Over the last year, influencer marketing has been one of the most talked about digital tactics in all of marketing.
We’ve seen scores of articles about best practices, tips
These articles talk about tools the author/brand/agency use to identify influencers.
And, of course, agencies will talk about the relationships they have with influencers (some agencies are completely built around the concept of influencer marketing) and how powerful those can be.
In many cases, it simply sounds too good to be true.
And, that’s because it is too good to be true.
The harsh reality is this: There are no shortcuts in influencer marketing.
Because the harsher reality is this: It takes a lot of time, effort and research to execute a well-planned influencer marketing program.
I see three key areas where extensive time, effort or commitment is needed:
Identifying the right influencers to work with
The up-front research is easily the area that requires the
Managing long-term relationships with influencers
This is an ongoing and time-consuming job. Because, if done right, it involves much more than just monitoring their Instagram profiles every few days. Managing an effective long-term relationship with an influencer is a commitment. It involves scanning their social media accounts DAILY–you want to know what they’re talking about each and every day. It involves monitoring their posts to ensure they’re disclosing paid affiliations (because, well, FTC guidelines demand it and you could get sued for millions of dollars if you don’t). It involves checking in with the influencers every so often (I would usually say monthly at a
Managing ongoing content creation with influencers
Much like the areas above, this isn’t a one-time deal either. It’s an ongoing effort to work closely with influencers to either co-create
For the first 15 years of my professional life, when I was working as a full-time employee, I had a mantra: “Always be looking.” Quite simply, I was always looking for a better or different job.
Now, that didn’t mean I didn’t like my current employer (I did, in some cases).
It didn’t mean I was physically always looking for a job (I’ll explain more in a minute).
It was simply a mindset: Always be looking.
And if you adopt that mindset, you will always have a job. I can all but guarantee it.
Because by adopting that mindset, what you’re really doing is adopting a whole new philosophy for how you manage and lead your career. Here’s what I’m talking about: You adopt this mindset, and you follow these four strategies and you won’t want for a job ever again (although, my attorneys say please don’t hold me to that; I am not a professional career counselor :).
#1: Organize one coffee or lunch per week with someone outside your organization
I haven’t always done this, but once I discovered the power of networking and meeting others face-to-face for coffee, lunch or happy hour, it changed the way I viewed my career. This really started for me just before I started my business. I was working at Fairview, and I was thinking about working for myself. I knew I would need a strong network, so I started to build it methodically. 1-2 coffees or lunches per week. Week after week. And always with someone OUTSIDE the organization (that’s a key–you HAVE to get outside your company’s four walls, even if you work at a big company like Target, Medtronic or Best Buy). But, having all those coffees and lunches did more than just build my network. It built my confidence. It put me at ease with meeting new people. And, over time, this decision has probably been the single-most important difference maker in my professional life.
#2: Actively seek out ways to help others in your network–shoot for once a month at minimum.
This pairs nicely with #1. Always be looking for ways YOU can help others. This is really counter-intuitive for many job seekers. After all, YOU’RE the one looking for a job! But, you definitely need to start by helping other people before you can help yourself. First rule of networking! The key here is it doesn’t have to be a big thing. It could be something as simple as sharing someone’s post on LinkedIn. But again, much like #1, if you start adopting this mindset, the results will be much bigger. You’ll feel much better about yourself because you are constantly helping others. You’ll again gain more confidence in your power to help others. And, most importantly, in the end, if you adopt this mindset for any length of time, what you’ll find is that others will start helping you–WITHOUT YOU EVEN ASKING! This is the one key to networking effectively that 90% of people overlook or don’t practice. And, it’s essential to never having to look for a job again.
#3: Actively participate on one social network–create, share and comment
Notice I said ONE! I don’t think you need to be on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Insta, Snapchat and Plurk (wait, PLURK!?!?!?!?). But, you do need to SHOW UP online–somehow. Preferably, I would say LinkedIn, from a professional standpoint. At the very least, make sure your LinkedIn profile is always in tip-top shape. But, you can really participate in any social network. Why is this important? Because when you’re looking for a job, people research you online. If they find nothing, that’s weird. They need to find SOMETHING. Preferably, in our industry (PR/comms/social), they should find A LOT. Make sure they find a lot. Also: Social networks are great spaces to meet new people–just like you would in real life. So, meet new people! If you’re on LinkedIn, ask current connections to introduce you to new people. If you’re on Twitter, seek out others in our industry and follow them and engage with them. If you’re on Insta, same thing! But remember, just participate on one to start if you find social overwhelming.
#4: Get involved in and volunteer with at least one organization outside your employer each year.
This has been another staple of my success over the years–and it can do wonders for your career as well. I started with MN PRSA years ago as a new member and a volunteer on the student relations committee. That was key because it gave me an easy, less intimidating way to meet a bunch of people. After time on that committee, I was encouraged to get my APR–which I did. And I met more people. After that, I was asked to be on the board. And I met more people. A few years later, I repeated the same experience with MIMA, which I’m still involved with to this day. I spent a couple years volunteering for the Winona State Alumni board and met many new Warriors during that time. I spent a year or so volunteering with Bolder Options, where I met yet more people, including all-time Gopher great Darrell Thompson! The point: Getting involved in these organizations (and volunteering–that’s important) was a great way to meet a BUNCH of people–FAST. And really, all four of those organizations mentioned above continue to be great ways for me to meet more people.
Each year, something called “Orbit” (don’t worry, I had to look it up, too) publishes a survey of 1,000+ bloggers on best practices in the industry. I now pay attention to this survey if for no other reason than there just aren’t that many surveys of bloggers like this around anymore in 2018 (which, actually, is hard to believe).
Anyway, the survey polls bloggers, but I believe some of the lessons learned also pertain to people like us who manage corporate blogs. Again–there aren’t that many data sets like this that are showing trends year-over-year. In this case, Orbit now has five years worth of data.
Today, I wanted to take a look at four trends I saw in the report that I thought were particularly interesting–and trends I thought had direct implications for folks who manage corporate blogs. Let’s take a closer look at these three:
Longer posts are outperforming shorter posts.
And, more bloggers are posting long-form content than in 2014. In fact, the average blog post length in 2018 is now 1,151 words. Whereas, in 2014, it was just 808 words.
To look at it another way, in 2014, it took the average blogger 2 hours and 24 minutes to write a blog post. In 2018, that number has spiked to 3 hours and 28 minutes. More than an hour longer!
Finally, the most important stat. 39% of bloggers who reported “strong results” invested 6-plus hours in writing their blog posts. And, posts that were more than 2,000 words consistently drove “strong results” among these bloggers.
This is a trend worth noting for corporate blogs, too. People want in-depth content with more detail in 2018–not “snackable content”, a concept we all bought into years ago. Customers will invest the time it takes to read a 1,500-word blog post if it’s content that’s well-researched, well-written and offers up a unique perspective. That’s content that takes 6-plus hours to write. I see this with the clients I’ve worked with the last couple years, too. Longer content is resonating over shorter-form blog content.
Publishing frequency is trailing off
In fact, 21% are publishing monthly or less than monthly–up from 13% in 2014. While those who posted “2-6 times per week” is down from 28% in 2014 to just 18% in 2018.
Interestingly, the report also found that those who publish daily still see “strong results.”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t see too many corporate blogs publishing daily. That’s just not happening with any degree of regularity. What’s much more common is a posting frequency of several times per month–or, even monthly. Posting daily is almost impossible for most brands. But, the truth is, brands don’t need to be in the publishing daily business. Even a handful of posts a month, generally, will produce results. After all, in many ways, blogging is a big search play. And, merely have a steady diet of content (even if it is just 3-5 times per month), can usually make a big difference. Publishing daily, for brands, feels like overkill.
Most bloggers are still using social media to drive traffic
But, the funny thing is: It’s not working. Social media is still, without question, the number one tactic bloggers use to drive traffic. But, in 2018, when social media is all about pay-for-play, it’s interesting that bloggers haven’t adapted. In fact, only 19% of bloggers said they used “paid services” to drive traffic to their blogs.
Meanwhile, when it came to tactics that drove “strong results”, influencer outreach and paid services topped the list. And, social media ranked dead last.
This is a mistake I see brands making all the time. They take the time to develop great blog content, and then completely forget the rules about how to distribute and promote it. Paid media like Facebook and LinkedIn advertising are key to sharing corporate blog posts on social media. Gone are the days when you can simply share your corporate blog post on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and expect any semblance of traffic. Corporate blog distribution practices are now all about paid distribution. The findings align with that.
Do you ever get the sense this whole Employee Social Advocacy concept is being shoved down our throats by a number of “thought leaders” and software vendors who have everything to gain by advancing this agenda?
OK, so that was a leading question. But, it’s just one of several reasons I haven’t bought into the Employee Social Advocacy hype machine so far.
The most recent example? This report, titled Employee Advocacy 2.0: Leveraging influence to drive a connected organization and employee-led buyer journey, from Onalytica (you can find the full report here).
One of the main themes you’ll see shared throughout the piece: That brands are no longer trusted by people. But, on the flip side, people are most trusted than ever.
In fact, this quote from Jay Baer (featured prominently in the piece) simplified is quite nicely: “Consumers are disappointed by brands. Trust in brands is lower than ever and the flipside of that is just as important, that people are trusted more. The reason people are trusted more than advertising is that there is no financial stake in the outcome.”
You have to be kidding me. Re-read that last sentence and tell me you’re kidding Jay Baer!
“The reason people are trusted more than advertising is that there is no financial stake in the outcome.”
In this case “people” = employees. That’s the whole point of the piece, so it’s hard to infer otherwise.
And, it sums up a big part of my issue with Employee Social Advocacy programs.
Proponents will say employees are better message carriers since more people trust them, as Baer alludes to above. It’s more “genuine” when it comes from an employee. It’s more “authentic.”
I’m not sure how anyone could think that’s true.
Employees are paid (in some cases, obscene amounts of money) to do a job. Are you telling me that doesn’t influence what they might say on social media about that employer?
I’ll give you an example. Take David Armano from Edelman. David’s fairly well-known in the PR/social space. He was an early adopter. And, he posts on LinkedIn from time to time about his employer. Many of his posts are very interesting (and have nothing to do with Edelman). But, he also does share Edelman info and promotion from time to time. And, since I know he works at Edelman don’t you think that influences his decisino to post about it online? The money he is paid by Edelman matters–just like it would with any other influencer. It’s not “authentic.” It’s not “genuine.” He’s actually a paid influencer. Pure and simple. Just like any of us working for an employer.
You simply cannot say Employee Social Advocacy programs build trust. Not when the primary message deliverers are being compensated to say exactly what you want them to say (in many cases, at least) on social media. That’s called a company (paid) spokesperson!
My second issue with the current state of Employee Social Advocacy programs is the software vendors themselves. They’re a huge part of the problem.
In addition to churning out reports like this lauding Employee Social Advocacy programs every five days, the software these vendors are creating isn’t part of the solution. It’s actually hurting more than it’s helping at this point.
Take your favorite Employee Social Advocacy program. Follow a number of people from that organization on LinkedIn. Notice what they’re posting. What do you see?
I’ll tell you: The same content from different people.
The software vendors make it easy for employees to share social content. I get that. But, they make it so easy, most employees simply cut and paste and rarely add their two cents to personalize it. What you’re left with comes off as canned corporate speak that looks flimsy at best.
It comes across as anything but “genuine” and “authentic.”
I can’t be alone in this thinking.
What say you communications/PR/social friends? Are you firmly on the Employee Social Advocacy bandwagon? Or, are you a bit skeptical like me?
Sure seems like it.
My original idea for this post was to feature 4-5 non-profits that executed exceedingly creative social media marketing campaigns during Give to the Max Day.
This should be easy to find, right? After all, non-profits don’t have huge teams or budgets, so they need to be scrappy. Creative. And, boot-strappy. Although social media has really shifted to paid media in recent years, many non-profits are still committed to using it to drum up organic support for their organizations.
However, that doesn’t seem to be the case in Minnesota on #GTTMD.
Keep in mind, I couldn’t possibly research ALL the non-profits in Minnesota and what they do during #GTTMD. So, I looked at the top 5 fundraisers in all the key category levels (small, midsized, intermediate, large). Certainly, there must be a few in those groups who executed a creative social media marketing campaign!
What I found disappointed me.
I saw a lot of these types of tweets:
TODAY is the day! Please help Bridging meet our matching grant goal– we are getting closer, We know we can do it, with your help! https://t.co/V2RqDoGfMU
— Bridging (@BridgingMN) November 15, 2018
And, organizations making just singular posts on key platforms like Instagram.
To be fair, there were a number of tactics I thought were creative and/or just plain smart.
For example, I loved the Carlson School of Management’s (#client) thank you videos from actual students to actual donors. Not uber sexy, but smart and (I would think) effective and showing simple gratitude directly to those who donated.
— Carlson School of Management (@CarlsonNews) November 16, 2018
I also loved the Twin City Jewfolk’s wall-to-wall Facebook Live video feed featuring all their partners and supporters.
I also LOVED their use of the throwback Nintendo imagery in the promotion!
And, probably not surprisingly, Secondhand Hounds did an outstanding job telling the stories of its puppies and dogs on Facebook. Again, not sexy or super creative, but pretty damn effective.
But overall, I guess I was surprised so many non-profits either gave up on social in 2018 or simply went through the motions.
Maybe it does make sense given where we are with social. More reliance on paid media. Way too much clutter to compete. I guess I could see a strong argument for simply ignoring social altogether on #GTTMD (in fact, it’s something the University of St. Thomas has been doing for a while now, doing most of their promotion BEFORE #GTTMD).
However, I continue to believe the opportunity to cut through all that clutter is still there. You just need to come up with a creative idea.
That’s always been the issue with social. Creative wins. And, most creative DOES NOT have to mean BIGGEST. In fact, most creative can often be the smaller players in any industry. Over the years, that’s proven true. Think Warby Parker (before they became huge). Think Blendtec and its famous Will it Blend videos from the early days.
Small organizations can win with social. And, many non-profits competing for valuable dollars during #GTTMD seem primed to do just that. I guess, more than anything, I was surprised by how few committed to social this year.