The worst thing about the internet has been the commodification of friendship
Before I start, please attend my free webinar on March 22, Do-It-Yourself Influencer Marketing.
The worst thing about the internet has been the commodification of friendship. Even before the internet, I am sure you've been to a mixer and have seen people really work the room.
Like their kissing cousins--ladies men--these folks go from person to person, collecting digits. They flit about the room like bumblebees collecting business cards in lieu of pollen. LinkedIn and Twitter has made this even easier.
What all of these people-collectors have in common is that they tend to take these flesh and blood people they have collected and lock them into a curio cabinet, a de facto glass menagerie.
They leave these people, represented by their business cards, alone in their respective cabinet until they need a favor.
But here's the rub: if you score a hottie's number but never call until you're ready for some Netflix and Chill time, don't get your hope up. Remember, don't call for three days but be sure to call on day four!
Successful influencer outreach is just the end result of building a real relationship over time. And no, that relationship doesn't have to be founded or maintained in real life or via late night phone calls or deep glasses of bourbon.
You need to work those lists, call those numbers, keep up with birthdays, babies, and anniversaries, poke those Friends, like those babies, retweet tweets, and reach out to people in the cities you visit in an attempt to actually meet some of the people whose numbers you've acquired again -- or even for the first time.
However, if you look up the definition of influencer marketing, you won't see any actually human people, you'll just see verticals, demographics, psychographics, sociographics, universes, KPIs, and the like.
According to Wikipedia, "Influencer marketing is a form of marketing that has emerged from a variety of recent practices and studies, in which focus is placed on specific key individuals (or types of individual) rather than the target market as a whole. It identifies the individuals that have influence over potential buyers, and orients marketing activities around these influencers."
Influencers are people too. And you don't need to burn out all your frequent flier miles to become chummy chums with influencers, either, you just need to make the logical leap of faith that there are real people deserving love, attention, and respect. But how can you actually feel compassion and actual agape towards a demographic that pops up in your latest search on Audienti, GroupHigh, InkyBee, or Little Bird?
Well, you can and you certainly need to. If you don't then earned media will forever be impossible, Really, the only reason why anyone is rushing to hand you a pay-per-post rate card is because they don't know you so they don't owe you a favor so they're under no obligation to do you a solid. Hell, you can't even do a little horse-trading with people you don't know -- and public affairs is all about horsetrading, whether you admit it or not.
A deep and important relationship can surely be founded and grown and maintained and activated exclusively online. I'm basically a shut in, but I have hundreds of friends, many of whom are global and most of whom have known me online only for over a decade now.
Do not underestimate the power and importance and influence that you also have on the virtual people around you, be it the old reliables Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, YouTube, and LinkedIn, or even the influence you have amongst the influencers proper.
That's why it's easier to be a PR specialist than it is a generalist. If you're in healthcare PR, you can spend every day cultivating your influencers into a virtual rolodex of best friends. Friends who would surely be totally willing and psyched to invite you out to a lunch of Peking Duck just like Omar Hamada did for me last weekend. We had never met before last Saturday when he asked me to meet him at Peking Gourmet Inn in Falls Church, Virginia, but we have been commenting on each others Facebook posts for years. The duck was transcendent and the company was scintillating.
One of the biggest problems in the influencer marketing space is that the folks doing a lot of the outreaches often refuse to pierce the veil of their own personal brand and come out front as a human, as a person. Brands consider it threatening to their own equity but it's much easier for people to connect than a brand and a person even if the person is a citizen journalist cum blogger.
I have also been blogging in some form or another since 1999 and am a solid Q-list Internet Celebrity with my 79 Klout and that helps a lot with relating to other bloggers, even blogger outside of my "vertical," "demographic," "topic," etc. If I really want to make a connection, I can reach out as a fellow blogger or make it apparent that I have 50.8k followers, 5,000 friends on Facebook, 3,456 subscribers on YouTube, and 7,298 followers on Instagram.
It shouldn't work, but it does: influencers are people too and can be influenced more readily by other influencers, even someone like me who now only really runs a small little health and fitness blog, rnnr.us, and my own website cum blog, chrisabraham.com -- oh, and of course, Biznology. But at least I am relateable. It is much more effective than you might expect. And since I have been hawking my wares on the Interwebs since 1993, bloggers don't have to work very hard at all to check me out verify that what I say is true.
And, if you are representing a brand that has less mojo online than you do, being your very own Internet Sensation can really open doors to influencers.
It's just like dating: if you're lame, boring, and have nothing going on, then you're probably going home from the bars/Tinder every night pretty lonely (what would at least make you hot enough to go home with is if you're representing an awesome brand, BTW).
I have been doing influencer marketing since 2002 when I was NMS employee number lucky 13 and I am still doing it today, 14-years later. While I know that tools, apps, analytics and services are very cool and amazingly helpful but when push comes to shove, influencer marketing, influencer outreach, and influencer engagement is a human business. It has more in common with sales, account management, event production, publicity, and good old fashioned PR rife with the sort of personal attention and consistent personal relationship that most people don't see behind the curtains.
Now's your turn. Ready? Go git 'em, Tiger!