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Jun 22, 2020

Brands are struggling to find a new way to authentically connect to their customers and we are witnessing major communication disruptions. In an article that appeared in Adweek, Twitter said that users now trust influencers like YouTubers, almost as much as their friends. This is the age of influencer marketing. So here's today's big question. Should brands consider adding influencer marketing to their everyday marketing mix and is there a right way, and a wrong way to do it. Neal Schaffer, author of ‘The Age of Influence” gives us the scoop.

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Transcript:

Dan Seguin 0:02
Hey everyone! I'm Dan Segin from Hydro Ottawa. And I'll be hosting the ThinkEnergy podcast.

PewDiePie, Dude Perfect, Hola Soy German, Whindersson Nunes, and El Rubius. While perhaps not household names to you and I, they are powerful influencers to Gen Z's audiences aged 13 to 18. In fact, these youtubers combined have 262 million subscribers, and are more influential to this generation than movie stars and politicians. It's not surprising that today's consumers are increasingly more savvy and critical of branded advertising. Gone are the days where advertising messages and propositions were trusted and taken at face value. In an online world where advertising is seen as more intrusive than valuable.

Brands are struggling to find a new way to authentically connect to their customers, we are witnessing major communication disruptions. This includes declining television viewership, continued growth of social media audiences, an increase in ad blocking technology media Fasting, and a significant rise of noise clutter on all channels. It's becoming increasingly more difficult for brands, particularly energy brands to keep up with the digital landscape, as consumers take extreme measures to avoid being advertised to. With demand for attention on the rise and overwhelming product options on the market, consumers are beginning to lose sight of who they can trust. Is the energy industry facing a Kodak moment? In an article that appeared in Adweek, Twitter said that users now trust influencers like YouTubers, almost as much as their friends. This is the age of influencer marketing. So here's today's big question. Should brands consider adding influencer marketing to their everyday marketing mix and is there a right way, and a wrong way to do it. Our guest is no stranger to social media and the marketing world. He's the author of three books, teaches digital media to executives at New Jersey Business School, has a podcast called maximize your social influence, orchestrates digital transformation for leading businesses and is fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. Dear listeners, please welcome Neal Schaffer. Hey Neil, how would you define influencer marketing? And can you give us some examples of brands doing it well?

Neal Schaffer 3:48
Thanks Daniel. So influencer marketing is something that I think a lot of people are mystifying or they're mis educated on or they've been misinformed about. You know, when I look at influencer marketing, I look at Who has online influence? Who has digital influence? So, yes, celebrities have digital influence. But there's a lot of other people that I've influenced because there's so many of us that use social media that build communities, in the hundreds in the thousands in the 10s of thousands, but even those people that have communities in the thousands are still able to influence others, right. And even in the influencer marketing industry, where they have gone smaller and smaller, you know, with each year we they used to talk about macro influencers, then mid tier influencers, and then micro influencers, which are people that have between, you know, 50 to maybe 500,000 followers. And then over the last year or two, we talked about nano influencers, people with one to 10,000 followers. And if you think about, you know, I don't know about Canada, I'm assuming it's pretty similar demographic wise, but in the United States, the majority of the workforce are millennials. So these are digital natives that have been doing social media since it began. And they've built up communities over time, right. And so when you start to look around you realize that there's a lot of people that already know like and trust us that already may have some influence. These might be employees, these might be your customers, your followers online people that mentioned your brand online that have some brand affinity for you. So, you know, when when so many people immediate influences become so democratized anybody can really have influence. And that's where I tell, you know, the companies that I work with, don't just look at number of followers, but also look at that brand affinity and your chances of success of working with nano influencers that actually are your customers are going to be much greater than working with a celebrity who just sees working with you as a one time transaction, you really want to develop long term relationships. So, you know, there is as far as brands, I mean, there are so many consumer brands that are doing influencer marketing, it's crazy. In fact, Estee Lauder is an example of a brand that they announced that 75% of their marketing budget is going to influencer marketing. There's one brand that I like to bring up as sort of a case study they're called Rose Field and they are a watch company. So they, you know, there's a bunch of these, like watch brands that, that you've never heard of them, but all of a sudden they pop up on Instagram, and everyone's talking about them. And now they're a huge company. So they're actually, I believe they're originally a Dutch company, they also have a headquarters in New York City. And they basically have created really the ideal type of program that I talked about in the age of influence, which is really, you know, the build a long term program of people that already know like, and trust you. So how do they build the program? Well, they went into their email list, they went into their customer, you know, database, and they looked at their followers, and just by doing this exercise, they found Wow, there's a lot of people of influence that that already know, like, and trust us and from there, you know, some of them were better content creators, so let's use those to do you know, those people, maybe we work more on the content side. Some were really great, you know, amplifiers, they weren't the best content creators are aligned with a brand but they create a lot of great conversations, they can amplify. And then there are others that might refer us to other members. And they made it open anyone and everyone, I mean, anyone can apply. And from that program, they've just developed a tremendous amount of benefits, you know, increases all around the board in terms of KPIs, and all they've given to everyone that's joined is either exclusive access to, you know, products before they go on sale, or basically shop points that they can shop for free. So there's no monetary transaction. And when I tell this to people blows them away, there's so used to this, pay someone $100 or $1,000, on Instagram, and we don't know where that money's going, or if they're, if the influence is real, or so there's a lot of different ways of doing it. And, you know, I tell brands, you know, really think holistically about who has influence. It's not just the celebrities, there's a lot more influence a lot more people with influence out there. And if we go back to the model that, you know, more than almost 20 years ago, this model that says the top 1% of online users or content creators, you then have 9% that are sort of engagers/commenters, and they have 90% that are lurkers? Well the top 1% of any social network is a lot of people. I mean, if LinkedIn is 500 million users, that's 5 million people that you can engage with, right? If Instagram has 1 billion that's still you know, 10 million people. So there's a lot of people out there don't just think celebrities really think holistically and find people that you can align with and collaborate with for mutual benefit.

Dan Seguin 8:23
What was the driving force behind your book on influencer marketing?

Neal Schaffer 8:28
So I you know, in classic sort of, you know, content marketing or marketing we want to serve our customer. We want to serve our community. And it's interesting because with Coronavirus, this is my advice for every company. How can you serve your community? If you can't serve them physically? How do you serve them virtually, there are restaurants here in Orange County, California where I live that you know, you can order like a box family meal and they'll include facemask. They'll include toilet paper, right? It's one way of serving their community, even above and beyond your own product. So with that in mind you exist you know business exists to serve society, this actually a quote from an executive at Walmart, believe it or not that I like to share, and with Coronavirus, we all sort of tap into that. So, because of that I am the exact same way. I'm an educator, I'm an author. I'm a consultant. I'm a speaker. So it's all about what are the needs in the market? And I really found about two to three years ago, this was a question that I kept getting a lot about, not just influencer marketing, but a lot of marketers that are saying, you know, my friend is making $1,000 every time they post on Instagram, how do I become an influencer? So this concept of digital influence, I thought there was something to it and the more research I did Daniel, the more I realized all this miseducation in that it had a lot more power than most people in businesses knew about. And that's why I decided to write the book and the book actually was a test market on a crowdfunding platform, but it did so well that I'm gonna write the book and then you know, HarperCollins leadership reaches out to me and, and the rest is history. So, and I still think you know, when we look at marketing, communications, right, you have a website you have content for search engines, right? You have you have content marketing, you have email, you have social media and I believe that sort of, you know, collaborating with others through influencer marketing, whether it's employees or customers or, or outside people becomes another sort of pillar of marketing communication that I think every company should have a budget for. So I think it's going to really have long term value. It's definitely not just a trend, but it's going to serve companies that read the book and listen to this podcast well,

Dan Seguin 10:28
Neil, let me ask you this: If the goal is to plug into the communities and connect energy brands to new audiences through the voice and trusted relationships of an influencer, how do brands ensure a proper fit?

Neal Schaffer 10:46
Yeah, that's a great question. And that's an area where I think a lot of brands that just chase that number of followers model, there's a relevance in a few different ways that there has to be content relevance, right. So if they are, you know, people out there that maybe once they talked about solar energy, right, so maybe you have a Solar Energy Initiative and you want to align with them. But when you do further analysis, they talked about solar energy once in their last 100 posts. And really, they don't talk about solar energy at all. It's just something that came up. So this is a mistake, you use an analytic tool, oh, they've talked about solar energy, you immediately contact them, and it's not their main thing. So that's one area where you may have misalignment is on the content side, you're working with the wrong person. And if you throw money out, I'm sure they'll take it, right. I mean, some influencers really are in it for the money, not everybody, right? Those are the ones you don't want to work with. But then there's the brand alignment. And this comes down to you know, the tone of their content that the visuals they use, and really, you know, if you can imagine if your content appeared in their feed, just from a philosophical perspective, would it be aligned with your brand. would it look right, would it look right in their feed and would it look right to you as well, but it looks like a good representation. You can't really control how it's going to look. But if it's something similar in look and feel, what's that alignment look like and this is why, Daniel, you know, marketing is sort of this one to many approach. But I believe that influencer marketing is almost we can almost call it influencer relations. And it's almost more geared towards public relations than marketing because it really is a one to one you really need to do analysis, you may find a few hundred people through a tool or through analysis, but you really got to dig deep into each one to make sure that there is alignment on those different areas that I talked about.

Dan Seguin 12:37
What kind of return on investment does influencer marketing offer compared to other marketing channels?

Neal Schaffer 12:45
So there's already been a lot of data that says that you know, for every dollar spent in influencer marketing, you get $7 ROI or, you know, you get double the ROI after six months compared to traditional ad spend. So if you were to do a search for influencer marketing ROI statistics. There's a lot of studies out there. So I think that obviously, there's no one Golden Rule. But there are many ways to leverage influencers. So obviously there is that brand partnership brand sponsorship sort of content sponsorship, content amplification, right? Where if you were to work with an influencer, who agreed to amplify your content, you know, what, what would that look like in terms of the engagement they get or the clicks they get compared to what you're doing? compared to like paid media, for instance, that's a really, really good way to compare it. But there's other ways of looking at it. Daniel, what if you're a smart, small brand, who nobody is talking about online? You know, part of social media is about inciting word of mouth marketing. And the easiest way to do that is to really, you know, collaborate with influencers, send them product, get them talking about your company. And that's a really high ROI just in terms of brand awareness that it's hard for you as a brand to create, if nobody knows you, because you're gonna have to create it through advertising. And that trust factor is just very, very different, right? But we can go further, well, we're creating our own visuals and our own videos. But you know, these influencers are creating really, really good looking videos really, really good looking photos doing drone footage, but, man, we just can't do it the same way that this content creator does. So, you know, why don't we instead of doing it ourselves or hiring an agency, why don't we just directly work with the influencer? So this is an area of working with content creators to actually lower your expenses sometimes and maybe get the additional benefit that they're gonna publish that on social media as well. And then you get into Well, we really want to create a community of people we can tap into to understand what people are interested in like a focus group, right? And this is another way you can leverage influencers so the ROI like anything else in in social media, I mean, there's so many different ways to measure it, but there's also these intangible benefits that, you know, invariably, you're going to get when you do it right.

Dan Seguin 14:53
Can you share with us what are the most effective forms of influencer marketing? What are your thoughts on the value of sponsored content?

Neal Schaffer 15:05
So sponsored content is really interesting. You know, when we talk about sponsored content, it sort of taps into that, you know, transactional relationship. You know, we create the content, you publish it, and probably we're going to pay you money or something of that sort. So, I think there's still role that sponsored content can play. But you know, it's always going to be more authentic and more trustworthy when it comes from the influencer themselves, right? And that's an ideal scenario. But we don't all have the brand affinity with every influencer, we may not have the relationships with each influencer. So that is a way to start a relationship, right? If you want to collaborate with someone, maybe spend a little money for sponsored content for distribution, so at least your content gets out to their network. There's obviously value there. And really, you know, Daniel, in the age of influence has a chapter of like, you know, the 15 different ways you can you can work with influencers, so that definitely is one. And it's one that's been around for a while. But you know, based off that what if, in addition not sponsored content, you were going to do a giveaway, and said, Hey, we're going to give you one year of free software, or we're going to give away 100 products. And then imagine that influencer, it makes him or her look good, because they are indirectly sponsoring this giveaway where they're giving away free stuff to their community, right? And then they're gonna want to promote that even more. So then you get to this win win. And then what if, hey, as part of this, we'd love if you could, you know, create another post actually reviewing the product that's part of the giveaway, would you be interested in that? And then you begin to tap into that authentic voice of that person even though you gave them the product, hey, this company, you know, sent me the product, but all my opinions are personal, their mind. And then you get into a deeper relationship that I think, you know, the more the influencer wins, the more it's in their best interest to collaborate with you and share your content. The higher the ROI is going to be right where you want to get to a point where they're where they're an advocate, they're going to talk about you without You're even having to ask. So as an initial entryway sponsored content does have a role. And if you're working with big players, obviously sponsored content has a role there. But I would only use that as an initial strategy, not the final strategy.

Dan Seguin 17:14
Influence isn't necessarily tied to popularity. A large following is not necessarily a predictor of success in influencer marketing. What are your thoughts on working with influencers that are integrated and prolific on a variety of channels, as opposed to those who limit themselves to predominantly one platform or medium?

Neal Schaffer 17:39
That's a really, really good question. And I think that, you know, marketing is all about getting in front of your customer. So you first got to ask yourself, where are my customers? If you are a b2b organization, you're probably not going to be focusing on tik tok, for instance, right? That's probably not where your customer is. So you definitely want to have those channels where your customers are, you definitely want to be working with influencers that have coverage on those platforms. Now what you'll find, generally speaking, it's hard to be good at every platform. The only person that can do it is Gary Vaynerchuk. And he has a staff of, I don't know, 15-20-25 people that allow him to do that. So, for individual influencers, you'll find that they usually have one strong network. You know, when we think about tik tok, we think about Charlie, this 15 year old who, who's made it big in no time, so her she's tiktok, there's Instagram people, there's YouTube people, right. And I would almost argue that, you know, find people that are really good, you know, if you could find a mix of people, that some of them are really good at one thing, some are good at another, but they have your platforms covered. I almost think that that's going to be in terms of reach a better strategy, and it's more natural, because it's impossible to be as good in all these platforms. It's just there's just not enough time in the day to be able to do that even for really really good content creators and and where people so we're, you know, we tend to be passionate, you know, Dan, I'm sure you have like a favorite social network or to I have a favorite social network or to where we tend to spend more time and they're no different. So to expect them to be good at everything. I think it's unrealistic. And I don't think it's going to serve you well at the end.

Dan Seguin 19:11
Knowing that a critical component of an effective influencer marketing campaign is establishing a trusted relationship with a relevant influencer, when who's in tune with your audience's needs and desires? and whom your audience will look to when they're making purchase decisions? Is there a checklist for companies when aligning themselves with an influencer?

Neal Schaffer 19:37
Here's the thing. So I consider you know, you're trying to develop relationships with a lot of people. So let's say you come from the PR world, there's 100 different you know, newspaper reporters, media relations, you want to create relationships with all these hundred people. You might do the same outreach to all of them, but not everybody responds. So I think it's less of a checklist. I mean, yes, there are things you Want to analyze to make sure they're the right fit. At the end of the day, you're going to reach out to a lot of people, and not all of them are going to convert. And what I mean by that is not not everyone's gonna respond to you. Some will respond the first time. And then sometimes you have an autoresponder that kicks in a second email and some respond to that. Some if you go on a Twitter, they're going to respond to a DM, but everybody's different. But at the end of the day, not everybody is going to respond to your request for collaboration or your outreach. So you're only going to be working with a subset to begin with those that actually responded. So from there, I mean, the only checklist is to have an open ended conversation, right? What is it? You know, first of all, how do you normally work with companies? Have you ever worked with companies what is what are the ways in which you work with them? What is your, you know? How can we help you? Oh, you know, you're looking for speaking opportunities every month we have, you know, we have monthly town halls, you know, here in Ottawa or wherever You know, we can put you on a panel next time, right? For instance, I'm just thinking out loud here. So, you know, the only checklist is to be human. And to listen, instead of saying, we, we want you, we're going to ship your product, we want you to post, you know, once on Instagram three Instagram stories all on different days of the week. And then over the weekend, we want you to post once on Facebook once in Twitter, and we're going to send you a $25 amazon gift card. And this is the mistake that so many brands make because they don't understand what are the needs of the influence of what do they want to do. And if you offer that without asking, you could never you could come to a situation where the influencer is so angry that you that you know $25 amazon gift card would be worth their time that they're never going to respond to you again. Maybe they put your email in spam filter or they block you and you're never gonna have a chance to work with that influencer. So it's always about the most important checklist item is having that open ended conversation from there. Sure. You know, what are you going to do together, make sure you Follow up. They're people too sometimes they're they're late on things. How are you doing? How can we help you? But I don't think there's one standard, you know that there's a checklist for the process that I went through, right? which ends in then publishing content, you're analyzing that content. And then over time, you know, looking into the program, who are our best performers, maybe do more with them? Maybe try to bring some new people in maybe the least performing people maybe you don't allow in next year. You know, you have these annual contract type of relationships. But there's no as you can imagine, because everybody's so different. And their needs are so different. It's really hard to have that one standard checklist I think every marketer would love to have.

Dan Seguin 22:34
Why has influencer marketing grown to become one of the most powerful form of marketing, in social media? And in general?

Neal Schaffer 22:45
Yes, I think there's a few trends that have driven the growth and have increased the power of influencer marketing. And once again, we take a holistic perspective, we take a step back, and we look at how you know from a digital first mentality, how to We get the word out about our company. So we have a website check. We're doing SEO check. We're doing email marketing, marketing, automation check. We're doing content marketing, and we have a blog, we're doing content, various forms, check. We're doing social media check. Well, where else you're gonna spend your money. Right? And those are the main ones. But specifically within social media, there's a problem. Because social media organically just does not does not matter anymore. It's impossible for companies to get a lot of reach organically, because social networks are truly become pay to play. So this pushes a lot of companies into using their social media budget for performance marketing or paid social, but then it's an advertisement. It's not the same. It's not organic. Some people don't trust ads, some people come to me blockout ads, right. So that is one major trend. That is pushing people from organic to paid but paid is really not the solution on the other hand, Social media was made for people, not businesses, and who do social media? Who do users relate to? They relate to people just like them. That's why all these people have become have built these big communities. They're like us, they're not celebrities. These influences not start out as celebrities, right? They started out as people like us. They're authentic, they're transparent. And it's very, very hard for brands to do that, to compete with that. They're not humans, we talk about humanizing the brand. But at the end of the day, they're not humans, humans are humans, they have an advantage. So that's the other. That's this relatability factor, you know, any brand, could it become a talker? Could it become a YouTuber? Could they didn't write, they had the opportunity, but they failed to do that because it you know, for many reasons that we can have another podcast episode just on that. But people have gained people have seized the opportunity and they have gained that influence. So you know, these are the trends even with Coronavirus, it's no different the trends are still there. And you know with social media This notion of sort of, you know, viral word of mouth marketing, if you really want to get that going, it's not going to happen through paid advertisement. And it's not going to happen through your own organic social, it's going to happen to influencers, when other people that people relate to and trust, start talking about your brand. So those are sort of the trends that push influencer marketing. That's why you have a lot of brands and Instagram just don't even publish their own content. It's 100%, UGC, or user generated content, in recognition of that fact they can't compete, and this content is probably going to outperform. So when you take that concept and you apply it to everything you do in marketing, you begin to see the power that influencers can bring. Neal,

Dan Seguin 25:40
is it fair to say that conventional marketing approaches don't stand much of a chance against the benefit content marketing provides? Where should energy brands be focusing their attention in terms of influencer marketing? Any recommendations and thoughts on leveraging user generated content from influencers and repurposing that content?

Neal Schaffer 26:07
Yeah, so actually, you know, Daniel, it brings up something that I've yet to bring up. But one of my early clients was actually one of the utilities companies out here in California. And and so I had, I had a chance to work with their team. And they originally reached out to me, because they were looking for a consultant that dealt with social media crisis communications. And what I taught them was that the best way to manage crises is to do it proactively is to build goodwill. And do it. And this is actually they ended up having a major crisis A few years ago, but before that, they didn't even have a crisis they wanted to prepare for, right. So by proactively building goodwill with your community, you're now building an army of people that will support you. Right? Hopefully, when, when it's not a matter of if when things happen, because things in the utilities there's always going to be these things right. So then we start to look at Well, you know, who are the who are influencers, we're not talking about influence I look at who is active in social media as a content creator, locally. And for utilities companies, it's gonna come down to the region where you live, who are the local influencers, some of them may talk about food. Some of them may talk about passion, some of them may talk about local tourism, but there's these lifestyle categories that you can choose from where you can find people, right to collaborate with. Now, when I work with this utilities company, I realized at least the laws the United States are, if you share content from other sources, you're indirectly sponsoring them and there are regulations regarding that. So that's what makes leveraging user generated content for public utilities a little bit tricky. Now, this was several years ago. I don't know if the regulations have changed, right? So you at the end of the day, may not be able to leverage their content, your platform, but it doesn't mean you can't create a relationship with them, where maybe you interview them. Then it is your content. And probably interviews are something where you're not sponsoring them. you're reaching out, you're reaching out, you know, every maybe one day a week, you have a live stream featuring a local influencer, man, you know, if a public utility company was to reach out to an influencer, saying we'd like to feature you on our channel, can you imagine how exotic most people would be the exposure they get? So this is what I tell brands. And you know, I've talked about brands very generally here, but it applies to utilities as well. There are a lot of things that you can offer influencers as part of a collaboration outside of money. And if you offer money, it may get tricky because of the same regulations. For instance, do you have an audio studio? Do you have a video studio? You could rent that out? Hey, you know, I know you create a lot of videos, we have a video studio, you know, just whenever you want to use it, let us know we'll let you use it. I mean, that that is a unique benefit that you can offer, or if you ever need a meeting room. I mean, these are these are little things, especially utilities because you have to Big infrastructure that you can offer. And you do, you know, it's funny, this utility reached out to me because they had a small business event and where they you know, part of utilities, you have a b2c, but you have the b2b right? So for the b2b, they do these small business events, let us help educate you on you know, accounting, finance, sales, marketing, and so I was one of the speakers. So this is another area in which obviously, if you do events where you can reach out to, to influencers. So, there's a lot of different ways to do it. And I don't know why if I was a utility company, you know, in your I would be proactively doing this because that is really going to relate yourself to the community, then the people in your community see you as a partner, as a collaborator, that you're talking to all these people that a lot of people think are cool, right? It just indirectly it's going to shine on you, your brand, and it's going to make you I believe, a more trustworthy entity because there's seen someone from the company interview someone that I relate to I think that's a huge, powerful, really, really easy way that utility companies can can begin. Now, if the regulations allow you to leverage user generated content. That's awesome. So, you know, when I work with this utility company on content strategy, you know, obviously, there's some content that's that's education. Right? Please make sure you know, if you see a down a power line, please contact, you know, 911 there's certain things that as a public utility you need to put out there, you know, once a week, once a month, whatever it is. And then there's always at the time, hey, make sure you sign up for e-bill service, right? There are many benefits for utility companies. When people sign up online and do things electronically, it makes it much more efficient, right? So there's also these initiatives you have it, maybe you have like new rates, or public hearings, so that there's some public affairs things need to have, but what are you going to talk about every day? The other stuff are community stuff right? Now, if your surety company is very active in the community, as you probably are, there's a lot of stuff that you can be publishing about, which isn't directly related to energy per se, but it's indirectly related. Do what you're doing in the community. So with that bucket of content similarly, these are these are you know community heroes, hashtag community heroes where every week you bring in a different influencer and how they're contributing to the community and how by you know this foodie influencer has helped tons of small businesses generate you know income during COVID-19 what, you know, thank you for your service to our community. Tell us you know, what, what are some of your favorite restaurants locally? This is I mean utility company because we serve people that you should become sort of the local voice, local cultural voice of your community and influencers are the key to help you do that.

Dan Seguin 31:36
How important are social listening tools as it relates to influencer marketing any recommendations?

Neal Schaffer 31:44
Yes, a social listening tools have you know, the earliest type of social media for business tool was the listening tool because social media for business began with PR. If people say bad things about us we want to know right reputation management is where all this started back in 2007 / 2008. Now listening tools can still serve that purpose and you shouldn't be listening to, if people are complaining you want to, you know, you want to proactively reach out to those people. But listening tools also give us the ability to find out who's talking about us. And if people are talking about us, and you know, this is where we get back to finding people that already have brand affinity, there may be fans as a utility, everyone's your customer, but some people like your brand more than others. So instead of listening to social listening, to find the negative, you search for the positive, and you start to make a list of people, for instance, I was at a conference right before lockdown started. And it is a pharmaceutical company that actually makes something like these, these lozenges that you take that reduce the chance of your cold going on for longer than expected and someone at the CDC here recommended that you take that as part of an effort to reduce Coronavirus. So they were sold out. They were sold out for months. But the marketing director was you know, Neal, I want to how do i do leverage this situation, I said, Look, use your social listening tool to talk about who's saying positive things about you, and start to develop those relationships. Even if you can't do any advertising. Now, you can still develop relationships over the next few months, and then activate them. When you can, you know, when you do have factory capacity, you can start talking to people. Same thing with utilities companies, who is talking about who are the who are the positive people talking about you, and start to make a list, right. And then you might notice some patterns. Some of these people have a larger following than others. Some might be specialized in food or travel. And some, you know, might be mentioning you more often than others, and therefore, they have deeper brand affinity with you. So social listening tool is really great way to begin to sort of figure out what are people saying about you from a reputation management perspective from a sentiment analysis perspective, but also who, you know, might be fans out there who might have said, Oh, my gosh, I signed up to email and now I say, 5% of my bills for the next 12 months. Did you even know the service existed? Or are you know, Hey, I just want To this event sponsored by, you know, the power company, it was really cool. Have you ever heard of it? I mean, you just never know. Right? So that's where I'd use social listening tools to really, you know, you can proactively reach out to people, like I talked about there. But when people are already talking about you, it makes it really easy to join the conversation. It makes it really easy. I was gonna say, slide into the DM to begin that conversation with them with a thank you, or we're listening. And that can make I mean, they're human right, that can make a world of difference in breaking the ice and beginning that collaborative relationship.

Dan Seguin 34:32
You know, step one of effective influencer marketing starts when identifying relevant influencers for our brand. Once we embark in this adventure, how do we manage those types of relationships? Do you recommend taking a campaign based approach when working with influencers? Or is it better to test the waters with only a temporary commitment to see how they resonate with our audiences? On a related topic, what should be considered for program management and metrics? What needs to be understood from executives and influencers alike?

Neal Schaffer 35:16
yeah, I'd say the first step in an influencer strategy is not you know, influencer identification, it really starts with what's the objective? What are you trying to do here? So, my voice for executives is, you know, look we're going to work with, we're going to try to find people to work with. And we are going to vet them to make sure that they're aligned with our brand, we'll, we'll contact legal to make sure they're on board. If you want to review every one of these profiles before we collaborate with them. That's great. You have the right to do it. It's it's everybody's program. You know, we're just helping the company. And we are not even going to increase spend. We're just going to take we're going to divert money from paid media to fund this and we're going to to try out, and we're going to report back to you on how we did from from a KPI perspective. And these are our objectives, you know, paid social not as effective. We want to get more word of mouth and social, we want to get more mentions. We want to get more, you know, traffic to our website, we want to create more content, and they're going to help us do that. So really what are, you know, when you asked me that second question, Daniel about, you know, what are the KPIs? What are the metrics? Well, that that is not unique to influencers. This is marketing, communications in general, what are your KPIs? If it's Media Relations, it's you know, number of number of publications, you know, number of clips, whatever it is, I mean, it's no different here. It's the same KPIs that you would have for content marketing, or for paid social media, as you have working with influencers, right. So, you know, these are the things I think you need to keep in mind. And, you know, when creating this sort of program, it is very much going to be based on one to one relationship. So I think it's totally okay to say, Hey, we're just beginning a program. We Want To make a long term program, but right now we're just, we're just sort of testing the waters. And, you know, we think you'd make a great fit. And we just want to see how we might be able to work with each other. And maybe, you know, you do start a little small, we'd like a pilot run of, you know, a few or a dozen or however many. And you have them do one action, right, whether we go back to that sponsor content, whether it is an interview, whether it is content, co-creation, I mean, whatever it is, you know, one action, and from that action, what were the results? And we have to remember that there are positive KPIs, but there's also how did it help us reduce things like reduce costs, so we use an agency to record our video. Well, you know, instead of having an executive, go to our agency's Video Studio, and record a video interview that got 10 views on YouTube over the last week, we worked with an influencer and did a live stream which they shared with their fans, and we got 1000 visitors and when we archive this on YouTube, We're probably going to get a lot more than 10 views over the course of a week. And we didn't have to pay the agency money to do this, because the influencer agreed to do it for free for exposure. So you really got to look holistically, you know, executive speak the language of Excel, right? What helped us boost things, but also, was there anything to help us reduce costs? And you'll be surprised with influencers, especially with content creation, you may find that to be the case. So, you know, yes, start small. At the end of the day, you want long term relationships. So, you know, start with one activation, one campaign and then see how it goes. And you know, some you're going to invite to the next one. Others, you may say, hey, it was great working together. We have a long term approach. We don't have any, you know, openings in our program now, but we'll definitely reach out in the future when we do and leave it at that because you don't want any burnt bridges here. These people may end up you know, increasing their influence over the course of a few months and you may want to bring them back in and test them again. Right. But that's sort of the the effort. You know, it is something I think one person can do, but it's like PR You almost need to have someone that's dedicated to really managing those relationships because it is going to take time and influencers are busy people, they're not going to return your calls right away. They're working with a lot of other entities sometimes and, and you want to be top of mind, so it's going to take time invested to work well with them.

Dan Seguin 39:16
Okay, what are some of the barriers and risks to working with influencers? Does it revolve around choosing who? How to engage? And the lack of control over messaging?

Neal Schaffer 39:29
Well, yeah, there's definitely lack of control of messaging. And but when you think about it, Daniel, I don't think that brands are in control of their messaging. Because at the end of the day, people are going to say what they want about the brand, and they're going to share that in social anyway. So if you realize you never had control in the first place, you can try to influence people. But once again, it's coming from a brand, not a person so and people believe people like themselves way more than they believe. advertising agencies are people that work in PR and marketing. So the writing's on the wall there. you know, we have seen some influencer campaigns that ended up sort of tarnishing the brand. And a lot of the that happened because it was transactional, please make sure you copy and paste this message at exactly this time. And you have you've had some of your influences literally copy and paste the message, including that copy and paste this message bar. And then it went out the social media, right? Or, you know, thank you xX xX for drafting me, you know, in the NBA draft and they forgot to fill in the name of the team that drafted them, right. So those are full positive happen because influencers are are treated as programmable ad units, right. And it's transactional in nature. That's not what I'm recommending you do here. So when you work long term, you don't have control, but I think it is totally okay to say hey, before you publish, we just like to have a chance to review it, and maybe offer suggestions on how to improve it. And that's your quality control that is totally okay to do. Most influencers would say sure, you know, no problem. So that would give you the ability to mitigate risk, but I think The biggest way to mitigate risks is to do it up front is choosing the right influencer to work with.