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June 19, 2020

165: Influencer Marketing During COVID-19: Still Worth the Investment?

165: Influencer Marketing During COVID-19: Still Worth the Investment?

You might be wondering what impact COVID-19 might be having on influencer marketing. After all, you can't fly freely around the world to take pictures of product in exotic locations. But, as you know, travel influencers only represent a small portion of the influencer marketing pie. Here is my advice for businesses trying to navigate the current uncertainty to figure out what role, if any, influencer marketing should have in your marketing strategy. 

Once again, today's episode, like Episode 161 before it, is based off of a webinar I provided for the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland about marketing in the age of coronavirus.

Key Highlights

[01:00] Free FreshBooks Conference

[05:30] My Take On COVID19 Effect On Influencer Marketing

[06:53] Why Influencer Marketing Is Important In Businesses

[07:22] The ROI For Influencer Marketing

[08:27] Where Media Gets Wrong

[10:18] Why I Doubled Down On Content and Relationship

[11:20] Another Aspect Of Influencer Relationships

[13:39] Influencers As Focus Group

[14:34] Where To Find Influencer

[16:30] Why You Need To Hire People With Brand Affinity

[20:52] Summary

Notable Quotes

  • The fact of the matter is that Digital Influence is everywhere. And in fact, we are spending even more time in social media.
  • I think that Coronavirus in some ways is only accelerated more and more people, you know, publishing and consuming more and more content on social media. And the heart of why influencer marketing is important for businesses is all about inciting word of mouth.
  • If you want people to talk about you on social media, and ad is not going to cut it. You really need to incite that word of mouth. And the best way to do that is with other people.
  • Spend that time to foster relationships, because some influencers are also losing money losing business, and you might find that it might be a lot more effective when they're getting fewer and fewer people, contacting them that you will really stick out. And you'll have a chance to build that relationship.
  • So if you're afraid to do advertisements, if you're afraid of saying anything in social media, because of what's going on, that's where you can leverage influencers, who can talk for you through their content.
  • Using tools to find people that are talking about your brand, your customers, your email database, your followers, you know, now's the time to append the data with social media profiles, go digging through and try to find people that are already know like and trust you that are already in your sphere of influence

Links mentioned in the show:

Freshbooks #IMakeaLiving Micro-Conference: https://nealschaffer.com/freshbooks

Jon Rettinger's YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCR0AnNR7sViH3TWMJl5jyxw

Age of Influence Free Preview: https://nealschaffer.com/age-of-influence-preview

Episodes mentioned in or related to this one:

161: The Hidden Power of Email Marketing to Scale Your Digital Influence (the other content from the similar webinar I presented on)

156: How to Pivot Your Marketing During the Coronavirus Pandemic

155: Why Your Business Needs to be More Human Than Ever During the Coronavirus Pandemic [Mark Schaefer Interview]

154: COVID-19: What Your Business Needs to Do to Survive During the Coronavirus Pandemic


Neal Schaffer:

This is the maximize your social influence podcast with Neal Schaffer, where I help sales and marketing professionals, entrepreneurs and small business owners, build, leverage and monetize their influence in digital and social media. Here we go, everybody, Neal Schaffer here, and welcome to episode number 165 of the maximize your social influence podcast. If you're new here, I am on a mission to help you grow your business through innovative marketing tactics and strategies, leveraging the concept of Digital Influence. Now I know a lot of you listening are probably very interested to hear what I have to say about influencer marketing these days in the age of COVID-19. And that's exactly what this episode is going to be about. But before I get to that, I just want to say that today's episode is being sponsored by Fresh Books. I'm really honored to be invited to present on the Fresh Books, I make a living micro Conference, which is happening on Wednesday, June 24. This is an absolute free registration for you. We'll have a link in the show notes, and it's going to feature 10 entrepreneurial masterminds. 10 of us, including myself, are what we call five minute mentors. We're going to speak for five minutes giving you really targeted advice in areas like branding, marketing, scaling, ecommerce, and more. I'm really honored to be presenting with some pretty famous people out there. Mark Asquith is the founder of rebel based media. I didn't know much about rebel based media until after pod fest where I realized they are the largest, I believe, podcast hosting service in the UK. And Marcus is clearly one of the premier podcast experts in the world. Another person that I'm really looking forward to presenting the other way, there's a guy named John red injure, John is a bonafide YouTube influencer. He is the founder of techno buffalo, over 15 million viewers per month, over 1.6 million subscribers. Interesting story, John and I actually used to live in the exact same community here in Irvine, California. I moved he didn't, but he's a great guy. He's Twitter handles John for Lakers. So he's a big LA Lakers fan as I am. And it's just an honor to be doing anything together with John so it's gonna be a really, really awesome event. Hope you can join me I make a living June 24 Catch the link in the show notes. So without further ado, let's go on to today's episode. And as I did in episode number 163, I believe I do do a lot of presenting either free events that if you are on my email list, hint hint, you would find out about by the time you hear this, my b2b influencer marketing event with Jay Baer will have already ended. So make sure you go over to Neal Schaffer calm and any form that you sign up to you're going to get wind of these free events. I have another few events coming up a free webinar on how to leverage employees as influencers. I have another one about influencer marketing specifically for E commerce. So you'll want to make sure you sign up and I'll do my best to tell you about them during different podcast episodes. But in case I don't get to them like with Jay Barrows webinar, you'll want to make sure you're signed up on my list. This also is a presentation similar to the email marketing lead magnet presentation that I did for the University of Nebraska in Finland, where I go back every few years to speak there. They have an executive MBA program called the Avants Executive MBA program, they often will bring Finnish companies out here in the United States. So I presented to them here in Los Angeles as well. And the topic of the webinar was marketing in the age of COVID-19. And I focused on a few things, few things that I've already talked about in this podcast, but specifically about influencer marketing and COVID-19 is not something I have touched upon. And I just want to get this out there because I know some of you are wondering what's going to happen. And I was recently on a podcast with Jason falls, he wrote the No bullshit pardon this pardon me. This is not a an X rated or a R rated podcast by any means. But you know, the no BS approach the social media, I forget the exact name of the book. I'll put in the show notes. But Jason is a great guy. And he is also writing a book on influencer marketing and I sort of beat him to the punch but he's come to similar conclusions that I have. And everybody in the press is saying, oh, all these lifestyle influencers on all their travel junkets they're going to be out of work now and what have you and influencer marketing is going down the drain yada yada yada when, once again, the mass media just is not portraying influencer marketing. In the right light they're they're taking an over sensationalist view I want you to have a very, very grounded view on this. Because during COVID-19, there was tremendous opportunity for every business out there. I know my business is growing. I know a lot of other businesses that have taken very, very savvy pivots, digitally, are doing really, really well. And if you can imagine, if you have a digital first mentality, there's obviously a role that influencers can play in that pivot. So my take is, the COVID-19, absolutely does not alter those long term trends that favor influencer marketing in the first place. If you have already read the age of influence, I go through sort of every chapter in part one is one of these trends, whether it's talking about the extension of celebrity endorsements, and, and how we placed trust in people that we relate to these days, or whether it is the death of organic, social, or the trend towards visual social. You know, the fact of the matter is that Digital Influence is everywhere. And in fact, we are spending even more time in social media. And just this week, and I'll have to put this in the show notes as well. There was an article from TechCrunch, it was a survey, I think it was done by Reuters on where people go for news and Instagram has now doubled in terms of the number of people that go there for news. And if it continues at this pace, in a year or two, it's actually might surpass Twitter as being the number one place where people go to for news. So if you are publishing content on Instagram, you are obviously becoming more and more of immediate influencer, like those that have tweeted before, but regardless of network, and we're seeing a lot more influencer marketing on LinkedIn as well. Right. And not to mention tick tock, but it's everywhere, because everyone's a publisher. And once again, I think that Coronavirus in some ways is only accelerated more and more people, you know, publishing and consuming more and more content on social media. And the heart of this right the heart of why influencer marketing is important for businesses is all about inciting word of mouth. And that was the original intent of social media marketing, that just cannot happen organically anymore. It's really become pay to play for most businesses in most social networks. And if you want people to talk about you in social media, and ad is not going to cut it right? You really need to incite that word of mouth. And the best way to do that is with other people. So once again, the ROI for influencer marketing, just going over some of these trends. For those of you that have never heard me speak about it or read the book, you know, the ROI for influencer marketing is long term influencer content lives on way more than those ad campaigns do when they're off, they're off. Whereas those blog posts those YouTube videos, even Instagram posts using the right hashtags that content can live on for months, if not years, not to mention Pinterest pins. And we know that algorithms are always going to favor people, right? So if the social network ad revenues are down, they'll tweak the algorithm to make sure that they maintain ad revenues. And that's just the way it is people are always going to be an advantage social media was made for people. And it is in our best interest to collaborate with people to make sure we take advantage of that. And then the trust factor is so many different case studies, surveys of who do we trust? And the answer is always we trust people like ourselves, and the best influencers are the ones who show themselves as us now, obviously, there are some celebrities, some mega influencers that tried to depict a very, very aspirational, inspirational lifestyle image approach to Instagram specifically, but not limited to, of always having pictures at exotic locations. Obviously, this is very, very difficult to do today. But also, how many of those people were real. And how many of those people were sort of chasing that look that they assumed that people really wanted the smart influencers are the ones that have pivoted like everyone else. They are mirrored in the reality of today. And that's where the media just gets it wrong. In fact, for those of you that read it before it was in my newsletter, I was actually interviewed by the Associated Press. And this is shortly after lockdown began, I believe in in mid to late March. And the reporter was like, why are all these celebrities all the sudden showing up online from their own home without any makeup or wearing fancy clothing? Because they have to, but they're still showing that they're real. And through that they're building trust building relatability. And influencers that are smart are doing the same thing in order to serve their community, they're showing up in any form that they can not just that ideal format that in all honesty, I don't know if people like to see that right now, because of the reality and Black Lives Matter has only made it even even more harder to aspire to that sort of imagery that used to be very, very predominant in it, especially in Instagram. So my advice for you If you're listening to this, you're an entrepreneur, a business owner, marketer, you want to take the time now, and this is something I've talked about with the release of the age of influence, I have really doubled down not just on content. And my apologies, this particular episode is a few days late, but a few months from now, when you hear this and won't really matter, but I've really doubled down on content and on relationships, and digitally, just like for those of you that know me, from my windmill networking days, you can scale your networking online through social media, you can be networking 24/7, should you want to. So this is really a great time to foster influencer, relationship relationships. If you give out product, I mean, you there's nothing to stop you from shipping products to influencers. There's nothing stopping them from doing photos, shots in their own house or in their own neighborhood, we see a lot of influencers that are transitioning from that travel related to doing stuff more locally. And it makes a lot of sense, right. So spend that time to foster relationships, because some influencers are also losing money losing business, and you might find that it might be a lot more effective when they're getting fewer and fewer people, contacting them that you will really stick out. And you'll have a chance to build that relationship. And as I always say, when you help people when they're down, they're obviously going to remember you when times improve. So you know another aspect of influencer relationships and how you can leverage influencers today is, you know, once again, influencers can really humanize your brand. So if you're afraid to do advertisements, if you're afraid of saying anything in social media, because of what's going on, that's where you can leverage influencers, who can talk for you through their content, you can also if you wanted to do an activation in the future, you don't have the budget now, or you don't think it's the right time to because you want to wait for the pandemic to, I don't want to say the words die down because that's, that's not the right way to say it. But if you're waiting for the pandemic to go away, as hopefully it will, in the not so distant future, you can use the time now to prepare for future collaborations, right? build the infrastructure, build the basis, work with the influencers, so that they get to know like and trust you. And there's obviously things you can do before that you can start small scale on things that don't require travel, what have you, but spend the time now to really foster those relationships. content creation, is, like I said before, whether it's a photo shoot that's done in their own home locally with product, or perhaps it's not even visually related, maybe it's a video, maybe it's an event like a webinar, maybe it's blog content or interview on a podcast, there's still a tremendous amount of content creation, you can do that with influencers that is completely, completely unrelated to anything happening with Coronavirus. In fact, it might be easy to do so because influencers and myself included are traveling a lot less, and they're in front of their computers a lot more throughout the day. So this might be a golden opportunity for those content creation opportunities. And another thing that we forget about influencer relationships. So you know, I've talked a lot recently, and I didn't talk about it enough in my book because the trend wasn't apparent at the time. But more and more brands are leveraging influencers, not for amplification of content, but to help them create content. So instead of saying here, post our photo, or post our blog post saying, we want to hire you to create photos for us, or create videos for us, or create blog content, or create ebooks for us. But going above and beyond that, if you're to create this relationship with influencers, you can also get community feedback, right? You consider them a focus group. But it's a focus group of people that are really tied in online communities. So if you're not sure how your brand should respond to Black Lives Matter, working with influencers is going to give you a lot of advice because they probably know what their community members expect. They might already know what other brands are doing. Or if you have an idea for product but you don't know if the timings right or if it's going to be suitable for the world that we live in right now. These are great resources to have to have those conversations get feedback consider them a type of focus group but a focus group of influencers and really now is the time to build the influencer army a brand ambassadors that I talk about in the age of influence, using tools to find people that are talking about your brand, your customers, your email database, your followers, you know, now's the time to append the data with social media profiles, go digging through and try to find people that are already know like and trust you that are already in your sphere of influence, that have a certain level of influence and we can take the Nano influence 1000 follower minimum, and start to build the basics of what a program would look like this is something you don't have to wait for the pandemic to cease to begin doing. It's a perfect time right now, what are you waiting for? So, obviously, we already know who the influencers are, hopefully, if you've read my book, or listen to this podcast, but for those of you in doubt, it's not about categorizing influenced by number of followers. It's about categorizing social media users, by brand affinity. And from those people, finding the right ones to work with based on a number of considerations, one of them obviously being size of community. So when we think in terms of brand affinity, we think of who has the most brand affinity with us. And we start there. And we find active social users who are building communities in social media that fit that criteria, the number one criteria being they're an employee, then number two is that they're a partner of ours. And this could be other brands, distributors, could be affiliates. Whoever helps you generate business or helps you generate leads, you can consider a partner. And then they're obviously your customers, right? These people already know like, and trust you. So when you reach out to them, it's going to be a very, very quick conversion. And you're going to learn a lot from them because they know your brand. So well. We then moved to people that have some brand affinity, these are people that follow us on social media, or people that have mentioned us so they know something about our brand. They're great places to start. And then when we get beyond that, it's it's a question mark, right? These are people that have low brand affinity, zero brand affinity, or really don't like us. And unfortunately, when you are looking for influencers based on follower count, unless you're really famous brand, a lot of them end up being those with low or zero brand affinity, it becomes very ineffective, very expensive. And that's not what we're here to do. We want to we want to do best practices, an effective program, and really long term relationships. And that's why you should be starting thinking in terms of brand affinity. And starting with people that know like and trust you to sort of wrap this up what I would be doing. If I were you right now, in terms of influencer marketing, and COVID-19 is taking the time to really create this program, this community. So you can spend lots of time trying to analyze influencers based on number of followers reach out to them, you know, work with an agency, it's going to cost a lot of money, it's going to require a lot of time, you're not going to convert everybody. Or you can do what the watch brand rosefield did. For those of you who saw me speak at Social Media Marketing World, this is one of the case studies that I went over. But rosefield is a watch brand from I believe Amsterdam, but they also have a headquarters in New York City. And they develop the community, inclusive to all who loved the brand, ie those who have brand affinity, right. And what they did was they did exactly what I am recommending you do. They recruited from their email database, their online customers and their Instagram followers. Who are the people here that might have some influence? They reach out to them, we are creating a program would you like to be part of it, and they created three tears. So you can imagine if you put all these people together in a room, you're going to have some people that yes, they have a larger community and or they get an incredible amount of engagement proposed they they put these people in the influencer category, you then have some people that maybe have less influence, but are always talking about your brand. These become more of the advocates, right. And then they had a third tier of refers maybe they didn't classify as influencers are advocates, they wanted to be part of the program. They love the brand lesser influence, but they still have value as refers of bringing other people into the program. And they used the influencers advocates and refers for content creation for content amplification and refer new members. And the beautiful thing is, as you've heard me say before, this doesn't necessarily require money. When you reach out to people with low or zero brand affinity. It almost always requires money, especially when you get above the micro influencer or even including the micro influencer level. But when you're working with people that already know like and trust you, all they provided was exclusive access to new products in store credit points, no direct monetary exchange. The results are pretty impressive. 700% increase in monthly impressions their website 113% in average monthly influencer traffic two times higher conversion of traffic coming from influencers. 400% increase in sales attributed to influencer marketing after they created this type of program in a 100 67% Return on influencer spend, the more they spent, it accelerated their sales. Pretty incredible, huh. And that is something that you can do now, there's no time for excuses now is the time of opportunity. When other brands are sort of putting the brakes on advertising and marketing, or taking their foot off the gas pedal in terms of influence or relationships, this only provides you opportunity to do even more of that. So I hope that this episode really distilled any myths that you might see out there, or any beliefs that well, all these lifestyle influencers, they're gonna be out of work. It's not about that. It's about influencers that are relevant to your business, your brand, the community you want to influence. And once again, this really goes beyond any specific industry. So before we finish this episode, I want to remind you that next week, we have a really short but sweet interview with the one and only John Lee Dumas, you'll want to make sure you subscribe, obviously, not just for that podcast, but other special guests we have coming up in the not so distant future. I also want to thank those of you who have gone out of your way to review this podcast, every single subscription, every single review. I am extremely grateful for Stu crew said spot on. Thank you for this great content, Neil. It's uncanny how relevant and timely each episode topic is, in terms of the information our organization needs to hear. As we focus more on our content and digital marketing initiatives. Stu crew, thank you so much. I am I just feel empowered by how many businesses have to shift to a digital first mentality. And I am in the you know, still in the early stages of working on a digital product that I think you're all going to genuinely be really excited about. So thank you. If obviously, if you leave a review, I'll be on the lookout for it. Feel free to send me a you know, send me an email, let me know over social media. I'd love to include your name, your website, your product in this podcast as well, because we're all in this together. Right. So that's it for this episode. And I know we're still in the midst of Coronavirus. I know that there are some states and countries that are opening up again, we are staying the course on June 19. It'll be three months and we are still minimizing our outside trips as much as possible. So I know that this can be detrimental to some businesses and I really feel for them. So it's a personal decision. We're still staying at home. We're supporting Black Lives Matter. We're supporting lives of every color, every creed, every gender identity the best we can even though we're staying at home, and I hope that you all continue to stay safe wherever you're on the world. Once again, make it a great virtual social Day. Bye Bye, everybody.