Using marketing influencers to grow audiences

The National Arts Marketing Project Conference is one of the best conferences I have ever attended. A few years ago I had the pleasure of attending in Atlanta, and I have been wanting to return ever since! I am grateful to have had the opportunity to present a session , “Using Marketing Influencers to Grow Audiences” alongside Jennifer Rice and Diane Landry.

This post is a recap of my steps to start using digital influencers, some handy links for the participants and the results from our world cafe group dialogue exercise.

Five steps to reach out to digital influencers
I am not a digital marketing expert and I live in a city that has only 135,000 people or so, so we are often behind the trends of our bigger neighbours Toronto and Ottawa. So, my question last year was how can we, with limited human resources and a small budget, connect with our target markets in a way that speaks to them in an authentic voice? Actually my first questions were what the hell is a digital influencer and do we have any in Kingston?

How we did it in five steps.

  1. Hashtags.You need to search local hashtags and watch who is saying what to figure out who your local influencers are. Some people have a blog, some people just do Instagram, and some are active on Twitter. Who are some of the people who are ‘popular’ in your city? We started following our local hashtag #ygk and signed up for notifications to see who those people were.
  2. Engagement. A lot of influencers buy followers so they can sell those numbers to potential clients. The number of followers don’t matter, but the level of engagement does. If you leave a post, does that person respond? Do they connect with others in the community? We looked for people who were regularly active on social media and heavily engaged with both people on their feed and others.
  3. Know your audience. There are a lot of very specialized Instagram feeds and social media is the place for niche marketing. In Kingston we don’t have any influencers who just specialize in the arts, so I looked for people who cared about the values, lifestyle or products that my audience also cares about. This is based on segmented patron research in our case, but if you don’t have that information, you can make some assumptions and then do some testing.
  4. Tone and voice. You have to let it go and let your influencers speak in their own voice. Don’t write the posts for them, but share with them about your brand guidelines and who your audience is. Show them how your organization speaks about itself and what might be appropriate and inappropriate.
  5. What do they think? Work with influencers who aren’t just wanting to get paid, but care about your product and are excited to work with you. When we were searching for potential partners, we found two women who are passionate about the arts and went above and beyond to work with us and found it so exciting to have the opportunity. Don’t forget that the backstage in the arts world is really amazing to people!

Action items 
Here are the top answers to our group dialogue session:

  • If your customer is a symphony-goer, what types of industries / influencers might appeal to them to be a potential partner?
    A: Partnerships with luxury car dealership to tap into their social media and influencers, track main influencers and promote gimmicks (like tix and test drive)
  • What low-cost benefits can you offer an influencer that either he/she might personally enjoy or his/ her followers would enjoy?
    A: Free tickets; backstage access; use of space;
  • Twitter is still relevant for a number of segments. What are some of the ways that arts organizations can partner with influencers to reach those active on Twitter?
    A: Curate conversations vs. just sharing information; reach out to people outside your art’s bubble; promote live engagement among new audiences
  • Many digital influencers are active on Instagram. What types of images can be accessed by marketers to enhance the reach of influencers?
    A: Backstage tours and fun facts; exclusive content; have it personalized for them;awe-inspiring content; make it personal and human
  • Some board members are hesitant to spend money on ‘unproven’ tactics and prefer more traditional forms of media. What can you say to help justify to a board member that working with digital influencers might be worthwhile?
    A: Use metrics from case studies and then back it up with your own analytics; reach new audiences/ markets; long-term investment
  • What are some ways that you can ensure that the tone and voice of a digital influencer will represent your organization in the way you want be represented?
    A: Research their organic tone / voice; have your own strong tone/voice; have a style guide
  • If your customer is a dance attendee, what types of industries / influencers might appeal to them to be a potential partner?
    A: Dance moms; popular dance and radio personalities; choreographers

Handy links
Do you still have questions? Here are some interesting articles to help you along.
How to work with an Instagram Influencer
The ABCs of Influencer Marketing
11 Influencer Marketing Statistics You Should Know
9 Elements Successful Influencer Marketing Agreements Contain
22 Clauses for Influencer Marketing Contracts
Should you be letting it go?

You can reach our panelists Diane Landry at and Jennifer Rice at

Questions? Email me anytime and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Special thanks to Bob Giarda, Amy Paauw and Bridget Gilhooly who did all of the heavy lifting on this show, and to Claire Bouvier and Jesse Whale for doing such a great job sharing the work we do! I hope to see you in Miami in 2019.


1 Comment

  1. November 11, 2018 / 7:35 am

    This is a great article Julie. It actually helps me, as an influencer, understand how brands work and search for people to work with! Thanks for sharing these tips, and I’m so glad you found some influencers who pair well with your message!

    (I am available for work as well – my demographic is busy working parents (mostly moms) with children from ages 6 to 15 or so. I do have a lot of other “dance moms” following my as well. Feel free to get in contact with me!)

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