You cannot stand still in the world of social media, or influencer marketing. Smart blogger outreach coordinators and businesses are at once, business people, marketers, and cool hunters too. They are always on the lookout for new trends, ideas, people, events, tools, and content that resonates. This is one of the things I love the most about the field I work in. It is ever evolving and dynamic.
This is not a post about me gazing into a crystal ball and telling you what’s the hottest trend for 2016. I’m not interested in that right now and in fact I have seen a few too many of those social media prediction posts this December and January. Rather than speculate, I wanted to reflect on what has changed this past year. What are we missing out on and what should we be doing together as a best practice for influencer marketing?
As I start 2016, I have a vision at Thrifty Mom Media, that builds out a bigger, bolder, partnership in 2016 and beyond. That’s what this post is about – best practice for influencer marketing in the year to come. The job starts when you engage someone like me and evolves IF and when you hire the right influencers.
In 2015 this social media marketing field has grown and come a fairly long way. Many social and digital media marketing organizations are understanding and building influencer marketing right into their daily marketing outreach. Some are building budget into that too, which is crucial to the success of current marketing plans in 2016. But we still have a way to go. I know this. I see both sides of this equation because I blog here and connect with brands multiple times a day. I also build strategy and hire the right influencers for brands, non profits and businesses. I find the right influencers at the right time for the right brands and I build their programs on the right channels for them.
Traditional advertising is no longer the smartest way to advertise, nor is it the wisest spend. Print circulation consistently keeps declining. Digital ad revenue climbs, while print ad revenue falls. It’s as simple as that. Read the Pew Report for more on that. Traditional media has seen a dramatic decrease in revenue drive by audience fleeing traditional media. TV is even not doing what it once was. It’s as simple as this – fewer people read the papers and watch TV and connect with magazines so ad money spent there is sometimes misplaced.
Consider content and influencer marketing like art. Traditional media is a Jackson Pollock painting. Stand back and shoot the paint at the canvas and hope that it connects and that the right eye balls land on it. It buys a broad canvas. Content marketing, influencer marketing, is like standing right in front of the painting and drawing a specific picture intended to be given to a very focused audience. So imagine a picture of a mother with child reading together, that is created for a library. That resonates emotionally with almost everyone entering the building. It reminds people of all the happy feelings they have when they read to younger children, and all the warm fuzzies they had as a child when they were read to. Now imagine that you can click on the child with book picture and buy the book they are reading, and buy a poster of the picture, and maybe even the same shirt the mom is wearing, and have it delivered stat right to your home, tablet or e-reader. Your traditional Jackson Pollock is cool and sometimes really interesting to look at. But more than half the people you display that in front of are going to think UGH and walk right by. It’s a missed opportunity. The painting of the child is memorable and resonates, plus it’s in the right place.
Influencer marketing is about the right message resonating at the right time in front of the right audience.
So now that you all understand that…what’s missing? Well, some brands are doing influencer marketing or content marketing or blogger outreach now when in fact they were not doing it before. That’s progress. Some public relations companies are even doing bits of this so much better than they were in 2013 and 2014. But they are often still stuck playing catchup. When you spend too much time playing catchup you miss the next softball being lobbed at you. Where am I going with this? We are sometimes now connecting the right reader with the right influencer at the right time. But we are still not focused enough. This field still needs improvement.
Here’s what you are not doing well enough yet.
Dedicating budget to influencer and social media marketing.
I’m not sure why this is still such a hurdle for some companies. Carve out a budget for social media marketing and influencers. It’s simple and necessary. This is your new media marketing budget. You might need to fight for it and pull from traditional media but it NEEDS to be a dedicated fund. Ads and sponsored posts are not free. Influencers have a very unique market and they are well worth the investment. Influencers are people who blog, VLOG, or have an on line magazine with an established audience and social channels. Some generate millions of impressions weekly. They drive traffic to your site or your business. They bring people in the door. They create happy feelings about your brand. They amplify emotions and messages.
HIRE The BEST INFLUENCERS for the job.
What does that look like? This is not always the influencer, or influencers, with the highest number of readers or impressions. This might like a 40 year old Mom of two school aged kids, who specifically has one child with autism, being contracted to tell her story about why she chooses X brand of cotton clothing for her son. It is the product that is the softest with no abrasive tags or seams. She is he right person for this influential partnership.
Hire the best influencers for the job AND also don’t forget about authenticity. You can’t find the most authentic people on a list that you bought from someone. The authentic influencers are to be found by reading blogs and watching social media channels and being there involved paying attention to conversations. I know 8-10 adoptive parents in Ontario with blogs. Every year Wendy’s fast food restaurant runs a few different seasonal campaigns to raise money for Wendy’s Wonderful Kids and for foster care and adoption. Have I ever seen any of the contacts I know who are adoptive parent bloggers, or adoptees who blog, involved on those campaigns telling real adoption stories that connect with an emotion? NO. Never. I always shake my head every year at that one. Don’t google 20 Ontario bloggers and send a press release, then ask for rates, and wait for someone to rewrite a press release and post it. As an adoptive parent I can tell you this approach has the opposite effect intended. It actually makes me want to disengage because the happy charitable giving back feeling is lost when I start to think that was wasted money.
Hire the best influencer for the job and then maintain them as an asset and a partner.
Once you have the perfect fit, what comes next? You’ve found, connected and are happy with the start of the relationship with this particular influencer Mom with son as in example above. The clothing brand loves her. She has a very specific community and she writes about special needs and parenting and she extends that into real life talking to other moms naturally throughout the course of each month. She does that naturally all the time without being told to insert message here in each conversation that comes up…Now you work at getting her to take this job on longer. How will you do that? The brand should work with this influencer to ask her what it would take to make this into a one year relationship. Communicate regularly with her. Nurture the relationship and contract her for a certain time. Don’t lose sight of the individual touch.
THINK Longterm. COMMIT.
My buzzword that I, as a blogger, started hearing a lot about in the final quarter of 2015, was exclusivity. I was asked many times at end of 2015 to quote what I might charge to be involved in an exclusive relationship with Brand X or Brand Y. If anything, I think this might be a trend to watch in 2016. I know I said this was not that post – but I am tossing in one trend to watch. Exclusivity. ( for the record if you want to read about digital marketing trends in 2016 I recommend this read from Cision.) I would love to see this trend play out over the next two years digitally. I think authenticity is important and once you find the right authentic blogger that fits and is willing to have a longterm relationship and also is professional then you should potentially look at building a contract that asks for her to be an exclusive blog ambassador for 4-5 months for your brand and ask that she specifically doesn’t write or discuss any other soft kid’s clothing brands for that timeframe. In example above with the blogger mom who has a child with unique needs and fits the soft clothing brand image perfectly – you should provide her with constant fresh product for her child or children. Ask her if she also wants to feature a guest post from your expert on sensory processing and the effect of clothing on a child with autism. Maybe she’d like to also offer her readers a giveaway of some of the products she likes best from the line. Ask her if she might also run an interview with the person who created the brand. Give her concrete specifics for during that timeframe and then also add budget to the contract. Be prepared to negotiate and double or triple what you would allot for a post. If you want exclusivity in an influencer relationship you should understand that it costs more. For instance this same blogger might write a post about your clothing and then be asked next month to write something similar about soft hats for a competitor. She loses the opportunity to draw income from that other post so you need to make this contract and relationship worth it to her. This is still authentic and real and a relationship. It’s clearly not a one night stand. This is a business, so treat it as one. If you hire the best influencers, then you should be able to maintain and build these relationships. Don’t get hung up on allotting more money to one blogger for exclusivity because it can be very worthwhile.
And one last thought. YOU NEED to LOVE social media marketing and influencer marketing in order to do this well and hire the best influencers.
If you don’t believe in what you are selling then the campaign is never going to work. If you also use social media and read blogs and enjoy spending time reading and connecting and gathering news from Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram bloggers and influencers can tell. It’s all part of building the best relationships and delivering results for your clients.
Start with the idea that you need to hire the best influencers for the job and then build on that with some of the points above and your new media marketing efforts should begin to improve and resonate in 2016.
By the way this is also what I do at Thrifty Mom Media. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for information or a quote. Connect with me Paula Schuck on LinkedIn. Hire the best influencers for the job.