofits from engaging their target influencers and cultivating them as devoted brand ambassadors:

1.      Focusing too narrowly on numbers

Although reaching influencers with large and loyal audiences is desirable, a focus on audience size shouldn’t overshadow the importance of finding an influencer (and their audience) whose attributes and values are well-aligned with your brand.

For example, although a nationally recognised blogger who has interested a social audience that ranks in the millions might seem like the mother lode, but a blogger or influencer with a strong local/regional following that falls directly within your target audience may yield an even stronger return.

2.      Not understanding the person’s relationship with other brands

Although bloggers and influencers generate their fair share of organic content, some brands have established influencer relations programs that compensate these individuals (either monetarily or with gratis products) for their social media shares and positive “word-of-mouse.” Sometimes these relationships are exclusive; in other instances, a blogger or influencer might promote specific brands only under “paid” arrangements.

Looking at the blogger’s or influencer’s social media feeds (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and hunting for the hashtags #ad or #sponsored is a good way to identify paid partnerships.

3.      Failing to identify the benefit to the blogger or influencer

Why should a blogger or influencer promote your product and align with your brand? What’s in it for them? What’s in it for their readers and followers? What makes you so fantastic that these contacts snap you up, just like that?

Clearly defining the benefit to the blogger or influencer is a crucial part of laying the foundation for success. Remember, it isn’t about you or what you want them to do for you; it’s about what you can do for them.

4.      Overlooking the importance of building a relationship

Just as you wouldn’t walk into a cocktail party, meet someone for the first time and launch into a hard sales pitch, you shouldn’t contact bloggers and influencers without first doing your homework.

Read the blogs you are targeting, follow the bloggers and influencers themselves on social media, and note the types of content they share and products they feature, as well as whether it indicates that a free product or other compensation was given in exchange for the review/product feature.

Although you want to be authentic with what you like or share on your brand’s social media channels, if you truly believe you have found the ideal bloggers and influencers, it is time to start building relationships.

In a nut shell

Connecting with the right bloggers and influencers can help expand online followings and cultivate loyal advocates.

Whether you have a fitness apparel line that you want renowned trainers to wear in their own workouts, or an educational product that you’d love to see in the hands of mummy bloggers, you must do your research. You must hone your request to get your brand in front of the audiences who could become prime customers and word-of-mouth ambassadors.