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Influencer Marketing: Interview With Danica Kombol
Seems you can’t turn a corner in the digital world without bumping up against an influencer marketing post or campaign. Influencer marketing’s roots began in the blogosphere programs of what we called blogger relations.
However, with the onset of multiple social media channels e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, Blogs, YouTube, Snapchat and technology that provides in-depth metrics, more brands are creating marketing promotion and content initiatives that include people who have significant followings and well — influence.
Although the relationship aspect of today’s influencer marketing campaigns are still critical, campaigns are more sophisticated than in the days of blogger relations.
Danica Kombol graciously agreed to give us the scoop on what makes a successful influencer marketer program from the point of view of the brand/agency and the influencer. In her usual style, Danica includes so much more. Enjoy!
About Danica Kombol: – I’m an entrepreneur, a mom, a pie baker and passionate about communications. I run the social media marketing firm, Everywhere Agency. We launched in 2009, focused primarily on social media and helping major brands get into the social media space. At that time, we were novel and unique, and big brands like CNN, Lexus, Lexis-Nexis and others needed our services.
This day and age, most brands get it and have built out robust social media teams of their own. Now a major focus of our agency is influencer marketing. We connect companies like Macy’s, Carter’s and other major consumer brands with influencers to help amplify and tell their story.
Diva Marketing: The term influencer marketing seems to be the hot buzz world. A Google search pulled up 20,800,000 links. Let’s start at Influencer Marketing 101. How do you define “influencer marketing?”
Danica Kombol: With influencer marketing, influencers become the vehicle to deliver your marketing message. However, it’s way more complex than that. The question really becomes, “How do you use influencers to deliver that message and what type of influencers do you seek out?”. At Everywhere Agency, we practice the ancient art of storytelling. By that, I mean finding influencers who can naturally and organically communicate a story about a product or brand.
Diva Marketing: Influencer Marketing is a service that your agency Everywhere Agency offers. How and why did you come to include it in your offerings?
Danica Kombol: In 2009, Everywhere Agency won the Guinness World Record for the most socially networked message in #BEATcancer. We launched that campaign at BlogWorld (now extinct) by getting influencers at the conference to all tweet out #BeatCancer, and eBay/PayPal agreed to give a penny per tweet for every mention. Those funds went to cancer serving charities.
We were trending on Twitter within the hour and remained that way for three days. At the time, we wanted to send the message that social media could be used for social good. In retrospect, I realize that was our first experience galvanizing influencers, and those who participated in those first hours of sending out tweets are friends to this day.
After that, brands kept coming to us looking for novel, non-advertising ways to promote their events or their products. We knew all these influencers, many who had a natural affinity for certain brands. We realized we could leverage influencers to share positive stories about brands the same way we got influencers to deliver a positive message in #BeatCancer.
Seven years ago, we were keeping all these influencers in Excel spreadsheets. As more and more of them worked on campaigns, they began to talk to one another and say things like, “I’m part of Everywhere.” We realized we had to move all these amazing folks out of spreadsheets and bring them into a community.
That’s when we launched Everywhere Society – which is a community of influencers who work with our agency and opt in for brand campaigns. And it really is a community. Our influencer network has grown from those early years of the geek bloggers who used to attend BlogWorld to a vast community of 2,500 influencers coast to coast who write about lifestyle, fashion, technology, food, DIY, parenting, and well, just about anything.
Diva Marketing: On a high level, why do brands invest in influencer marketing programs?
Danica Kombol: According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from other people – even if they don’t know them personally – over promotional content that comes directly from brands, and 74% of consumers identify word of mouth as a key factor of their purchasing decisions.
Essentially, influencer marketing is word of mouth advertising in the digital sphere. It’s easier for consumers to connect with a brand when they see it through the eyes of a real, relatable person.
Diva Marketing: Let’s drill down to the “influencer” which might be more complex to determine. Before we get into the weeds of the elements ~ for you, what makes an effective “influencer” for a brand campaign?
Danica Kombol: Ha! We debate about this often. An influencer is really anyone who is persuasive over a great number of people. An influencer is that person you know who tells you about the best hair salon or movie to see. In Malcolm Gladwell, Tipping Point-speak, these people are the “mavens,” or people we rely on to connect us with new information.
Most of us have many different subgenres of influencers in our lives. For example, I seek parenting advice from my friend Paula and technology advice from my friend Lina. In the “olden days” we’d have a phone conversation with that influencer seeking their advice on, say, the next gadget to buy. Today, we see his or her Facebook post, and we take action or are influenced by them.
Diva Marketing: Is there a secret recipe that Everywhere Agency created to determine if a person is a digital/social media influencer? By that I mean is a percentage of reach, followers, Klout score, engagement , etc that is used? If not what does Everywhere take into consideration?
Danica Kombol: Sure, and contrary to my response above where I define just about anyone with influence as an influencer, at Everywhere Agency we are specifically looking for “digital influencers” or those folks with an extremely large digital footprint and a very engaged audience. So yes, we look at numbers.
If they are a blogger, we look at their UMV’s (unique monthly visits), but in this day and age, we’re as likely to look at their Instagram, Vine, Snapchat or Twitter reach. Most important of all is what the influencer writes or talks about. There has to be a real match for the brands we represent.
Diva Marketing: In the Public Relations world celebrity marketing has been a tactic for a very long time. How does influencer marketing differ from celebrity marketing?
Danica Kombol: Ha, ha. It’s not so different anymore! Because I’ll tell you, a lot of these YouTube influencers are now celebrities in their own right! Celebrity marketing is an aspect of influencer marketing. At Everywhere Agency, we’ve worked with celebrities, but the core of our activations revolves around digital influencers.
Diva Marketing: Would you share a successful influencer marketing campaign with us e.g. what made it successful, how did you determined which influencers to use, etc?
Danica Kombol: We recently did a series of Twitter chats for Macy’s. We were promoting the fact that Macy’s carries plus-sized clothing in their stores and embraces women with curves.
Macy’s teamed up with SuperModel Emme to do a series of fashion shows in their stores featuring plus-sized models and influencers. We found curvy bloggers who write about fashion to model and then joined forces with Emme to have Twitter chats where we talked about body positivity, fashion trends for curvy women, and the power of embracing your curves.
The conversations were amazing (even leading us to trend on Twitter). The impressions, which are how we measure our social conversations, topped 36 million. What was evident to us in these chats was that there are all these women who want to have this conversation, and we were proud to help facilitate it. Did I mention we won an AMY Award for our efforts?
Diva Marketing: What metrics do you usually use to determine the success of a campaign?
If can share any tools that would be great!
Danica Kombol: We look at a variety of factors – and every campaign has a different goal, so success doesn’t always look the same. Some clients are more concerned with the quality of content and photos than the amount of eyeballs that see it. Generally, we consider a campaign successful based on the number of impressions, a.k.a. the number of people who potentially saw a post, and the level of engagement or interaction the posts received.
Determining these statistics can be tricky, but we currently use a platform called Tracx to keep tabs on how our influencers are performing.
Diva Marketing: What 3 tips would you give a brand manager new to influencer marketing?
1. Don’t expect the influencer to do a carbon copy of your brand message. Realize the benefit of working with influencer is that they tell your brand story in their own voice. Give them the tools to tell the story, but let them tell it on their own.
2. When you’re compensating an influencer, you must follow FTC Guidelines, which debuted in 2009 and are continuing to evolve. If confused about them, seek guidance from the Word of Mouth Marketing Association.
3. And finally (and I’m not just saying this because I run an agency but), “don’t go it alone.” Finding the right influencer is only half the battle. Agencies like mine specialize in doing the negotiations, building out the story architecture, tracking the influencer and making sure all FTC guidelines are met.
Diva Marketing: What advice would you give that brand manager if an influencer goes ‘rogue?’
Danica Kombol: See tip number 3 above, where I encourage a brand manager to “not go it alone.” At Everywhere Agency, we’ve been working with the same 2500 members in our network for years. We know their strengths and weaknesses. WE ONLY work with influencers who meet deadlines and follow the brand mandates. An influencer who “goes rogue” is an influencer who was poorly chosen.
Diva Marketing: Let’s change direction and talk a little about influencer marketing from the influencer’s point of view. Number one question people want to know: Is this a financial exchange? In other words how should an influencer expect to get compensated?
Danica Kombol: By and large, any influencer with a large following gets compensated for their work. The good influencers have a healthy ratio of sponsored versus non-sponsored posts, and the campaigns we bring to influencers are all sponsored campaigns.
In other words, we are paying the influencer to write (in their own words) about a brand, event or product.
Diva Marketing: Understanding that each campaign is different, what are some of the common aspects an influencer can expect when participating in an influencer marketing program?
Danica Kombol: An influencer can and should expect clear direction from the brand. What specific messages must be included in your blog post or social shares? What’s the goal of the campaign? The influencer should also stop and ask if this campaign is a match for their audience.
The surest way for an influencer to lose their audience is to fill their content with advertising messages their readers don’t want to hear.
Diva Marketing: As is Diva Marketing’s tradition, we’re tossing the virtual mic back to you. Wrap it up anyway you’d like.
Danica Kombol: McKinsey & Co says that word of mouth is the primary factor in 20% to 50% of all purchasing decisions, so influencer marketing isn’t something that’s nice to have – it’s a critical component in this era’s marketing landscape.
There’s power and passion and energy in influence that you don’t see in advertising. Go forth and be influential in your marketing efforts!!
Connect with Danica!