Influencer Marketing Isn’t a Gold Rush

August 18, 2016

6:00 pm

I saw a headline in Forbes.com that made me cringe. It read, “The Influencer Marketing Gold Rush is Coming: Are You Prepared?” I wasn’t surprised at all by the article. After all, AdWeek reported that according to the latest Tomoson poll, over 60% of marketers plan to boost their influencer marketing spend this year.

There’s no doubt — influencer marketing is the new industry darling, much like content marketing was a few years ago. And I’m thrilled that it’s getting the attention it deserves. I’ve been in the business of influencer marketing since I opened the doors of my agency back in 2009 and trust me, the new “popularity factor” of what I’ve been doing for a long time ain’t bad for business.

But It’s Treated Like a Gold Rush

What scares me is the gold rush aspect of the game. I realize marketers want to hit payday, but prospectors beware, there’s no element of luck involved in influencer marketing the way there was in finding a stream of gold. Those who really benefited from the gold rush showed up with some knowledge of the land and the right tools, and if you’ve ever tried panning for gold, you know it requires skills.

So, let’s review the knowledge, tools, and skills involved in influencer marketing. You might ask what kind of knowledge do you need beyond the fact that an influencer recommendation is akin to that of a friend or a family member and trusted by more than 80% of consumers worldwide? The honest truth? You have to know the influencers you are working with.

Influencers Must Be Authentic

A database of bloggers or Instagrammers in your target market does not a good influencer marketing program make. Influencer marketing works when you are building authentic, meaningful conversations about your brand. Authentic, meaningful conversations happen when you are actually conversing. A truly successful influencer marketing campaign requires having a back and forth dialogue with the content creator to develop a solid story and provide them with the kind of details that will help them craft a post or social shares in their own voice. There’s no technology for that.

The 49’ers who hit gold showed up with pick axes, tents, and the right tools. With influencer marketing, one of the best tools you can bring to the game is a rich, well-crafted story architecture or creative brief that provides the influencer with all the inspiration they need to write great content.

This does not and should not look like a press release or your brand’s advertising message. This has to be produced in influencer speak and sound like a person wrote it. It also has to allow enough freedom so the influencer can create a unique post that does not sound like its author works on Madison Avenue.

It Takes Tools and Skill, Too

Of course, you need the technological tools to track results, find influencers, and monitor, but that’s the easy part. Technology to find influencers (Cision and GroupHigh) and accurately gauge their impressions and engagement (we prefer Tracx) are easy. You just pay for a subscription.

Finally, influencer marketing requires skill. You can’t just source a list of influencers and put that list to work for you. You have to invest the time in reading their content – their blog and their social shares. And we’re not talking about just their most recent posts but really go deep into what they write, how they write, and their general POV. You are looking to create a good match between brand and influencer, and it requires more than a cursory glance of their site and channels to see if that fit is really natural.

So, yes, there’s a gold rush, and I’m already working my stream and reaping the benefits. There’s definitely gold in them thare hills, but prospectors who show up should be forewarned to bring the knowledge, the skills, and the tools to do it right.

Image: Henry Sandham

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Danica Kombol is the CEO of the Everywhere Agency, a leading social media & influencer marketing firm that works with Fortune 500 companies. She founded the influencer network, Everywhere Society. She’s a frequent speaker at social media conferences and global forums.

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