I’ve had the pleasure to work with many different companies on several influencer marketing projects over the years. Some were really well run and excellent and others felt like they weren’t a great fit (my problem, more than theirs). As I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot more companies on influencer marketing programs, it’s been on my mind a lot. I wanted to write something from the perspective of the supposed “influencer,” and in this case I mean me.
Rule One: Honor the Community You Serve
The first and primary rule of influencer marketing, from my point of view, is that it should match the community the influencer serves. I work with owners which means either people who run their own business or who run their role at their midsized company. The people I have the most “influence” over (and I have to keep putting quotes around this because the term is a bit wonky at times) are those seeking to find ways to improve how they do business, who are trying to make it in this new largely entrepreneurial landscape, where the “rules” are a lot less defined and where the patterns have all been disrupted.
This means that when I work with a brand (almost always through their great agency) like Staples, it’s 100% spot on because my owners need what Staples sells. It means when I promote something like the US Bank “This is My Edge” contest that highlights owners like the ones I serve, everyone gets a chance to see themselves as benefitting.
Oh, and it also means disclosing that you work with the brand. It’s vital that you share your business relationships with the people you serve so that they understand your potential for bias.
Rule Two: Know the Brand and the Product/Service
This rule is for me, not the brand. I don’t take projects that won’t match the community I serve, or whose products or services I’ve no experience with in some capacity. I loved getting the chance to talk to then-CEO of General Motors Fritz Henderson because I’d been a GM customer my entire life. Though I admire several other car companies, it would be a lot less useful for me to promote their products, because I’ve nearly no experience with them.
Rule Three: My Voice is My Own
A lot of the influencer projects I’ve worked on have involved sharing my first impressions of a product I’ve not yet used. That’s a kind of fun project, but only if the brand and agency are ready for it to be talked about from my perspective, not their talking points sheet. If something isn’t quite 100%, it’s up to me to share that with the people I serve.
I once met the president of Panasonic US (I’m not sure if that’s exactly his title, but that’s the part of the company). We were looking at one of his cool video cameras, and we (I forget who, but I suspect it was Steve Garfield) showed him a Flip video camera, which was the coolest cheap video camera out at the time. He said very positive things about the camera, and said he hoped to bring some of that simplicity to his own line in the future. I found that VERY impressive. It had a strong impact on how I worked with brands from then on.
Rule Four: Make it Fun
As best as I can, I try to make the influencer project experience fun for me, for the community I serve, and for the company I’m working with. If it’s a slog, it’s not going to be well produced nor will it be all that well received. My job is to find the fun and interesting way to talk about a product or service, and when I’ve got the running room to do it, that makes the project more fun. If you’re seeking to be the one seen as the “influencer,” pay close attention to this.
Rule Five: It is a Business Relationship and Hopefully a Partnership
I’ve had two types of influencer program experiences. In one, it’s business. I do work and I get a check. In the other, I feel like a committed partner to the brand (and their agency). Some times, the budget for a project is far below what I charge, and the project just won’t work. Other times, and this happened recently, the budget wasn’t right, but I really wanted the partnership. With Staples, I feel like I have a partnership. I’ve felt that way with all the work I did with Disney for their Social Media Moms project.
Obviously, there’s a vast difference between getting a check and building a partnership. You know which one I’d prefer. So that’s a rule of mine. I seek the partnerships more than just a business interaction.
Influencer Marketing in the Larger Scheme of Things
We know word of mouth is king. It always will be. One of the biggest promises of social media was that it would be like word of mouth amplified.
Influencer marketing is in that weird “you know he got paid for this” part of marketing. Lots of marketing is, if you think about it. So to me, there’s kind of a hierarchy in terms of perceived value to the recipient
Word of Mouth
Other marketing styles
Again, I mean this in order of how it’s received by the end person, not where people spend and not it’s technical effectiveness to ROI.
With that in mind, that’s why I like doing it. I like being able to promote products and services to the people I serve. It’s a great opportunity to build relationships, and I’m always game for more chances to connect great people to a product they might benefit from using in pursuit of their own wins.
If you’re an agency representing an influencer campaign, you can always drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org .
And if you’re one of the people I serve, you now have the full view from my side of how and why I do what I do with regards to influencers.