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...
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!