By Bill Coletti, CEO, Kith
- True success in influencer marketing is earned, not bought
- Be aware of what influencers are saying, and what’s important to them
- Access as currency
- Approach like you would a friend
In 2016, your communications plan was considered incomplete if it didn’t include “influencer marketing.” We’re big believers in influencer marketing, as it speaks to two tenants of Kith’s Model of Reputation Excellence: Awareness and Action.
Awareness, because it requires you to take note of what influential voices are saying about you and your interests, and Action because it requires engagement with influencers. (You can read more about Kith’s Model for Reputation Excellence here). Influencer marketing is expected to continue its growth over the next year. What we anticipate will be the new frontier of influencer marketing won’t include bloggers pushing the latest skincare product or mobile game. Instead, companies will seek out policy influencers– those with the deep knowledge and a genuine interest in learning more about a company’s inner-workings and policy decisions. Paid influencers will lose relevance, and the less obvious policy bloggers will emerge as the new company torch bearers.
Last year’s growth of paid influencer marketing, combined with increasingly strict guidelines from the FTC, means your target consumer is flooded with content often followed by an asterisk or a disclosure that the article they just read was actually “sponsored content.” Not all consumers are okay with that. A 2016 study by Contently, The Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY and Radius Global Market Research revealed that more than half (54 percent) of respondents felt deceived after reading a post, only to discover at the end of the article that it was sponsored content.
Beyond lacking in credibility, sponsored content from paid influencers lacks authenticity. Consumers are often left wondering if an influencer really believes in the company they’re talking about, or if they’re just trying to cash a paycheck. Given this increasingly challenging influencer landscape, I’m proposing a new way of finding respected policy influencers that will authentically amplify your message.
You must find the unobvious influencers. Unobvious influencers are those that align with your organization’s philosophy and mission, but don’t necessarily have the highest follower count. They have an expressed interest in your issues and understand its complexities. Unlike paid influencers, who are usually promoting a product, unobvious influencers promote your company’s policies, practices, and procedures. They lend a credible voice of support, which pulls a number of your Levers of Reputation Management. For example, an unobvious influencer’s vocal support of your company’s volunteerism at the local food bank will pull the Responsible Citizen lever, while the endorsement of your CEO’s generosity to his or her employees will pull the Leadership Privilege lever. (Learn more about Kith’s 7 Levers of Reputation Management here) Unobvious influencers are hard to find, because the current way organizations find influencers is by using obvious metrics like follower counts and keywords. This is a flawed approach.
We believe influence is not measured by retweets or followers. When you only take retweets or followers into consideration, the influencers you find will always be the same people. This method is restrictive in that it measures influence independent of the topic or issue. Do you want Katy Perry talking about your innovative supply chain management? Would that ring authentic to the consumers you’re trying to reach? Probably not. Even when you get to a top influencer who actually speaks to your industry’s issues, chances are your competitor will contact them, too, resulting in a bidding war in which the only winner is the influencer’s bank account.
So how do we find these elusive “unobvious influencers?” Through really cool technology. Kith uses a tool called PathAR Dunami. Dunami helps you navigate social media and other big data sources to figure out WHO and WHAT really matters. We take your obvious targets ID’d on social media by keyword, volumetrics and sentiment, then refine and expand further using military intelligence-born network algorithms and analytics.
Once you’ve found the right people, we help you understand who they are and what makes them tick. Armed with these deep insights into your unobvious influencers, you’re empowered to engage with the right people. By utilizing this technology, you can:
- Augment the programs you already have in place with new prospects; and
- Grow in influence with voices that are not picked over, cynical or looking for a “pay for play” payday
Am I suggesting you find influencers who are willing to work for free? Not at all. You’re still paying unobvious influencers, just with a different type of currency. There are two types currency when it comes to paying influencers. The first is, of course, money. You can pay an influencer and in return they promote your company or idea on the internet. But what Kith is advocating for is another type of currency: access and information.
With access as currency, influencers are given special access to your company’s plans, policies and procedures. In many cases, they’re invited to provide input and feedback. This level of access is something money can’t buy. With access as currency, you are building relationships with influencers for the long term. These influencers become interested and invested in your company and the things it does. This lends authenticity and credibility to the influencer– their audience knows they’re not just in it for the money. That authenticity is reflected in the type of content the influencer shares about your company.
Once you’ve granted access to the influencer, it’s important that you nurture the relationship. In working with influencers, we’ve noticed that your relationship with an influencer is not all that different from a friendship or romantic relationship. Like friendly or romantic relationships, your relationship with your influencer requires ongoing work, mutual understanding and authentic communication, if you want it to last.
There’s no argument here: influencer marketing is worthy of investment. But what you should consider is what you want to invest: time and access? Or money?
Want to hear directly from a leading influencer about what they love (and hate) about working with companies? I had the opportunity to speak with influencer Ted Bauer (The Context of Things) during this month’s webinar broadcast. Listen to the interview here.