Never a dull moment in the world of influencer marketing. Last week, Digiday wrote an article essentially claiming that agencies are destroying influencer marketing (influencer marketing agencies, in particular).
This should surprise no one.
These influencer marketing agencies and networks have always seemed to me a little like the former mom blog networks. Transactional–not cohesive or built for long-term impact. Especially not for brands.
So, why would any brand partake? Because they don’t know any better, for starters. But, more so, because they want (or, NEED) influencer marketing to scale. Which, when you say it out loud, kinda seems ridiculous.
You want to “scale” something that is built on developing relationships with actual people?
You want to scale something that is based on creativity and cutting through an increasing impossible social media content landscape?
You want to scale something that is built on TRUST?
Don’t give me this “scale” garbage. Influencer marketing isn’t something you scale. Influencer marketing requires the exact opposite: It needs a lot of care and feeding.
And, one of the core concepts of this all working from a brand perspective is simple: You need to own the influencer relationships.
Not an agency.
I see five big reasons, and they seem fairly simple:
#1: The influencers are telling you they want to work directly with you!
According to the Digiday story, one influencer says “I prefer to have a relationship with a company rather than put in a bid. The networks’ approach “seems a bit impersonal.” That’s not surprising. You put a middle-man in between any two parties and you’re bound to get confusion and frustration.
#2: Direct, fast access
If you’ve worked in IM at all, you know the old adage applies: What can happen, will happen. That’s not to say things go wrong all the time. But, things do go wrong. And, when they do, wouldn’t you rather have direct access to the influencers you’re working with vs. going through an agency that may or may not be your top priority at any given moment?
#3: Long-term contracts, pulling them in closer to your brand
Sure, you could definitely lock-in long-term contracts with influencers using an agency. But, in general, what I hear about agency/influencer relationships is it’s very transactional. They’re looking for that “scale” I mentioned above. Whereas brands should be looking for a long-term partner. Someone they can create content with. Someone they can invite to employee events. Someone they can do media interviews with. This is the future of influencer marketing–and I’m not sure it needs agency involvement.
#4: IM is not transactional, at least it shouldn’t be
According to the Digiday article, there’s been an uptick in solicitations from agencies and these influencer networks. One influencer believes that’s because brands are looking to achieve short-term goals. He’s almost certainly dead-on with his take. Brands are frequently focused on a campaign mentality–and that’s probably no different with influencer marketing. Brands want results by the quarter–and they’re willing to pay for them. Hence the transactional comments we’re seeing in this article. But, what brands should be doing is the exact opposite. Focusing on long-term relationships with brands that include much more than 2-3 Insta posts per month.
#5: I’m not 100% sure IM should really even “scale”
There’s one quote that particularly bothered me in the Digiday article: Kristy Sammis, executive director of the Influencer Marketing Association, said: “Brands are now willing to allocate significant budget to strategic influencer programs. This means they need scale, benchmarks, and guarantees. That’s simply not possible with one-on-one influencer relationships.” It’s great that brands are devoting more resources to IM. But, scaling is something IM doesn’t do well. This is where all the frustration is coming in. And, the comment about “guarantees” is troubling, too. Sure, you can forecast what an influencer might bring to your brand in terms of impressions, engagement and even traffic. But, to “guarantee” such results is absolutely preposterous. I can’t even believe the director of an association devoted to IM would say such a thing.
I saw this post in my feed the other day and it reminded me of a post I had been meaning to write for ages. The title: The top 10 laziest phrases in social content marketing.
But, after I saw this post, I decided to amend that headline. Because there’s only one phrase that can be labeled “the laziest” in social content marketing–and I’m not sure it’s close!
Two words–“Check out…”–has to be the laziest phrase in modern-day content marketing.
I see it used almost daily. And, it’s awful. But, it’s not surprising. Not considering the circumstances. Think about it. The content machine is now in overdrive. Communicators are tasked with coming up with multiple pieces of social content daily.
So, that drives laziness.
Then, consider the fact that many people who are writing and developing social content aren’t even communicators! Sometimes it’s an HR person. Other times, it’s an admin. Yet others, an ops person.
That’s driving laziness.
Finally, social media has, in many ways, chipped away at the art of writing. We see so much laziness in social media content. SO MUCH. And, it’s a product of volume. We have so much content to get out there now (I’m always a huge advocate of “less is more”), that it almost forces laziness in our writing.
Like I said, I’m not surprised.
But, we can do something about this. We can recommit to our writing! Especially when it comes to writing these intro posts that tee up an article we’re sharing via social (see above), because that’s where I see this lazy phrase used the most.
Allow me to suggest a few tips so you, too, can avoid using the laziest phrase in social content marketing history.
1 – Use a quote from the article
Simply pulling out one of the more interesting or compelling quotes from the article can be a great way to tease the post. For example, using the Gravie post above, why not go with — “On average, employers spend 400 hours annually managing health benefits, and that is likely to go up as the complexity increases. Having a good pulse on where you are spending time, money and expertise is critically important to managing one of the most expensive line items on your budget.”
2 – Use a data point as a hook
In many cases, a simple data point is more than enough to pique readers’ curiousities. Again, using the Gravie example, what about — “Employer spend 400 hours annually managing health benefits–do you know where all those hours are going?” Wouldn’t you want to read on?
3 – Think about your post like a broadcast intro
Think about the way broadcasters tee up stories on the 10 pm news. Wouldn’t that be a great way to reframe social posts like these? Again, using Gravie, something like this would work much better than using the dreaded “check this out” language:
Whew–Open enrollment season is now in our rear-view mirror. Now, read how our head of HR, Amy Spartz, believes a healthy post-mortem is essential to making next year’s event even more effective: https://www.tlnt.com/before-open-enrollment-becomes-a-memory-do-a-post-mortem/
Last fall, Popeye’s trolled Chick-Fil-A on Twitter into helping it launch its new chicken sandwich that ended up selling out and causing gun play in stores.
Then, Netflix asked brands for their best x-rated sex tweet in what might be the very best Twitter thread of all time.
And last week, Planters got in on the action when it killed off Mr. Peanut and publicly solicited friends, followers and yes, brands to commemorate Mr. Peanut with tributes on Twitter (and then unveiled “baby Peanut” Sunday during the “Big Game” in what might be the most disappointing spot of the entire event).
These are all moves that are part of a growing trend: Brands using other brands to gain awareness and engagement via social media marketing. Some may argue it’s an odd move (I’ve been one of those people in the past), but it may actually be turning out to be a shrewd strategy. After all, just look at the #RIPeanut hash tag for a minute. Many of the tweets with the most engagements come from other brands paying tribute to Mr. Peanut–like this one from Nesquik.
Just look at @MrPeanut’s Twitter feed and you’ll find an almost limitless stream of brand tweets with similar levels of engagement. The feed from Jan. 22-24 is literally full of these tweets–too many to count, really. And, during the “Big Game” they once again found a way to engage with brands–but not humans.
Now, some folks may argue this brand-to-brand interaction on Twitter is meaningless. It’s not strategic and it’s not driving toward brand goals. I used to be a skeptic when it came to this stuff, but I’m starting to see a semblance of value. Why? With one simple tweet, Planters drummed up millions of impressions and hundreds of thousands of engagements–much of it on the back of other brands.
Budweiser, Oscar Meyer, Shake Shack. The list goes on and on and on. Each one with thousands of engagements and most likely much more than that in impressions. Plus, in the cases of Planters and Netflix–it’s highly entertaining!
How many of you have went back and read all the brand responses to Netflix’s initial tweet? They’re funny, right? So yeah, brand-to-brand tweets can sometimes be annoying and in some cases, childish even. But, used the right way, they can also drive big results.
Want another recent example? Look at Olay and what they did during and after the “Big Game.”
Their outstanding #MakeSpaceforWomen hash tag attempts to raise $500,000 for Girls Who Code. Noble and worthy cause, right?
Not surprisingly, they saw a ton of tweets during the Big Game, and on Monday. But, they also found time to retweet and engage with a host of brands including Mattress Firm, of all brands.
You also had a number of brands like Budweiser tweeting (supposedly) on their own volition. Again, brand-on-brand interaction.
The list goes on and on. This is not a one-off situation. Brands engaging with other brands is a definite strategy at this point. The only question is: Do you think it’s a viable one?
For the last few years, I’ve been developing a “Social Media Trends” presentation in January that I’ve now given more than 20 times. While I don’t proclaim to be a trend-spotter, I do keep up with social media trends each week–mostly because I have to! For this blog. For the Talking Points Podcast. For my class at the University of St. Thomas (which starts next Monday!). And, for the Talking Points e-newsletter (sign up here).
This year’s edition made its debut two weeks ago as I presented at the Communicators Connect group in St. Louis Park. I’m hoping to give this prezo a few more times here in Q1 (if you’re interested, shoot me a note at email@example.com — my speaking fee is usually minimal, or zero!).
With my trend decks, I focus on more pragmatic trends, if that even makes sense. I’m looking for trends that will actually impact most of us. And, trends that aren’t the “same old, same old” that we see in so many other posts (if I see another post that says video is a trend in 2020, I WILL SCREAM LOUDLY!). As I look ahead to 2020, I saw nine realistic social media trends ahead:
1 – Brands will have to better prepare for the Internet Flash Mob
2 -More brands will “challenge” followers on TikTok (but then what?)
3 – Community management makes a comeback
4 – The beginning of the end for the newsfeed
5 – Brands will stop measuring “engagement”
6 – Less is (Way) more when it comes to social content
7 – Internal influencers > external influencers
8 – Companies will start more podcasts that compliment traditional tactics
9 – Employer brands go mainstream on social
Here’s the full deck, if you’d care to review. I’ll be monitoring these trends throughout 2020–should be interesting to see where we land in December!
I spent a lot of time on LinkedIn these days. It is, without a doubt, the most valuable social network to me now (in a professional sense). So, I see a lot of “interesting” behavior–especially among people who are often looking for a job!
Now, I don’t claim to be one of these “LinkedIn gurus”, but I have picked up a few tips and best practices in my LinkedIn usage over the years. So, today I thought I’d share six of those tips.
1 – Show restraint!
LinkedIn is NOT the channel to share your every waking thought. LinkedIn is the place to show restraint. In fact, I would argue most of us would get a lot more value from spending more time engaging with our connections on LinkedIn vs. broadcasting to them! So, comment on a colleague’s post about their promotion. Share a post from a friend who’s hiring for a new position. Send a DM to a colleague who recently was asking a question about comms planning on LinkedIn. Spend more time helping others–LinkedIn 101.
2 – Resist the urge to pimp your company all the time
Resist the urge to talk about how fantastic the company you work for is ALL THE TIME. I know, social employee advocacy is hot, and the social media director is pressuring you to share ALL THE POSTS. But, I can tell you as someone who spends a lot of time out there, it’s a little annoying if you’re posting about how cool your company is all the time. Not saying you shouldn’t do this–just practice moderation. (PS: this is probably the #1 mistake–if you want to call it that–that most people make on LinkedIn, in my opinion).
3 – Use LinkedIn as a research tool
Use LinkedIn for what it’s best at–research! LinkedIn is, unquestionably, the best professional research tool on the planet. For example, when I recently developed my “People I would love to have coffee with in 2020” list, where do you think I started? Or, when I’m heading into a meeting with a client and she mentions three communicators I’ve never met will be in the room, where do you think I turn to research them a bit? LinkedIn is a great social media network–but it’s a much better research tool. Make sure you’re using it for that purpose–A LOT.
4 – Aim to share one original photo each week
Bonus points if it includes you! Remember, on LinkedIn, your community is your connections. These are most likely people you have worked with or for in the past. Or, other friends or colleagues you know in the field. These people are pulling for you! And, they want to support you! So, give them that opportunity. If you’re speaking at an event, ask someone to get a pic of you on stage and share that after the event. Or, maybe your job takes you to a unique place in the world–why not get a pic of yourself in that setting with a note about #worktravel? I’ve found that original photos that feature people on LinkedIn work extraordinarily well. In fact, I’ve seen success with a couple clients in this area recently, too. And, if you want to know how it’s done at the highest level, follow Sarah Blakely, CEO of Spanx. Best example I’ve seen yet at the C-level.
5 – Use direct messages to nurture relationships.
In any given week, I’m probably communicating with 15-20 people via LinkedIn direct messages. That’s very intentional. For some of these folks, I could communicate by email, but I’ve found it a bit easier to get people’s attention via direct messages given the fact that most people probably don’t get too many of them. And, for new connections, this is an ideal way to communicate. It’s personal. It’s intimate. And, it usually gets a response. Again, unlike email inboxes, which are almost always overflowing, my direct message on LinkedIn rarely gets “buried.”
6 – Make cold connections–the right way.
A new connection on LinkedIn sent me a note last week asking if I had any best practices or tips on ways to make “cold reach outs” on LinkedIn. Over the last 10 years, I’ve done a ton of this. And here are the tips that have worked best for me: 1) Make the initial connection as non-threatening and friendly as possible. In other words, don’t sell the new connection. Don’t ask them for an intro. And, for all that is holy, do not ask them for a job! Just start with something like “Hey, I see we have a few common connections, including XXX. And, I see you’re a Gopher alum–me, too! Thought we might connect here.” 2) Ask them out to coffee! Again, in a non-threatening way. Do not ask for anything! In fact, at this stage, you should be looking to help THEM! The worst thing you could do with any new connection is ask them to help you. That’s not how this works. 3) Find a point of common connection. For me, this can mean a school I attended or taught at (St. Thomas); a common former employer or client; or, a key common connection. You do those three things, I can almost guarantee you’ll have success with your cold intros.