Wednesday, March 8th, 2017 | 7 min read
Buying influencer marketing software doesn’t mean your work is done – far from it! Influencer marketing is hard, and these days it requires brands to build real relationships with real people who are influential to their customers.
Many brands still pay influencers cash instead of taking the time to build relationships, but forging real connections with relevant thought leaders is by far the best long term strategy.
I’ve been engaging online with the most influential people in my market for more than a decade. During that time I’ve learned that using the following three part framework to categorize the types of work that goes into influencer marketing leads to the most effective relationship building between brands and influencers. Let’s take a look.
There are many different types of work. There is busy work – small little tasks that all add up that can be done rather mindlessly. There’s work that takes time and energy, and a bit more planning, but yields good results. And there’s work that requires substantial foresight and time.
Within my methodology, all tasks can be understood as either optimization, maintenance, or investment tasks. Here’s how to do influencer engagement work in all three categories.
Optimization tasks are small jobs that can be performed quickly, but must be done continually to create any value. In influencer marketing, this means tasks like hitting the “like” button on content from influencers that resonates with you.
You might see an interesting update on LinkedIn from a target influencer and give it a thumbs up. You send the message, complete the lightweight engagement, and move on with your life.
Super Angel investor Jason Calacanis (Uber, Launch.co, @Inside) builds social capital this way by, among other things, quickly “liking” good tweets from influential people in industries he’s seeking to address. He calls it “first bumping” them. It’s his way of saying, “Hey. I’m here, I see you and I like what you’re doing.”
It’s good to have optimization tasks that you can do quickly, but if you’re really going to connect with influencers to build influence for your brand, then you’ve got to show up consistently, and combine this strategy with the other types of work.
With maintenance tasks, there’s a linear relationship between the time you put in, and the value that you get out. When it comes to influencer marketing, an example of this type of work is resharing content that influencers have created.
The American Society for Mechanical Engineers regularly retweets compelling content from reputable 3rd party sources – individuals and organizations alike. Why? Because it wants to be a source of value for their community. The more time it spends finding and curating good content, the more its own name gets passed around, and the more people learn about the organization.
Last week, for example, I read a blog post, summarized its most valuable line in a tweet, and later created a new little piece of content based on that perspective I was tweeting about. The influential blogger saw the tweet I posted about him, then saw and liked the next tweet of mine that he was the inspiration for, even though it didn’t mention him!
Investment tasks have a greater-than-linear relationship to value creation – they can drive exponential outcomes. While these can drive the most value, they also require the most time.
When a cosmetics company flies influential makeup artists out to a resort, shows them a thoughtful good time, and makes it easy for them to create tons of reusable content together, that’s an investment.
When a financial institution invites mobile tech thought leaders to gather for a weekend of hanging out and riffing on how a financial app should work, arranging the event is an investment task.
When there’s an opportunity to do investment level work in influencer engagement, that’s where you’re driving to outsized value, relationships, and assets that will be valuable for years.
Optimization and maintenance tasks are a good foundation for building influencer relations. Enterprises can go a step further by using influencer marketing software to identify the most qualified and relevant influencers to work with that will truly have an impact on their audience. That way you’re maximizing resources while minimizing the time it takes to engage.
Automation and governance capabilities in a unified platform make it possible to achieve internal collaboration on these foundational tasks. They make the automation and maintenance tasks manageable on a large scale.
When it comes to B2C marketing, it’s important to note that influencers who appeal to enterprise brands likely generate a high volume of likes and retweets already. They may notice that a big brand engaged them, but the effort could just as easily be lost in the noise.
So, you may need to go a step further. Once you have influencers profiled in a unified platform, you can invite them into an advocacy community. This increases your brand’s share of voice and provides influencers with content they can use to amplify a brand’s message. It will empower them to assist in quelling any crises that may arise, and it can help you create look-alike audiences for paid advertising purposes, as a few examples.
For enterprise brands of all stripes, the third type of work may be the work that need be most prioritized. Brands need to be creative in what they offer influencers, how they work together with influencers, and add value to their lives. This might mean inviting influencers to speak at your corporate events. It takes a lot of time and energy to plan, but is a step toward building a lasting, working relationship.
While building an influencer engagement and marketing strategy takes a lot of time when done properly, you can break down the work into smaller parts based on the level of effort and resources they require
You don’t always have to do Investment level work. Influencer engagement works best when you mix up all three levels of effort. They are mutually supportive and compounding – put them all together and you’re engaging the community like a peer. Sometimes diving deep, sometimes just being around and lightly visible.
Influencer marketing and relationship building doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. You can invest time, teamwork, vulnerability, and creativity. Through a combination of all three levels of work, you’ll be able to establish an effective method of influencer relationship building and a rhythm that works for you, time and again.