Under the Influence? Eric Enge Talks Influencer Marketing

How do you influence an influencer?

How do you influence an influencer?

Today we’re happy to feature Eric Enge, CEO of Stone Temple Consulting. As a recognized, wicked-smart digital marketing and SEO expert, he brings a lot to any table. He’s served up many delightful and insightful dishes to our readers over the years, and his latest spread concerns influencer marketing.

Feast on his insights into this latest online marketing buzz!

There’s a lot of online chatter about “Influencer marketing” of late, as you well know. In your recent Stone Temple blog post, you outline a “script” with 7 steps for building a relationship with an influencer. Of these, which would you consider paramount, and why?

Focus on building a relationship. You need to view this as a give and take situation. Think of it as you are approaching them for purposes of benefiting them. Once you get this part right, the rest of what you need to do becomes much easier!

Most copywriters – both in-house and freelance — likely approach influencers either for their company or on behalf of their clients. As an influencer yourself, you’re likely inundated with requests to connect, help with something, or help promote something. So what makes you take notice of a request, as opposed to filing it in the “I don’t have time” pile?

In keeping with the prior answer, do some hard work up front. Read lots of their content. Read lots of their social posts. Find out what makes them tick. Then add value and engage them in a way that interests them.

Then, start slow. Don’t stalk them, don’t send them 10 messages in 2 weeks, or anything like that. Just take it a step at a time. Retweet their Tweets. +1 their blog posts. Add comments to their posts, these types of things.

Wait to you start to get some acknowledgement of your activity. Then when the time is right take another step forward in the relationship. Whatever you do, don’t ever ask them to share your stuff or link to you. That’s just plain offensive. Take your time with it, and let it develop, just like you would any other relationship.

This is essential. It’s not about you (at all). It starts, begins, and ends with them. Once you learn to approach people this way, they will start taking some of their energy and making it about you.

That’s how you create that magic win-win that you are looking for.

Related to the previous question: in your experience what is a completely original approach that worked really well? And what is your “horror story” of an approach that failed miserably?

The positive:  I left a Red Sox game one day, and noticed a famed baseball writer standing on a street corner, as he had just left the game as well.

I went up to him and the first thing I said was “Has anyone ever done what Koji Uehara almost did today?” (which was strike out the site in the 9th inning of a game to clinch a playoff series).

He warmed right up to me and we spent 15 minutes talking baseball like little kids. All the while, lots of other people were coming up and fawning all over him, and he more or less ignored them, while he and I just kept talking about the game.

Now this was not a content marketing based reason for my approaching him, I did it just for fun, but it still illustrates the point of how it’s done.

The negative: For a long time, people would simply generate mailing lists of people and blast messages out to them. Gradually, they got more sophisticated and cut down the volume, and added a very basic level of personalization. However, this still doesn’t work.

I know of one case where someone built a list of targets and robotically went through the process of getting emails sent out. They didn’t notice that one of the email addresses was donotspam@somedomain.com. The site owner submitted to a variety of services for tracking spam email accounts, and got their email account blacklisted. Ouch!

About a year ago, Barry Feldman (Feldman Creative) posted “30 Action Items to Get Serious About Influencer Marketing”. One of the items he emphasized is to “make LinkedIn your social center.” Do you agree with that? Or is there another social hub you’d recommend?

I don’t think that LinkedIn is necessarily the right social center for everyone. Yes, it’s a powerful network, and it has ways to contact people, and tons of people have LinkedIn accounts.

But, I think the right hub for you is probably where you have the largest audience related to your products. If you are into photography for example, Instagram, Pinterest or Google+ would probably be better picks than LinkedIn.

All of these approaches assume that an influencer will eventually contact and build a relationship with you. However, what about those influencers who won’t give you the time of day? Maybe they’re too busy. Maybe you’re not part of their “in” crowd. Maybe they just don’t care to build a relationship. When do you walk away and figure it’s not going to happen?

You can’t force it. Some people won’t want to connect, no matter how hard you try. But, it’s not about connecting with everyone on day one. You should have multiple people you are trying to build a relationship with. Do the hard work, do your best.

If you approach five, and you start to make a connection with one, then great! Move on with the others. And, as I noted below, with each one, take it slow, and let the relationships develop naturally.

To play Devil’s Advocate here…what would you say to people who think “influencer marketing” is one-sided — that is, someone is trying to ride on an influencer’s coattails/get help from them, and that’s the only reason they’re approaching that person? After all, don’t influencers have better things to do than help everyone who asks?

This pretty much feeds into everything else I said. Don’t let it be one-sided. If you are looking for someone to use, then influencer marketing is not for you. If you are looking to form real bonds and establish mutually beneficial relationships … now we’re talking.

How much time do you personally spend on influencer marketing? How much time would you recommend people spend on it?

Honestly, I am not quite sure. It starts with my deciding that someone is of great interest to me, not just because they have influence, but because they see things in a way that’s very similar to how I see them, and I think we could have a mutually beneficial relationship.

Then I start reading their stuff, both in terms of articles/posts and social media posts. I will start interacting with them. I might be working on a few of these at a time. Or I might only be pursuing one at that moment. If I had to guess, it’s anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour per day for me.

If you are just getting started on this, then you might want to spend a bit more time on it. But probably not too much more. You need to spend some time on producing your own great, original content and doing your regular work as well!

Connect with Eric on Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn 

Photo credit to Ryan McFarland | Flickr.com

 

 

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