Image courtesy of Flickr.
I’ve been working for a few years now with multiple brands per year. I have worked with brands in the music industry to emerging technology companies. When I reflect on what has made for a great partnership in the past, there are several themes that crop up over and over again. Conversely, there are other trends that come to mind when I reflect on what has gone terribly wrong in some of these partnerships. I hope to illuminate both sides of the coin equally and vividly.
In my opinion, influencer marketing is still an emerging field. Like anything else, there is going to be a learning curve. There are brands that chose to take the time to get it right. Yet others, clearly rushed to adoption without putting the right infrastructure in place. The intent where influencer marketing is concerned is for brands to be able to identify and partner with people who have a significant social following and voice in their respective niches. This partnership is usually created to raise awareness, drive traffic and/or sales to the brand in question.
Did you know?
According to Huffington Post, 65% of marketers are participating in the influencer marketing space. Many recent statistics also indicate that companies increased budget for influencer marketing campaigns in 2016 and plan to do so going forward. In addition, a few brands who are reaping the rewards of this kind of advertising are making a play for separate budget to fund influencer campaigns apart from all other advertising and marketing efforts.
It is safe to say, that influencer marketing will be sticking around for awhile longer. With some tweaking, planning and synergy between brand and influencer – this kind of marketing becomes a force to be reckoned with.
Here are the five things that brands need to know before getting into the influencer marketing game:
1) Make sure you have the right people handling your influencer outreach and engagement. Influencers are people. In particular, they are people who either hold a 9-5 job elsewhere or have multiple business endeavors. In other instances, it is their only business or if they are like me – it is a part in a larger consulting business. Imagine receiving tons of inquiries for sponsored posts, vlogs, events etc. per week. What will make your inquiry more compelling than the others? The way your inquiry moves to the top is by having competent and knowledgeable people on your frontlines. For example, I had a brand representative reach out to me for sponsored work. Over 10 plus emails or so she asked me a battery of questions about my influence to determine if I was right for them. The reality is: she should have done her homework and came to the table with less questions than more. She found me and my page which means something stood out in her searches. I run a business that doesn’t afford me the time to go back and forth over email with your representative that is doing this all for the first time. Turned out to be a troublesome partnership for me in the end and it was evident from the first engagement. Pay attention to who you have representing you.
2) Start small and have clear goals for your partnership. There is nothing more frustrating to influencers than you engaging them with great enthusiasm and no plan. Let’s flip it for a second, how likely is an influencer to garner your attention if they reach out to you with an informal email that indicates no real plan for their enthusiastic pursuits of a partnership? I am pretty sure that email will be deleted. The same holds true when you reach out to influencers. Your plan doesn’t need to be perfect, but you should have some plan and/or idea for moving forward with a partnership. Serendipity is fun as you move through fine-tuning the ideas for partnership, but please have some framework or foundation for us to work from.
3) Influencers are not an extension of your internal marketing or pr department. The reason why influencer marketing is all the rage is because it differs from the “buy me because we’re great” sales push that is synonymous with traditional marketing and advertising. Influencer Marketing is like hearing about that hot new product, event or service from your best friend. While not all people have bought into believing influencers – there are many who have followed the climb of their respective influencer or community of choice and therefore respect any recommendations coming out of those camps. To that point, you partner with influencers for our unique voices and perspectives in the market. The moment you decide to control or censor the voice our communities are accustomed to hearing; you have undermined the entire partnership. This isn’t to say that you can’t have a say or editorial influence to ensure the sponsored material meets your standards, but realize the whole point of this is not to be like your traditional marketing copy. If this is a sticking point for you, you may want to reevaluate.
4) Compensation matters. Whether you are a startup or a Fortune 500 should not matter. If you want someone to pitch your business or service to a community/following they have spent countless hours building- you have to pay for that. There are many ways to compensate influencers that don’t always involve dollars leaving your bank account for ours. For instance, I had a pretty well known accounting system vendor reach out to me to do sponsored work. Funny enough, I happen to use them for my own accounting. I simply asked for a year of free service in return for my sponsored content. Their representative returned my email with a “sorry, we don’t do that.” I bid her adieu and never looked back. Besides the poor judgment of not working with a current customer who enthusiastically would have promoted their company- it was clear they wanted my endorsement for free. Testimonials are one thing and sponsored content is something altogether different. You need to be able to compensate influencers. I’m personally tired of feeling like I have to pull it out of the company representative as to whether they intend to compensate or not. Expect to pay and be upfront about your budget. Some budget is better than nothing.
5) Etiquette and Business Protocol are welcomed. As mentioned above, influencers are either intrapreneurs working for someone or entrepreneurs in their own right. We do not exclusively work for you nor do we operate in accordance with your sloppy protocols and corporate practices. If your company is the sort that has a great idea one day and abandons it the next, you had better figure out some streamlined way of communicating in a timely and consistent manner where it concerns influencers. This may be a small line item in your marketing budget, that doesn’t mean that you fail to communicate when a campaign idea has been abandoned or in other cases when you are no longer manning a community of influencers. I surely hope you would not leave other business deals/partners in limbo – why would this seem like a reasonable way to operate with influencers?
These are just a few of the many considerations that should be driving your conversations about influencer programs internally. As I was writing, I realized there is far more to share. I truly enjoy partnering with brands to help illuminate their newest services and projects. The point is for this to be both fun and beneficial to both parties involved.
Brands: Share your best practices with me in the comments. Influencers: Share your tips for partnership improvement in the comments as well.
September 13th will mark the 5 year anniversary of The Aristocracy of HR. I certainly never set out to become a blogger, so reaching this milestone is pretty darn special. There were quite a few people who gave me a chance and supported from the very beginning. I’ll give them a shout out next week as well as address how I stumbled upon blogging; but for the purpose of this post I want to explore what I have learned over the past five years.
The first lesson is: Honor your writing process.
Don’t get me wrong consistency is a huge factor in achieving and maintaining traffic to your blog, but you want to know what is even more damaging than consistency- forced content. I have never been able to write under duress. Like a true artist, I need the spirits to move me or something to inspire me to write. Luckily, I have been inspired on more weeks than not these past five years. However, there have been a few weeks in which nothing I thought to type was worth your time.
I often had this aching feeling like I needed to put something out for the sake of not losing readers. I used to sit in a bit of my own purgatory, until one day I learned to honor my writing process. I write what inspires me. The only other writing I know how to do is to introduce a product, service or event which is a bit more technical. Outside of that, I am not a content calendar gal. It just isn’t helpful given the way I write.
If there is anything that I have learned, it is that you will churn out the worst content – if you don’t recognize what kind of writer you are and honor it. Planning a content calendar may help some organize their thoughts – while others may be more free-spirited like me. Do what works for you.
The second lesson is: Write what you know.
I’m not sure how many blogs I’ve read over the years, but I am certain it’s in the thousands. That said, there is nothing worse than reading something that seems forced or isn’t based in fact. There is of course satire, but I am talking about the group of folks who are professionals, experts, gurus, ninjas in their own right yet, their story and/or style of writing leaves much to be desired.
Part of how you succeed as a blogger is to write what you know. The things that are like second nature to you, but still a mystery for the right audience is where the magic happens. I’m not saying pick easy topics to write about all the time, but do yourself and your readers a favor by knowing what you are talking about. Lack of acumen can plague even the best writing. It’s kind of like an unwanted zit – it’s grossly noticeable, unnecessary and bothersome.
Lesson three is: Be humble.
When I started blogging in the HR niche, there were a lot of cliques and elitist personalities in abundance. I’ve since learned that many of the other blogging niches suffer from the same problem. Many of the bloggers who were prolific five years ago have either fallen off the blogging scene and faded into obscurity. Some have moved on to other endeavors. Yet there are still a few plugging along like me. You never know where your next opportunity is coming from. Treat new bloggers the same as you would a blogger with thousands of followers or readers. That newbie blogger with a rather scant reader base and social media following can sky rocket to notoriety in the blink of an eye. Focus on being better at your craft, but never count a lesser-known blogger out.
I believe one of my keys to success with The Aristocracy of HR is that I am humble and welcome connecting with my readers and followers whether online and offline. It may seem as though this would be simple for most bloggers to follow through with; but I have seen many let the pomp and circumstance of blogging success get to their heads. Don’t let that be you.
There are so many other lessons I have learned in five years. There are far too many to share in a mere blog post. When I got clear about how I wanted to celebrate this occasion I realized the best way to do so is to give my time and ear to those thinking of dabbling in blogging and/or those who are bloggers but need a fresh perspective to continue.
As such, I am holding a free Q & A call on September 13th to answer questions about blogging, business, and how becoming a blogger has transformed my career and life.
If this is you, register for my call below. Conversely, if you know someone who could benefit from this call, please feel free to share the call information.
Stay tuned here as there will be many more celebrations of my 5 year Blogiversary and announcements in the coming weeks!
There are still companies who are tardy to the social media party. It’s not a bad thing. Businesses have either thought social media was going to exit as a one-hit wonder or they were laying-in-wait until it became absolutely apparent that they needed to jump in.
What fascinates me is that the companies who have an interest in building an online presence via social media – seem to forget that they have some internal work to do before hitting the very public social airwaves.
Getting on social media is the easy part.
You want to be on social? No problem, head to your platform of choice, create your free account and get posting. The problem for businesses is that they jump on this bandwagon of social expecting that doing so and directing their employees to talk them up on social media is the holy grail to their success. If you are doing this or plan to deploy your company’s brand to the digital and social airwaves – please stop!
You want to be a beloved brand on social media, but your employees really want you to treat them like human beings.
Clearly, there’s a disconnect here. While you are spending top dollar with a PR or Marketing firm to expand your reach to social media, have you forgotten your employees in the process? You just spent tens of thousands of dollars on hiring outside firms to make you look good, yet your employees haven’t seen a proper raise in years – priorities much?
Customers won’t buy from you just because you have a social presence and your employees will not say positive things about your company just because you demand they do so. While it may seem that social media is a good place to “keep up appearances”, it really isn’t. This doesn’t mean you need to be perfect, but rather that people expect a real depiction of how you operate, what it’s like to work with you etc.
If the morale within your company is suffering and you choose to overlook it and head to social media – you are setting yourself up for failure. Not only are you making it harder than it ought to be for employees to share their experiences, but you risk your employees airing out your dirty laundry on social.
A mini case-study…
I was on Instagram recently and I see one of my former employers’ promoting some sponsored posts. Somewhat intrigued, I click on one of their ads to see what they are promoting. After reading the caption, I move on to the comments just to see what people are saying. Throughout the comment section is comment after comment where employees are bashing and making fun of the company for stretching the truth about how they operate. Not only were there employees on this thread, but there were people who have applied to this organization and were treated indifferently.
For the next hour, I continued to click through their sponsored posts, finding only one that portrayed a positive image and lacked any apparent bashing. Unfortunately, for this company their intentions were undermined by their lack of attention and effort where both employees, candidates and customers were concerned.
Let’s examine where they went wrong and how you fix it:
1) The morale in this company is poor and they blatantly overlooked it. As I mentioned, I worked for this company once upon a time. The morale sucked then and as I hear it – it is worse now. There’s not enough PR in the world to fix the fundamental issue of employee’s loathing where they work or customers being disappointed with their experience with you. It’s not a travesty that you have been wrong in how you operated. However, it is a cardinal sin when you know you aren’t doing right by employees and customers and refuse to fix it. Check-in with your employees, triage the issues and take action to fix it prior to heading to social.
2) They are doing a lot of pushing and not enough listening internally or on social. If I am the one managing the social media for this company, I would have retreated by the third sponsored post where employees were lambasting me. This company continues to put out more and more ads with the same result. The question here isn’t who can I fire for making us look like jerks on social media, but rather are we listening to our own internal airwaves like we should be? Companies spend a ridiculous amount of time, money, and resources pushing out engagement, post-service, pulse surveys. All of this knowledge gathering that we do every year and yet we aren’t hearing our customers and employees like we should. Less push, more listening would have helped this brand in launching successfully into the digital sphere.
3) Employee Advocacy under duress never works. This company was actually an early-adopter of social media. They were one of the ones who had the budget to explore what digital branding could do for them before it became the hot topic that it is today. Long before we had experts and established standards for social media – it felt wrong to push employees to talk you up on social. I will never forget them talking to us about the magical number of times they wanted us not only to be engaging on social on their behalf; but also directing the message. Personally, I hated my job with them at the point that this was deployed. Having them tell me that I had to say “nice” things about my experience and the company on social was not only a lie – but made me feel sick to my stomach. Social sharing should be organic and not forced. Would you want to recommend a place where you had a bad experience? I’m guessing your answer is: “no”. The same applies to your employees.
The purpose of having an online presence is to further your visibility and authentically connect with audiences and communities in a way you wouldn’t be able to ordinarily. Social is about reciprocity, transparency and being genuine. It is not only wise but recommended that you take the time to deal with any internal demons that may surface and undermine your efforts on social media. You may not be able to thwart every heckler or angry customer, but you will at least set a solid foundation for your brand to grow and thrive.
Campaign/FTC disclosure: This is a sponsored product review. I will receive compensation for this post. I only work with companies I feel have great products, services and offerings. In accordance with my blog disclosure statement, I will only work with and showcase products, events and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from. Dun & Bradstreet has hired me as an influencer to help them raise awareness about their new Business Solutions Insights Microsoft Office 365 partnership with Ingram Micro Cloud. I am not formally employed by Dun & Bradstreet. All thoughts and viewpoints are created and written by me. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
Image courtesy of www.dnb.com.
Big data has long been a debilitating term in the business world.
When it comes to business, we all would prefer to make better, more informed decisions. In order to achieve this, we have to collectively become comfortable with the notion of being data-driven. Making data-driven decisions has little to do with how “big” your data is, but rather how you make the data that you collect every day through transactions, interactions and prospecting work for you.
For many companies – be they Fortune 500 or small businesses – this data and information is often unstructured. This information both lives and dies in different systems, processes, and in some cases, people within organizations.
The key to being able to use this information to the advantage of the business is to aggregate all of your business insights simply in one place for anyone in the organization to use.
I had a unique opportunity to chat with my friends at Dun & Bradstreet® to discuss their recent participation at the Ingram Micro Cloud Summit held last week in Phoenix, Arizona. I also had the opportunity to get an exclusive demo of their new Business Solutions Tool for Office 365 available via the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace®.
Image courtesy of IngramMicro.com.
Big data is not so big – when you break it down.
One of the recurring questions about big data is: What makes it so complex? In speaking with Karlos Palmer, VP of Global Alliances and Partnership Strategies and Nakul Kapoor, Senior Director of Partner Enablement at Dun & Bradstreet, they break down the complexity of data into what they call the four Vs of big data:
- Volume – The scale of data. This is how much data you have stored and living across your business.
- Variety – The many different forms of data. From demographic information to customer profiles, the range of data you collect is both useful and innumerable.
- Velocity– The analysis of streaming data. With the connectivity of things growing every day, there is a constant flow of data streaming at all times. Dun & Bradstreet® reported at last week’s Ingram Micro Cloud Summit that there are as many as 18.9 billion network connections (2.5 connections per every person on earth).
- Veracity– The uncertainty of data. Unreliable data is costly to your business. It has been reported that poor data costs the U.S. Economy around $3.1 trillion per year. Somewhere along the data continuum, there has to be a cleansing of your data to be able to use it effectively.
The businesses that have yet to implement an operational call-to-action for data struggle in one of more of these areas.
As a small business owner, I understand the value of making decisions rooted in good data. What prevents me from exploring my options is my concern for how much it will cost me to implement a solution and the ease of use.
After seeing the demo of Dun & Bradstreet’s Business Solutions Add-in for Office 365, I am excited about the possibilities this product holds for small to mid-size businesses to make more insightful, data-inspired decisions.
Less is truly more.
Think about how you have traditionally created reports in Microsoft Excel® and imagine even the smallest sets of data reconciled with Dun & Bradstreet’s insights – only to give you more valuable information than what you started with.
Here’s how the Dun &Bradstreet Business Solutions Tool works:
- Dun & Bradstreet has accumulated a collection of data around sales, marketing, supply chain and credit risk that spans its 175-year old history.
- They have created an add-in in the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace that can be used with your Microsoft Office 365.
- Through your normal reporting in Excel, you can take something as simple as a spreadsheet with name, email, and address – and have Dun & Bradstreet run your information against its over 30,000 sources.
- What you get depends on which of the nine modules you use across sales, marketing, supply chain and their advanced data tools are insights like:
– Understand Your Customers™ module – this module allows you to bring in a minimal amount of data points and in return gives you insights on your customer’s history, market behavior, etc.
– Get Prospects List™ module- this module allows you to search your customer list and get a targeted view of customers you should be meeting with when you go on the road for meetings and conferences, etc.
- Your data is now reliable because it is driven by Dun & Bradstreet’s D-U-N-S Number® that connects demographic information with just about everything a single business does over the lifetime of their business (credit standing, sales and marketing, industry, years in business, business hierarchies, etc.).
- All of the segmentation and data cleansing is done for you. Every record comes back with a rating for Dun & Bradstreet’s success in matching your record with their sources.
How much will it cost you?
This is my favorite part. The Dun & Bradstreet Business Solutions add-in is available to us with a minimum investment of $25.00 per month (note: The price may increase if you have to purchase the Microsoft Office 365 suite as well). However, if you are already a Microsoft Office 365 customer, you can simply download this free add-in and enable it by depositing increments of $25.00 into your Dun & Bradstreet Business Solutions account.
Every time you run a module, the product will draw from your existing balance. Most queries charge $0.75 per record or per list of 25 records.
How can you get it?
Dun & Bradstreet’s Business Solutions Insights for Office 365 can be purchased in the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace by clicking here. You can also purchase it through any Ingram Micro Cloud reseller.
Enterprise quality solutions are now available for SMBs. This is an exciting step in all of us becoming data-driven inspired business owners.
To read the press release regarding Dun & Bradstreet’s partnership with Microsoft Office 365 and Ingram Micro Cloud click here.
My marketing professors used to say that some companies would hire millennials to take care of digital media needs partly because they were, you know, millennials. I can understand having that viewpoint somewhat, I mean we did grow up with the technology. Over the past twelve weeks, I have been assisting Janine N. Truitt also known to many as “CzarinaofHR” in managing her brands for her businesses Talent Think Innovations, LLC and The Aristocracy of HR. In that time, I have realized that I knew nothing about social media in the business sense and could not help any business succeed in the social media part of their marketing strategy with just what I knew from college and my personal use.
Here are a few things that I have learned:
- Social Media Is Very Fickle: I have come to realize that while I might like Facebook as a personal platform, as a business platform it is hard to manage. I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it is to continuously get the same or more reach per post on Facebook and don’t even get me started on likes on the page itself.
After Facebook comes Twitter, this is my personal favorite and managing it has been so much fun. My favorite part next to engaging with people is the hashtags. It’s always interesting to see what people post under the common ones; but I especially like the ones that are used for business. The way I see it, it’s another opportunity to engage with people and possibly get some new followers. My only gripes would be: running out of characters when you have the perfect hashtag but it can’t fit. In those moments I can’t help thinking I need just one more character, especially when you have the perfect tweet.
- When it comes to digital marketing for business it’s not just about finding content, but content that represents or is related to the industry of your business: Before starting this internship, I thought brands just put their content out on social media or re-tweeted some of their followers’ content. I am so glad that it is so much more than that. Often times, people try to gain followers on Twitter by mostly posting cat videos or something that is funny. When you’re managing a business, you can’t do that and personally I don’t think it’s limiting; but rather it allows you to get more creative with the content that you do post.
- Social media is part of the marketing strategy not the strategy itself. During my time with Janine (“CzarinaofHR”), I learned that there is so much more to marketing than I thought – even though I studied it in school. Everything that I have learned during this internship is important, but I think my one main takeaway is this: there are so many parts to a marketing strategy. A business can have one overall strategy with several different components. Social media is just one component. While social media is important, it shouldn’t make or break you. As Janine says: “if one of these platforms goes down or goes away, it shouldn’t impact me so much that I have to close my doors.”
I have learned so much more during this internship than I thought I would. I look forward to having fun managing her social media brand for the remainder of my internship. This experience, has also helped me refine my career path. I know that I want social media or digital marketing as it is called to be a part of my job but not all of what I do. I love digital marketing. I wasn’t sure about that before this internship, but I am clear now. I have decided I want to be more involved in the overall marketing strategy of a company.
I want to thank Janine N. Truitt of Talent Think Innovations, LLC for guiding me these past few months and teaching me so much. She gave me the best launching pad for my career.
Kimberly Minto is has a B.A. in Marketing from Hofstra University. She is a Digital Media Intern for Talent Think Innovations, LLC. Kimberly aspires to have her own Marketing/PR firm someday. Follow her on Twitter at: . Connect with her on LinkedIn.