Influencer Relations – The Wild West of the Marketing World


A decent amount of my time is spent not just defining what I can do for companies, but actually defining new terms and tactics that are trending in my industry. (Note: This is not a stick at anyone, as I wouldn’t expect my extremely busy clients to have time to dive into this sort of stuff.) But regardless of where your internal marketing dictionary ends…there is one term that’s been around for awhile, yet is still evolving and broadening its definition on the daily. It’s the word “influencers” and I like to define it as the Wild West of the marketing world. No one really imagined Influencer Marketing being a thing, and it’s still very much a “the rules are there are no rules” mindset. Maybe I should’ve referenced Fight Club in my article title? Moving on…

Some people are still absolutely stunned when I tell them they may need to allocate marketing money towards getting featured on a popular blog or Instagram account. Should you always have to pay to play? No, but the point is that, to some, Influencer Marketing is such a foreign concept.

But is it really that foreign? I think that most people have always trusted the word of someone they respect or admire over corporate messaging or a formal ad. Yet many members of C-level management will need the value of influencer tactics spelled out for them – and they’re not alone. According to a report by Altimeter and Traackr, 1/3 of marketers still have a low opinion of influencer relations…and I don’t blame them. Unless you know what the term means, and how it can provide value, then why would you trust it to work for your company?

One of my very close friends goes to incredible lengths to explain Influencer Marketing to her leadership team, and (are you ready for this?) it involves a tree diagram with human stick figures and arrows. To be completely honest a stick figure doodle might be the best way to visually describe the path from influencer to end goal, whether that means a direct sale or some sort of KPI. But in simple terms it can be explained as, “A nonpromotional approach to marketing in which brands focus their efforts on opinion leaders, as opposed to direct target market touchpoints.” (Thank you, Forbes.) And you know what?  It’s a big deal and it WORKS.

influencerstatSource: ADWEEK

Before you start stressing about budget allocations and blah blah blah, know that there are many cost-effective ways to work with influencers. The easiest way to explain this is by segmenting them into two categories:

Earned Influencers: They are oh-so-sweet! These are natural advocates who are already chatting about your brand because they’ve had positive experience(s) with it. (A great way to find these ambassadors is to have someone skillfully monitoring conversations via social media, etc.) The real “hurdle” for leveraging this group is to have a team member who is responsible for managing influencer relations, planning collaborations, and organizing all your amazing content. It’s important to note that a valuable influencer for your brand may have a reach of 5,000 people, or maybe 5 million people…it really depends on the evaluation of their audience and how it intertwines with yours. If you’re new to the market and don’t have anyone talking about you yet, have no fear. I believe there are earned influencers for every brand – you just need to discover and engage. Building an earned influencer list is easy if you’re resourceful about it (stay tuned for an article all about that).

Paid Influencers: Not just talking about Kylie and Kendall Jenner here. There are a lot of opinion and inspiration leaders out there that are charging beacoup bucks to provide product context, or to show up to your event – from lifestyle bloggers, to wellness warriors, to tech nerds, and everything in between. My advice to you? Remember: The rules are there are no rules. They’re going to send you a compensation spec sheet and you’re going to be shocked…but know that, as always, there’s room for negotiation. There might even be an opportunity to form a collaboration with product or marketing collateral used as compensation. Once you decide to work with someone, make sure every little thing is listed on the contract (Ex. How many social posts? What’s the time frame? How will KPIs be tracked?). This is just one of the many moments where having an experienced new media manager really pays off – they should be going through your contract with a fine tooth comb!

Both earned influencers and paid influencers can hold tons of value for your brand – it’s up to your team to measure the success of these relationships and campaigns in a way that makes sense.

My last tidbit is to never get too comfy with your strategy. After all, this is the Wild West of the marketing world. Giddy up…

Got a question? Send me a note.

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