Influencer Marketing: Why You Need It And How To Get It

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A few years ago, I found myself on the busy streets of Hong Kong on a hot weekend afternoon. The noise of the city drove me crazy – there was construction work, loud vehicles and huge crowds of people shouting across market stalls.

In the midst of this commotion one woman drew my attention. She was selling a product – I forget what, but I think it was some kind of kitchen appliance – and she was doing a fantastic job of making herself heard over the deafening background noise of the marketplace.

I’ve thought about this woman a lot since. It’s a real skill to be able to make your voice heard in an environment like that. While the online world is generally far quieter, it’s even busier than a Hong Kong market stall, and it’s far more difficult to make your voice be heard.

So, where possible, I prefer to rely on people who’ve already succeeded at creating a large audience.

Influencer Marketing

Think about the number of commercial products that rely on celebrity endorsements. My bank sponsors sports stars, my iPod came with a free U2 album. My wife chose a new moisturizer for me simply because Hugh Laurie was advertising it.

Marketers refer to this phenomenon as ‘Influencer Marketing’: it’s the process of convincing people with a large following (influencers) to lend you their credibility. Your message goes out to a large audience, and because the messenger is somebody who people trust, they’re more likely to respond favorably.

One of the most popular video games of 2014 was Flappy Bird, a simple yet difficult game which was downloaded by millions of fans last year. The success of the game is mostly attributed to a popular YouTube gamer named Pewdiepie, who highlighted the game in a video. His review of the game (which, I must warn readers, is full of incredibly colorful language) has received over 28 million views, leading many to experience a game that they otherwise wouldn’t bother to play.

How to get influencer endorsements

But how can authors convince online influencers to share their books with a larger audience? While it may sound implausible, often all it takes is to ask. It doesn’t hurt at all to send an email, a tweet or a message to somebody you admire, asking for their help in spreading the word about your novel. In fact, in my experience, doing so is the single most effective way of growing an online audience.

Influencers aren’t just established celebrities – they include reviewers, bloggers and website editors. Around a year ago, I started messaging some of my work to big name bloggers who specialize in my work’s genre – several were very eager to help, and I’ve developed good friendships with a few, swapping not just advice on online marketing, but parenting advice as well.

Have a think about the big names online that could share your work with their followers. The best place to start is blogs and websites that you use yourself – if you’re a fan of these sites, there’s a good chance their other readers will like the same stories you do.

If you write steampunk stories, try sending some of your work to steampunk blogs or online groups (I’ve also seen some personal success with these communities). Reach out to as many people as you can, and not only will you see your work travel further, but you’ll also make new friends along the way.

Other authors are a fantastic place to start. Hugh Howey, author of the bestselling Wool series, is known online for his eagerness to use his internet fame to give other authors a chance at gaining a wider readership. Consider reaching out to your favorite authors online, and ask them for advice and marketing help.

It may seem rude or impolite to email strangers asking for help, but in my experience, most influencers are more than happy to talk to a fan, or a fellow creator who needs a little help in developing their following. If somebody asked you for help, you’d no doubt be happy to assist, and the large social influencers are no different.

That said, in reaching out, be sure to target the right audiences. Asking a blogger who specializes in gritty crime drama for help in promoting your fantasy comedy might not be the best fit, and you’re less likely to get help. But if you think an influencer will enjoy your work, feel free to give it a try – you have nothing to lose.

The internet is a society, and most people are generally friendly. Just be sure to pass on the love to other creators that you think could do with a helping hand!

Have you ever asked an online influencer for help? Has any of your work gone viral, and how did it happen? We’d really appreciate hearing your experiences in the comments section below.


5 thoughts on “Influencer Marketing: Why You Need It And How To Get It”

  1. That’s the thing, Matthew, I can’t get people to read my book–not my family, not my friends, not those whom I figured were my online peeps–nobody. I have very few reviews even though they are all favorable. I just don’t know how, or have the guts, to ask strange authors to give the book a look-see or a boost. How do you find the courage to ask and the right questions to ask?

    Thanks, Carol

    1. Hi Carol,

      I completely understand your hesitation. When I first started putting my work online, I tried advertising it in some internet forums with the strapline: “It’ll leave you laughing…maybe”. I was so nervous about encouraging people to read my work that I had to tag on a warning that my attempts at comedy might not be any good! Needless to say, this wasn’t a very effective way of drawing in readers!

      It can be really difficult to gain the courage to push literary work – we craft something that’s so personal to us, we’re afraid of negative reactions. But if you’ve already received some positive reviews, you’re already on your way to success!

      There are a lot of potential ways to encourage others to read your work, but the most important thing is learning to have faith in yourself. Trust that your work is worthwhile, and you’ll be more confident in the ‘hard sell’ of convincing friends, family and strangers to give your work the time of day. I know it might sound trite, but believing in yourself really is the first step to gaining followers!

      As far as asking the right questions go, I’ve recently been reflecting on my own successes and failures, and I think I’ve learned something important. I found that nobody ever really gave me much time until I started being honest. While starting out, I found it very difficult to build a following, but once I started telling potential readers just how much their input meant to me, I saw a great increase in readership and social media activity surrounding my work.

      I’d really recommend being open and honest with your friends, family, and other potential readers. Tell them how much it would mean to you for them to read your work, even tell them that you lack courage in promoting yourself and you could do with their support. And if your friends and family still can’t find the time to support you, try making new friends online in forums and Facebook groups. Let them know too just how important this is to you, and you’ll be surprised how much success you’ll see.

      I hope this helps! There’s no one perfect method of gaining readers, but these are the tips I’d give to myself if I could travel back in time to the start of my career. If nothing else, remember this: I have faith in you.

      Thanks so much for your comment,

  2. Hi Carol, I know exactly how you feel. If you don’t mind spending a bit of money, and depending on the genre of your book, why not go on a blog tour and get a captive audience of people who LOVE your genre. It’s a great way to spread the word, and the people who review your book because they enjoy the genre will most certainly tell their friends and families about your book – and you never know, they might be more receptive than your friends and family. My daughter was recently asked, “Hey, so your mom’s an author? I guess you’ve read all her books.” My daughter had to admit she had not…. So, you are not alone.

    1. I take my wife with me as a table partner when I sell my work at conventions. At the last one I had a new self-published book to sell (which I’d been working on for the past year and which I’d tried to share snippets of with my wife regularly). On the first day of the convention, she said “So, what’s the new book about?”

      Before we could do anything else I had to sit her down and explain the plot of the book! At least it was good practice for my “elevator pitch”!

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