Five Misconceptions of an Influencer

Everyone always talks about what an influencer is, but do you know what the common misconceptions of an influencer are?  I did a bit of digging and to my surprise, there actually isn’t much on this subject. I think I found more on failed influencer marketing campaigns I mean, I confess, it is much easier to share my thoughts on what an influencer is and how to incorporate them into a digital marketing campaign.  So, my approach in this instance was to look at articles on spotting fake influencers or failed influencer marketing campaigns and identify the most common denominators across these articles. And, ‘Wallah’, here you have the five most common misconceptions of an influencer.

  1. Does size really matter? More often than not, we think the bigger the following the greater the influence and impact on revenue.  Although this is true, then how do you explain the power of the micro influencer. The ones with the smaller, more niche following?  It all boils down to finding the right influencer, regardless of size, that aligns with your business values and customer needs.
  2. When the bark is louder than the bite. Having an opinion is one thing, but having an opinion that actually means something and drives impact, are two separate things.  Social media has empowered everyone to voice their opinion on any subject, regardless if they are an expert in that subject matter, on any and every social media or messenger application out there.  In the end, influence is about having an opinion that actually gets someone to ‘bite’. After all, anyone can create a Twitter account these days and sound off.
  3. Disruption: Influencer or Troll? Trolls share similar characteristics to an influencer.  For instance, their posts have high virality or engagement rates, but the difference is the intent of the post.  Like influencers, trolls will share their opinion in an effort to drive the conversation and potentially cause a bit of disruption.  However, it is important to look at the value of that post, conversation or engagement. Trolls definitely disrupt and typically do with malicious intent by baiting their audience.  Influencers disrupt as a means to encourage a different way of thinking or doing something. An influencer is a trusted ‘advisor’ unlike a troll, who is often seen as a pest or shit stirrer. 

  4. Follower to Engagement Ratio. A very common misconception that people have is that the higher the followers the greater the influence.  I would even say it’s probably one of the greatest illusion that is easily attainable with the use of one’s favorite credit card.  A telltale sign that someone bought their followers is that the ratio of engagement to followers is way off. For instance, someone may have a 100K or even 1M followers but only 100 engagements (i.e. post likes, comments, or shares). With that amount of followers, the engagement rate should be in the thousands if not tens of thousands.  You can even use a helpful and free tool called, Social Blade, to identify who has bought influencers.

  5. Content and Comment QA (quality assurance).They may share hundreds or thousands of posts a month, but sometimes their content is just contributing to the noise and not really having any real impact.  Even in some instances the imagery or copy is a mere stock image with a picture of them photoshopped in or stolen from an actual influencer. So, don’t be fooled by the number of posts but be sure to measure the quality of the content by taking a good look at the engagement rate.  It’s a bit harder to identify if the post is actually original content or imagery, but I would take a look at the engagement to follower ratio and check the consistency of the engagement rate across their most recent posts. Now while you’re looking at the engagement rate, I would venture to take a closer look at the type of commentary the posts are getting.  If you see comments that are just emojis or generic statements that would work on any kind of content like, ‘love it’, ‘great pic’ or beautiful. The more generic the more likely they are fake followers or spammers and that’s not an audience you want to invest in.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t read or see something about the rise of influencers.  Influencer marketing has taken off over the last few years and there’s a bit of #FOMO with marketers that don’t have an influencer game plan.  This feeling of #FOMO is making them even more anxious to find a quick fix and taking the bait of putting their money on the ‘influencer’ with the highest follower or virality.  Take the time to build the right influencer program and take these five common misconceptions into consideration when selecting an influencer. If you were, ‘late to the game’, then what’s another day, week or month to do the right thing for your business?

Hope this article was helpful.  Would love to hear what you think and more than the ‘cool article’ type of thought.  So feel free to comment below.

Why Community is the Holy Grail

The power now lies with the community and it’s time that we learn to not only accept that but to embrace it.   

There hasn’t been a time when people find out I’m a digital marketer with a specialty in social media and they haven’t asked the holy grail of questions, “Got any tips?”  It’s almost asked in a tone of giving me something easy I can do now that will get me followers or increase engagement.  My typical response is a light-hearted smile and says, “Well that’s a loaded question.  Let’s narrow it down a bit.  What are you trying to do?”  Some are disappointed that they actually have to engage in a conversation, while others look bewildered as if I should know or they are not sure where to start.

I think they are afraid to confess that they are overwhelmed or lack a bit of confidence in what they are doing because their mindset of social is from a user perspective.  Meaning, if I just tweet or do an Instagram story the users will engage- it should be that simple.  It’s moments like these that remind me of the famous quote from Field of Dreams with Kevin Costner, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ Gone are the days of pushing out a message and thinking a community will just suddenly appear.  The power now lies with the community and it’s time that we learn to not only accept that but to embrace it.  So, why is the community such a big deal?

The Rise of the Community

You may feel that I’m over complicating things, but really, I’m just trying to shed some light on the situation.  Once we have a better understanding of key trends affecting user behavior due to technological advances, then we will have a better idea of the journey we are about to embark on.  Having this insight is extremely useful when building and executing a marketing or business strategy that is focused on a specific target market.

Now I’m not saying we need to do months of research and planning, but a good old simple google search will do.  Here are three interesting points that I found by searching for digital marketing impact on consumer behavior and digital marketing trends.  I specifically picked these because there is a much-needed shift in the way companies do business and I feel like they hit the nail on the head.  Keep reading and you’ll see why.

  1. Customer capital is the new currency
  2. 63% of global consumers would buy from a company they consider to be authentic
  3. 65% of customers expect consistent levels of service across physical and digital experiences

It’s all about the community (Benjamins) baby

First, it’s time to wake up and recognize that we live in a time that the customer is the primary focus of everything we do.  They will be our champions and they will also be our worst critics.  Brand loyalty fights and relevancy are taken out on the digital streets of Twitter, Amazon reviews, Instagram comments, etc.  As a business, you can go up on the defensive, completely ignoring what your customers have to say or you can try an old school tactic at the forefront of digital communication and actively listen.  Weed out the trolls from the ‘real humans’ and use the information as a way to enhance product/service offerings and truly connect with your community.

There is an interesting phenomenon that’s happening when a brand takes that first step of showing its community that it cares.  According to CMO article on 9 digital marketing trends of 2019, we are seeing that ‘the brand is working for the consumer and we will begin to see the consumer working for the brands as well.’

I mean it’s already happening.  We see it in the rise of influencers and not just celebrities but the micro influencer.  Not sure what the difference is, then check out my other two posts on this topic:

What is an influencer?

5 Golden Rules to engaging a Celebrity Influencer

So, when we say ‘customer capital is the new currency’ I interpret this as us living in a time when ‘brands leverage their social capital with consumers’ through authentic social interactions with their community.  This effort allows a ‘brand to understand the value of its online social networks’.  Therefore, as a brand builds its social capital through authentic experiences that the community craves, only then will we begin to see a community to ‘more likely act on the brand’s behalf.’

Authenticity vs Egotistical

People are craving authentic and consistent experiences, and this leads to point 2: 63% of global consumers would buy from a company they consider to be authentic.  Authenticity should not be mixed with being brutally honest.  I think when people hear, ‘you need to be more authentic’ they translate that as ‘ok, I’ll just tell the truth no matter what and people will totally respect that input regardless of the situation.  After all, honesty is the best policy.’

Yes, honesty is the best policy, however, it is all about leaving the ego behind and delivering it with some grace, oh and a side of humble pie doesn’t hurt.  For me, authenticity is about owning the good, the bad, and the ugly and actually using those experiences to do something better for the community.  It’s one thing to say, ‘Yeah, we f’d up’ and expect people to just be ok with it.  It’s another to say, we f’d up and here is what we are going to do to fix it and actually, follow through with it.  Establish, share, and stick with values and communicate them through compelling and relevant stories that build trust with your community.

Think Customer Experience First, Then Your Cash Flow

Through authentic behavior, you discover what it really means to be accountable.  It also doesn’t mean anything if you are not consistent (point 3).  Not just in your response to situations in one medium but across all touch points your customer will have with your brand.  I personally went through a horrible experience with an airline last year, which you can learn more about in my blog, Round Trip Customer Experience. It’s about shifting your business mindset and truly making the customer the center of your universe.

Steve Jobs said it best, “You have to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology.”  I would even say that the customer’s experience and their input need to be used as a kind of checks and balances across various aspects of the business.  Starting first with the brand’s values, which is the culture that is pumped through the organization, regardless if you are big or small.  Your company values are reflected in the people you hire, the products you create, and the way you go to market.  How can you maintain a consistent customer experience if any of the three don’t align with each other, including your values?  Consistency is what helps maintain relevancy, builds loyalty and a strong community that shares the same intrinsic values.

The Strength of the Community

Did you know that at least 70% of millennials base their decision to buy a product based on recommendations made by their peers on social media?  I strongly believe that a strong community base can make or break a company.  They cause fundamental shifts like product enhancements, recalls, boycotts, etc.  Below are a few great examples that I personally enjoyed reading and hearing about:

  1. A Girl Wanted Shoes Marketed for Boys. See How Steph Curry Answered the Call. Via Time Magazine
  2. 3 Brands That Prove Listening To Customers Is Key to Company Comebacks via Fast Company
  3. Five Times Customers Asked For Change and Brands Actually Delivered It via Brandwatch

How well do you know your community?

Ok by now you should totally get that community is the holy grail, great! So, how well do you know your community? And when I ask this question, I’m asking you to go beyond the typical demographics, which are an important piece to this.  However, social media, Google, and sites that have product reviews have forever impacted how brands connect with their buyers on an emotional level.  Therefore, when I’m asking this question, I’m looking for the following:

  1. What are their pain points or what brings them joy?
  2. What are their interests (dog lovers, environmentalists, adrenaline junkies, coffee fanatics, etc.)?
  3. What do they value? (social impact, life-changing, emotional, or functional)

SIDE NOTE: Check out Harvard Business Review article on The 30 Things Customers Really Value

  1. What digital channel or social platform do they use the most?

SIDE NOTE: Check out We Are Social and Hootsuite Digital 2019 Trends report (one of my favs to look at)

  1. What content format do they engage with the most (video, animated GIFs, memes, podcasts, blogs, etc.)?

Don’t Just Throw the Spaghetti Too See if it Sticks

The point here is you’ve got to have some kind of insight into who your customer is before you try creating content or a new product that you throw up on the wall like that cooked spaghetti to see if it sticks.  You need to know your community and if you don’t then there’s no time like the present to figure it out.  Oh, and as the saying goes, ‘When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me’. So, don’t you dare try to answer those questions based on your own self-interests.  If you did, then you’ve missed the whole point about community and need to reread this blog from the beginning.

If you can answer those questions, then I recommend creating a community profile(s) or buyer persona(s), kind of like a member profile on a dating app.  These profiles will help guide the creation of new products or services, the messaging and imagery used across all your marketing assets, and how the company engages with the community over the phone or online.  If you’re not sure where to start, then I recommend Hubspot’s Buyer Persona Template.

If you can’t answer these questions, then a good place to start is by setting up a simple survey or social media poll to start collecting that data.  Another one of my favorite things to do is identify existing customers that are über fans and personally reach out to them with an honest note about what I’m trying to do and see if they’d be willing to help.  If they do, then I suggest following up with a nice thank you card or gift to show your appreciation for their help.  Gratitude goes a long way in the community.

Pivoting Towards Success

Let’s face it.  The customer is smarter, hyper-connected, and more empowered than they ever were before.  As new technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality progress, we will continue to see the customer evolve.  Being one step ahead of a community’s needs and behaviors is hard, but attainable.  Understanding the power of the community requires us to accept that they are the center of our universe.  Therefore, customer capital is the new currency that requires companies of all sizes to rethink how they do business.  Like I said earlier there’s no time like the present to confess how well you really know your community and to take the time to get to know them a lot closer.  Remember, as the consumer evolves with the advancement of technology and new social platforms you will need to continue to update the community/buyer personas that you created.

For the entrepreneurs, it is important to find the community that shares common interests and values and makes sure that it shows in everything you do from the moment you launch.  For any company, having the ability to weave these characteristics into its DNA is a pivotal operational shift that is necessary to remain relevant and successful.  For the companies that dominate their space, don’t ignore the community that you depend on.  There is always someone out there that can and will eventually do it better than you.  Just remember Kodak, Polaroid, Blockbuster, etc.  Don’t be left in the dust and trust your community.

The 5 Golden Rules for Engaging with Celebrity Influencers

Find out how you can capture the attention of a celebrity influencer through a more creative, personalized approach.

I must confess that I was recently and surprisingly inspired by Success Resources podcast with Olivia Carr, founder of SHHH SILK.  I don’t know about you, but this was the first time I had ever heard of Olivia and her brand.  At first look of the podcast title, ‘How to get millions worth of marketing for free,’ I instantly chuckled and thought, ‘Nothing is ever free.’  Going into this as a skeptic, I was still intrigued to hear what she had to say.  This particular podcast examines the holy grail of influencer marketing, the celebrity influencer.  I mean it’s the ultimate treasure quest for any business big or small. One endorsement or review from any major celebrity can make business millions, like it did for SHHH SILK.  Attempting to get the attention of an influencer, specifically, a celebrity influencer involves a bit more strategy that relies on a solid ideation process, creativity, budget and amount of risk you are willing to take.

Before I continue, I want to make a quick and essential pit stop.  If you’re not sure about the difference or what an influencer is then I recommend you catch up by reading my previous blog on this subject.  Now back to our ‘regularly scheduled program’. As I listened on, I was impressed and inspired by SHHH SILK approach with celebrity influencers.  This inspiration led to the creation of my 5 Golden Rules for engaging with celebrity influencers.

RULE #1: Picking the right influencer for your brand and community.  For example, if your product is more aligned with fitness then you’d go after the celebrity trainers or elite athletes and pass on the food network star for diners, drive-ins, and dives (no offense to Guy Fieri).  Also, you need to make sure the influencer aligns with the interests of your target audience. An excellent place to start the influencer selection process is to create a list of interests and even aspirations of your target audience. Then start hunting for influencers that share the same interests.  Some cool tools can help you, like Social Blade for the budget conscience or Traackr for those with more significant funds. A great tip from Olivia is to ‘go to people that have a million customers you want.’

RULE #2: Why mail when you can hand deliver, taking a unique approach.  You can’t just go to Kim Kardashian and ask her to promote your product.  Something tells me you aren’t the only one to think ‘my product is the shit’ and celebrities don’t know it yet kind of mentality.  The celebrity influencer is a different, next level breed of influencer. They are busy with their own life, work, and projects. They get approached for more deals and sponsorships then we could probably even dream of right now.  So, how do you get in touch with the ‘unreachable’?

The way to go about it is what Olivia and her team do, and that is to build a ‘spider web’.  You build an influencer web around the influencer you are targeting. In this case, SHHH SILK looked at Kim K’s makeup artists and hairstylists that are influencers in their own right.  Once you get the names, then you learn everything about them. You will want to do an ‘interest’ check and make sure these outlier influencers also align with your target audience needs.  Be sure to take a look at the content they post on their social media channels. A great pro tip from Olivia is to check ‘24 hour content’ posts on platforms like SnapChat or Instagram stories.

RULE #3: Exclusivity is the name of the game.  As Olivia says, “They [celebrity influencers] love things that no one else has.”  They have all the money to get them anything they want and that merely gifting via mail isn’t enough.  Exclusivity is all about getting access to things that no one else can attain or ever have. SHHH SILK does this by going out of their way to provide highly customizable gifts.  Each quarter her team goes through celebrities and influencers around them. They dive into the celebrity and the spider web of influencers, and they know everything from birthdays to interests to due dates, etc. Great example Olivia shares is how they got to Kim Kardashian’s makeup artist of the time, Mario.  The SHHH SILK team put their digital detective hats on and investigated Mario’s social profiles and struck gold, well in this case silver.  They found out he just renovated his home in gray. Olivia and her team took this information and created a custom gray product that is not available for purchase on their site.  By doing so, they were able to create a very personable product and authentic experience with the intent of extending that experience into his home. The purpose wasn’t to sell but to genuinely share in his excitement around the recent renovation.  

RULE #4: They can smell your intent a mile away.  Your purpose must be as genuine and authentic as your approach.  Transactional efforts result in short-term, one night stands that offer minimal to no value.  You are here to build what Olivia calls, powerful relationships, PR. Just like making that commitment to your partner, you are making that same level of commitment to the influencer.  Creating customized gifts that no one else can get and with the intent of becoming part of a personal experience, shows the influencer you genuinely care. You have ‘surprised and delighted’ them without expectations.  Of course, through these efforts, we do have hope that we will have the opportunity to take the relationship to the next level through collaborations or even them sharing their excitement with their world. In the case of SHHH SILK, Mario did just that, and they were able to do the same for Kim, Kylie, and the rest of the Kardashian klan.


Source:  Olivia Carr, founder of SHHH SILK

RULE #5: There’s always a cost associated with taking out of the box risks.  I guess you could say earning the trust of a celebrity is priceless.  However, there is always a cost of doing business, and in this case, it is about the opportunity cost. What would it take for you to build a custom and very personal experience for one of your influencers every three months?  Are you ok with trying more than once to get the attention of that influencer? Are you all right with breaking even or even losing 10% 15% or 20%? Is the opportunity cost worth it if it means one endorsement can help you reach millions, double or even quadruple your revenue, or get you a 2 page spread in a relevant industry magazine?  Remember, rule #4; your intent is about building that long-term relationship, which means you are making a resource, budget and time commitment for as long as the influencer program continues to be profitable.

According to Olivia, ‘The moment is about the influencer and not about us,’ and that couldn’t be truer. The experiences we create through our goods and services determines our success or failure.  The 5 Golden Rules for engaging with celebrity influencers, is a means to shed light on the commitment it takes when building powerful relationships with your influential community.  I hope the topic inspired you as much as it did me to be willing to take a risk and differentiate yourself from the pack. I encourage you to listen to the full podcast to get more details on how SHHH SILK executes their celebrity influencer program.  

In the meantime, I look forward to your confessions on your hopes, fears, or sins when it comes to embarking on an influencer program whether you represent the brand or are an influencer yourself.

What is an influencer?

In this blog, we will explore what it is to be an influencer and the different types.

Influencer marketing is increasingly on the rise and is making everyone feel like they have FOMO (fear of missing out).  Many people jump in with big budgets thinking they can buy their way in, but it’s more than just budgets and name dropping.  Like anything in business, it’s about the relationships and how we walk away feeling from our experience. Before we engage with an influencer and wave our dollars,  I think we need a foundational understanding of who an influencer is. In this blog, we will explore what it is to be an influencer and the different types.

According to Influencer Marketing hub, an influencer is an individual who has:

    • “the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of his/her authority, knowledge, position or relationship with his/her audience.
  • a following in a particular niche, which they actively engage with. The size of the following depends on the size of the niche.”

As we dive into this topic it is important to note that an influencer is not a marketing tactic like a targeted email or banner ad.  Nor is an influencer something new.  Think of your traditional spokesperson in a digital format and expand the universe to include peer to peer experts that all share their voice on various social platforms.  

An influencer is an important piece to the digital relationships that you are building with your community on the social web.  Like I’ve mentioned in my previous blogs, social media is a long-term relationship based on authenticity and your ability to emotionally connect with your community through valuable and meaningful content.

Your content mix can and should eventually involve contributions from influencers that represent your market and community.  Social media influencers are people that have built a trusted reputation for their area of expertise. They typically develop and publish engaging content in various format types on the preferred channels that their target audience consumes information on.  When looking for an influencer it is important to select someone that can reach your target audience, drive engagement, and develop trust. His or her brand should align with yours and represent that work through creating original, engaging content for your audience.  Not only should they align with your business, but selecting the right type of influencer is just as important.  There are many types of influencers that represent the macro and micro level of a community.  First, let’s take a look at the macro influencer.

A macro influencer includes celebrities, industry experts or thought leaders.

celebrity_genericThe Celebrity: We are all familiar with the Kim Kardashian’s, Usain Bolt’s and Roger Federer’s of the world.  The celebrity influencer carries a large reach at a steep price. One benefit according to Traackr, “You’ll attract other influencers to the party by having a celebrity among the roster.”

The Expert / Thought Leader: You can actually break this category down to include the journalist, the analyst, academics and professional advisors.  Essentially the expert influencer is someone that is extremely knowledgeable and trusted in their field. By the way, this person already exists within your company.  Think of your CEO or product manager or engineer.  People seek out the expert to offer guidance and recommendations for their purchase decisions.  The good thing here is that you can find niche experts across every topic or industry.

Then you have the micro influencer.  According to Forbes article, “micro-influencer have specific niche audiences and are deeply connected to them.”  They are more of your everyday type people with a strong following and highly engaged audience.  Micro influencers can represent different areas of interest like travel, fitness, dogs, and food. I would consider your micro influencer as a ‘power consumer’ that is an avid product review and produces content based on their experience without that area.  For some great examples, I suggest taking a look at Social Report’s, Meet the Top 7 Instagram Micro-Influencers of 2018.  

An influencer can help make, break or do nothing for a brand if you don’t ensure that he or she aligns with your brand values and even creativity.  Understanding who an influencer is and the different types are foundational to your ability to create a successful influencer strategy that integrates with your overall marketing and business strategies.  Remember that staying true to what you stand for lives on in the people that you enlist to represent it.

I hope this blog was helpful and you have a better understanding of who an influencer is.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Influencer Marketing: Why it’s here and What is it

Taking a look at defining what is an influencer, influencer marketing and a bit of expectation setting.

FACT: We are living in a world of the super informed buyer. Digital channels have allowed us to consume information anytime, anywhere from any device. They have also created a highway congested with information causing brands to fight for customer attention.

FACT: According to a study conducted by G2 Crowd and Blanc & Otus, 86 percent of people listen to their peers before making any decision. I just went through this during the Social Tools Summit. I talked to industry peers/influencers about the tools they use for implementing an influencer program. Based on their recommendation I have just completed the free online training that one of those vendors provides and have reached out to learn more about their product.

FACT: Social media has changed the playing field by allowing influencers to easily broadcast their opinions. In that same study, respondents stated that 75% of B2B buyers share their insight and information via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and blogs. In addition, social media has also empowered users by providing a way for them, to find those influential opinions through all the noise.

What does this all mean? There are hundreds of people out there having open conversations about your products/solutions and influencing your buyers before your sales rep drafts their first email to him or her. Majority of the time a vendor selection list has already been created before your sales rep dials the phone. That is why it is imperative for businesses to engage in a meaningful and purposeful way on social. You need to be an active participant, but you can’t do it alone. Influencer marketing is just one of the many ways that can help you along the way.

Ah, but before we run we must crawl grasshopper. The following takes a look at defining what is an influencer, influencer marketing and a bit of expectation setting.

First, let’s define what an influencer is? According to a recent free online course provided by Traackr (an influencer relationship management platform), ‘Influencers are experts that help buyers filter through the noise and access meaningful information.’ There is no one size fits all kind of influencer. There are influencers that represent the various target audiences you may have. Traackr provides a great example and approach to defining your influencer types. They essentially categorize influencers into the following tiers:

Traackr Tiers.jpeg

–      Traditional Media: Long considered traditional influencers in the offline space- journalists, analysts, and investors that are equally influential in the digital space

–      Online Community Leaders & Experts: Bloggers, industry insiders and subject matter experts.

–      Influential Fans: Fans within your own community who other fans listen to and respect

Does size matter? A common mistake marketers make is assuming that the bigger the followers the more influential a person is. It all really depends on your objective. Sometimes those with the smallest following or micro-influencers can have the greatest impact. As that individuals’ following could include some big-ticket names- after all it’s about who you know, not how many.

 So what is influencer marketing? For me, it’s about a targeted effort of building transparent, honest and open relationships with people that are passionate about your industry. It’s also about leveraging the invaluable insight influencers that affect the broader community’s perspective or how a business chooses to go to market with their messaging or content. Trust me when I say that it is more than just signing up Kim Kardashian to eat your gummy vitamins and post it on Instagram. Whether you are in B2C or B2B, it is imperative that the influencer aligns with your business values, which is representative of what your buyer looks for in a brand.

Is influencer marketing right for you? I’m not going to lie, building this kind of program takes commitment and not the 3-day juice cleanse kind. Consider it more of a lifestyle change and I don’t recommend crashing into it. You can take it slow and evolve the program as it grows. So here are a few things you need to know:

1.    Have a clear set of business goals

2.    Who is your targeted audience and prioritize

3.    Identify how an influencer program can help attain those goals

I also recommend not biting off more than you can chew, especially if you are new at this. Depending on both your human and financial resources, you may just want to start with 1 or 2 influencers.

Well, I hope this was helpful. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Fighting for the Truth

The spreading of lies or rumors happens in the matter of seconds because of social media. So, why aren’t we working harder to find out the truth?

Fact: the advancement of technology and the development of social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp – has forever changed the way humans of all generations, engage, connect and consume information.  I mean, who would have thought 240 characters would have also empowered the voices of the masses. Unfortunately, with our current POTUS, it is becoming more evident every day that we have yet to see how big this digital beast really is.  The speed at which news travels is absolutely insane. It only takes a matter of minutes maybe even seconds to destroy the stock value of a company or send people into a panic. Now, this isn’t to say that it is all doom and gloom, the social web has brought about a heightened awareness to many social causes that have invoked the good samaritan in many of us.  However, it seems as though it is a natural tendency for humans to become more intrigued by salacious, edge of their seat rumors, including what MIT Professor Sinan Aral calls, false news. In his Harvard Business Review article, Truth, Disrupted, Professor Aral dives into key findings from a study published in Science magazine co-authored by Aral, Soroush Vosoughi, and Deb Roy, about the spread of false news online.

The study looked at 126,000 posts across all content, not just news articles on Twitter from 2006 to 2017. Something that is even probably more impressive (well for me at least), was that the team built an algorithm to identify fake articles with a 91% accuracy rate.  The results revealed that “false news spread online faster, further, and deeper than truth does”, but “false political news traveled farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than any other type.”  And if you think bots had something to do with it- well think again. According to the study, bots spread both true and false content at the same rate. Another interesting finding was that users that were spreading the news didn’t have huge followings.  It was mainly people with very small follower counts and were not as active on Twitter. But what does this all mean and why should we care?

We have only scratched the surface when it comes to the danger presented by the spreading of lies or rumors.  It seems as though many people, including important political figures, have forgotten about the basic principles of do no harm to others or tell no lies.  I mean, I don’t think it would hurt if TV networks or Netflix started broadcasting Ten Commandments or even Dogma on a regular basis. All jokes aside, we live in a constantly connected world, where toddlers are learning how to swipe right and left on a mobile device.  The power of the fingertip has increased exponentially with the explosion of social platforms like Twitter or Facebook. In addition, the way we consume information has changed from watching the news on TV or Sunday paper to a completely digitally immersed forum. Therefore the ability to reach the masses in seconds is easy to do, but no one tells you the potential ripple effects of your social interactions.  Having a social media account is a great power that many can have and as they say, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” So, what happens if you aren’t paying attention before clicking that retweet button?

Well, how about the recent election and Cambridge Analytica scandal.  As Professor Aral points out from the ongoing Robert Mueller investigation, “it was chilling to watch former CEO of Cambridge Analytica, describing how his company used fabricated stories, propagated online, to influence global elections.”  It was even more disturbing as I watched a news segment where they interviewed a woman who had reshared a false news post and the reporter was trying to explain to her the origin of that post was from Russia. She was in complete denial. I just sat there with my jaw to the floor, thinking there is something fundamentally wrong with the fabric of this nation.  It’s astonishing at how much power and influence every digital user has inherited by simply creating a social media account. In my opinion, it is the combination of technology, the social web and human needs that has led to digital wildfires that have mainly divided our country, our states, our cities, and neighborhoods.

According to Aral, “the spread of misinformation on social media is an alarming phenomenon that scientists have yet to fully understand.” I would go even further to say that the spread of false news is an alarming phenomenon that anyone has yet to fully understand.  I would venture to say that it goes beyond algorithms and digs deeper into the human psyche and what is culturally changing in our environments. Of course, these are more challenging factors that need to be addressed in greater depth. In the meantime, it is important that all sides, content creators, and consumers, understand and more importantly take accountability for the moral and ethical repercussions of their actions.  In addition, I agree with Aral, that there needs to be some type of digital standards, rules or governance in place that rewards and punishes both sides.

Of course, governance is only one of the many tactics needed to fight for the truth.  As content consumers, we have an obligation to help ensure the safety and sanity of our community.  I’d also like to think that as humans we would want to strive to conduct ourselves with the highest integrity.  However, as I mentioned earlier, we are prone to feed the rumor mill without taking any accountability for our actions.  Therefore, we need to understand the cultural changes taking place, why it’s happening and what we need to do to fix it. As content creators, it isn’t so much about understanding the consequences, but actually being held accountable in a way that causes fundamental changes in how they operate. Lastly, the technology that got us to this point is the same technology that we will need to help us to moderate the creation of false news and confine the spread of the digital wildfires.  As always, it’s always easier said than done, but we’d be foolish to idly stand by. Fighting for what’s right has never been wrong.  Right?

Advocates: Building Your Brands Army

With marketing budgets getting tighter, it’s time to learn how you can leverage employee advocacy to help achieve your marketing goals.

In the latter part of my career, I focused on a lot of programs like influencer marketing and employee advocacy, that focused on empowering and enabling internal and external advocates.  The objective was pretty simple- scale a team by growing an army that can cover more ground than you could in a day, week or month.  Not your typical objective for programs like these, but that’s because I’m looking at it from a different and more realistic perspective. That is when an organization will not provide support or the budget that you need to scale programs like social customer support or influencer marketing.  It doesn’t matter how big or small you are. At some point, we are all plagued with having to prioritize profit margins over the sanity of a team or even yourself.  That’s why in order to scale you have to empower and enable others.  In this blog, I’d like to tackle employee advocacy first.

Employee advocacy is probably one of the easiest, dare I say, ‘lowest hanging fruit’ and probably the most impactful way to extends a company’s reach and brand presence.  An added bonus is that you eventually see that the employees digital behaviors have evolved.  It’s like those proud parenting moments as your kid grows up. By enabling your workforce you have also empowered them to have the courage to help the brand.  Having this kind of presence across the globe shows the community that the brand is more than just the CEO or the account manager that they deal with day in and day out.  Customers, partners, and prospects are now dealing with an army of advocates that have shown their genuine intent to help them through thick and thin.  So, let’s talk about how you can create an army of advocates.

You can start by making a ‘one size fits all’ training presentation.  In this presentation you will want to cover the following fundamentals:

  1. The evolved buyer: key stats that show digital trends amongst your buyers and how businesses need to adapt to be relevant during their purchase decision.
  2. Brands digital purpose and persona: Here you want to reference organizations mission, vision, and tone. The intent is to remind everyone that they are an extension of the brand and to keep that in mind as they engage in social.  In addition, we want to make sure that everyone understands that digital interaction plays an important role in building relationships.
  3. Brands current digital presence: Good to showcase where the brand digitally lives and the types of conversations on those mediums.  For instance, B2B IT community has the tendency to be more technical and hyperactive on Twitter because of the real-time nature of the channel versus LinkedIn where you tend to see less real-time banter.
  4. Social governance: Don’t shy away from this! Consider this topic a means of CYA and ensuring that employees are aware of corporate policies.  After all, these policies are intended to help us protect the brand and ourselves.
  5. Individual digital presence: This section covers what updates employees can make on their current social channels.  I also recommend providing guidance on selecting social channels that align with where their target audience lives and how that lines up with that employee’s role.  For instance, if you are a technical engineer and majority of technical conversations happen on Twitter or Reddit then you will want to build your presence there.  As these are the channels that you will have the highest impact.  Of course, it will always come down to the individuals’ comfort level.  Sometimes people prefer LinkedIn because it is relatively slower in nature and that’s ok.  Make sure to take baby steps with your audience as you guide them through their digital journey.
  6. Content Source: Big part of enablement is getting brand content into the hands of your advocates.  This can be done through employee advocacy tools like Dynamic Signal or XX.  However, if you don’t have the budgets then sometimes it can be something as simple as sharing Social Cheat Sheets that provide the user with the copy for each social channel and an image that they can use.  Another option would be to provide a second version of your social editorial calendar where the copy is adjusted to sound like it’s coming from a person.  For instance, you would replace pronouns us, our, etc. with the brand name.  (see below for example)
    • Check out our new blog on building your own digital army.
    • Check out @PegahKamal’s new blog on building your own digital army.
  7. Setting expectations: Whether it’s on a slide or something you point out, you will definitely need to do some expectation setting.  A lot of people have the misconception that as soon as they tweet they will get a mass following and be YouTube stars.  It’s your responsibility to identify benefits that they will reap over time and how you will be measuring their business impact.
  8. Summary: Now that this deck has covered some serious ground your audience might have the case of glossy eyes.  So make sure to highlight at 3 to 5 key points you want them to walk away with.
  9. Next Steps: List out action items that they can do either in the room or when they get back to their desk.  Encourage them to connect with you on LinkedIn or Twitter and that way you can see if they actually did their ‘homework’.

Next, you’ll want some kind of reward system and fun contests that will continue to encourage employees to participate.  The great thing about employee advocacy platforms is that they have the analytics and tools to help with this.  It is definitely a lot harder to execute a contest without a platform that has the ability to track performance.  I think we’ll save this topic for another blog, as we have just covered a lot of ground.

In the meantime, you should have a good place to start building your army.  To help get your training presentation started, I’ve created an easy to use template based on the outline provided above.  Remember as you go through this process you will need to continue to educate, encourage, and acknowledge your advocates as they embark on this journey with you.  There’s nothing like the feeling when an advocate shares a story of their most recent social engagement.  It’s definitely a proud ‘mama or papa’ moment.

Hope this blog was helpful.  Please share any questions, feedback or general thoughts in the comments below.  Would love to know what you think!

Building Your Social Media Tool Belt

To ensure your social media program is a success, it is important to build a program with these easy tools, templates and guides.

If you’re just getting started on social media or are in the thick of it and could use some help getting organized then keep on reading.  There’s a saying, ‘Why reinvent the wheel when you can steal it?’ This is especially the case when you’re feeling inundated with projects or just need a good place to start or in some instances, the processes or templates you have just aren’t effective.  I know sometimes I wish I could just push everything off my workspace clear, but it’s probably better that we save those moments for the movies.

It’s always good to have templates and basic guides in your social tool belt.  Now keep in mind that having a template doesn’t mean it’s all going to be quick and easy. Depending on the task at hand you will need to put in some time and effort, which will pay off in the end.  It may take a bit more of your time in the beginning but after a while, it will all become second nature.

That being said, I decided to focus on the following areas because they provide a solid foundation for getting started or aide in re-aligning your social program.

    • Social Media Audit
    • Editorial Calendar
    • Social Media Image Sizes
    • Social Media Style Guide

Social Media Audit

Whether you are new to the social media scene or have an established presence it is always good to conduct an audit of your business.  After all, you need to protect your brand and part of that include its digital presence. Here are a couple of templates with guidelines on how to conduct an audit.

  • Hootsuite: Social Media Audit (blog)
      • Download Template here
      • Use Case
          • A high-level assessment of your organization’s current social media presence
          • Easy to integrate with your social media and brand strategy
        • Good for beginners or small businesses
      • Pros
          • Hootsuite Blog great list of templates to quickly jump start things
        • The pdf guide provides some very easy to follow steps
    • Cons
      • You have to create the tables/spreadsheets

Hootsuite_Social Media_Audit_Guide.png

  • SproutSocial: How to Perform a Social Media Audit w/ Template
      • Use Case
          • More for the intermediate to advanced user
          • Includes inputs for social media channel presence and channel performance metrics
        • An in-depth look at different areas that need to be considered as part of a much broader audit
    • Pros
        • The article gives some great details and insight on how to approach an audit
        • The template is very detailed and is good for more advanced social media user
    • Cons
      • The spreadsheet can be a little overwhelming

Editorial Calendar

At the risk of sounding a bit too cliche, ‘Content is King’, but hey it’s true.  Majority of your success will rely heavily on tailoring your content to your audience and ensuring you are leveraging the appropriate channel.  You should be leveraging everything you learned from your social media audit now and get your content organized. Here’s a list of a few helpful calendar templates.

  • Hubspot: The Social Media Content Calendar (blog)
      • Use Case:
        • Beginner to Intermediate User
      • Pros:
          • A tab dedicated to the listing of content pieces used
          • Helpful theme guide to help develop a stream of topics for the month
        • Separate content tabs for each social channel
    • Cons:
      • Monthly calendar tab is too basic, would like to see actual topic ideas incorporated in monthly tab

hubspot ed cal

  • CoSchedule: Free Content Calendar
      • Use Case
          • Beginner user
        • Businesses that plan out content, launches, or programs for the entire year
      • Pros
          • Helps consolidate topic ideas and brainstorming in one location
          • 35,000 ft view of planned out topics
        • A useful guide on how to plan out content for a year
    • Cons
        • Have to subscribe to get an editable template
      • Doesn’t actually have a weekly calendar template to use.


  • Smartsheet: Social Media Calendar Free Template
      • Use Case
        • Beginner User
      • Pros
          • Simple easy to use template
        • Ability to adjust time slots as needed
    • Cons
        • Doesn’t have monthly or quarterly topic outlook
      • Not the best place to collect content metrics and I recommend a separate report file
  • Hootsuite: How to create a social media content calendar (blog)
      • Use Case
        • Beginner to intermediate user
      • Pros
          • Consolidates channels all one page with time slots
          • Includes columns to provide URL and image link inputs
        • Allows you to categorize content for tracking purposes
    • Cons
        • Not convinced that evergreen content tab is really needed
      • Doesn’t have a monthly or quarterly topic calendar


As you can see, templates are not a one size fits all.  It’s also good to keep in mind that it takes a few rounds of using templates to get used to them.  Therefore, let’s set some reasonable expectations here. Consider these as cookie cutter templates but you hold the scalpel and have the ability to make it what you want.  If you like a feature in one template that isn’t in the other one, then you combine them. Just remember our purpose is to increase effectiveness and efficiency in executing your social media program.  

Now that we’ve covered a couple of useful templates let’s talk guides.  Some of the templates above included use guides and link to the blogs, which I think are still great reads that help expand your way of thinking or approaching a situation.  Below are a few more guides that I also find to be very useful.

Social Media Image Sizes

SproutSocial’s up to date guide on image sizing is a great resource to bookmark. What would make it more complete is if it included ad sizes versus keeping those on separate docs or blogs like the blog for Facebook ads.  Either way, it is still worth sharing with other stakeholders like your designer or agency.

Then there are Shortstack’s pdf templates for LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter image sizes, which includes ad specs for each of the platforms and is quite handy.  The only thing I’m not sure about is how often they update this pdf.

Social Media Style Guide

Didn’t even think about something like this until I came across Coschedule’s blog, This Is How To Write For Social Media To Create The Best Posts.  I think the guide provides a good framework to get any business aligned with their content development for social.

Well, that’s all for now.  If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the information (I know I was during my research) then I recommend prioritizing what your immediate need is and start there.    Do not try to do everything all at once as you will just set yourself up for failure.

Want me to check out some other tools or guides? Then provide them in the comment section below and I’ll be sure to take a look.  In the meantime, let me know if this blog was helpful by commenting below.

Connection Request: Friend or Foe?

Protect your digital presence by making sure you know who is really behind those connection or friend requests with these useful tips.

I just received a connection request from what looked like to be a colleague on LinkedIn and immediately I knew something didn’t seem right.

I viewed their profile and noticed that they only had one workplace experience. The title was executive admin and I’m looking at the picture thinking that I don’t recognize this face at the office. Now try not to judge me here, but “normally” (and I use air quotes here because what’s normal is constantly changing) Emma is a girls name, but the image was that have a gentleman in a suit and tie. The profile only had 4 mutual connections all with fellow and former employees and their interest was their current employer.

So like a great detective I did a bit more digging. I did a name lookup in my work’s outlook address and nothing. I then used one of my favorite tactics of all times- reverse image lookup- and wallah!

The profile pic was actually that of a CEO from a bank!  I immediately reported the account to LinkedIn, sent an InMail to the CEO of the bank and notified my mutual connections that they should remove the connections.  After all, as part of a digital community, you’ve got to look out for one another.

Screen Shot 2018-06-07 at 7.46.03 AM.png

It took me 2 to 3 minutes to sniff this fake account out, but why did other colleagues accept the request? Quite simply, most likely because it was a request from what looked like a colleague and all colleagues are friends right?

And this my friends is why I say you don’t have to accept every single connection/friend request and to have your guards up! We need to remember to protect our digital presence. To help, below are a few simple steps you can take to figure out if that connection is friend or foe.

  1. Always click to view full profile
  2. Take 10 seconds to scan the profile
  3. Take another 20 seconds and do a reverse image lookup
    1. Simply screenshot just the profile pic
    2. Upload image to Tin Eye
    3. Click on the link in the results
  4. If it’s from a colleague, take 5 seconds to look them up in your company directory

When scanning the profile here is what you want to look for:

  1. Profile pic should give you a good start at matching up face to the name, job title, and experience
    1. Not to be an ‘agist’, but if the pic is of someone a bit more mature looking and only one or two places of employment- red flag!
  2. Any posts or activity on that channel
    1. If none or really low, then be cautious
    2. If there are a lot of negative comments, then this is typically a tell-tale sign of a troll!
  3. How many connections/friends do they have?
    1. If on the low or extremely high, then it’s another indicator of a fake or spam account

In the end, in this day and age of cyber attacks and digital bullying you can never be too careful. Take the couple minutes and get to know who you are connecting with first. And take a look at my other blog ‘The Era of Social Relationships’ for additional tips on things you need to consider when building and protecting your digital presence.

I do: Committing to Social Media

Gain better understanding of the commitment level it takes to successfully build your social media presence.

Just the other day while sitting in a chair as my hair stylist, Eli, proceeded to slap on the color he asked what I did for a living. I mentioned how I head global social media for a big tech company and naturally, he then asked- what does that mean? I explained what I did and the inevitable happened, he asked the ultimate question that I always get. ‘What do you think I can do to grow my followers?’ Now I know like many, he wanted the quick and easy answer. Of course, for me, it’s not as easy because there’s a bit of thought that needs to go into place.

I think there’s a misconception of how ‘turnkey’ social is and that’s mainly due to the fact that there’s such a low barrier of entry. I mean anyone with a Gmail account can set up a Facebook or Instagram account in minutes.

So, naturally, I start asking my hair stylist, well what are you trying to do? Are you trying to bring in new customers? Drive awareness about your editorial portfolio? To quote one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes ‘Yada, Yada, Yada’ and he tells me in the end that the problem for him is that he doesn’t have time. This is probably the number one challenge everyone I know, from product marketing managers to CXOs to independent artists, like Eli. If you find yourself in the same proverbial boat, then here are some tips I shared with Eli that could also be useful to you.

First, you gotta have that mindset that social is a commitment. You can’t expect results if you don’t keep at it. Just like how Eli works on evolving brunettes to blondes- in my case a bronde beige. It takes time, some tweaking along the way and multiple sittings but you’ve got to make the commitment to get the result that you want. Same rules apply to social media. I recommend for the time constrained to spend at least 1 to 2 hours at your local coffee shop every other week for content development and at least 10 to 15 minutes 2 – 3 times per day to see if anyone is commenting/engaging with your posts.

Next, find tools that make it easy for you to use social and be more efficient. I recommend using a platform like Hootsuite for all small businesses or independent artists/business owners. Hootsuite is an easy to use tool that allows you to monitor/listen to relevant conversations and manage content publishing across multiple accounts. It also has an auto-scheduling feature so you can spend at least a few hours once a month to schedule out your content. Another function I like is the reporting/analytics. They make it really easy to understand how your content is performing, audience demographics, and many other metrics- so you can see what works and where you need to make adjustments. Now content publishing and performance aren’t enough. You also need to engage. Best way to do that is by monitoring comments/replies to your posts and listening to other relevant conversations. Hootsuite allows you to easily set up streams in your own dashboard- think of your Facebook feed, except you have multiple columns that you can customize what’s populated based on keywords you enter. Lastly, the platform offers some great training/tutorials and step by step instructions of how to set up your account and goes through all of these features and more. So, now you got commitment and a good tool- let’s talk content.

Content ideation can be fun, but daunting. I recommended that Eli do at least 2 to 3 posts per week across 2 accounts- do the math and you’re looking at 24 posts per month. I think his world collapsed at one point, but I reassured him that you just need to practice, commit and it will get easier over time. Easy place to always start is thinking of the needs of the client and if you aren’t sure- then just ask your peers or even clients that you have a good relationship with. Start with the client in mind and you are in good shape. In Eli’s case, I told him as an average human being with a 9 to whenever job- I need some quick and easy how to’s. Content planning/calendar helps focus your content creation process, but you also need to be responsive to any trends or hot topics that are being discussed. Hence, why it’s important to monitor conversations regularly- having your ‘Oreo’ moment happens once in a blue moon, but it’s those moments that can catapult you to the next level. In the end, whatever you are doing you need to make sure that you are providing value and have FUN!!! I say do this at least once or twice a month and build a calendar. I recommend reading Hubspot’s’, “The Social Media Content Calendar Every Marketer Needs” and use the free template they provide.

Finally, I recommend using resources from Social Media Examiner to gain the confidence and knowledge you need to ensure that you are at the top of your social media game. Social Media platforms are constantly changing algorithms or adding/removing features and that means you need to keep up to speed. Plus the more you know the easier it will be for you. I think reading at least 1 or 2 articles a month during your Sunday morning breakfast is a good start. Check out Social Media Examiner’s free subscription to get access to some great content.

I know I threw a lot at you but these are some pretty foundational guidelines you can start doing that will set you up for success further down the line. Remember you won’t get that transformation by not giving it a real chance and that requires commitment. Enable yourself by using tools that make social media easy. Get creative, do some content planning but also be spontaneous. Empower yourself by leveraging helpful social media resources from Hubspot or Social Media Examiner. Lastly, remember to have fun!