4 Traits of Successful Influencers: A Modern Guide to Social Selling

Social media has changed the way we sell. Learn how to identify key influencers in every niche and market.

January 19, 2016


The sales cycle has changed.

Social selling is on the rise, and the move online means prospects are choosing when they enter your sales funnel (hint: it’s later than ever) and how they reach purchasing decision based on third-party product information and reviews.

But where exactly are they getting this new information? And more importantly, how can you plug yourself back into the conversation—before they’ve made their purchasing decisions—to reach these highly motivated prospects?

Influencers. The future of social selling is reaching influencers.

What Exactly Is An “Influencer?”

Influencer Analysis simply defines an influencer as:

"An individual with an above-average impact on a specific niche process.”

This straightforward definition outlines four key attributes that every sales team should look for in their influencers:

  1. Individual - They’re a real person
  2. Niche - They’re active in your target community
  3. Above-average - They’re a trend-setter in that community, but still reachable
  4. Impact - They drive action within that community

Notice that this influencer profile doesn’t say anything about a “massive following.” There’s a reason for that.

Real People Get Real Results

Key influencers are not just accounts with the most followers. Anyone with $50 and a twitter account can amass an army of “bots,” and celebrities with 2.8M fans are not where your brand can make an impact—at least not for a reasonable ROI.

A person’s follower count is important, but like so many marketing metrics, it shouldn’t be the only tool in your kit. You don’t have to get Justin Bieber to hock your product for it to be successful.

An influencer is simply someone with authority in a community you want to engage with. That’s it. And that’s what makes influencers so exciting—you can start working with any size influencer today. You can open a browser tab and start right now. You just have to find them first.

Niche Is King

Before you plow into twitter armed with Klout scores and auto-response PMs, you have to first identify what your target market actually looks like. Who are your prospects and where are they online? Let context be your guide, and soon you’ll not only have a prospect profile, but you’ll define your influencer as well.

Give your influencer an identity. Create a detailed profile. What do they look like—age, demographic, education, location? What type of personality would best suit your campaign? Is your influencer an activist, reviewer, unboxer, comedian, expert, industry veteran? All of these influencers exist, and they each have unique reach, impact, and utility. You just have to find the right one.

Obsess about your influencer, before you reach out, because your prospects are doing the same thing.

Needle in an “Above Average” Haystack

Once you’ve profiled your influencer, the plethora of social media platforms, online communities, and options should shrink dramatically. Trends will emerge, and your rolodex of options should only include a couple dozen names. Find a few that stand out above the rest, based on posting relevance, frequency, target audience, tone, and medium.

Now you can reach out to them.

Socmetrics is a nice tool to identify possible influencers in a number of genres, as well as Buzzsumo, but there’s no substitute for spending time with prospects in your community. I always refer back to the simple advice from Rand Fishkin at Moz:

“The best way to sell something: don’t sell anything. Earn the awareness, trust, and respect of those who might buy.”

That “might buy” part he’s talking about is where your influencer comes in.

Define Your Impact

Klout says it best, “Influence is the ability to drive action.” Think of influencers as the intersection where “Interest” meets “Intent.”

Not every social media campaign is aimed at generating revenue—at least not at first. Sometimes, you might want to drive awareness, engagement, or another amorphous goal. It’s ok to be vague about your impact, but not about your CTA.

The best influencers regularly deliver CTAs to their community. New York Times best-selling author and marketing guru Jay Baer notes, “True influence drives action, not just awareness.”

Find an influencer than can drive one specific type of action. Tighten the sales funnel.

If you have a product launching in 6 months, drive email opt-in signups. If you have a conference scheduled with premium products on offer, drive prospects to your landing page. Have a finish line for your campaign—a single measurable goal that you and your influencer can work with.

Social selling is powerful, but it has limitations. 140 characters isn’t enough space to sell accounting software, but it’s perfect for including a link and photo back to your site.

Always run a results driven campaign with your strategy centered on future interactions on your terms—not just the influencers. The whole point of social selling is to contact prospects via influencers and move them into your sales cycle.

Influencers Get Results

Social selling is here to stay.

Define and identify core influencers in your market, engage with relevant communities, and drive action in specific, defined campaign goals and your sales team will thrive in 2016 and beyond.