Twenty-thirteen seems to be shaping up as the year of the influencer. Everyone is talking about influencers: how to find them, who they are, and what to do with them. But no one seems to be talking about what’s in it for the influencer.
Think of it this way: What if your health insurance company called you up tomorrow and asked you to share their brochure about heart health with your friends and family. Would you do it? Probably not.
If you’re a well-known influencer in a topic or two, you’re on the receiving end of dozens, if not hundreds, of requests and pitches just like this each week. How do influencers determine what companies to work with, and why?
Here’s a hint: It’s not all about you. If you want to work with influencers, be mindful of the value exchange you’re bringing to the table.
The Influencer Continuum
We see influence marketing through the lens of what we call the Influencer Continuum™. This progression helps us to understand where influencers fall in terms of their engagement with a brand, and allow for the development of programs to move influencers into ever-deeper relationships with the brand.
We see the value exchange as a continuum as well. Influencers at different stages of the Influencer Continuum will likely be looking for a different level of value provided by your company.
Value Exchange for Awareness/Credibility
At the early stages of the Influencer Continuum, influencers will be learning about and beginning to engage with your company. At these stages, you may ask influencers to help amplify your content, participate in low-level content creation initiatives, consume information on your company or product, or attend events.
At these introductory stages, expectations should be fairly low on both sides. However, in order to break through the clutter, you should be prepared to offer some value to the influencers you’re trying to reach, in one or more of the following forms:
- Content Amplification: Include influencers’ content in curated social media and link to their content blog posts.
- Idea Sharing: Influencers participate in an individual or group brainstorm to share feedback on existing or new products or services; or create panel a of influencer “experts” who can contribute ongoing ideas.
- Mention in Article or Post: Acknowledge influencer involvement in content ideas and creation by calling them out in relevant content.
- Events Invitations: Invite influencers to attend local or online events where they will gain knowledge, meet others who may be of interest to them, or just have fun.
Not all of this value will be explicitly stated to the influencer; for example, you may amplify their content while you’re getting to know them, before you even reach out to them. This helps to get your company on their radar, so when you do contact them they have a bit more context and awareness of your company.
Value Exchange for Emotional Connections
At this stage, you’re ideally forging a bond with influencers. You want them to be excited about working with you and feel they’ve made a wise choice by choosing your project or campaign.
Value exchanges at this level will be more sophisticated and individualized for each influencer. A few forms of value you might focus on include:
- Content Collaboration: Offer influencers paid writing or video creation opportunities, allowing them to become more deeply embedded in the marketing of your product or service, and giving them tangible benefits for being a part of your marketing team.
- Speaking Opportunities: Bring an influencer in to your event or company meeting to speak, as a way of showing them how much their opinion matters to you.
- R&D Session: Permit a select few influencers to contribute to R&D brainstorms and meetings (paid or unpaid) with product development teams; this makes them feel knowledgeable and valued (and will likely engender their loyalty to the product once launched).
- Other “Insider” Opportunities: Create hard-to-get, behind-the-scenes opportunities to give influencers knowledge and content, providing them with an advantage over their competitors or collaborators.
Value Exchange to Create Loyalty
At this top tier of the Continuum, you’re already strongly connected to influencers. Now you want to keep them engaged, and keep them working with you, over the long haul.
Opportunities at this stage can go pretty deep; many of these opportunities also require financial or significant time resources.
- Help Build Reputation: At this stage, you already know how valuable an influencer is to your initiatives; help them use their expertise even more by enabling them to become your expert spokesperson, a chief collaborator on an important piece of content, or a featured speaker at one of your events.
- Enable Their Projects: Your company may help to fund and/or promote the projects of your top influencers; for example, fund or promote their book tour, or sponsor their video or film initiative.
Always look at your influencer marketing programs through the lens of the influencer. If you yourself wouldn’t want to get engaged with an influencer program, why would they? If you’re creating a value exchange for them, you’ll almost undoubtedly be creating an influencer program that reaps rewards for both you and the influencer.
Image credit: John Hallam Images