One of my friends was posting and tweeting from a conference sponsored by a Fortune 100 company. He had actually been paid to attend this event because he is an “influencer.”
Coincidentally, I was also being paid to be at an event from a different company at the same time, on the other side of the country. How did I get on their list? I have no idea.
“Have we hitched a ride on the influence marketing train?” I asked my friend.
“I don’t know,” he said, “But woo – woo!”
Clearly, opportunities for bloggers will increase as brands recognize the benefits of aligning with people who are powerful online advocates. And for people like me, who have given content away for free, day after day for years, it is nice to be recognized and rewarded for the hard work.
But influence marketing can be a house of cards for both companies and individuals.
Rules of the road
A digital agency recently approached me about a host of new opportunities to make money from blogger outreach programs, I had to put on the brakes and give them some advice and I think this is important enough to share with the blog community, too.
What is the source of my influence? I create content, yes. I engage consistently, of course. But at the end of the day it gets down to trust, right?
That’s why the emerging Citizen Influencers have to be very judicious in their relationships with brands. Likewise, brands have to be discerning about their expectations from influencers.
If brands become too exposed with too many bloggers, both parties will suffer. If the credibility of the blogger declines, the effectiveness of their advocacy is doomed.
“No” is a legitimate strategy
That’s why I am saying “no” to most opportunities right now. I have to be incredibly selective. First, it has to be a company I truly, authentically believe in and second, I have to limit how much I do because if this blog ever becomes filled with spammy sponsored posts or suspicious brand advocacy, you’re going to go away. And you should.
I don’t think I would like my own blog if it starts to look like a NASCAR racing jacket. Although I do love M&Ms.
As we all approach this era of incredible consumer content choice, to stay ahead, we need to emphasize radical honesty. You need to believe in me and what I write every day for me to earn a seat at the content consumption table.
Likewise, I think brands need to do their homework and figure out which bloggers have built real authority and trust, rather than making a call based on number of Twitter followers, for example.
I think we are approaching a time when you can make some decent money as an influencer … and it is already happening for mommy bloggers (some have agents to negotiate brand contracts). But we need to fiercely protect the reader trust that got us here in the first place.