It’s not a pitch, it’s a person. The super powers of influence marketing

influence marketing

By Dr. Konstanze Alex Brown, {grow} Community Member

I’m going to tell you a story about food but make a point about content, influence and service. Ready?

In theory, I love Whole Foods. I love the vision, the philosophy and the concept, and I love getting really good food. So far so good, but there is one thing that I don’t love: The vast amount of choices I have to make at every stop.

I get lost in Whole Foods, I feel overwhelmed, I come out with more than I intended to buy and, most often, with more than my family can eat before the expiration date.

I need a personal shopper! I need a place where someone has made this selection for me. I needed a personal relationship, not another aisle of food displays.

It was a dilemma for me … until I found Trader Joe’s. I became an instant fan of this specialty food shop. Sure they have great food, but Trader Joe’s also has something else – a distinctly human experience at the checkout – every single time. Without fail, I come out feeling amazing! This place has earned my trust and tickles my endorphins.

Talk about addictive … I want this concept to be everywhere in my world but, chiefly, I want this for my content consumption – I want someone who really knows a particular topic to curate what’s out there. But that’s not all – I need to feel amazing after reading or watching the content. I need this experience to be human, visionary, and trustworthy.

And this is the key to social media marketing today, too.

Enter the social media influencer

Today, if you’re in marketing to any extent, you’ll know about influencers and, more importantly, about influence marketing.

What makes a great influencer? Influencers are humans, clearly, not automated content management systems. They are mega-connected on social media (aka they have earned the trust of many other humans to deliver on what they promise) and they have the unique ability to inspire action. The good influencers out there have great knowledge in a particular field, know how to curate that knowledge, add their unique vision and value, and they know how to communicate with their audiences.

If I am a brand, I totally love that potential, that opportunity, that has only been created in the last few years. How can my brand become part of an influencer’s curated content (and in a positive light, hopefully!).

The brand rules of influence

Well, above all, I have to have a high quality brand because the influencer’s top priority is to never disappoint or lose the trust of his or her audience. So, as a brand I have to earn the influencer’s trust. I have to invest in building a strong human-to-human relationship with the influencer. I need to understand the mutual value proposition and the joint value creation between my brand and the influencer. It’s not a pitch, it’s a person — a common mistake being made out there today!

The relationship-building starts by carefully selecting the influencer to work with (someone whose thinking and values are aligned with my brand). Next I would begin to interact with the influencer in a variety of ways: online and possibly face-to-face, as part of the process of mutually vetting each other. Then I can begin to integrate the influencer into my brand’s presence.

Now fast forward … the relationship has been built and is maturing, trust has been established and we are ready for mutual value creation. We are ready for an influencer activation.

An influence case study

An activation example can be illustrated at the #DellLounge during SXSWi. Our Marketing VP tasked a cross-functional team to design a Social Business Unconference that would attract a SXSWi audience – social media experts and influencers, social media researchers and academics – in short, a tough audience who’d be very vocal about the experience. The goal was clear: help establish my brand (Dell) as a true thought leader in social business through content that is visionary, conversational, and distinctive. 

I call this a dream assignment for anyone who works with influencers! We carefully chose four expert influencers in social business with whom we had established quality human relationships. Then we took the concept of an audience-driven Unconference and compressed it into a little over two hours. Each influencer gave a 10 minute presentation, familiarizing the audience with their unique perspective on social business.

During each presentation, the audience was encouraged to propose topics of their own interest for the four breakout sessions that would follow the presentations. After all topic submissions (via Twitter) were collected, the audience voted, in real time, on what they wanted to explore further in each of the breakout sessions. Our expert influencers led the breakout discussions and after that were available for a Q&A to address more audience questions.

The results are in

From the beginning of the event we could sense the excitement and energy around the discussions but even we were unprepared for the incredible success in terms of social media engagement. Our hashtag trended on Twitter (eclipsing even #SXSW!) and we had a reach of over 29 million.

In two hours we achieved a social media impact that is more typical of an event that lasts for several days! And the conversation has been extended via resulting earned and owned blog posts and articles recapping the event.

This was only possible due to a meticulously planned and executed social media influencer and event strategy based on strong personal relationships with high impact individuals.

We had created a Trader Joe’s experience of top curated content via our influencers and improved it via our audience’s input, in real time. Fuel for everyone’s endorphins.

 @KonstanzeDr. Konstanze Alex-Brown (@Konstanze, LinkedIn) leads Global Communications Social Media strategy at Dell.  Prior to that,  Konnie spent six years in executive, technology and innovation communications at Dell.  She has co-authored several peer reviewed articles on the value of internal social media from a social capital perspective and has presented at various academic and industry conferences. Her research focus is on corporate communication using social media technologies and organizational social capital. To read more of Konstanze’s work, check out her personal blog.

Illustration courtesy of Flickr CC and Paurian

Disclosure: Dell is a client. I was a participant in the case study discussed in the post and was compensated for my participation. I was not compensated to run this post on {grow}.

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  • marktennant

    Nice article Dr. Alex-Brown. And it looks like Chris Brogan in that get-up…

  • Pingback: Influence Marketing | socialmediatopics()

  • Konstanze

    Thank you @marktennant:disqus – any resemblance is purely coincidental but I have to agree with you 🙂

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  • Joe Soto Jr.

    I love the analogy about Whole Foods vs. Trader Joe’s because both are good options, but one takes it to the next level. That really speaks volumes about your point that creating symbiotic social media influencer relationships has to be based on human-to-human, trust-centered relationships. It can’t just be a monetary transaction. Thanks for sharing your insight! This is definitely helpful wisdom for the nonprofit I work for as we’re in the beginning stages of developing those important relationships with social media influencers. Keep up the innovative work at Dell!

  • Konstanze

    Joe, thank you so much for your comment. I love that you think this is relevant information for a non-profit organization. There are different tendencies out there that try to shortcut the relationship and the results are, as expected, much more typical, time-based marketing campaigns. We are all learning about this new facet of brand/influencer collaboration and trying to come up with approaches that make sense.

  • Joe Soto Jr.

    Absolutely! In our day & age, where donors are pretty skeptical of many non-profit organizations, I think having major influencers that can stand behind non-profits lend tremendous credibility in the eyes of people of goodwill. We’re excited to see how those positive social influencers can continue to help our brand (Unbound) move forward. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Looking forward to learning more about building those types of meaningful, long-term relationships that create sustainable and symbiotic relationships between brands and social influencers!

  • Pingback: Influence WHAT? | Konjektures()

  • Gayathri

    That’s a great article showing your deep understanding of influencer marketing and the value of building authentic relationships with influencers. I have to agree with Joe that I loved the Whole Foods vs Trader Joe’s analogy.

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