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What I Learned During My Retreat from Influencer Marketing

Authors: Kristen Matthews Kristen Matthews
Posted Under: Influencer Marketing
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What I Learned During My Retreat from Influencer Marketing
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Anyone who knows me or has read my content knows that influencer marketing is what gets me excited. It’s a digital marketing strategy I advocate often. Over the past four years, I’ve watched influencer marketing go from crawling to walking and have been awed (and sometimes exhausted) at how quickly it changes.

Marketing trends are often characterized by buzzwords that go in and out of style. It’s not uncommon to hear thought leaders in the marketing and PR industries claim that influencer marketing will be dead in a few years. In fact, my mentor has even said this. Because this is my bread and butter, I had to find out if influencer marketing is a fading trend that would make me, as a marketer, irrelevant in a few years.

I found myself wondering where I believed influencer marketing was headed, how I should position myself as a marketer in this industry, and if influencer marketing is as amazing as I’ve been saying it is over the years. Obviously, it was time to re-evaluate. I decided that a digital cleanse was in order and went on a road trip. I tried to put influencer marketing out of my brain for a bit, so that I could return to it with fresh eyes and an open mind.

Of course, I had to have a lot of catch-up conversations and read through my favorite influencer marketing thought leaders’ content, but I regrouped and reshaped how I view this type of marketing. And I’m excited to share what I learned, now that I’ve taken a break and revisited the sexy world of influencer marketing.

The Term Has Sex Appeal

I’m not going to lie—I was a little worried that my image was too closely tied with the term “influencer marketing,” and when I came back to the real world, I decided to drop it from my resumé for a hot second.

The terms “creative brand partnerships” or “third-party recommendations” or “word-of-mouth marketing” didn’t impress brands as much as I had hoped. I added and embraced “influencer marketing” again and immediately sparked a ton of interest.

Call influencer marketing what you want, it works, and everyone wants it.

Influencer Marketing Is Not Going Away

Influencer marketing is considered by many to be a buzzword. And it might be, but it envelops many aspects of branding and has been happening since the beginning of time.

Part of my digital cleanse included spending time at my grandparents’ house. When I explained influencer marketing to them (people who are brilliant but not super into the digital realm), they grasped the industry immediately. Since humans have been around, self-promotional mentions have been less effective than someone else singing your praises.

Influencer marketing has always been here, and it always will be. It may change its name, but it’s certainly not going anywhere.

Most Marketers Already Know Who Their Influencers Are

Influencer marketing has been growing up—a lot. Most marketers aren’t asking if they should implement it anymore. Instead, they’re asking how they should implement it.

For the most part, brands know who and where their influencers are, and they spend their time and resources on figuring out how to creatively work those influencer relationships and how to constantly refine their strategy.


Brands Need a Better Understanding of How to Pay Influencers

One of the biggest pain points in running campaigns and strategies with influencers is the issue of compensation. Between vague guidelines from the FTC and wanting to keep earned posts authentic, a lot of marketers are having trouble finding that sweet spot between maintaining authenticity and making sure influencers are compensated for their valuable, word-of-mouth brand recommendations.

Since influencers are replacing traditional advertising techniques, marketing budgets should re-route their spending and be a little more willing to find a way to pay their influencers in a manner that complies with the FTC and preserves authenticity.

Brands Are Finally Embracing Micro-Influencers

I’ve always been a fan of the mid-level influencers and quality over quantity. Recent posts, case studies, and strategies show that the majority of brands are embracing these kinds of micro-influencers. Typically, a micro-influencer is someone who truly loves your brand (whether a follower or consumer) and has anywhere from 500 to 10,000 followers.

Influencer Generated Content Can Be Used Everywhere

The backbone of influencer marketing is that it’s an effective way to get a third party to talk about a brand—no one prefers to hear about a brand from the brand itself.

Brands are embracing this and taking it a step further than simply earning posts. Bigger brands have embraced just how golden their influencer-created content is and have found brilliant ways to incorporate it into all aspects of their brand. You’ll start to notice this on homepages, newsletters, marketing emails, and more.

If you dig what I’m saying, try adding content created by influencers that say cool things about your brand to some of these parts of your company:

  • Homepage content
  • Testimonials
  • Ebooks
  • Newsletter content
  • Education resources
  • Sales decks

Influencer Marketing Needs to Embrace Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing often carries negative connotations with its name. But so many brands are doing it (and loving it), but they don’t call it “affiliate.” While it’s hard to pinpoint how this term became so negative, when done well, it’s a fantastic part of an influencer marketing strategy. “Performance-based marketing” seems to be the word of choice to describe this brand-influencer relationship, meaning that brands pay influencers by engagement, not a flat fee for a post.

From a brand perspective, I dig affiliate marketing. You give an influencer a unique link, which prompts them to own the process of promoting your brand. Affiliate marketing leads to more mentions on blogs and social channels and incentivizes ownership. 

Of course, there are also downfalls to implementing only one type of approach. I recommend that brands work out this type of relationship with influencers they already have vetted for advocacy and authenticity.

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