Influencer Marketing, Without the BS
As a longtime online marketer (~20 years), crusty old SEO that was ranking and banking pre-Florida, and the owner of an influencer marketing SaaS (Intellifluence.com – my only pitch to try it in the entire post), I am allergic to fluff and nonsense in the marketing world. Why Joe…why did you then create a company around “influencer marketing” – isn't it just another buzz word? Well, just like George Carlin hated advertising yet was the ad spokesman for a few companies, you'll have to figure that part out for yourselves. Hint: $$$
Carlin hating on advertising: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtK_YsVInw8 [warning, NSFW]
Carlin as a spokesman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDonrJ2WVWM
What is Influencer Marketing?
Cutting through the bull, influencer marketing can be very quickly defined as the digital equivalent of word-of-mouth marketing, a concept as old as time, but still somehow conceived of as being pioneered recently in the 1970s by George Silverman, a psychologist that figured out how to use whisper campaigns and peer pressure to get doctors to recommend certain drugs. My slinging pharma in the late 90s pales in comparison to the work of George; I doubt he conceived of upselling colon cleanse offers on top of raspberry ketones like certain SERPWoo members though.
When explaining to agencies what this concept is I say “having someone else tell your story for you” – in essence, that's all it is. I'm not a big fan of the storytelling buzzword, but it does help to convey what is occurring.
Who is an influencer?
Technically, everyone is an influencer to some degree. Even if you have a small audience, you still influence that audience and particular individuals to a greater capacity than non-targeted advertising. That said, I prefer to segment influencers into three groups: aspirational, authoritative, and peer.
Celebrities are what we common folk aspire towards, whether for their beauty, their wealth, or their lifestyle – take the seven deadly sin marketing concepts for psychological drivers and you can probably match it nicely with a celebrity for influencing the masses.
While aspirational influencers have the greatest reach given their gigantic audiences, the psychological tug is the weakest as it is only a desire, a longing.
- Authoritative influence is what occurs when Frank Kern launches yet another webinar on how to make money signing up people to yet another webinar. In this type of influence, the individual is considered to be a topical expert and thus whatever he or she says it taken as gospel. If Frank in his webinar said he now only uses SERPWoo, I can guarantee that trials would spike.
The psychological driver of respect and authority is greater than that of general desire, but in most cases authorities lack the overall size as celebrities, so as a group this type of influence is overlooked by brands. In the rare cases where a pseudo-celebrity is chosen that is also perceived as an expert in the field, good things can happen.
The reason this works so much has to do with wealth signals and pack mentality (what Cialdini now refers to as ‘unity'); basically, it is a combination of a need to “keep up with the Joneses” and the need to fit in – I use ‘need' instead of ‘desire' like I did for the other two main influence types because the effect is that much stronger. We want what our heroes and teachers have, but we absolutely need what our neighbors have…the cognitive dissonance on ignoring it is too great.
Should you use influencer marketing?
Yes, but only if you like money. The cost differential right now between PPC and peer influence is enormous.
Both are just tools in your overall customer acquisition strategies, but with influencers you can do some pretty interesting things like...
Create a Compulsion
You don't have to necessarily decide on using just one type of influence since as a sophisticated marketer you're likely chaining together a lot of different concepts together to maximize your output. If you're into putting it all together, you can accomplish some amazing things. Here's a sample campaign:
- Figure out your buyer persona. Who does this person aspire to be? Who are their heroes? Who are their authoritative influencers on the subject matter related to what you're selling? Who are their peers [LinkedIn Sales Navigator makes this easy]? Where to all the peers read their news or otherwise spend an inordinate amount of time online?
- Purchase the aspirational influence that best represents your brand. This won't be cheap; it can be had starting at roughly $20,000/mo but you need to make sure the influence is in a format that allows you to make the most of it. Why?
- Let's say your aspirational influence was engaging 5 b-list celebrities to talk about your product and make their lives better. If you then take that content and wrap into a series of video reviews, incorporate them into a broader blog series that can then be circulated back to your prospects on an email list, you've just extended the reach of the influence purchased beyond the direct sales. This new content can then act as native ad fodder later.
- Authoritative influence is a bit trickier, but authorities that aren't celebrities are generally more accessible than celebrities themselves, so my recommendation here is to try and approach directly. Once you've identified the right authorities from earlier and found a way to contact them, you're going to need to play to their egos – expect to pay and give away product plus offer some sort of guaranteed exposure, but it'll be worth it.
- Your b-list celebrity blog posts are live from step 4; now you can start taking the expert testimonials and spend more time on them, building out hosted interviews designed to reinforce the initial testimonials. Interviews are gold – instant authority.
- Retargeting time. One great method that continues to work is taking your retargeting list on a service like Twitter and promoting existing peer reviews to that list. It converts so much better than promoting your own ads.
- Remember all the content you created with the aspirational and authoritative influencers? This makes for a good entry point on native pushes. Pro level: promote your version and the influencers' version simultaneously in order to crowd out your competitor on those platforms you've found to be highly useful to your targets.
- As a final piece, take the long blog campaign you built out and drip it to your prospect list w/ discounts for testing out your service.
The compulsion factor works because you are starting with a desire, reinforce that desire by justifying it via expertise, then ramp up pressure of wealth effect by showing how peers are already using the product, and then make the need a compulsion with retargeting and native ad pushes that simulate a herd/pack mentality; the perception becomes almost too much – finishing the prospect off with a discount via dripped email at the very end, which makes it feel impossible not to buy.
And that my friends, is why I'm so bullish on influencer marketing and decided to devote a significant amount of my time on it; it's the next generation of social selling and fits into your SEO plans quite nicely.