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To Pay or Not Pay Industry Influencers – Part 2 with Jeff Bullas

In the first part of our interview with Jeff Bullas, we discussed seven key marketing trends you shouldn’t ignore. This time, Bullas provides us with his insights on influencer marketing, influencer relations programs, and the big questions…

HA MacLean Image

HA MacLean Image

To Pay or Not to Pay Industry Influencers?

MacLean: As an industry influencer, you are an independent and objective voice. People and brands want to associate with you. How do you feel about influencer programs that brands develop?

Bullas: “This is an interesting area. The world of online influence has moved the goal posts. Brands are learning how to deal with influencers and influencers are learning to work with brands.

Quite often, a global influencer can have a very large platform and network that is larger than the reach of a national magazine, and even a mass media outlet such as a newspaper. This means that an Influencer doesn’t need a brand to provide a platform or an audience. In the past, an expert or thought-leader needed access to an audience and that was provided through a speaking opportunity at a conference. The reality now is quite different. They often already have a large, global network that has been accelerated by the crowd-sourced marketing of social media.

So it comes down to a grey area of how to provide mutual benefit for both parties.

For the brand this could be the Influencer providing access to their focused networks. For the Influencer it could be access to decision-makers at a conference that result in consulting or [other] business opportunities.

Some bloggers are happy with a free trip and some baubles to attend an event for free. This all takes time and a blogger has to work out if spending the time outweighs the opportunity cost of not earning income while doing so. This is not an objective but a subjective decision.

Payment could also be an increase in credibility by attending and speaking at a blue ribbon event. It could also be financial compensation. There has to be a fair exchange of value and brands need to ensure they don’t take Influencers for granted based on old paradigms.”

MacLean: As an industry Influencer, how do you feel about brands that seek out Influencers with the intent of having them write blogs, create videos, and post positive comments for a fee? What role do they play in the Influencer Marketing ecosystem? What obligation does the influencer have to disclose that there are fees tied to the endorsement?

Bullas: “I don’t see it as being much different to having someone being sponsored, like Tiger Woods is by Nike. At the end of the day, it has to be a match that is congruent for both parties. Woods wouldn’t be sponsored if he thought that the Nike brand wasn’t a good product that he could stand behind. Some bloggers will declare for each article that they have been compensated, [while] others will provide a catch all phrase on their blog.”

MacLean: What elements do you consider important in measuring the success of an influencer program — both from the brand side as well as being an Influencer? What is important to you?

Bullas: “The brand will have its own goals for an influencer program whether that is creating more brand awareness, or an increase in leads or sales.

What is important for me in measuring success is that it is consistent with the values of both parties and helps both parties achieve their goals.”

MacLean: Based on your experience and strategic nature, what would be your #1 piece of advice for a brand wishing to establish its own influencer marketing program?

Bullas: “I think it would come down to a longer term strategic partnership that isn’t based upon ‘hit and run’ marketing. Continuous marketing is a much better approach on a ‘search and social’ web that doesn’t like silence. It takes time to build a sizeable social media network of influence.”

I want to thank Jeff for taking the time to answer my questions around trends and influencer marketing. As brands we need to take the voice and opinions of our influencers into account when building our programs.

The advice and recommendations that Jeff provided in this interview provide a solid look at the value that Influencers can play in your continuous marketing strategy. And Jeff answered the question on everyone’s minds?  What role does paid Influencer Marketing play in our plans – there is definitely a role, as long as it is mutually beneficial and the influencers self-disclose!

For more information on Influencer Relations, feel free to connect with me @macleanheather.

A version of this blog previously appeared on the Marketing Cloud blog.

The Influencer Series – An Interview with Jeff Bullas, Part 1

7 Key Trends You Shouldn’t Ignore

Image courtesy of blogs.mcafee.com

Image courtesy of blogs.mcafee.com

Influencer Marketing and Influencer Relations have played an important role in marketing and sales for organizations both small and large.  As brands develop and consumers become more demanding, we tap into the insights and thought-leadership of Influencers like Jeff Bullas to help us navigate this ever-evolving space.  In the first of a series of Influencer interviews, we talk to Jeff Bullas.

MacLean:  No stranger to the fast-past world of marketing, your blog is read in over 190 countries and you have been recognized by Forbes, Huffington Post and many others for your thought-leadership and influence.  You are a strategist at heart and it shows.    So, as an industry influencer, what are the top trends that you see emerge for marketers?

Bullas:  There are many trends that have been emerging in the last two years. Here are 7 key trends that you shouldn’t ignore.

1. Content marketing

The importance and role of content marketing and how it works across social media, search, multimedia and mobile is becoming a key focus for many brands.

Brands have been blinded by the shiny new toy of social media.  They think that this is all they should be doing beyond their day-to-day habitual marketing. The same thing they have been doing for decades.

Key Take-Away:  Content is the foundation of all digital marketing and is the reason people read, view or share.  Creating “Liquid” content is vital to create brand awareness and tap into crowd-sourced marketing.

2. Mobile Marketing

The rapid rise of smart phones and tablets has flatfooted many marketing managers and delivering marketing messages and content that is optimized for mobile platforms is becoming a “must”. Increasingly consumers are viewing content, receiving email and buying products from “small screens”.

Companies need to urgently redesign websites and blogs that are “responsive” – to respond to all device screen sizes for optimal viewing and usability – to ensure they are optimizing for mobile devices.

Key Take-Away:  Some websites are recording 30-40% of all viewing from mobile devices. That should not be ignored.

3. Integrated Digital Marketing

Companies with savvy marketers are realizing that digital marketing should not be one-offs that are islands of isolated tactics. Increasingly social media and content is impacting search results. Google created Google+ for a few reasons, including capturing social signals. Ensuring that your approach is allowing you to tie them all together to achieve maximum effectiveness is becoming key.

Key Take-Away:  This is optimized digital marketing.

4. Social at Scale Marketing

Brands are also realizing that “doing” social is complex and is like juggling many balls at once. We are seeing the rush to develop, buy up start-ups and implement Enterprise platforms that are assisting marketing professionals to market, manage and monitor multiple social networks and even other digital marketing (e.g. email).

Key Take-Away:  This is “social at scale” marketing. 

5. Continuous Marketing

Marketers need to realize that a strong trend is emerging called continuous marketing. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t run “campaigns”. The reality is that being found online requires constant SEO activity and content creation, publishing and marketing.

Key Take-Away:  Google hates silence. To do this well requires implementing some marketing automation. 

6. Personalized Marketing

The “one size fits all” approach to marketing of mass messages on television and traditional media are becoming less effective due to media saturation. We are seeing the rise of personalized marketing on ecommerce sites, websites and email that tailor the advertising and user interface to the relevant interests of consumers.

Key Take-Away:  This trend is being driven by technology using “big data” to increase marketing effectiveness.  

 7. Visual Marketing

We first saw visual marketing creep into the landscape when YouTube entered mainstream consciousness a few years ago. Since then this creep has turned into a torrent of visual marketing with the emergence of Pinterest, Instagram and even Slideshare. In the last six months this has gone to a whole new level as Vine’s six second snack-size video and now Instagram’s new 15 second video app has marketers scrambling for creative inspiration to apply and leverage this new trend.

Key Take-Away:  Use and maximize visual marketing tools.

Be sure to check out Part 2 of my interview with Jeff Bullas, To Pay or Not Pay Industry Influencers.

A version of this post previously appeared on the Marketing Cloud blog.