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Influencer Marketing Through Earning Influence

Influence marketing goes beyond sending your product to a blogger and includes testimonials, third-party recognition, turning critics into advocates, thought leadership blogs, storytelling and authentic acts that build a reputation

Influence marketing goes beyond sending your product to a blogger and includes testimonials, third-party recognition, turning critics into advocates, thought leadership blogs, storytelling and authentic acts that build a reputation

Influencer marketing is popular, largely because it works. However, influencer marketing involves more than just pay-to-play engagement with bloggers.

Sending products to influential bloggers to try out and then promoting their positive reviews is a successful tactic. But it isn’t the only successful tactic. There is a more organic form of leveraging influential people.

One of the most tried-and-tried forms of earned influence is the testimonial. The consumer or client giving the testimonial doesn’t have to be a so-called influential person. They have credibility because they consumed your product or retained your service.

Another form of earned influence is recognition by a third party. This could be an interview, product review or op-ed. The content is fair game to promote, which is what Chevrolet does in its ads about J.D. Power customer satisfaction ratings.

An unsuspecting form of earned influence can come from turning a critic on social media into a brand advocate. What better way to demonstrate brand value than tracking the journey of someone upset at product quality or service who is impressed by a quick reaction and fair resolution of the problem. You couldn’t pay for this conversion – or duplicate it in a pay-for-play context.

Thought leadership is a powerful, but under-utilized form of earned influence. You can turn your expertise or special knowledge into influential currency if you share it. That’s the point of thought leadership blogs or asking for opportunities to submit guest blogs.

Reputation may be the most underrated form of earned influence. A solid reputation isn’t something that can be invented, minted or inherited. Reputation, by its very nature, is something that’s earned. The arc of a reputation can take years, but it also can accrete more quickly – and regardless of age – through innovation or a principled act.

Influence is not something you can proclaim. However, you can nudge along the process of gaining influence through storytelling. The stories about your brand or you that you share – or arrange to be shared – can influence key audiences and burnish your reputation.

There isn’t a formula to achieve earned influence. Thank goodness. That gives people a lot of latitude in pursuing paths to attract interest, build trust and earn influence, whether in the marketplace or on Twitter.

Professional assistance can help in the process of influence-development. But PR pros can’t counterfeit authentic influence that flows from expertise, innovation or principled action.

If you developed the best-tasting, heart-healthy donut, by all means put it in the hands of donut bloggers and circulate their mouth-watering reviews on your social media channels. Just don’t forget there are other avenues for influence marketing, many of which have longer lasting impacts and contribute to deeper consumer loyalties.

 

YouTube: Your Own TV Station

YouTube stars Caspar Lee and Joe Sugg are parlaying their massive online following into gigs in TV and film. It's a bold example of the huge personal branding potential for anyone with their own YouTube channel. 

YouTube stars Caspar Lee and Joe Sugg are parlaying their massive online following into gigs in TV and film. It's a bold example of the huge personal branding potential for anyone with their own YouTube channel. 

As digital media has allowed you to be your own content publisher, YouTube allows you to be your own TV station.

Today, the video sharing giant has become far more than a personal outlet for run-of-the-mill vloggers to vent their frustrations and show off their whacky sense of humor. Now drawing tens of billions of views a month on millions of fresh videos, YouTube has created a massive worldwide platform for its biggest stars, many of whom are finding their successful video careers expanding well beyond YouTube and into more traditional media. But you don’t have to be famous to tap into the limitless marketing potential of YouTube.    

Last week, The Guardian highlighted the story of successful British YouTube due Joe Sugg and Caspar Lee, who started small and built a large following, which they later parlayed into TV and movie deals. Though not exactly household names in the U.S., Sugg and Lee have more than 11 million YouTube subscribers and upwards of one billion views on Google’s video service. Theirs is an example of how far the clever use of a YouTube channel can get you.  

Last year, the duo released Joe and Caspar Hit the Road, a straight-to-DVD movie chronicling their trip around Europe. Behind the production is the team from the popular British TV series Top Gear. While going straight to DVD usually means your movie is a box office dud, the rule simply doesn’t apply for the rising stars of YouTube. After topping the sales charts as a DVD and digital download on the web, the movie will make its way to the E4 TV network this month, and a sequel is already in the mix for this fall.

Clearly, you don’t have to be famous to tap into the massive marketing potential of YouTube. If you self-promote it, they will come. Just as blogs have become a more common marketing tool for businesses in the past several years, YouTube vloggers have begun to gain more traction among branding strategists. Now those strategists are turning to YouTube with their own channels for branding a company.  

According to a 2015 Social Media Examiner study of more than 3,700 marketers, 55 percent of business-to-business marketers and business-to-consumer marketers are incorporating YouTube into their brand-building strategies today. The number of YouTube converts continues to grow, and it should for quite some time.

Consider that we live in an age where video has overtaken written communication as a more popular, fast-growing communication medium online, especially among young audiences. Part of what’s driving so many to seize upon YouTube as a marketing tool is the simplicity and accessibility of YouTube. Anyone can shoot a video and post it to their channel, and it doesn’t have to be long or particularly well made to draw thousands or even millions of views.  

Rising new media companies, like Vice, owe much of their recent success to YouTube. After drawing millions upon millions of views on their short clips and alternative documentaries posted on YouTube, Vice had picked up enough of a following to launch its own daily news show on HBO. Now Vice is expanding in Europe with 30 shows in production and another 100 in development, said Eddy Moretti, the company’s chief creative officer.

“Our model has been we launch a channel online, we create the brand, we create a lot of video for that brand, and find talent … And we’ve been moving that talent, that IP [intellectual property], those videos, to other platforms,” Moretti said.

The success of these new media ventures aside, any successful branding strategy in today’s fast changing world needs to be designed to draw in millennials online, and few places in the digital arena offer a better venue for that than YouTube. That concept should always be top-of-mind for any branding strategist today. Whether you work for a meteoric video producer like Vice or a much smaller local business, YouTube may just be your best friend in marketing for many, many years to come. 

Justin Runquist is CFM’s communications counsel. He is a former reporter for The Oregonian, The Columbian and The Spokesman-Review. Away from the office, he’s a baseball fanatic with foolhardy hopes that the Mariners will go to the World Series someday. You can reach Justin at justinr@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @_JustinRunquist

Cheap Ways to Make a Marketing Impression

Influencer marketing, using bloggers and social media promotion, is one way to stretch a scrawny marketing budget.

Influencer marketing, using bloggers and social media promotion, is one way to stretch a scrawny marketing budget.

If you have a scrawny marketing budget, all is not lost. There are inexpensive ways to make an impression. Here are three suggestions:

Influencer Marketing

Find people who influence buying decisions for others. Bloggers with substantial followings are a good example. Their followers pay attention to what they say about food, technology, travel or all kinds of other subjects. Approach a few bloggers who connect with your target audience. Ask them to sample your product, use your service or review your offering and then write about it in their blog.

Writers who monetize their blogs may ask for compensation, but what they charge is far less than advertising and their reach is more targeted because bloggers have created a community filled with your potential customers.

If tracking down bloggers relevant to your marketing pitch seems too daunting, there are services that can help, such as Find Your Influence, which is effectively an automated dating service matching advertisers with bloggers.

YouTube and Other Video

Short, catchy videos are popular, and thanks to advances in technology they have never been easier and cheaper to produce. YouTube presents a perfect open-air theater to post them.

Most videos don’t go viral, but many of them get a good number of views. The key is to make videos worth watching, put them in an accessible channel and let the right people know they exist.

Instead of thinking like a Hollywood movie director, ask a teenager to help you. Videos are second nature to young people, as are the increasingly simplified tools to produce sophisticated video content. They might even be able to show you how to make the next video and you can pay them with a gift card at Taco Bell.

Once you have produced your video and posted it on YouTube, you can encourage people to watch by emailing friends or people on your customer list. You also can promote the video on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other networks depending on who you are trying to reach. Email marketing, assuming you’ve collected emails, is basically free. Promoting a video on social media can be cost-effective, too. The video also can be featured on your website and in your blog.

Street marketing requires a creative costume, something appealing to hand out and a willingness to throw inhibition to the wind.

Street marketing requires a creative costume, something appealing to hand out and a willingness to throw inhibition to the wind.

Street Marketing

Some of the most creative marketing ideas ever have involved street marketing. KFC once hired hundreds of people to dress up like Colonel Sanders and roam around New York, ending the day by sitting in a large bloc of seats at Yankee Stadium. The caper attracted gobs of media coverage and sparked lots of curious conversations.

You don’t need a 1,000 Colonel Sanders to create a stir. All you may need is a few volunteers willing to hand out your product on street corners while wearing logo-bearing T-shirts and funny hats.

KFC got major headlines and earned local goodwill by dispatching a Colonel Sanders look-alike to fill potholes in Louisville. You could identify a good cause – with or without involving asphalt – that connects with your product or service and convinces local TV stations to cover it.

Street marketing is an untapped source of nearly free advertising for those willing to throw inhibition to wind, dress up in a costume and do something kitschy or compassionate. In addition to some exposure and community buzz, you also will be giving your brand an injection of personality.

Gary Conkling is president and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at  garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.