About a year ago, I announced that I would be writing my next book on influencer marketing The Business of Influence. But rather than creating a blog post about this new book, I created a campaign on Publishizer, a platform I highly recommend to anyone interested in writing a book. After selling hundreds of books there, I thought it was time through this podcast to formally introduce my upcoming book to my readers. In fact, I will probably repurpose this podcast to serve as the introduction for the book. The best place to start is with re-educating the market on what exactly a more suitable influencer marketing definition should look like.
With that in mind, today I want to talk about the narrow definitions and concepts most marketers, entrepreneurs and business people have about influencer marketing and why their current influencer marketing definition limits their tapping into the power of influencers for a variety of objectives. If you read my book today, you will be able to correct these errors before anyone else. I will come back with more info about the book at the end of this podcast for those that might be interested.
Why Influencer Marketing?
Influencer marketing is the number one topic people ask me about these days. Just like 5 years ago when I wrote my Maximize Your Social book based on questions I received at the time about social media strategy, social media audits, and social media ROI, influencer marketing today is the hot topic that every marketer is either trying to figure out or reap greater rewards from.
There is clear ROI that can be derived from influencer marketing and I will provide literally dozens of case studies in my upcoming book to learn from. There are many compelling reasons for influencer marketing outside of merely complimenting your traditional marketing campaigns. After reading my book, I believe you will see that influencer marketing should be a fundamental part of a company’s marketing mix. This is not just for consumer brands targeting millennials or tweens. This is for any brand including B2B companies, non-profits, and government organizations.
The objective of this episode, therefore, is to both give a formal introduction to my upcoming book and to advise on how to redefine and re-utilize influencer marketing for your organization. I feel an urgent need to share my views on the definition of influencer marketing because as I write this book and talk with potential publishers, I find that most people equate influencer marketing to consumer e-commerce brands trying to tap into the 20-something crowd on Instagram.
Books on Influencer Marketing
So how will The Business of Influence be different than other similar books on the market?
Assuming that you have read business and marketing books such as my Maximize Your Social book, you will know that there’s lots of books out there on the topic of influence beginning with Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. There have also been a number of books around the topic of influence in the last decade. There are other books that talk about influence in terms of personal branding or how to become more influential. The idea for my new book actually came from a webinar I launched on this very topic of how to become a social media influencer. A lot of marketing professionals ask me how they can yield more influence on social media, and thus that was the impetus for that webinar and partially for my book as well.
None of these books that I have found are really focused solely on helping the CMO, marketers and businesses leverage influencers for their marketing in today’s current world of social media. In the last part of my book, there will be information about why businesses should try to become more influential themselves in social media – and so should marketing professionals. That being said, my main focus is on helping businesses and marketers as I have done in Maximize Your Social and Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing.
Redefining the Influencer Marketing Definition
Let’s start with the definition of influencer marketing or rather redefine the current concept of influencer marketing as it is being talked about. Currently, a lot of businesses only look at influencer marketing in terms of Instagrammers. Instagram is indeed achieving the largest year to year growth of all the major social networks. It has now become the second largest social network. There has been a huge growth in the United States of Instagram users, and we are now seeing that growth expand worldwide over the last couple of years.
It’s a very exciting time to be involved in Instagram marketing. But influence knows no limits. If someone can be influential on Instagram, what about all those YouTubers like Logan Paul with millions of subscribers? They’re all influencers and we can’t forget about them. Especially those YouTube influencers in the gaming sphere. My elementary and middle school kids don’t know a lot of influencers, but they play Fortnite and know the YouTubers who are famous for playing Fortnite that you and I have never heard of. Who influences who is at a point of democratization that we have never seen in modern times due to the spread of the Internet, Internet accessibility through mobile technology, and, of course, social media.
Looking for Influencers Beyond Instagram and YouTube
Where do other influencers exist? What about bloggers? Influencer marketing started with the concept of blogger outreach before we even had Instagram and Snapchat. So, there are also bloggers who yield influence. There are ‘Snapchatters.’ who in their tweens who yield influencer. There are people who are very influential on Twitter. A Chinese PR agency often reaches out to me as an influencer for sponsored tweets. Although I try to push other networks as I feel they would benefit from them, they only want to focus on Twitter. Twitter is still extremely popular in Japan. Even more popular than Facebook and Instagram. People also yield influence on Facebook and LinkedIn. Don’t forget about influential Pinners on Pinterest as well.
When you think about business and marketing holistically, you begin to see that influence does not depend on a singular social network. Influence really is everywhere, and this is something that should be recognized in any definition of influencer marketing. There are niche communities everywhere just like Seth Godin wrote about in Tribes that, through the power of the Internet and now more specifically social media, allow us to easily find others to connect with that share our passions. And there are niche communities in almost any given subject. This is why regardless of industry, there is probably a community that you can and should be tapping into.
Those of you that saw me speak at Social Media Marketing World last year will know of a concept that I spoke about there and have since blogged about in the post Influencer Marketing is About Community, Not a Campaign. There will always be a larger community who don’t know about you that you should be tapping into, that should have affinity with you but don’t because they just haven’t found out about you.
I was recently asked to contribute to a blog post. The question was if you only had $100 to spend to generate website traffic, where would you spend it? My answer was I would spend $50 on retargeting because we know that these are people who already have some affinity with us but for whatever reason have not converted. I would spend the other $50 on working with influencers to tap into the community that should have affinity with us but don’t and it will be much more effective than traditional paid media when it comes to attracting their interest.
In other words, no matter how invaluable influencer marketing might be, similar to how I say social media replaces nothing yet complements everything, the same can be said for including influencers as a component in everything we do in marketing.
Now that we begin to look at influencer marketing in this light, I talked about blogger outreach, an early form of influencer marketing. Bloggers may not have the same type of community as a Facebook or LinkedIn group, or the type of engagement that you might see on LinkedIn or Instagram. But they do have a community that will comment on, take action from, and sometimes, if they have influence, these same blogs will appear in Google Search for anyone looking for that relevant bit of information to discover -forever.
Thus, we can’t forget the power of working with bloggers when we talk about influencer marketing. After all, the lifetime of a tweet is very short. The lifetime of an Instagram post may be a little bit longer due to hashtags (I still have people that like my Instagram posts from 2 years ago because they found it through a less-popular hashtag) and if you want to talk about long social post lifespans, Pinterest is probably the longest (some pins from a few years ago still drive traffic to my digital properties.)
We can think about influencers in lots of different ways publishing content on a variety of platforms using various content mediums. What all these entities have in common is that they are content creators. From a search engine perspective (although we can find social content in search engine functionality), social networks can’t compete with Google. This is why bloggers are still a prime source of people you should work with (B2B industries already realize this but B2C industries could work more with bloggers instead of their current almost exclusive Instagram-specific approach).
What are some other examples of influencer marketing that are often forgotten?
Affiliate Marketing and Influencers
What about affiliate marketing? Affiliate marketing (although the term was around way before the term influencer marketing) really is another form of influencer marketing. How influential these affiliates are is questionable. I know some affiliate platforms that will screen you and who only want to work with people they think are reputable and have influence over a community. But nevertheless, they are exposing your product or service to someone else’s trusted community.
Here’s the thing. An influencer doesn’t have to be a 10 million follower Instagram celebrity. An influencer may only have 5,000 followers but they have a highly engaged community in something relevant to services and products you offer. Now you can see how broad a definition influencer marketing should be.
Advocacy Marketing and Influencers
What about other types of influencer marketing that further widen this definition? What about your fans? Plenty of statistics show that investing in relationships with customers will bring more business than investing in advertising outside of your customers. Not only through loyalty will your customers purchase more from you, but they will also refer you to new customers. True brand advocates are already talking about your brand in social media and are probably already your customer but there are others whom you can convert into brand advocates.
What about employees? If we can look for influence around us, perhaps our employees might yield influence on social media. They probably do, especially if you’re a B2B company or a technology company, especially people in your R&D, your engineers, and any company executives. If they tweet or post to LinkedIn, they might yield real influence in social media.
Employee advocacy – especially in the case of B2B enterprises with sales people who yield influence across a large network – is a no-brainer component that you should include as part of your influencer marketing initiative. I will have a dedicated chapter on the employee as influencer in The Business of Influence.
Social Media Was Made for People, Not Businesses
The whole idea is that social media was made for people, not for businesses, and this is reflected in the algorithms that dictate what your fans see in their newsfeed. People will always outperform brands, which is why I have not switched my Instagram profile to a business profile to this day despite the tremendous benefits of the swipe-up link-building feature in Instagram Stories that business profiles with a certain number of Instagram followers enjoy. Despite these benefits, I believe my engagement would go down as a result of having a business profile.
If the algorithms are skewed against you as a business, when your Facebook page posts get zero visibility, when your LinkedIn company page posts get zero visibility, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube are still areas where the profile and business of a person perform almost equally well. But even as a business, it’s harder to engage with people and be authentic in doing so. It’s hard to become a person, no matter how much brands try to humanize their presence in digital and social.
Therefore, all the different types of influencers I speak about are all people and that is the unifying substance here. It’s not that you have to have x number of followers, it’s that you’re a person, you’re active in social media, you are a content creator, and you have a community that engages with your content, ideally, and specifically around a certain subject matter or content that is important to your business. The fact that social network algorithms will continue to prioritize the content being published by people over brands is an additional fact that we can’t forget when speaking about influencer marketing.
That’s why most people’s definition of influencer marketing is way too narrow.
Roundup Blog Posts
Let’s look at another example: The roundup blog post.
If you listened to the previous episode of Maximize Your Social (episode 132), I talked about the influencer marketing value of the roundup blog post. This is very popular in B2B circles, in social media and marketing circles, but regardless of which type of business utilizes this component of influencer marketing, it’s all about reaching out to those who are more influential than you. It’s asking them to contribute to, or answer a few questions, to interview them, and include that as a blog post where the hope is that some of those who contribute will share this post with their own network.
In other words, if you want to ask an influencer to share your blog post, very few will. But if you use the creation of a round up blog post as a way to, hopefully, get them to share your post, or at a minimum, help you to establish a relationship with the influencer for the future. Maybe you invite 50 influencers and 20 agree to be part of the post and 5 end up sharing that final piece of content out of the 20. That’s still 5 influencers who will expose your content and your website to their community. This will undoubtedly expose your website to new traffic, leads, and conversions.
Inviting Influencers to Events
What about events? Inviting influencers to be part of webinars for example. Or inviting influencers to be part of your physical event. Why not make them part of your event by inviting them to speak, moderate, or run a Twitter chat during your event? Included in my upcoming book is a great case study from the influencer marketing platform company Onalytica about working together with VMware for VMWorld Europe, how they brought together influencers in the Tech community for a tweet chat and panel discussion, and the incredible amount of engagement they gained from doing so.
Events are a great way to work with influencers, I would even consider creating one in order to work with them. I am an advisor to an event management company in Japan who run corporate and B2B events. I have seen the incredible ROI from running such events and from my content creation around this ROI in the form of case studies. Events are a powerful form of marketing and the inclusion of influencers in such events lets you help strengthen relationships with them and provide the opportunity to meet them in person and get some face time so that you can strategize on future collaborations.
The Business of Influence
Now you know why, because of the complexity of the subject, The Business of Influence has been an ongoing project for several months. I’m happy to announce with this podcast that I have finally hit the approximately 70,000-word count. I only plan to make this a 60,000-word book, so I will be tightening up the content going forward. The rough draft of the manuscript is finally complete and I’m working on the final edit as we speak. I also finally hit my goal of 500 pre-orders on the Publishizer platform.
If you are at all interested in this book, there are unique benefits and discounts I’m giving only to those who literally invest in me and pre-order the book. Now that I have reached 500 pre-orders, the campaign will end very soon after the publication of this podcast. You can find the details behind the book campaign here. I’m sorry if you are listening to this podcast after the date and have missed out on this opportunity. Please subscribe to my updates on this website (nealschaffer.com) to find out when the book will finally hit the bookstore shelves.
That’s it for today. I hope this has piqued your interest in influencer marketing and see that it is a fundamental part of marketing that makes more and more sense as social networks tweak their algorithms towards people over businesses and social media becomes more pay to play and as people tune out of advertisements – including those in social media – more and more. It’s hard to compete with the authenticity of people and their content and engagement in social media. I hope you will join me in leveraging this new form of marketing across a wide span of people, not just your Instagram celebrity but take advantage of the influence and influencers that surround us.
In conclusion, rethink your mindset regarding this narrow definition of influencer marketing, and I am confident your business will reap the benefits in 2018, 2019, and beyond.