Should Your Firearms Business Consider Social Media Influencers?

Looking to team up with an influencer to promote your product or store? Here’s how to pick the right person.

Should Your Firearms Business Consider Social Media Influencers?

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Between Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter, not to mention whatever will come along next, there are plenty of online platforms to promote your products and business. Most of you have already begun to use these tools. One way to expand your reach is to work with a social media influencer — an individual who uses their fame to promote various products, businesses and causes.

In this first of a two-part series, we’ll recommend factors to consider when interacting with influencers. With the bar to entry so low for burgeoning social media stars, it’s no wonder so many vie to be the next Garand Thumb. Some do this for a living, others post reviews due to an interest in weapons and gear, while still others are just looking for a pile of free stuff. Most use the medium of video to reach their audiences, but you’ll also run across bloggers as well as regular posters on various forums or Facebook and Reddit Groups.

Often, when a business is contacted by an influencer, I’m asked to vet them. Since I don’t know every influencer out there and new ones are always coming along, I’m going to give you a few tools to help you determine if a given influencer is a good fit for you. 

First off, determine the validity of the website or person making the request. Next, assess the whole person: who they are, how they approach you, their deportment, online behavior, everything. It’s like a job interview. When they write about your products, by extension, they are representing you.

Ask them how often they publish content and what their reach is. Notice I didn’t say, “Ask how many readers they have.” Reach is a bit bigger than that. High readership numbers don’t necessarily equate to the right readers. Sure, ask to see their web stats, but what’s important is who they are reaching. This info has to be weighed against your products and goals. If you make specialized communication devices and want to increase sales, those two million airsofters they reach every month probably aren’t going to help you much. On the other hand, if a guy is influential on a precision shooting forum of a few hundred members that include personnel from very specialized military and LE teams, sending your new scope to him might give you some excellent exposure.

Find out how long they’ve been at it. When I started my blog, I published an article a day for a whole year before a layoff forced me to commercialize the site. If they started last month, it’s probably best to give them some time to develop their voice.

Ask them what qualifies them to write about your product. There’s no right or wrong answer here, but you have to be satisfied with what they tell you. As a corollary, ensure they actually understand what your product is used for and that any product sample they are asking for isn’t really free and affects your bottom line.

On a similar note, ask them about their day job. Some people do this full time, so that one’s easy. If not, find out what else they are up to. Do they work for one of your competitors? Did they tell you about how they review gear and are also developing a few designs of their own? Or, better yet, are they working with other companies to test gear for them and develop products? Do they try to win your confidence by telling you all about what your competition is up to? If so, they’ll probably do the same to you once they are off to the next guy. Do they immediately start name dropping? While this isn’t necessarily bad, it is a trick often used to gain your confidence by associating themselves with others with better credentials.

All of these are flags to avoid. Influencers get access to a lot of behind-the-scenes info, including trade secrets and developmental products.

If they approach you in person, take a look at them. Are they properly dressed for the occasion, clean and organized? Most likely, they’ll be on video, so listen carefully to what they say and how they say it. Are they confident and professional, or do they come off like a used car salesman?

Did they offer to “test” your product? I can tell you from experience that testing requires use of the scientific method, a detailed test plan, and hundreds if not thousands of test data points. This equates to a great deal of time and money. Most of your products are already built to a spec, so what good is a guy going to do by taking one of your products down to the local range and shooting a couple of magazines through it, or lighting a match to it, or dropping a barbell on it? Absolutely nothing. These “tests” may make your product look bad since they are subjected to unrepeatable, anomalous protocols and arbitrary standards that they weren’t built for. Leave testing to guys in lab coats. On the other hand, if a guy wants to do a demonstration or examine an aspect of your product, and you are comfortable with his plan, go for it. Just remember, you have to live with the results of what they do.

Look instead for reviews that showcase your product by providing basic facts about the item’s physical properties, a demonstration and the influencer’s impressions on how it performs.

There’s a lot of good that can come from working with an influencer. Just make sure that your business and the influencer are the right fit for one another.

In the next installment, we’ll discuss ethical and legal issues to consider when working with social media influencers.


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