When looking for influencers, try your existing customers

I often wonder if influencer programs are still worth it. It’s an argument that have in my own head all the time. If you’ve been following me, you already know that I’m a big fan of employee advocacy programs, and I feel that the rise of these programs has had an effect on external influencer programs.

Looking for influencers? Try your existing customers. Photo Credit: 10ch

There will always be questions about whether or not influencers are authentic, especially if reviews and opinions are compensated. It isn’t my intention to start that circular conversation, it’s a topic that can and will be debated over and over. Instead, what I’d like to point out is that an influencer program can be a great way to reward loyal customers.

In full disclosure, I am a part of an external influencer program for Verizon FiOS, and this blog post was created as a part of the program. BUT I was a customer for five years before being asked. So no, I wasn’t paid to convert from some other cable or satellite TV company. In my opinion, it’s great to feel recognized or rewarded by a brand for being a loyal customer, and being a part of this program just reinforces my commitment to them.

Existing customers are great for influencer programs because the decision to buy into the brand was informed and not made because they received products and/or services for free. If a customer has been loyal to a brand for a long time, there are most likely to be pretty passionate about that brand. And I would venture to guess that they have made that passion known to others in their own way without trying to be a salesperson.

The definition of a mercenary is “working or acting merely for money or other reward” (dictionary.com). If you pay someone to initially like your brand, once that payment stops, or there’s a higher offer from a competitor, that person will most likely switch sides.

I’m not saying Verizon is perfect because no brand is perfect. The reason why I paid for the service, turned down competitors that knocked on my door repeatedly promising to lower my bill, was because I believed that the Verizon’s service was better. And throughout all this time, that opinion hasn’t changed, the service is great.

Whether or not brands want to believe it, consumers aren’t stupid, they can see through all the fake advertising and people that are put in front of them. Loyal customers don’t need to be fake, because they’ve already bought in. It’s encouraging to see brands like Verizon reward them for their loyalty. That’s definitely a good thing.

Influencers Should Be Selective of the Brands They Choose to Partner With

Is this the right brand for you to partner with? © Jacob Bøtter
Is this the right brand for you to partner with? © Jacob Bøtter
Last week I blogged about why brands need to be selective of the influencers they partner with, but the same is true vice versa. Influencers need to choosy about which brands they decide to align themselves with as well. When aligning yourself with a brand, and that’s exactly what you do when you work with one, you must consider some of the following.

Interested or Not?
The first thing is, are you even interested in the brand? Do you like them or dislike them? If you don’t like them, you won’t be motivated to work with them. Even if the financial payoff good, it’ll be very hard to stay authentic, and that’s something that your readers and followers will pick up on. I don’t have to spell out how important it is for an influencer to been seen as authentic. Will working for this brand conflict with other projects from other brands that you’re already working? If so, then you probably shouldn’t take the job.

So a brand just reached out to you about potentially working with them, and you’re indifferent about how you feel. You don’t dislike them, but you don’t like them either. You might not have even heard of them. So logically you start to research the brand and you start to get a sense of what the brand stands for by reading its mission statement and seeing what charities and activities the brand sponsors or participates in. You might even look at a job board site and read employee reviews. All of that and what headlines the brand has been in recently will give you an initial sense of what the brand stands for and how the public perceives them. And by extension, if you work with the brand, it will be how the public sees you. Remember, it’s all about perception. If you find out that the brands values aren’t in line with yours, you might want to think about declining the offer.

What’s the project?
Even if you are enamored by the brand that is reaching out to you, you have to consider the project. If you’re a blogger, is this project going to be beneficial for your brand as it is represented to your followers and readers? If the answer is no and you take the job, you risk losing your audience. Is the project worth your time? You might be in love with the brand, but what they’re expecting is completely unreasonable. If that’s the case, I would suggest not taking the job.

Future opportunities?
Is this a one-time job or will there be future opportunities to work with the brand again? This is a big question and really depends on your schedule and availability. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you commit to something that’s long term and can’t follow through, it’s going to look bad for you. Also, keep your expectations realistic and your mind focused on your long term goal. If this is your first time working with a brand it’s also your opportunity to prove to them that you’re worthy to work with again. The brand needs to see how beneficial it is to them to work with you.

With all of this in mind, don’t sell yourself short. Remember, the work that you do with a brand needs to benefit you as well. When the opportunity is mutually beneficial, the best results are attained. What are your thoughts about working with brands? How do you decide on whether to work with one or not?

Brands Should Be Selective of the Influencers They Partner With

Do you consider the influencers you work with, partners?
Do you consider the influencers you work with, partners?
I think it’s a lot of fun to see things from the brand side. Ok so maybe it’s the only vantage point I’ve had, but I still find it fun. One of the things that I like about my job is that I get to meet influencers. I kind of think that everyone is an influencer in their own way, simply because we all have an effect on people we interact with. I enjoy meeting influencers because I generally like hearing about what they do, what their views are, and I like getting to know the person behind the avatar. But while I do enjoy meeting new people and making new friends, as a representative from a brand I feel that it’s necessary to be selective of which influencers we partner with.

The key word here is partner. If brands view the influencers they work with as partners, then being selective makes a lot of sense. A partner, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is “one of two or more people, businesses, etc., that work together or do business together”. Together they are seen as one, each as extension of the other. If that’s true, then the influencer that a brand chooses to work with, or partner with, is seen as the extension of the brand. That means that however people view the influencer, will be how they might view the brand. I’m pretty sure that this is nothing new, so let’s take it one step further.

Before Partnering With Influencers
I’m sure brands research and investigate the influencers they choose to work with, and if they don’t they should. And when doing that research I’m sure that brands will find out who an influencer’s audience is, what networks they are on, how big their reach is, and how engaging they are with their followers. Klout, Kred, and Peer Index help evaluate how influential someone is and what topics they’re influential on. And while we all know that we love scores and numbers and see how influential people are on a scale, the numbers don’t really tell you who they really are. Those social measuring sticks are great for the first pass evaluation, but when it comes to selecting an influencer to partner brands should look at each of the influencers networks individually to see what they’re posting and engaging on for themselves. As a last step before final selection, brands should really get to know who they intend on partnering with in person. And I’m not just talking about a one-time meet and greet, I’m really recommending that brands look to build relationships first with influencers they would like to partner with.

It’s All About Perception
The reason why I recommend this is because social media is really all about perception (thank you Justice Mitchell). If a brand chooses to partner with an influencer, what that influencer says and does and how he or she chooses to act will also reflect the brand. Don’t believe me? Just ask A&E about that with Phil Robertson, or IAC with Justine Sacco, or ask the execs from The Bachelor about the comments Juan Pablo made. It doesn’t matter how each individual intended the message to be, it’s how everyone watching and reading understood it. It also doesn’t matter if the public reaction for each of these situations was fair, the fact is that it’s how the public reacted. So brands, be selective about the influencers you choose to partner with. When you do choose someone, have a full understanding of who that influencer is and what they stand for. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.