Influencer Marketing: More Conversation Than Transaction

Influencer holds phone over ramen meal at restaurant.
Photo courtesy of Pixels.

By Brianne Murphy Miller

Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks…

For a few years now, the communications industry has preached “influencer marketing” as almost one-dimensional. In return for a paid placement or some other sort of quid pro quo (product, free hotel nights, etc.), influencers would provide endorsement via their social media channels. Simple. Quick.

I bought into that idea and set up influencer agreements with everyone from the Property Brothers to hotel reviewers and tech gurus. I never explored ideas beyond the parameters of that agreement or other ways to create influencer relationships.

When I finally burst the bubble I’d confined myself to, the relationship between influencers and clients became more real and infinitely more human. The “secret sauce” of influencer marketing is in the relationship between the brand and the influencer. Instead of treating these people as marketing mouthpieces, communications professionals need to create connections (yes, they are people!) and reap the rewards.

Here’s an example. Landis Communications recently hosted a small-scale, intimate influencer/media event for the opening of a new specialty restaurant. We could have done the usual – invite 75 people, hope that 40 RSVP in the affirmative, and check names off our clipboards as 25 actually show up. Instead, we cherry-picked influencers and media who followed the brand we were representing. We’d already interacted with these people on many occasions and knew the basics of the experience we wanted consumers to be curious about. They were already interested in and invested in our product. The dozen or so people who attended had a wonderful time, got a deeper look into our client, sat down and conversed in detail with the chef.

The results? In treating our influencers as ongoing relationships vs. one-time transactions, we got great coverage, multiple stories/posts, and ideas for other partnerships down the road. Going small yielded greater rewards, and we’re already working with some of these influencers on new product/service debuts in Summer and Fall. Bringing these social media-based tastemakers into our inner circle created relationships that will continue for years.

Is there a place in the marketing world for the typical “call an influencer agency, pay the rates and gather the posts?” Certainly. Especially in consumer-packaged goods and significant launches. But it might support your program more authentically to create relationships instead of reviewing rate cards.

Related Articles:

Insider – 5 reasons to blend your influencer and affiliate marketing campaigns

The New York Times – You are being influenced