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.

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.