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6 Top Marketing Challenges Solved by Influencer Content

Marketing Challenges Solved by Influencer Content

Whether you’re a new Marketing leader at a company in need of establishing wins quickly or part of a growing organization with ambitious revenue goals, the challenges within marketing today are greater than ever.

To help make sense out of these challenges, I’ve listed 6 of the top obstacles to brands achieving effectiveness out of their marketing and how collaborating with influencers on content help solve each problem.

1. Challenge: Ad Blocking

600 million devices are using ad blocking leading to a loss of $ 22 billion in ad revenue for publishers (PageFair). If buyers don’t ever see your ads, what chance do you have?

Challenge solved: Contrary to ads, influencers are liked and because people pay attention to the influencers they follow, shared brand messages are far more likely to attract and engage buyers.

When you subscribe to the idea that everyone is influential about something, especially with their friends, co-workers and social connections, this statistic from Nielsen (83% of consumers trust recommendations from their peers over advertising) becomes very powerful.

Collaborating with influencers on content that the influencers then promote to their subscribing community can become a powerful differentiator for any marketing program.

Of course not all customers use ad blocking and there are incredible opportunities to be realized with sophisticated ad targeting. That’s why when properly executed, influencer content can be leveraged for both organic and paid promotions.

2. Challenge: Information Overload

Consider this: 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last 2 years. That’s 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day (IBM). In fact, 74gb of media are sent to the average consumer on an average day (USC/ICTM).

The sheer number of choices faced by consumers and general distrust has turned brand marketing into noise for many customers.

Challenge solved: Influencers are Focused. One of the most compelling reasons a person is influential is because of the specificity in the topics they cover. Because of that specialization, buyers anticipate rather than ignore or feel overwhelmed by what their trusted influencers share.

While some influencers distribute their content on multiple channels, their personal brand focus plus consistency and trust equals a signal that buyers pay attention to.

3. Challenge: Google “Hates” SEO

Search Engine Optimization bloggers have been positing this question for 10+ years. With Google algorithm and platform updates including Florida, Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Pigeon, RankBrain, Mobile, Possum, Fred and the thousands of launches, live traffic experiments, side-by-side experiments and over 130,000 search quality tests, it makes you wonder: is this all for improving the customer experience or is some of it to thwart SEO?

Challenge solved: Google actually likes influencer content. Another key ingredient to why someone is influential is their credibility and authority. An influencer’s specific expertise and their ability to provide insights, answers and even research based perspectives all deliver on the Google’s expectation that content be useful.

Beyond influencer content being useful, there’s the practice of making content worth linking to. Influencers typically have a subscribed audience, many of which publish themselves. When influencers publish and promote content, it naturally attracts links.

By optimizing content for search and activating influencers, brands can create opportunities to help customers find trusted content and everybody wins.

4. Challenge: Buyers Don’t Trust Brands

Or ads. This is a hard pill to swallow: 42% of consumers distrust brands and 69% distrust advertising according to a study by (Ipsos Connect).

Challenge solved: Influencers are trusted.  A recent study by Fullscreen and Shareblee via MarketingCharts found that nearly 40% of 18-34-year-olds are more likely to trust what an influencer says about a brand than what the brand says about itself. Additionally, Twitter reports that users trust influencers nearly as much as their friends.

Collaborating with influencers on content can bring authenticity, credibility and trust to that content. When influencers share that content, the effect of their audiences’s trust goes even further.

5. Challenge: Content Doesn’t Scale

According to the annual study by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, some of the top content challenges marketers included: 60% producing engaging content, 57% producing content consistently.

Challenge solved: Creator Influencers are experts at creating content. Influencer content creation and storytelling skills come in many forms: blogging, podcasting, video, images, and sometimes interactive.

Brands can extend the media creation skills of their marketing departments by partnering with creators with specialized skills. In addition to skill, creator influencers have an audience to promote the content to.

6. Challenge: Organic Social is Dead

Not only is Facebook organic reach down 52% (MarketingLand) but declarations that organic reach on Facebook is outright dead for brands are being stated by many credible industry publications, including Digiday.

Challenge (partly) solved: Influencers have optimized social popularity. Influencers create the kinds of signals that social network algorithms reward with higher visibility. Influencers understand what resonates with their audience in terms of topic, content type and promotion. Those same influencers also have an active audience that engages with their shared content. This is a powerful combination for triggering social network algorithms to prioritize influencer content in the feed.

Influencer Marketing is no silver bullet. Neither is content marketing or any kind of marketing approach.

But when influencers are intelligently researched, qualified and engaged during the planning phases of a content marketing program, the benefits of the collaboration can include improved content in a variety of ways:

  • Authenticity – Choose influencers that represent your customers and the resulting message will be a lot more genuine to what buyers actually care about.
  • Variety – Including experts beyond your marketing department can generate a greater span of content ideas.
  • Quality – Tapping expertise can boost the quality beyond what marketing department copywriters might be able to produce.
  • Quantity – Engaging a group of influencers on an ongoing basis can boost the volume of content. Factor in repurposing and you’ll create even more content options without increasing spend.
  • Reach – Trusted, credible experts promoting content can reach audiences that are very difficult to connect with through any other way.
  • Trust – The credibility, expertise and authority of influencers that collaborate with a brand over time can grow trust for the brand.

On top of that, there are efficiency benefits. We have implemented influencer content campaigns where influencers have contributed anywhere from 20% to 80% of the content for the entire campaign.

Then there are the effectiveness benefits. For an organic influencer content campaign, achieving a 50% share rate amongst influencers is impressive. We’ve had many programs with over 100% share rate. Why? By communicating effectively, setting expectations and making content that contributors are proud to be a part of.

The reality is that influencer content programs can deliver value across the entire customer lifecycle, not just awareness. That means improved engagement and conversions.

There are many more challenges for marketing than the six above. I didn’t get into martech shock (too much tech), difficulty in finding qualified marketing candidates, measurement challenges or the implications of the lockdown on data represented by GDPR in the EU and recent attention being given Facebook by lawmakers. But addressing the six above should give the vast majority of marketers reading this an advantage.

Establishing relationships with qualified, capable influencers can bring a tremendous amount of value to a company’s content marketing effectiveness. When influencer marketing is thoughtful, ongoing and properly managed, it becomes a force multiplier that is difficult to duplicate.

Are you planning a content marketing program right now? Who are your best influencers? Who are your best employee advocates? Which industry media do you have the attention of? Which of your customers are most likely to advocate for your brand? Do you know if they are influential? Do you know which of your prospective customers are influential?

Answering these questions can open the door to content marketing success for your brand and mutually valuable relationships with the people that actually influence your customers.

 


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Death of Facebook Organic Reach = New Opportunities for Influencer Marketing

Facebook Zero Influencers

Earlier this month, marketers were shocked to learn that Facebook would be making more major changes to its News Feed, effectively bringing brand and publisher organic reach to zero by prioritizing high engagement content from family, friends and groups.

In a formal statement posted on his own Facebook page, Mark Zuckerberg said:

“We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That’s why we’ve always put friends and family at the core of the experience. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness.”

“But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other. … Based on this, we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook.”

While the announcement seemed to be the final nail in the organic News Feed coffin, the death of organic reach on Facebook has been a long time coming. Back in April 2015, Facebook announced it was updating News Feeds to strike a better balance between friends, public figures, publishers, businesses and community organizations. Then in late June 2016, Facebook said it would be making further refinements to ensure users don’t miss updates from their friends and families.

Now, after an intense year of political and social upheaval — not to mention the emergence of the fake news engine and the Russian advertising scandal — it’s no surprise that Facebook is re-examining things yet again.

But What Does It All Mean for Marketers?

Naturally, disappointed marketers all over the world are wondering how this change will truly impact their social marketing efforts. From our perspective, the change:

  • Ends the organic reach of the News Feed and increases the importance of adding pay-to-play to your marketing mix — something that will likely require a bigger budget.
  • Bolsters the importance of channel diversification.
  • Makes it more important than ever for you to zero in on who your audience is and what motivates them, so you can share content and create an environment that will pique interest and engagement.
  • Means Instagram will more than likely follow suit in the near future.

The Influencer Implication

Since Zuckerberg’s announcement, there’s been one implication in particular that’s captivated our attention. The way we see it, the value of influencer engagement on Facebook will increase even more.

Our CEO, Lee Odden, has long been an evangelist for working with influencers, believing that influencers can help brands bypass several obstacles. AdBlocking, for example, is in use on over 600 million devices, costing business over $ 22 billion in ad revenue, according to PageFair. Working with credible influencers who are trusted amongst an audience allows brands to bypass the adblocking obstacle and better connect with buyers.

Lee has also talked about other challenges such as distrust of brand advertising. In fact, 69% of consumers don’t trust ads, according to research by Ipsos Connect. And yet another obstacle is information overload. Americans are confronted with an average of 63GB of media on a daily basis (USC/ICTM).

All of these obstacles, according to Lee, are addressed by working with industry influencers. The virtual elimination of organic News Feed visibility for brands and publishers on Facebook is no different and marketers would be smart to think about how influencer engagement can keep organic Facebook visibility alive.

So, to sum it all up: Now that the organic News Feed is effectively dead, new life is being given to influencer marketing opportunities. Here are a few key considerations:

#1 – If you’re not in the influencer marketing game yet, you can no longer afford to wait.

Last year, we saw influencer marketing explode — becoming one of the most talked about topics among marketers and arguably our most-requested digital marketing services among both B2B and B2C clients. In addition, our own research shows that 57% of marketers say influencer marketing will be integrated in all marketing activities in the next three years.

This quote from Lee sums it up well:

“For any kind of content a business creates and publishes to the world, there is an opportunity for collaboration with credible voices that have active networks interested in what those voices have to say. In many cases, [audiences are] far more interested [in an influencer’s insights] than in what the brand has to say.”

With Facebook reducing branded content and elevating content from individuals, there’s no better time to invest in influencers — which can have an impact across all social platforms.


With #Facebook reducing branded content and elevating content from individuals, there’s no better time to invest in influencers. #influencermarketing
Click To Tweet


#2 – Influencers now hold more power than ever to more strategically align themselves with brands of their choice.

Influencer marketing was already poised to be big in 2018, but this change to Facebook’s platform will absolutely spur more brands and businesses to dip their toe into the water. As a result, influencers will see an uptick in requests, giving them more power to be very choosy about which brands they lend their time, insights and audience to.


Influencers have more power to be very choosy about the brand they lend their time, insights and audience to. #influencermarketing
Click To Tweet


#3 – Influencer nurturing will be more important than ever.

As illustrated by the previous two points, the Facebook change will lead to an increased adoption of influencer marketing, giving influencers more options. So it’s no surprise that it’ll be time to double-down on your commitment to influencer nurturing.

Now, we’ve always said that when it comes to building relationships and rapport with influencers, it’s critical that you put the time and effort into nurturing — rather than simply reaching out when you have a need. There has to be shared value.

But I think most marketers would admit that they have significant room for improvement in this area — and there’s no time like the present to recommit yourself.


With #Facebook’s recent algorithm change, it’s time to double-down on your commitment to nurturing your influencers. #influencermarketing
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Capitalize on the Opportunity

Let’s face it. This “major change” to Facebook’s platform isn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last. As a result, now is the time to fully capitalize on the opportunity by better working with industry influencers. Now is the time to refocus on connecting with your audience — and influencers can help you do just that by adding authenticity, credibility, unique insights and new eyeballs to your content.

What else is in store for influencer marketing in 2018? Check out these rising influencer marketing trends that you need to pay attention to.

What do you think about the latest Facebook News Feed algorithm change? Tell us in the comments section below.


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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2018. |
Death of Facebook Organic Reach = New Opportunities for Influencer Marketing | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Digital Marketing News: The Visual Internet, Influencer Marketing Trends, Sneaky Ads

How to Keep Up With the Rise of the Visual Internet [Infographic]
Online media is increasingly visual — from personal photos to branded motion graphics, gif and videos. How can you keep up with the rising need for visual content? This infographic shares tips to help you stay on top of the trend and keep your viewers engaged. MarketingProfs

10 Million People Used Facebook Live on New Year’s Eve
It probably won’t come as a shock that, for most, the tradition of cozying up around an antennaed TV to watch the ball drop on NYE is behind us. Because in front of us — right in front of our faces — is Facebook Live. Ringing in 2018, Facebook Live topped their activity from the previous year’s NYE festivities, with people sharing 47% more live videos than last year.  Facebook Media

Google’s Rich Results Tool Allows for Testing of Structured Data
Google has a way of defining things (“Conversions” for instance) and now, they’ve defined Rich Results. “Rich Results” has been coined as a phrase to refer to rich snippets, rich cards and other “rich” additions to a website’s content. And Google’s new tool will test for all types of structured data that can be shown as rich results, pulling from sources including JSON-LD, Microdata and RDFa. The tool currently works for recipes, jobs, movies and courses, and Google plans to expand to more data types. Search Engine Journal

Top Influencer Marketing Trends & Challenges of 2018
Of the influencer marketers surveyed by Linqia, 76% predict that their top challenge in 2018 will be determining the ROI of their influencer marketing programs. In addition, 52% of those same influencer marketers plan to adopt the trend of running influencer marketing programs that leverage multiple types of influencers, and 44% will use influencer content to improve the performance of other channels. MarketingProfs

What Millennials Are Killing Now, And 24 Other Insights We Can Glean by Analyzing Tweets
6,000 tweets are posted every second, and anybody who’s stayed up past bedtime scrolling through the Twitterverse can attest that, yes, it can all add up to a LOT of noise. But each tweet is also a piece of data. Brandwatch has analyzed billions of those tweets, which they refer to as “live human thought,” and answered some of our most burning questions: Who was the most talked about character in Game of Thrones Season 7? Does Starbucks spell my name wrong on purpose? Brandwatch

2018 Will Be the Year Chatbot Conversations Get Real
AT&T recently revealed plans to roll out a “mobile 5G” network in a dozen markets by the close of 2018. The company indicated that the network would bring 5G service to everything from mobile and VR to car AI and home TV. Not to be left out, Verizon, Sprint and T-mobile are all working towards 5G as well — all with nuanced approaches.  VentureBeat

On Facebook, Viral Reach for Branded-Content Ads Eclipses Standard Ads
New research from Shareablee shows that branded-content ads get twice as many organic or earned impressions as they do paid impressions on Facebook. Organic impressions for the average Facebook ad make up less that 10% of impressions from paid promotion. Creating shareable content that performs well organically — with a little help from paid promotion  is proving to be a winning combination. MarketingLand

One In Ten Publishers Say They’re Not Labeling Native Advertising
Two new studies from the Native Advertising Institute show that about 10% of news and magazine publishers aren’t properly labeling their online native advertising. These publishers largely cited “meeting budget demands” as their reason for doing so, even though 25% say this practice is one of the biggest threats they see to native advertising. MediaPost

Snapchat May Force Users To Watch Three Seconds Of Ads Before Skipping
To help increase their perceived value in the market, Snapchat is considering making their ads skippable only after the first three minutes. Currently, Snapchat users skip ads within the first second of viewing, where the industry standard for a successful ad lies around the two second mark. AdAge

Six Surprising Facts About the Way We Spend Our Time with Media
Believe it or not, in a world where we’re continually surrounded by media, some stats about its use can still surprise us. For example, U.S. adults spend more time listening to on-air radio than they do on social networks. eMarketer

2018 Will Be A Pivotal Year For Facebook’s Video Ambitions
Mark Zuckerberg has recently proclaimed that he sees video as a “megatrend.” True to form, this trend has caused Facebook to act by placing video first across the Facebook group of apps. The platform has upped their investment in video already, but it plans to invest an additional billion dollars in 2018. Digiday

On the Lighter Side:

The Real Story Behind Steak-umm’s Delightfully Weird Twitter Account – AdWeek

Sneaky Ads: In China, the Characters From the Show Appear in the Commercials, Too – Ad Age

TopRank Marketing In The News:

TopRank Marketing Blog – 109 Content Marketing Blogs to Watch in 2018 (Broken Down By Category) – SnapApp

Caitlin Burgess - The Trendiest Marketing Content of 2017 – LinkedIn

Lee Odden – The Most Impactful Tips from the Biggest Marketing Minds of 2017 – LeadMD

Amy Higgins – A Year of Great Content in Review: 19 Best Pieces by Prowly Magazine Contributors in 2017 – Prowly

Lee Odden – Lee Odden to Keynote Pubcon Florida 2018 – PubCon

What was the top digital marketing news story for you this week?

We’ll be back next week with more digital marketing news! Have something to share in the meantime? Tweet us @toprank or drop me a line @Tiffani_Allen.

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Search Engine Land’s Community Corner: Local SEO survey results, a new book on influencer marketing & SEO Christmas jumpers

As we head into the slow holiday stretch, the news likewise takes a breather. Of course Google did surprise the search community this week by confirming some algo updates, starting a new webmaster video series, and moving Eric Schmidt into a non-Executive Chairman of the Board position. Elsewhere…



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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Influencer Marketing: Should You Pursue High Profile or Socially Authoritative Brand Advocates?

searching-for-influencers

We’ve been talking a lot about influencers lately – and with good reason. The right mix of thought leaders and valuable content can catapult any integrated marketing campaign into vast new heights and audiences. Finding and connecting with those ideal influencers, however, has always been the challenge.

While there are multiple discovery tools available for influencer marketing research, identifying your influencers is only part of the battle. The next part is reconciling them with your overall program objectives. It’s here that we’ve witnessed disconnects between marketing teams and their executive leadership – and where the need for executive buy-in is crucial for any influencer marketing campaign. Executives may crave big names – chief executives of major industry organizations who may/may not have an active social presence.

Additionally, any influencer marketing campaign should always provide value to your influencers (as well as your brand). In order to get the right influencers on board, it needs to be a mutually beneficial relationship.

As you look to achieve executive buy-in for any influencer campaigns, recognize the pros/cons of social influence as the primary determinant for your research.

Seeking High Profile Influencers

Those who venture into the world of influencer marketing may dream of attracting major executives or thought leaders into their campaigns. These influencers may likely contribute regularly to high-visibility blogs like Forbes, Search Engine Watch, or their own personal blogs.

Collaborating with a high profile influencer could add instant credibility to your marketing initiatives, though relying on this metric alone can reduce overall amplification potential.

  • Pros of Collaborating with High Profile Influencers
    • Immediate access to a large audience, with a variety of audience and traits
    • Instant credibility for your message with media, press relations
  • Potential Hurdles of Collaborating with High Profile Influencers
    • If social presence is limited, campaign might not have long-term viability
    • Getting participation from high profile influencers may be challenging

Availability is the primary barrier for connecting with big names for your content. Assume that most high-visibility influencers are fielding requests like yours every day, and might not have the time to fully dedicate themselves to your program. Again, this is where the value you offer to the influencers you work with comes into play. Do what you can to make it easy for them to participate and clearly articulate the potential value to them for collaborating.

Focusing on Socially Active Influencers

When we look to define what makes an influencer, clout definitely plays a factor. But what if we also look for those who trade major publication bylines for frequent social activities?

These are your potential advocates – influencers who already dedicate significant time to foster their social communities. They may or may not have the immediate draw of big name contacts, but they can offer sustained support beyond the initial campaign launch.

  • Pros of Socially Active Influencers
    • Built-in social amplification opportunities with current audience
    • Greater availability and variety in verticals and messaging
  • Potential Hurdles Working with Socially Active Influencers
    • Overall reach limited may be limited
    • Must build credibility overtime without well-known influencers

Building credibility is the main challenge in collaborating with influencers that are socially active but are not high profile. However, they in turn offer greater opportunities for long-term relationships between themselves and your brand.

Circle Back to the Objectives

When weighing the decision to prioritize what types of influencers you pursue, it always helps to review the overall program objectives. Is your influencer campaign built around awareness of a major initiative or product launch? Perhaps you may want to consider collaborating with some high profile influencers to add credibility to your brand message.

Conversely, are you looking to build a long-term campaign that dissects industry changes and teaches new processes? In this case, socially active influencers might be advantageous in that evergreen scenario.

What combination of high profile and socially authoritative influences have you found works best for your organization?

Image via Shutterstock 


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How to Create an Influencer Plan that Drives Your Content Marketing

Image of Red Phone

When we first launched the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) back in 2007, we had little more than two nickels to rub together. Today, the site averages 130,00 unique visitors per month, almost 300,000 page views, and more than 50,000 email newsletter subscribers (both daily and weekly).

In each category, this is double our performance from 2012, and almost all of our revenue at CMI, in one way or another, can be traced to one CMI blog post.

I share these results with you because I believe any company can reproduce the same kind of results by being eternally focused and diligently consistent with the creation and distribution of exceptional content.

Below you’ll find the case study of how we did it.

Getting started

With minimal resources and budget, we looked at all available options for creating content. After looking at the competitive landscape and audience need (our audience consists of marketing managers and directors in mostly enterprise organizations), we believed there was an opportunity for daily instructional posts about the practice of content marketing.

We started with a budget of $ 6,000 per month to cover five posts per week. (We didn’t start weekend posting until 2012. Today, we publish once per day, seven days a week.) Those funds needed to cover raw content costs, editing costs, proofreading, uploading into WordPress, and any images for individual posts. It goes without saying, but this was not much to work with. Most of our competition has 10 to 50 times this amount of budget.

The only feasible way we thought we could make this work was to reach out to outside contributors, without paying them, in exchange for promoting them on our site.

The influencer list

Luckily, we had a head start with a defined influencer list.

We defined an influencer as a blogger, competitor, or media organization that was creating content of interest to our target audience. We actually rated our influencer list quarterly in something called the Top 42 Content Marketing Blogs.

Initially, this list was made up of influencers we found by tracking keywords (like “content marketing”) in Google Alerts, authors in industry trade publications, those who were talking about the topic on Twitter, and other bloggers that we just found interesting. Although the main list included 42 people, there was a secondary database of more than 300 people that we tracked in one way or another.

Getting the attention of influencers

As influencers, these people are fairly important.

They generally have real jobs, and are extremely active on social networks, spending their time sharing content and blogging. Getting on their radar is not easy. So, to get their attention, we gave away content gifts.

We did this in a few different ways …

Social media 4-1-1

Originally coined by Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping, Social Media 4-1-1 is a sharing system that enables a company to get greater visibility with social influencers.

Here’s how it works.

For every six pieces of content shared via social media (think Twitter for example):

  • Four are pieces of content from your influencer target that are also relevant to your audience. This means that 67% of the time you are sharing content that is not yours, and calling attention to content from your influencer group.
  • One piece can be your original, educational piece of content.
  • One piece can be your sales piece, like a coupon, product notice, press release or some other piece of content that no one will pay attention to.

While the numbers don’t have to be exact, it’s the philosophy that makes this work. When you share influencer content, they notice. And you share, without asking for anything in return … so that when you do need something someday, the influencers are more likely to say yes.

Big content gifts

As we tracked our “top content marketing blogger” list, we decided we could get better visibility with influencers by actually ranking the influencers and sharing it out with the masses.

This was an incredible success.

We hired an outside research expert to put together a methodology of how to rank the top bloggers, looking at areas like consistency, style, helpfulness, originality, and social sharing. Then each quarter, we would publicize the list, showcase the top 10, send out a press release, and try to make a big deal out of it.

Needless to say, the top 10 and the honored top 42 loved the list. (Copyblogger was a two-time winner.) Not only did most of this influencer group share the list with their audiences, approximately half of the top 42 influencers placed our widget (with their personal rank) on their home page, linking back to our site. So not only are we building long-term relationships with these influencers, we are getting credible links and traffic as well.

In addition to the top bloggers list, we started to put together large educational ebooks showcasing the influencers work.

For example, in 2009 and again in 2011, we launched the Content Marketing Playbook (the 2013 version is in production). The Playbook included over 50 case studies about content marketing, with many coming directly from our influencers. We made sure to note in the Playbook which examples came from which influencers.

When we released the Playbook and let the influencers know about the eBook, those we highlighted in the Playbook eagerly shared the content with their audiences.

Why was this important?

When we first started with this idea, CMI didn’t have a large audience, so we had to either pay for promotion of the eBook or get an incredible amount of social sharing. The influencer sharing is what made it possible for us to reach 50,000 downloads of the eBook in a fairly short time period.

The importance of a community blog

As we didn’t have the resources to pay for raw, educational content about content marketing, we knew exactly where we needed to turn … our influencers.

When we announced the original CMI blog, the first group we reached out to was our database of social influencers. Dozens of these influencers were more than happy to help us out, as we had promoted them for years, without ever asking for anything in return.

Michele Linn served as our content editor, organizing the editorial calendar and topics with each of the influencers. It was Michele’s job to heavily edit the influencer content we received. Yes, most of them were already pretty decent writers, but we wanted their content to really shine. Why? We believed that if we presented them as true rock stars on our site, with amazingly helpful content, the influencers would be more likely to share the content with their audience.

This was critical, because at the time we had very little reach and following online … we needed to leverage their networks in order for us to build our network.

Influencer program results

CMI started to see positive traffic patterns almost immediately simply because of the amount of social sharing from the network.

That, in turn, led to more social sharing and some amazing SEO results. The CMI blog platform has enabled us to launch the largest content marketing event in the world, a magazine, two webinars per month, and every other revenue-generating activity we have.

While you may or may not launch a blog that has outside contribution like ours, committing to maintaining a social influencer list is a critical component to your social sharing program. Oh, one outside benefit I wasn’t expecting — a good number of people on our social influencer list are now good friends of mine.

How’s that for social media magic?

Editor’s Note: This post was adapted from Joe Pulizzi’s third book, Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less, released this month.

About the Author: Joe Pulizzi is founder of Content Marketing Institute, which puts on the largest in-person content marketing event in the world: Content Marketing World.  You can find Joe on Twitter @JoePulizzi. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange.

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Influencer Marketing – What it is, and Why YOU Need to be Doing it

Posted by Eric Enge

Content marketing is an increasingly hot topic these days. More and more people are starting to realize the potent role that high quality content plays in creating visibility for your brand on the Internet. Seth Godin was quotes a few years back as saying "content marketing is the only marketing left".

One of the biggest reasons for this is the intense competition that exists on the web today for nearly any commercial offering. For example, you can see this if you do a search on something like intitle:"lathe operation", as shown here:

Search Results for a Niche Product

Even this very niche oriented term generates over 7,000 results. Surely the end user only wants to consider a very few options. As I always like to say: "Google only needs 4 results, so how are you going to be one of the 4?" Superior content is one key component of this.

But, superior content is not enough. Unless the world gets to know about it your superior content will get you nowhere. You have to have a way to get the word out. This is where "Influencer Marketing" comes into play.

By definition, influencers reach a lot of people (often more than you do), and they have the ability to influence people's opinions.

Influencer Marketing Defined

Influencer Marketing is the name we give to the process of developing relationships with influential people that can lead to their assisting you in creating visibility for your product or service. This type of marketing depends on your having something great to offer your potential customers, and the audience of the influencer, and it also depends on your building a great relationship with the influencer as well.

In today's social web, there are a three major ways an influencer can have a big impact on your business:

Of course, they can also Like or +1 your content as well, which has a lesser impact, but is still potentially interesting. To recap the benefits of the influencer, they often have a larger audience than yours, or at the very least, a different audience:

Influencers have Different and Large audiences

However, the benefit is much larger than that. Let's say you had 100 followers in your Twitter account that shared a piece of content, and this results in 20,000 people seeing what they shared. This may result in 20 additional shares and 10 links.

Now consider the same audience being reached by one influencer. Those 20,000 connections will be much more responsive to the shared content because of the trust they have in the opinions of the influencer, and this much result in 100 additional shares and 50 links.

People more likely to trust influencer recommendations

That's a pretty hefty advantage. Further, the search engines actively calculate author authority, so they will also place more weight on the vote of the influencer.

Leveraging the Influencer

As a fan of content marketing, chances are that you already have your own blog, and your own social media accounts. You probably already use these in tandem, and make sure that you follow similar content themes, and any time you create a new blog post you share it on your social accounts. When you do this correctly, you set yourself up for the following type of virtuous cycle:

Social Media and Blogs Reinforce each other

Doing this effectively is a great start. You can grow your audience over time because people who are already connected with you will share your stuff, and this does reach their audiences.

However, this works much more effectively if you can goose the process in two ways:

Both of these strategies lead to the influencer acting as an amplifier for your voice.

Building the Relationship

This is not really so different than making new friends when you move to a new neighborhood. When you go to that first neighborhood party, you don't walk around asking everyone there to give you $ 20. You ruin your place in the neighborhood by doing that. Doesn't work in the neighborhood, and it doesn't work in building relationships anywhere else either.

The process is really quite straightforward, as shown here:

Create Trust through Active Contribution

The major elements are:

As for interacting, the more personal the better. I built many of my relationships in the search industry by going to conferences and sitting in the front row when people I wanted to meet were speaking, and then being the first person up to speak to them, when the session was over. Face to face contact like that is awesome.

The following diagram tries to illustrate which types of relationship building methods are the most personal, and therefore carry the most value:

More Personalized Interactions Build Relationships Faster

It's also important to prioritize. Which people are worth the most effort? How do you decide? You might fly to a conference to go meet some critical person face to face. Others you might simply interact with on social media accounts.

Note that it certainly is possible to build meaningful relationships with people through social media only, but nothing beats face to face.

Opportunities are also important. Your first opportunity to make a big impression on someone might be to respond to a blog post, a tweet, or a Facebook update. Your target may ask for help with something, as Rand did in this November 2006 blog post:

Rand Offered up a Linkbait Idea

How did that one turn out you ask? Somebody stepped up and took it on:

Oh right, it was me. The analytics report published on August 27, 2007. Point is, jumping on opportunities like this makes a big impression, and can really accelerate the building of a relationship.

What are the chances someone will share or link?

Once you have developed a relationship, you still need to do the right things to get someone to share or link to your stuff. No one is going to share everything you do, because some of the stuff you do is not that good or not that relevant (don't be offended, no one is great all the time).

Here is a formula I have developed for the probability of someone sharing or linking to your content:

Chances Someone will Link to or Share Your Content

Let's look at the major elements:

Multiple Impressions Increases Share Chances

As you can see the reach of influencers is long. Not only can they get you links, they can give you shares that result in other people giving you links.

Summary

Learning to work the very human dynamics of people on the Internet is a critical marketing activity. This is not new. It has always been valuable to build relationships with influential people. The Internet simply gives us new mechanisms for doing that.

Communication and relationship building is easier than it has ever been. You can easily get started with social media or blog conversations, and that's great. Don't overlook the power of the old fashioned way though. More personal interactions still have the biggest impact.

Creating fantastic content is a must, so make that a key part of your plan. Then, supplement that by building the right relationships so you can get the world to know about all the cool stuff you are doing.

One last tip, add value to the audience at each step of the way. Even when you are creating content for your own blog, people are only going to share it because it helps others. Give, give, and give, and always be helping others. People will notice, and that's a good thing.

For those of you who are interested in more, drop me a line at info at stonetemple.com and I will send you our white paper on identifying influencers.

Eric is active on Twitter (@stonetemple) and Google+ (+Eric Enge).

  1. They can write a blog post / article about you.
  2. They can share information about you in their social media accounts.
  3. They can ask you, or permit you, to guest post on their site.
  4. Or, any combination of, or all of, the above.

    1. Develop relationships with major influencers so they are subscribing to your blog or following/friending/circling you in social media accounts. This is made possible by developing enough of a relationship with the influencer and having a history of creating content of interest to them. Here the payoff occurs when they choose to link to it or share it on a social network.
    2. You actively reach out to influencers and get published directly in front of their audiences. One example of this is writing guest posts for them and getting published in their blog. This also depends on having a credible history so they will consider your article. The payoff here is quite direct, and happens as soon as the content publishes.
    1. Start interacting with them. Treat it like you are developing a new friendship. When it comes to business, focus on providing value to them. If they have a question, seek to answer it. Don't spend any time telling them what value you bring, just deliver it to them.
    2. On an ongoing basis, show that you will be active in sharing their stuff to your audience. Even if your audience is much smaller, the give and take attitude will be noticed.
    3. Actively help out others. When you focus all of your attention on one person to the exclusion of others it starts to feel a bit freaky. Give value to others on a regular basis. Publish great stuff. Share other people's good stuff. Tip: if you discover great content from a little known author, the influencer you are trying to build your relationship with will be more interested than ever!
    1. Relevance – if it is not relevant to them, they are not going to share it, even if it's great!
    2. Uniqueness – Seth Godin likes to tell us to be remarkable. If what you create is not exceptional, no one is going to care, and no one is going to share.
    3. Quality Content – This goes without saying. Crap content will bring crap results and no amount of relationship building will change that.
    4. Trust in the Author – This is where the relationship comes into play. You can create great content, but if you are not yet trusted, your share rate will be far lower.
    5. Trust in Referring Sources – How someone learns about a piece of content is a factor in the share rate as well. If an authority tells you about it, you are more likely to respond by passing it on.
    6. Visibility – People can't share what they don't see. For example, if you create a great blog post and you tweet it once, a small percentage of your followers will ever see it. Tweets are here now and gone 5 minutes later. Even the most addicted tweetaholic misses some of their tweet stream.
    7. Impressions – Impressions is an interesting one. This is classic marketing in action. Marketing experts used to say that it took an average of 7 impressions per sale. Of course, all impressions are not created equal:

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