Since I’ve been monitoring the topic of “influencer marketing” through BuzzSumo Alerts, the number of articles surfaced has gone from a few per week to 5 or 10 per day.
Out of that rising wave of expression from industry websites and blogs is a mix of news, tips, trends and 100% pure B.S.
Rising popularity makes things shiny and as influencer marketing enters the shiny object phase, it’s more important than ever to separate the facts from the fake.
Whether it’s practices that will get you in hot water with the FTC or the waste of a perfectly good budget on micro-influencer wannabes promising viral hits galore, there are plenty of distractions from realizing true influencer marketing ROI.
We’ve been working with influencers in earnest since 2011 and the lessons learned have been invaluable. A big part of what I get to do with our agency is to test ideas and approaches over months and even years in order to bring data-informed recommendations to our clients. I’ll tap into that experience for this post.
A BS-free approach to influencer marketing starts with this important understanding: The most practical and useful way to engage influencers in a way that creates value for everyone involved is through content. In fact, 80% of marketers say content marketing is what working with influencers has the greatest impact on. Accept that truth and your path to influencer marketing ROI will be much shorter, painless and enjoyable.
In a marketing context, influence is the ability to affect action – not attract 1,000, 100,000 or a million fans, friends and followers. To create action you need content and relationships.
Therefore, my definition of influencer marketing is: Developing relationships with internal and industry experts with active networks, to co-create content that helps drive measurable business goals.
Let’s break that down:
Developing relationships: Most influencer marketing involves the completion of a task. It might be an exchange of money for the creation of video posted to YouTube or occasionally replying via email to a quote request for a roundup blog post. These are both transactions and a transactional approach is not what wins hearts and minds.
Companies that approach influencer marketing with relationships in mind, will use co-creation of content to help build those relationships. The stronger the relationships, the better the content and the more actively involved the influencer will be in collaboration and promotion.
That means allocating time to connect the dots with influencers and your longer term content and social media plans, monitoring, engagement and communications. Not just an email when you need 50 words for a post on Wednesday.
Internal and industry experts: Influence is not limited to one type of person and brands can benefit greatly if they expand their view to include a mix of influencer types. That means looking internally at subject matter experts and executives that, with a little training, could contribute in a very meaningful way.
Beyond the professional influencers and industry experts are members of the media, customers, prospective customers and members of any communities that the brand is active in. All must be considered when developing relationships to grow your brand’s influence and the influence of those you work with.
Active networks: Expertise is not rare. A community of people that are actively paying attention and influenced by a person with knowledge and an opinion is less common and far more valuable for marketing. That means internal and external influencers that publish and engage to attract a network are often better collaboration partners because they have channels of distribution for their work.
Co-create content: Without content there is no communication and no influence.
It’s fine to engage someone with creative talent and a large audience to create media without the brand’s proactive involvement. That’s less about influencer marketing than hiring someone to make and promote media.
An influencer that collaborates with the brand is investing something meaningful into the project and that investment often brings inspiration to make it successful. When a brand is able to pull together a highly relevant group of influencers and has inspired them to see the greater good of the project, it’s amazing what can happen with the content and promotion of it.
Brands need to find a way to make influencers care about the content and the project’s success. If they don’t care, they won’t share.
Drive measurable business goals: Benchmarks and goals are essential for any marketing program and influencer content is no different. Influencer collaborations that are evaluated purely on participation, social shares or advertising equivalency fall short of meaningful ROI.
Mapping marketing to business goals is especially important with influencer marketing because the value of influencer collaboration can extend far beyond marketing to PR, customer success, and even talent acquisition.
A relationship and content-focused approach to influencer marketing makes it a dynamic, responsive and proactive asset that grows in momentum and value over time.
“When the brand and influencer relationship is mutually beneficial, both parties are going to get the best results out of the engagement.”
Amisha Gandhi, Senior Director of Influencer Marketing, SAP
By the way, Amisha and I are teaching an influencer strategy workshop at Content Marketing World on September 5th from 1-4pm. Check it out.
Going into an influencer marketing effort with an understand that you’re building something of value over time, not spending value on short term, disconnected campaigns, will make a world of difference in how successful the investment will be.
Let’s play a game of calling out influencer marketing B.S. – I’m going to list 5 statements that seem to be making their rounds and you can tell me if you feel they are legit or if they are B.S.
1. Influencer Marketing is best for B2C
2. It’s better to pay influencers for quicker results
3. Influencer Marketing is mostly for big brands
4. Only the famous and socially connected are influential
5. Tools are optional for Influencer Marketing
Do you agree with all of these statements? Or just a few of them? Any of them? Please let me know in the comments or on Twitter / LinkedIn / Facebook.
Better yet, chime on during the free webinar Ann Handley and I are giving on this very topic Tuesday February 28th at 12pm ET. You can get more information and register here.
Ann and I are going to share our perspectives as an influencer marketing practitioner and influencer to help marketers separate the “fake facts” and B.S. from what’s really going to help companies achieve positive ROI.
We’ll play a little influencer marketing B.S. Bingo plus we’ll dig into the most practical and B.S.-free advice we have on implementing successful influencer content programs. I will also share a 3 step approach I’ve used many times over with great success.
View the Webinar On Demand – Free
The No BS Guide to Influencer Marketing ROI With Lee Odden & Ann Handley
Heather W says
I’ve worked for the global brand with 236 subsidiaries around the world heading up several of their experiential marketing efforts and I am an influencer. All 5 of those points are BS. You need the right influencers just like you need the right in-house team; they’re an extension of your brand. Will try to tune in tomorrow. Interested in hearing more on your take.
Lee Odden says
Dude. Thank you. As an “influencer” that frequently works with brands who get it and brands who don’t, your words are refreshing.
Lee Odden says
Dude! Thanks 🙂
Curtis Kitchen says
What I’ve come to realize, appreciate, and love with both content marketing and working with influencers is that the systems are, at their cores, built to help those who DON’T have dollars to spend. Dollars *may* speed up the timeline, but if you don’t have the right content pointed at the right audience, dollars will simply point out your mistakes faster.