In 2015 SEO is all about making connections and forming meaningful relationships in your industry. This can help you earn natural links from popular websites, social shares from prominent people in the eyes of your target audience, and most of all, help you establish your brand as an authority online. While there are many different aspects and layers to a marketing plan, using an influencer marketing plan as your foundation can help your company succeed in areas that really matter in today’s online space. No matter what industry, the size of your company, or your current popularity from a Google standpoint, influencer marketing is a strategy that can really help. The question is of course, where should a company even begin?

A Quick Recap: How Influencer Marketing Works

Influencer marketing means finding people who have a good reputation in your industry, meaning they likely have pull with your target audience. This usually comes from a long list of social media posts, referrals, relevant articles, etc. that show the audience that this person is someone who can be trusted. Ultimately you want to become an influencer in your industry, but until you have established that credibility, it’s up to you to connect with current influencers and allow them to help you eventually become an influencer yourself. Making this connection isn’t always going to be easy (as discussed in the next section), but once you are able to connect there are several different ways an influencer can help your marketing efforts:

  • Once you are on an influencer’s radar, it is more likely that they will refer to your articles when writing their own articles. This is the ultimate way to build links because they are completely natural.
  • An influencer usually has a lot of social media pull, so you may be able to send him/her one of your most recent articles to help promote. Hopefully an influencer will eventually share your articles on his/her own.
  • They may allow you to submit content on their website, which can help you get your content in front of a new set of eyes. An influencer’s website usually gets a lot of targeted traffic, so this is a great opportunity.

According to a Social Media Link article, Nielsen reported that brand advocates are 70% more likely to be seen as a good source of information by people around them. For this reason more and more companies are starting to create an influencer marketing strategy so the competition can be a little fierce, but it can be done with the right system in place and some personality.

How to Create an Influencer Marketing Plan

We covered this topic here on Search Engine Journal back in early 2014, but influencer marketing has changed quite a bit since then. While some of the basic influencer marketing tips are still relevant today, there have been many new tools and theories surrounding this type of marketing strategy. Consider how to create your plan with the tips below:

Find You Influencers

Once you understand your target audience you can begin to see who has influence over that audience. This does not necessarily mean online only, but can extend to celebrities or other figures outside of social media. Make a list of all of the different platforms your audience uses and what they may be reading and then go from there. As you begin to look at all of these different outlets, you’ll likely find that a few people keep appearing over and over. This is a great starting point for you to research that person and determine whether or not they really are a credible source. Look at the quality of content published and the number (and quality) of social followers to help determine if the influencer is someone who may be able to help you. I also recommend using Google+ Ripples to find influencers. This is a feature of Google+ that can help you see how a post you have shared has made its way through the social tool. In other words, it shows you who shared your post and then who gave you the most visibility from their share. The feature is easy to use, but check out this article to learn the specifics on using it to find influencers.

Build a Relationship with Those Influencers

Your next step in an influencer marketing plan is actually reaching out and building relationships with the influencers you’ve found. Remember that with the current competition this isn’t going to be easy, so expect several influencers to ignore you, but you should be able to create a connection with at least a few different people. Once you do and you start to become more authoritative yourself, this will get much easier and work like a domino effect. A few tips for building relationships include:

  • Interact with the influencer’s website and content first. You want to help get your name and face out there as much as possible. Influencers are more likely to react to an email from you if they recognize your name as a fan of their work.
  • Connect on social media. This is an easy way to make that first step of recognition. You don’t necessarily have to reach out to the influencer right away, but give him/her a chance to connect with you and then see your stuff in his/her newsfeed.
  • Try to find any mutual connections. Social media is a great way to find mutual connections. If you do find that you have someone you know in common, reach out to the person who knows the influencer to see if you can get any kind of personal introduction or insider information.
  • Reach out to the influencer. Reaching out through an email is a great way to get the ball rolling. Introduce the work you’ve done and make sure you tell him/her exactly why you’re writing. Do you want to contribute an article? Say that and have something great ready to go!
  • Always try to meet face-to-face. This is a point that I made in the Search Engine Journal article mentioned above and it’s something that still rings true today. If you see that an influencer is going to be at a conference or event in your area, it’s worth it to attend and make that face-to-face connection.

Create Quality Content Consistently for Your Influencers

Your last step is of course making the most of your new connection, and this means continuing to offer quality content than an influencer will actually want to share and reference. If you focus on creating relationships so much that your other work suffers, an influencer isn’t going to help you no matter how nice you are. I highly recommend checking out this infographic for more detailed information on influencer marketing and how it can fit into your existing marketing strategy. Do you have any tips for those looking to create an influencer marketing plan? Are you an influencer with a few thoughts on how to improve the process? Let us know in the comment section below.