5 Lessons On Influencer Marketing And Brand Transparency

The other day, I ordered a new drink at Starbucks. Normally, I have my go-to favorite, but for some reason I felt like a change. As I was sipping the foamy concoction, I realized something: I made the switch because of unofficial influencer marketing tactics. My friend had been gushing about the drink during our latest meeting, and that recommendation triggered my subsequent purchase. I made a mental note to try her drink, and I followed through.

There are some marketing pros out there who think that influencer marketing is a game-changer. Social media has leveled the playing field so that it’s not just the Lady Gagas and Justin Biebers of the world that can influence a gaggle of girls to buy a new perfume – now everyone has the potential to become an influencer in his or her own career. Consumers trust their friends, family and advocates far more than they trust banner and TV ads, and they’re more likely to make a purchase because of a recommendation than a billboard.

As a brand champion for talent, I think it’s important to understand how influencer marketing is reshaping the way businesses market and sell their products and create brand ambassadors, so I recently sat down with three respected authorities in the field of influencer marketing.  We talked about the state of influencer marketing today, the impact that greater transparency has on the marketplace, and the increasing role that more transparent influencer platforms and tools will play for leaders.

Sam Fiorella is a partner and Chief Customer Experience Strategist at Sensei Marketing, as well as a notable author on the topic of influencer marketing. He is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, and the co-author of “Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage and Measure Brand Influencers.”

Marcy Massura is Vice President, West Coast Director of Digital and the North American/Global Influence & Community Lead for MSLGROUP. She provides digital strategies for numerous clients, as well as strategic counsel for Proctor & Gamble North America.

Mark Fidelman is the CEO of Raynforest, an influencer marketing and advertising network that connects brands with influential people who can get the word out about their products and services. He believes that providing a space for brands to meet influencers accomplishes two things: brands can align with individuals who have the ability to mobilize large groups of consumers on their behalf; and influencers can monetize their efforts and make a living. (Speaking of transparency, I’m an advisor for the exciting new venture)

Here are five lessons about influencer marketing shared by these three experts:

1) Influencer marketing requires leadership transparency in order to be successful. 

Marcy: “Transparency is the word of the year. It goes hand in hand with authenticity (they are BFFs). We see our brands striving to be transparent in all the areas of their business, from social conversations to access to brand information to crisis response. Transparency desire is a result of an over marketed and now skeptical consumer base. “ 

Mark: “If there’s no transparency in how [a brand] recruits people, manages them and gets at the results, brands end up throwing the program over the wall to agencies and don’t know if the program works or not until they see the final results.” 

2) Current tools claiming to measure social “influence” are inaccurate, underdeveloped, or both.

Mark: “The challenge for brands is learning how to get a piece of the action, since the influencer marketplace today is far from transparent.   You’ve got a situation where brands have to work through talent or PR agencies to find and recruit influencers. There are tools out there that claim to help you identify the right influencers by reporting their social media footprint, but they’re woefully underdeveloped when it comes to identifying the right people who truly influence the decisions your target audience makes.”

Sam: “Social scoring platforms have tried to filter the online noise by categorizing who is influential; however, their algorithms have come under fire for inaccuracies, and brands using them report less than optimistic bottom-line results. The market is wide-open for new platforms that understand the relationship between the brand, the influencer, and their audience.”

3) Creating open channels of exchange between brands and influencers is a good thing – as long as it’s done ethically.

Mark: “For influencers, there’s a fine line to walk when it comes to using your influence effectively while maintaining transparency.  Joel Oleson, a leader in the Microsoft SharePoint community, does a great job of this.  He makes it clear when vendors request a product review, but also makes it clear the views are his own.“

Marcy: “The transactional nature of some transparent influence networks will allow honest connections for both the brand and the influencer. Initially there could be perception problems around the cross over from earned (although even earned impressions with influencers are usually generated by some kind of incentive) to a more direct paid model. “

4) Platforms like Raynforest, which measure influencers’ performance and allow brands to work with and manage influencers, are poised for explosive growth.

Sam: “What I’ve found impressive about Raynforest is the fact that they’ve crowd sourced the development of the solution. The team has openly consulted with industry leaders and marketers on what they’d like to see in an influence marketing platform. This bodes well for their future.” 

Mark: “Influencer marketing is one of the hottest industries out there, and there’s overwhelming demand from people that have no way of monetizing their content today. We’ve got a unique magic formula that nobody else has that we’re going to release out of the gate, and we believe a large population of brands and influencers will flock to it.” 

5) Two of the biggest challenges for brands looking to embrace influencer marketing: creating a large-scale campaign and measuring the results. 

Marcy: “Trying to harness the power of influence is a bit like trying to hug water. It sounds doable until you actually try it.  Many brands have been playing in the influence game with outreach of 50 here and 50 there influencers on spreadsheets and have not mastered how to take their influencer marketing to scale. The urge from clients is large scale influence programs…and the results can be astounding.”

Sam: “Social media has created an environment for “citizen influencers” but there are so many disruptions in the communication paths between influencers, decision makers, and the brand that tracking and reporting results is difficult.”

Mark: “Measuring performance and results is more important – and more difficult – than measuring popularity. For example, say you have someone who can run really fast, a very attractive guy, looks great in uniform, can speak well, but you don’t know how well he can play on the ball field…That’s what we measure – how they play. Not how they look off the ball field.”

What Say You – Is This A Game-Changer for the World of Work and Brands?

A version of this post was first published on Forbes on 09/26/2013.

Photo Credit: robwilliam245 via Compfight cc

Influencer Marketing Gone Wrong—Avoiding the Most Common Mistakes

Are you responsible for managing campaigns to roll out a new product or service? Or are you one of the essential cogs in the HR machine with a job that includes finding top talent? In either scenario (and in many others) influencer marketing may be exactly what you’re looking for.

As I’ve said before, I am a brand champion for talent, and I think it’s important to understand how influencer marketing is reshaping the way businesses market and sell their products.

I also think it’s important to understand what to and what NOT to do when you’re considering working with an influencer to speak on your brand’s behalf.

Influencer marketing is one of the hottest (and cost-effective) forms of marketing today, and it works. But—and this is a big but—only when it’s done right. Problems with influencer marketing happen when brands “hear the buzzword,” and jump right in without developing a strategy and foundation for their program.

All too often, this approach to influencer marketing ends in failure. Or worse, damage to the brand’s reputation.

It’s no secret that this type of marketing can be one of the best ways to build brand awareness. Studies have found that influencer marketing, which is basically highly targeted and strategized word-of-mouth marketing, generates two times more sales than paid advertising. Better yet, customers gained through this kind of marketing have a 37 percent higher chance of becoming loyal customers.

Influencer marketing can also have a very high ROI: Businesses make an average of $6.50 per dollar spent. No wonder so many marketers are scrambling to give it a try. However, there’s just one major problem: Too many brands do it wrong. Here are some common mistakes and tips so you can avoid making them.

Mistake #1: Not Treating Influencers Like Real People

Lack of authenticity is often one of the biggest issues in influencer marketing campaigns. Influencers are people—they may be people who’ve branded themselves well and have created an impressive online or offline reputation, but they’re still people. Many brands seem to forget this; they approach influencers like another faceless brand or company and neglect to treat them like real human beings.

Don’t Make This Mistake

Influencer marketing is about establishing and building relationships—real connections with real people. Here are some ground rules:

  • Approach influencers like you would a co-worker or industry professional you admire.
  • Write them a personalized message, and avoid anything that sounds automated or cliché.
  • Pay them an authentic compliment.
  • Give them a little creative freedom when they do agree to share their feelings about your brand.

The point of influencer marketing is, well, their opinions. That’s why you’ve done your research and chosen the best ones for your company or brand (see below about choosing incorrectly!). Don’t box them in by telling them exactly what to say or how to say it.

Influencers have feelings too—treat them like the people they are.

Mistake #2: Approaching the Wrong Influencer for Your Campaign

Finding the right influencer–someone who resonates with the audience you’re marketing to—is essential for the success of your campaign. Choosing someone based only on the number of their online friends or followers can misfire. If the person you’ve chosen doesn’t jive with your brand’s personality, marketing through them will never get the response you want, no matter how many followers they have. Your chosen influencers should have a lot in common with your brand: Interests, target audiences, expertise, and even aesthetics.

Don’t Make This Mistake

How do you choose the right influencers? Think of your organization’s hiring process: When you’re considering a potential employee, you screen them to make sure they fit the company culture, right? The concept is the same.

Do some research into your prospective influencer’s background:

  • How do they behave with their friends and followers?
  • Are they engaging with other brands? Which ones?
  • What is their reputation?
  • What material are they sharing and how is it resonating with the people you hope to reach?
  • Are they active in the same forums the people you hope to reach are?

Take a look at your potential influencer’s followers.

  • What are they discussing?
  • What do they like or dislike?
  • What do they share online?
  • Do they resemble any of your customer profiles, or seem like people who might use your product or service or tell others about them?

Understanding an influencer’s personal brand will help you decide whether they mesh with your company culture. It will also help you approach them with a more personal touch—a win-win effort.

Mistake #3: Being Disorganized—or Too Strict

Disorganization and a lack of communication will kill any relationship—business or otherwise. Chances are, you pour a lot of resources into your other marketing campaigns, so plan to do the same for any influencer marketing campaigns you manage.

Influencer marketing campaigns should be just as organized as your other campaigns. Trust me, the influencer will thank you. Nothing is worse than agreeing to help out a brand only to find out they don’t even know what they want or need from you.

Having said that, be open to their suggestions. For example, I mentioned giving influencers a little freedom when it comes to spreading the news about your brand. They’re an influencer—give them the trust they have earned by reaching that status.

Don’t Make This Mistake

Start with an outline of how your campaign will work. You’ll need some sort of editorial calendar and an idea of how you want to have your brand portrayed. Keeping with your brand voice, give your influencer a basic outline of what you expect from them but be flexible. Again, keep an open mind, and listen to them. Leave room for feedback and adjustment.

However, make very sure your influencer understands the Federal Trade Commission’s (FCC) Endorsement Guide—and plans to follow it. When it comes to the use of endorsements and testimonials, the FTC has set out some guiding principles, which you and your influencer must adhere to. For example, influencers must disclose their connections to a brand when they are making recommendations or endorsements.

Figure out how you will answer the following:

  • Who will be monitoring and managing the campaign and the influencer’s work?
  • What are the terms of employment or the contract?
  • How will you compensate your influencer?
  • How will you know the campaign has been successful?
  • What happens after the campaign ends?

Taking the time to answer these and other questions and to plan thoughtfully will make your (and the influencer’s) life easier in the long run.

Give Your Business the Care It Deserves

You’ve worked hard to build your business—you should work just as hard to market it well. Whether you’re on the hunt for new employees or pitching a new product, influencers have the ability to help you tremendously, and you want to approach them in a way that makes them feel excited to lend a hand. Influencer marketing is about fostering a relationship with the influencer, and by extension, his or her followers. If your heart is in it, the influencer’s will be, too. And great things can happen!

This post was first published on first published on V3Broadsuite on 3/30/16.

photo credit: few tools erase mistakes via photopin (license)

Influencer Marketing: Put Your Brand In The Spotlight

Customers’ opinions have long served as powerful marketing tools, but the implementation of social media platforms has expanded the reach of the customer’s voice. In fact, the success of today’s marketing campaigns often relies on a concept known as influencer marketing. According to Forbes, influencer marketing works toward identifying and targeting persons who hold influence over prospective buyers. When effective, influencers help put the spotlight on a brand.

Spokespeople and celebrities were often tapped in the past for influencer roles, but an important influencer today could just as easily be an everyday consumer. The easiest way to tell influencers apart from other consumers is often the size of their social media following. However, holding marketing influence is not only about having a large following. Influencers also typically have a vast amount of knowledge regarding a specific topic, and, as a result, are often relied upon by other consumers for their credibility and expertise.

Marketing Profs points out that in light of the increasing barrage of marketing messages received today, consumers have become more and more cynical regarding the brands they choose to trust. In order to tap into the power of influencers, you must first learn how to identify them. Marketing Profs further reports that approximately 60 percent of marketers believe that the biggest challenge of influencer marketing is identifying the people who can boost their campaign or brand.

Influencers are often bloggers, consultants, journalists, and influential customers. The ways in which an influencer can assist your marketing efforts vary, ranging from creating blogs or articles specifically about your company or products to allowing you to submit content on their website. Influencers may also offers to share information about your company or products on their favored social network.

More than 50 percent of marketers find it difficult to take advantage of influencer marketing because they simply do not know how to gain the attention of influencers. As influencer marketing has become more widely utilized, this is a problem that continues to grow. The key to making influencer marketing work for your company is taking the time to form relationships with relevant influencers.

It’s All About The Relationship

Among the most common mistakes many entrepreneurs make when trying to gain the attention of influencers is to simply bombard them with emails. Due to their position as leaders, influencers typically receive massive amounts of email. This alone can make it difficult to catch their attention. In order to stand out from the crowd, it is important to take the time to read what influencers write. The content they create can provide you with valuable insights into what they care about and how to reach their followers.

Rather than simply blasting them with email, work on developing a relationship first by interacting with them. Start by leaving comments on their relevant blog posts, replying on Twitter, liking status updates on Facebook, etc. Once you have taken the time to actually get to know them, when you do approach an influencer about covering your product or service, it will not seem like a cold-call pitch.

In marketing, it is a given that you need to tell customers what you want from them. Calls to action are vital to succeed in marketing. The same is true for working with influencers. You must tell them what it is that you want. Do not try to be coy. Influencers are well aware of their position and impact. It is always best to be honest from the beginning.

Keep in mind that ultimately the relationship you develop with an influencer should be mutually beneficial. Take a step back from thinking what they can do for you and ask what you can do for them. One of the best ways to do this is by looking for opportunities you can provide to improve your targeted influencer’s work. Most influencers are continually looking for unique experiences they can share with their audiences. Think about what you can offer an influencer that your competition cannot.

Finally, remember to maintain the relationship even after you receive the coverage you want from the influencer. Not only is it the appropriate thing to do, but a relationship with a true influencer can provide multiple benefits for a long time to come.

This post is adapted from Brett Relander’s original post The Secret Sauce of Influencer Marketing.

About the Author: Brett Relander is a thought leader, influencer, and growth hacker in the social media, mobile, and digital marketing strategy space. He is the Founder of Launch & Hustle, a valued digital marketing consultant & speaker, the author of Imperative – How Any Business Can Quickly And Easily Leverage Mobile Marketing For Radical Success, and a regular contributor on,, and

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