[NOTE: This post might make more sense if you’ve already read my Open Letter to Influence Marketers, but I think it also might work standalone. Your individual mileage may vary.]
After I published my “Open Letter” post on Friday, I had a conversation with Kate Hutchinson, a colleague and friend for whom I have a lot of respect. During that conversation, she very gently reminded me that I dislike it when people complain about something without offering any constructive alternative.
I’ll admit, that once I got the point she was driving at, it stung a little, but that was entirely my fault, not hers. I had done the very thing that I dislike.
I’ll demonstrate with two examples:
Feedback that isn’t actually helpful:
Feedback that is possibly helpful and possibly even actionable:
“That sucks. I think it might work better if we did this instead. What do you think?”
With that in mind, I give you:
Some Suggestions for Influencer Marketers
I realize that I’ve never actually had your job. I know that, for many organizations, the whole idea is brand-new. I also know that, in many organizations, some attempts to build an effective influence marketing program are often met with internal resistance.
So, I recognize that I haven’t walked a mile in your shoes yet. Thus, my feedback and suggestions are only able to come from being on the receiving end of your programs and actions. If I’m misunderstanding them, or missing some important point, please feel free to reach out to me to explain what I’m misunderstanding or missing. I like to learn.
- Be clear on what your program’s goals are
I know that sounds obvious, but I’ve seen many efforts across MANY different fields fail because the team wasn’t clear on their actual shared goal. So, take some time up-front and get clear on what the goal of your Influence Marketing program is. It needs to be more specific than “get our name and brand ‘out there’ more”. For example, your goal might be one of the following three ideas:
“Get mentions of our company and product names to trend on social media.”
“Engage with existing thought leaders and get them involved in conversations about our products and offerings.”
“Help to develop new thought leaders who understand, and are aligned with, our own technology goals.”
It’s easy to see that each of these goals would require different programs and different actions than each other. They’d certainly each have different target audiences for you to be reaching out to.
- Be clear on who your target influencers are
Also sounds obvious, but easy to overlook.
Know who they are, what topics they’re interested in engaging on. For example, don’t pitch storage-related content to someone who has only ever blogged about networking, but do put storage content in front of the folks who live and breathe that stuff.
Know what their capabilities are, and what they’ve done. For example, don’t suggest “canned tweets” to people who already have strong Twitter presences, but do offer advice on starting a blog to folks who don’t have one yet.
- Be clear on what you’re offering influencers overall
To work as a partnership, your influence marketing needs to benefit both you and your influencers. What can you offer to your influencers that will have them wanting to keep working with you? Access to information not readily available otherwise? Special access at events? A direct line to your engineering team? The first chance tobe beta testers?
- Be clear about you’re offering influencers specifically
When you hold briefings, calls, WebEx’es, meet-ups, or whatever else for your influencers, be clear on the intent and content of the event.
If it’s going to be a technical deep-dive, call it that.
If it’s going to be a “101-level” overview of your product, call it that.
If it’s advance access to info in an upcoming press release, say that.
If it’s an opportunity to interact with the other members of the influencer community you’re building, but no new info will offered, say that in the invitation.
Remember that different influencers will be interested in different things. I prefer the technical deep-dives, but someone else might be very interested in the 101 overviews. Let them decide for themselves by letting all of them know about all your briefings, calls, etc. While I prefer the tech deep-dives, I might attend an overview if I happen to be free at that time, and the influencer who prefers the overviews might decide to check out a deep-dive. Being up-front about the actual intent and content of each call, briefing, etc. helps to foster that feeling of partnership. If your influencers can rely on that information from you, they can plan and decide which calls to attend, which to skip, and which are worth rearranging their schedules for.
- Make sure communication is two-way
The worst attempts at Influencer Marketing I’ve seen are “push-only”, where the company running the program just hands out information that they want folks to pass on for them, pretty much “as-is”. The best Influencer Marketing programs I’ve seen are not only willing to listen and take suggestions, but actively solicit input from their community. Ask your influencers what types of briefings they find most interesting/useful. Ask them what content they want to receive and in what format. Ask what they’d most like to learn about your product(s). The answers might not always be what you’d have guessed, which will allow you to adjust, improving both sides of the vendor/influencer partnership.
- Never forget that your influencers aren’t your employees
The majority of the folks who will be using their influence on your behalf are doing so in their spare time out of a love and appreciation for technology in general, or your product(s) specifically. Make sure to thank them and let them know they’re appreciated. In this case, I don’t actually mean “give them stuff”. Now, don’t get me wrong — everybody loves them some swag, but do you really want to be working with folks who are in it for just the swag?
Often a direct, personal contact is far more meaningful. Did one of the product’s engineers comment that he or she especially liked a specific blog post written by one of your influencers? Get them to spend 3 minutes sending an email message telling the poster so. Did somebody do a great job covering your recent press release and what it means for your industry niche? Get your corporate accounts to tweet out a link to that write-up saying something like “Great article on our Product X and its relevance to Industry Y customers. Read this posting by Blogger Z.” Are you seeing a new “REFERRER” in your web logs? Send an email message to that influencer saying something like “Over the last week, we’ve noticed that X number of people came to our website because they clicked a link in your recent post. Thank you! We definitely appreciate working with you.”
The concepts are simple, but implementing them isn’t always easy. remember that the “program” you’re growing is really a “community”. Communities are dynamic, shifting, ever-changing things. You need to be a caretaker for it, always keeping an eye on it, always being ready to adjust your plans to fit the changing needs of the partnership relationships you’re developing.
In practice, it’s difficult to do well, but those folks out there who are doing it well will tell you that it’s worth it.
Got some questions? Not sure what to do next? Have an idea and wish you had someone to bounce it off of before you implement it? Feel free to reach out to me. If you’re a long-time reader/follower, you’ll know I’m not shy about sharing my opinion(s). I love this stuff, and really enjoy conversations with other passionate people.