(Target Headquarters, Minneapolis)
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the word – influencer. In the world of social media, almost anyone with a blog is considered an online influencer. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I actually like it because it means the things we talk about have actual value. But what I’ve been really thinking about lately is – what makes you a “good” online influencer? What sets you apart? What makes a brand want to work with you?
As most of you know, I’ve been very lucky to be selected as part of the Target Inner Circle, a program designed to give a select group of online influencers an all-access pass to Target, their leaders and celebrity partners. I say lucky because Target is one of the brands I admire most. From their products to marketing, and to their ability to build communities; their strategies always seem to amaze me. To get behind and partner with one of the best in retail is an opportunity I will forever value.
However, I don’t think luck was the only reason I was chosen, it wasn’t a lottery. I was emailed and had to fill an application with my blog stats and info. The whole process took several months. When I received the email to become one of their members, well, that certainly felt like I won the lottery! But I couldn’t stop thinking, what made Target pick me? What is it that I have that stood out? Cause for sure, I didn’t have the biggest numbers to show nor am I anywhere near a celebrity blogger status, so why me? Well, I finally had the guts to ask Target to do an interview with me – an interview that shares valuable insights to us bloggers on what it takes to be online influencer. I hope you enjoy the interview, and better yet, take away something from it!
(A photo shoot of the TIC members at the Target Headquarters back in February. Unfortunately I had to miss due to becoming a mama to Hadley.)
SST: What are some of the qualities of an online influencer?
TGT: Influencers are incredibly important to Target because they are both our guests and brand ambassadors. They are strong storytellers whether it’s through writing, photos or videos, have unique perspectives, and have a genuine passion for sharing their experiences. Online influencers are also great listeners and create a sense of community that’s relatable to their friends, family and audience who trusts their advice and recommendations.
SST: Do you think being an online influencer is something that comes naturally or is it something that can be learned?
TGT: Personal influence is something that develops over time. It often begins with a topic that’s a personal passion, and respect, credibility and expertise are built gradually as someone shares their perspectives online. Influencers are curious and constantly learning, connecting ideas and people, and creating content. They grow with their audience and learn from them, and they are open to sharing their observations, ideas and adventures with others.
(Celebrating Target’s 50th anniversary bash in NYC)
SST: How do you pick the online influencers you want to work with? In other words, what do you look for in that person?
TGT: We want to work with people who are passionate about Target, share quality content and engage with their online communities through a variety of social media channels. We also look for influencers who represent the diverse perspectives and interests of our guests and team members. We want a good partner who we can be transparent with and vice versa, and hopefully we learn from each other. We invest time in our influencers to build relationships that are meaningful and go beyond one-time campaigns or projects.
In creating the Target Inner Circle program, we worked closely with our agency partner, IMRE, to help identify and connect with online influencers who are a good fit for Target, and this program.
SST: Do you think an online influencer needs to be active in a variety of social media channels (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Blog)? Or do you think focusing on just one is fine?
TGT: Quality over quantity is important. While more channels and more followers will increase reach, it’s about the quality of that content. If the story can be told well through six channels, then do it. However, if the story can be shared effectively though fewer channels with a more engaged community, then less is more.
We also want to help influencers grow on other channels they may be interested in exploring. One of the unique things we do is provide content and cross-promotional opportunities to help our influencers expand and grow in new areas. We want our influencers to get more than just products and experiences from us; we want to be good partners too and help them grow their business.
(Our favorite dog, Bullseye!)
SST: Do numbers really matter?
TGT: It’s not only a numbers game. Bigger numbers can signify a bigger reach, though numbers alone don’t show how engaged the community is. What we truly look for in a social influencer is unique content that is targeted to really bring value to the audience. We want influencers’ perspectives and enthusiasm to shine through to the point their audiences want to participate in online dialogue about that content. This goal can be accomplished even with a smaller, focused audience because the message gets amplified through the readers. Again, it’s quality that’s more important that quantity.
(The final picture of the TIC members taken at the Target Headquarters. Everyone looks amazing!!!)
SST: What advice would you give to someone who is trying to establish an influence online and partner with corporations?
TGT: Give it time. Know your passions and develop your audience. Try new things, listen to and connect with other influencers, and learn what content and social media channels resonate best with your particular audience. Dedicate time to create content and participate in online conversations on a consistent schedule. Think about how you can make yourself stand out and have fun with it!
SST: This is incredibly helpful and encouraging! Thank you so much to Target for sharing your valuable insights!