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Influencer Marketing: The Ridiculous, The Reality

Note: This post on influence marketing is a mixture of satire and, I hope, some useful tips.

B2B marketers’ expectations for influencer marketing often leave me shaking my head.

Case in point, I recently received this email:

There is nothing wrong with these questions — except for the fact that influencer marketing (especially in the HR marketplace) isn’t so simple. Some complications with influencer marketing:

Complication 1: Nobody can agree on who the influencers are.
Complication 2: The influencers who can get brands the visibility they want aren’t free. Most brands expect influencers to work for free, so they end up picking the wrong influencers, because the really great influencers are expensive. And picking the second-tier influencers — who also typically cost money — usually is a waste of that money.
Complication 3: Most brands don’t know how to work with and best use influencers, let alone measure the influencers’ success.

I’m going to try to clear some of this up. Let’s begin with a simple question.

Why invest in influencer marketing?

Because you want to get your target market to be aware of and interested in your product, and ultimately to try, buy and use your product. Isn’t that the purpose of any marketing program?

With that being the case, we obviously need to measure our influence marketing efforts. Because we’re marketers, and we need to measure everything, ideally with a single metric. So let’s come up with an equation.

To begin, we need to identify the target market that the influencer(s) will help us get visibility with. We’ll call our target market N.

N = target audience

Our goal is to “reach” as many people as possible in our target market so that they become aware of and interested in our product. Remember, awareness without interest equals no sale, so awareness and interest must always go together.

So now we have:

Reach (R) = the percent (P) of our target market (N) that becomes aware of and interested in our product.

R = P x N

Because N (our target market) is essentially a fixed number, the only part of the equation we can control is P. We want to come as close as we can to making P = 100% — which would be everyone in our target market aware of and interested in our product.

How do we maximize P?

By having a great story (S) and making it go viral. Going viral means we create a lot of “buzz and conversation” (V).

S = great story
V = buzz and conversation

The amount of buzz & conversation (V) we create is impacted by four variables:

(1) how great our story (S) is (sometimes called messaging);
(2) how creative our marketing campaign (C) is;
(3) the number of influencers (I) we hire to tell our story; and, of course,
(4) the influencers’ amplification power (AMP).

VOILA, our final equation!

How to calculate the buzz and conversation from your influencer marketing campaigns

*Please don’t attempt to use this formula. It’s meant to be a joke. But it’s probably as accurate as most social media algorithms.

In theory, a brilliant campaign with a perfect story told by a single influencer with the maximum possible amplification power will result in 100% reach!

But how do we find this perfect influencer?

Influencer identification software, of course! We’ll buy social influencer identification software that is algorithmically calibrated to identify the top social influencers. And we’ll pick #1 on the list.

So simple!


Here’s the truth about influencer marketing. There are two challenges, and like most marketing, success neither comes simply or easily.

1. Identifying Influencers

In all fairness to the tech world, software can help you identify a pool of influencers, but picking your small list is mostly a manual process. And you’ll need to pick more than one influencer because the HR space is highly fragmented (a benefits manager can go through their entire career without crossing paths with a recruiter).

Contrary to what some influencers will tell you, any single influencer reaches a tiny fraction of the overall marketplace and a sizable chunk of their audience is made up of other influencers, vendors and out-of-work HR people. And be careful with picking influencers based on a Klout score or social network size. You can game influence scores, and somebody with 200,000 Twitter followers may not be more influential than someone with 10,000 followers. Also remember:

  • You don’t have to pick an “HR” influencer just because you sell an HR product.
  • You might be better off working with influencers who reach the general business community (Seth Godin comes to mind).
  • And finally, the type of influencers you pick depends on what you want them to do.
Get Real! The truth about HR influencer marketing #InfluencerMarketing Click To Tweet

2. Engaging the Influencers

Once you identify the short list of influencers whom you want to engage with, understand that there are two types of engagement.

  • Non-paid
  • Paid

If you have no money, that’s OK. You can still build some awareness of your brand amongst influencers — you can like and favorite their social updates, share their content, mention them, comment on their posts, send them free samples of your product (if applicable), etc. But don’t get upset if they don’t respond. You’re not entitled to a response. Many influencers, however, will engage back with you and, if you do it right, you lay the groundwork for a working relationship. Once that relationship is established, consider hiring the influencer (of course, at this point you need money).

Paying influencers to build visibility of your product is nothing new. Before social and the term “influencer marketing,” companies hired celebrities to draw attention to their products. A well-chosen celebrity is one who has high recognition with your target market, high positive emotional effect, and high appropriateness for the product. Influencer selection should be no different.

What can influencers do for you?

  • Speak at your webinar
  • Keynote your conference
  • Be on your advisory board
  • Participate on a blogger panel
  • Write content
  • Endorsements/product reviews

But, again, expect to pay. The audience that an influencer draws doesn’t come cheap. And also understand that every influencer works with brands differently. So don’t make any assumptions.

What about measurement? How should you really do it?

  • If you haven’t paid the influencer and are relying on free social engagement activities described above, then measure success by the amount of engagement you get in return (likes, favorites, RTs, content shares, mentions, etc.).
  • If you are hiring the influencer, success is determined by the type of activity they are contracted to do for you. If you hire an influencer to guest speak on a webinar you might measure success by the number of attendees the influencer brings to the webinar.

So where do you go from here?

First, consider what Gary Vaynerchuk (influencer and best selling author including the book #ASKGARYVEE) says about influencer marketing. Trust me, he knows what he’s talking about.

“I define an influencer as anybody with a public social profile. If you have forty-two people following you, then you are influencing them with your content. You may not be the influencer BMW needs to impact its sales goals that day, but that doesn’t change the fact that you are influencing someone. I have long been fan of chasing the long-tail end of the graph by using tons of smaller influencers….. Everybody is an influencer.” 

Once you understand this, roll up your sleeves and do the hard work of marketing. Invest in a multitude of various campaigns on a regular basis with some good messaging — maybe a couple campaigns will go viral and you’ll reach enough of your targeted audience to move enough product so that you can afford to hire some influencers to further grow your brand’s awareness.

At that point, take a cue from some of the most successful influencer marketing campaigns and do something similar. How about hire one of the biggest influencers in the HR marketplace (they know who they are) and ask them to jump out of the stratosphere wearing a space helmet branded with your logo?


The Red Bull Stratos Jump on October 14, 2012, by Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner was a very successful influencer marketing campaign.

Or get a bunch of influencers to wear your branded clothing.


Lord & Taylor Got 50 Instagrammers to Wear the Same Dress, Which Promptly Sold Out.

Or, you can solve the above equation for P and use some social software to automate the rest.

Do Your HR Influencer Marketing Better With GetItDone! Socialsm

The guided workflows from GetItDone! Social encourages marketers to do social influencer marketing correctly. Brilliantly simple yet so powerful. Check it out.

Learn more and watch a video.

By |2016-03-15T09:54:31+00:00March, 2016|Influencer Marketing, Social Media, Social Media Marketing|

About the Author:

Mark is the founder and ceo of HRmarketer.

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